Addressing Key Selection Criteria

Key selection criteria or KSC, are designed to help make the most accurate match between the requirements of a position and the skills and experience of an applicant. Most areas of government at both state and federal levels require applicants to respond to specific KSC. 

No matter how well qualified or suited you are to a position, if you do not address them as required, your application will not get short-listed and make it through to the interview stage. So make sure you check what information you need to provide, before submitting your application, as requirements vary across departments and agencies.

Study the position description, including the key selection criteria, along with any other relevant information you have collected. If you are unsure about any aspects of the job, call the contact officer during normal business hours.

So what are key selection criteria?
By law, an employer must assess all job applicants fairly and consistently, so they can be selected on merit. Employers do this by developing key selection criteria (KSC) that all candidates are assessed against.

When you apply for a job in the public sector, the KSC are clearly described in the position description - so you know what's required. Check out some of the jobs advertised on the VPS, APS or DJR career website to see the sort of capabilities commonly sought.

The key selection criteria outline the qualities, knowledge and skills needed to do the job. For some roles, you might only need to write short statements that sell your specific capabilities for each of the criteria. It is important to include specific examples or situations where you have demonstrated the specified behaviour, knowledge, skills and personal qualities asked for in the job selection criteria. Perhaps you have worked in a related field or industry or have life experience that could be relevant. Take all of these things into account when responding to job selection criteria.

Writing a good KSC response statements are also valuable in preparing you for the interview stage of the selection process. It requires you to identify specific examples that will help you answer “behavioural questions” about your ability to do the job.

Describing how you meet the criteria ensures all information is captured about your suitability for a job. You can type in the spaces on your online application, or cut and paste text from a document you've prepared. Make sure you thoroughly check your KSC statement for spelling and grammar.
KSC vary among employers and jobs. Traditionally, they are statements that combine skills, knowledge, experience and personal qualities. For example, 'Ability to develop and maintain systems and processes for mail distribution and storage of publications and brochures' or 'Ability to work under pressure, prioritise tasks, meet deadlines and remain resilient'

Commonly, job selection criteria are based on key capabilities (rather than matching exact past positions or roles). Examples include:
-        Resilience- for example, perseveres to achieve goals, even in the face of obstacles; copes with setbacks; stays calm under pressure; and accepts constructive criticism without becoming defensive
-        Problem solving - seeks all relevant facts; liaises with stakeholders; analyses issues from different perspectives and draws sound inferences from available data; and identifies and proposes workable solutions.

Steps to addressing job selection criteria

No matter how the job selection criteria appear, follow these basic steps to ensure your application covers all the required information:
1.    1.  Read and reread the advertisement, KSC and position description. Print or save the job details and position description, so you can easily refer to them later
2.     2. Highlight key words in the first KSC and think about what the employer is looking for. Brainstorm and list examples from your current role if possible, or most recent roles, of when and how you displayed the capability within the KSC
3.    3. Review your list and begin to summarise how you demonstrated that you meet the KSC
4.    4. Repeat these steps for each of the required KSC.

The specifics of writing KSC responses

When writing your KSC responses, it is quite often required that you follow the 'STAR' approach:
Situation – explaining where and when you did something
Task – describing what you were tasked with (ie. your role in the situation)
Actions – listing what you did and how you did it
Result - what the result or outcome of your actions was.

Initially try to address each of the above parts of STAR in just a few sentences. Be factual and positive, without exaggerating or minimising your capabilities and experience.

Sample KSC response statements       (these are offered only as a guide)
KSC: Problem solving - Seeks all relevant facts. Liaises with stakeholders. Analyses issues from different perspectives and draws sound inferences from available data. Identifies and proposes workable solutions.

Problem solving has been a critical part of my customer service roles over the past five years. While currently working as a Customer Complaints Officer at Acme Department Stores, I am responsible for dealing with a variety of problems and concerns that are raised each day by customers – some of whom are quite disgruntled. While many of the smaller issues can be resolved easily, two to three per week tend to be more complex and require a more detailed investigation to resolve.

For example, last week a customer complained that a “Smart TV” they had purchased was misrepresented as coming with NetFlix movies included in the package they purchased. I had to investigate what had happened from the points of view of both the customer and the staff member involved. This required me to clarify the facts, and work out what had gone wrong and why. I then had to propose a suitable solution and was able to negotiate an outcome that was accepted by the customer and practical for the business.  

My manager later commended me for my diligent handling of this problem.  I would further add that typically less than five per cent of complaints that I deal with need to be escalated.  (approx. 200 words)
KSC: Advanced computer skills - Uses a wide range of software features for word processing, spreadsheets, etc. Helps others solve problems with software.

In my current role as Personal Assistant to the Marketing Manager at SYZ Enterprises, about half my time is spent preparing letters and reports for clients using Word.

I also use detailed information in Excel spreadsheets to prepare graphs and tables, to demonstrate the results of our market research and to analyse client company performance. These are incorporated into monthly reports. Additionally, I am required to prepare major PowerPoint presentations that my manager delivers on an almost weekly basis.

I am very familiar with Outlook – using it on a daily basis to maintain a database of my manager’s contacts. I typically manage between 50 - 80 daily emails for my manager and also search for information on the Internet to assist her in the conduct of research for her Board reporting.     (130 words)

·       KSC: Sound communication, interpersonal and negotiating skills, including well-developed written and oral skills, and the ability to develop and deliver educational services.

In my five years as a teacher, strong communication, negotiation and interpersonal skills have been essential. I have dealt with a wide range of people - including parents, colleagues and students.  My school principal will confirm that my interpersonal skills have enabled me to build positive working relationships with all of these different people.  He can also confirm that I regularly write contributions for the school newsletter on relevant educational topics – which are written in a clear, concise and descriptive manner.

A specific example in which I demonstrated effective negotiation and interpersonal skills was earlier this year when I was leading a small project team working on the development of a booklet and other resources for helping children with mild learning disabilities. As part of this project, I took the initiative to seek some funding support from our local council and succeeded in negotiating a $10,000 grant from their Community Services Division for the project. One of the keys to the success of this negotiation was my thorough preparation and that I addressed the funding selection criteria in my presentation to them. In the associated meeting I responded to their questions in an open and friendly manner – and took the time to understand and address some reservations they raised about the project. 

In the pursuit of gaining funding approval, I was able to persuade Council staff that the goals of the project were aligned with one of the goals of their own Division. This example showed my ability to link the agenda of my team to the agenda of other stakeholder groups and speak in a way that connects with others.    (267 words)

Here is an example of the type of question requiring a written response as part of an online application process often used by government departments......
KSC “Describe a situation in which you have needed to apply written communication skills, explaining any actions you took and the result”

As Policy Officer for the Department , a core part of my role over the past two years has been the regular preparation and drafting of written responses for Ministerial level enquiries on an almost weekly basis.  It is imperative that these be drafted in a clear, concise and complete manner. Evidence of my effectiveness with this correspondence is that there has never been a single occasion in which the Minister’s office has returned my work for revision.

Another example of my written communication skills being displayed is the way in which I ensure managers are kept informed of new policies being developed

To do this, I have initiated a monthly newsletter, which is emailed to every manager. I have taken responsibility for writing the main articles in each publication. This involves obtaining input from stakeholders to ensure that the articles are current, clear, accurate and relevant, both in terms of content and language. In writing these articles, I always remain focused on the likely needs and interests of the target group. Before distributing the articles, I also have them checked by an “independent set of eyes” for any possible corrections.

I receive positive feedback about the newsletter from internal clients and my manager. I received an achievement award for the newsletter from management. Importantly, this initiative has resulted in improved lines of communication between managers and the Policy Support Unit’. (Copies of my articles are stored on the Department’s intranet and can be viewed at

In closing, remember …..

Pay close attention if there is a word limit or a “guide” to word length listed.  And before you submit your online application, have it proof-read for clarity and to ensure there are no spelling or grammatical errors.  It is surprising sometimes, what another pair of eyes can pick out that you may have over-looked.

(This article is adapted from from