The Professional Touch is Essential for Writing Good Selection Criteria Responses
Imagine you have just built your dream home. You planned and planned when talking to the builder about the layout and the aspect, and now the bones of the house are exactly what you wanted. Soon, it’ll be time to move in, but you know that to transform this from a house to a home, you need warmth and colour and furnishings – not something you know anything about and you want it to be perfect! So, who do you turn to? The plumber who just finished connecting your solar hot water or the carpenter who fitted the architraves? No, you’d ask a professional: the interior designer who spends their day and night breathing colour and light into homes.
Why is it then, that we are so reluctant to turn to professionals when it comes to our careers? Many of us will spend years at university or TAFE learning a profession or trade, only to graduate with a piece of paper under our belt but not understand how to ‘sell ourselves’ when applying for the role we’d give anything to have. Good selection criteria responses are never easy to write, they take plenty of time and much experience to perfect, but with the help of a career counsellor, you have the best chance of landing yourself that job.
Why should I bother with a career counsellor? What do they even do?
A professional career counsellor will work with you on an individual level to help you to identify any of the following:
- your passion
- your strengths
- a new job
- a new/different career path
- insight into why you are frustrated with your current role
You may wonder who would need assistance to identify a new job or career path, but for those who are returning to the workforce after a period of study or have been caring for children or parents, the job search process itself can seem daunting and unnecessarily punishing. Again, for those who have recently been made redundant, finding and maintaining the confidence to complete a job application can be extremely difficult.
When trawling through the job ads, you’ll see a number of different ways applicants are asked to present a portrait of themselves and their experience, but most of the time you’ll be asked to provide a CV, a cover letter and responses to specific selection criteria. The selection criteria questions give you the chance to explain to a prospective employer the skills, knowledge and qualifications you have that align with the advertised job role. There will be role-specific questions (e.g. qualifications or experience related to an IT software system) but you’ll often find old gems asking what your communication skills are like, how you work in a team or how you work under pressure.
Let’s consider how, by focusing on what you enjoy and what you are good at, you can answer selection criteria in a way that will give you an edge against other applicants – with the help of a career counsellor.
An expert career counsellor will take the time to get to know you and what makes you tick. Through discovering not only your interests, but also what frustrates you in a workplace, a good career counselling service can often pinpoint the types of roles (or industries) that will be most suited to your personality and experience. Given the choice, human beings would much rather discuss their passion than a subject they find onerous. Through the career counselling process, a skilled career counsellor will assist you to find that passion, which then often becomes the focal point when detailing your experience in selection criteria. The shift towards situational questioning in interviews that affords you the opportunity to describe transferrable skills can also be applied in selection criteria responses. Great news when you can describe how what you learnt in your woodworking class on Saturday relates to your teamwork practices in the workplace.
Australians are notorious for that phenomenon known as ‘tall poppy syndrome’. It is almost a cultural characteristic to act with modesty and humility, so turning positive attributes and experiences into key selection criteria examples does not generally come naturally. This can be even more difficult if you have lost a little self-confidence following time out of the workforce or have faced retrenchment. This is where the career counsellor is invaluable; he or she will look at your experience objectively and provide you with a different perspective, one that gives you enough focus and belief to change a blank page to one full of positive details.
It can be challenging to know what experiences to convey in your selection criteria responses, but this is particularly tough if you are looking to transition to a different industry or career path. A career counsellor will spend time with you focusing on the strengths you’ve displayed in previous roles and explain how these strengths are flexible and, in fact, give you an advantage over applicants who only have one perspective. The insights a good career counsellor provides around transferrable skills are more and more relevant as we see redundancies becoming commonplace due to economic hardships.
How to address selection criteria as a career counsellor would
Even if you have lots of experience and examples to pull into your writing, good selection criteria responses should not simply repeat a list of job roles and achievements from your CV. To produce great responses, you need to read between the lines to consider what the advertiser is really seeking in an applicant. The first step is to consider each criterion and the action required from you. Consider the following fairly common selection criteria:
- High level of oral and written communication skills and the ability to apply a high level of attention to detail.
- Demonstrated ability to prioritise work with competing demands, and the ability to achieve results with minimum supervision.
- Strong client focus and demonstrated ability to contribute effectively within a team environment.
A good career counsellor will help you determine the appropriate actions to reflect in your responses. The verbs in each criterion (e.g. demonstrate, apply, prioritise, contribute) invite you to tell the story of your skills and experience so that the recruiter can envision you working within their workplace.
Career counselling sessions will provide you with tips and strategies that assist you to respond with a clear outline of your skill (the action you’ve undertaken), but also help you to put that action into context – the recruiter is not just looking at what you can do, but why you do it and what the outcome will be. Through better understanding of your passions and strengths, as well as what you want to achieve in your career, you will gain a framework to give the situational perspective of your previous work accomplishments and how they relate to the job you’re applying for.
The general understanding is that people spend about a third of their lives working. That is too large a portion to miss out on your perfect job role. Investing time and money into your career by engaging professional career counselling services means you are doing all you can to gain an advantage in a tough job market.