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Capability Statements and your response,it’s a hill climb

Contemporary Job Applications are a package deal. A resume alone, won’t suffice.

Many jobs now require you to respond to ” Capability Statements“. You MUST address ALL the  criterion to be considered for the vacancy. A resume is a must, but it’s just one part of the application.

You might wonder how selection criterion or capability statements are developed? All essential criteria are based on the core and business enabler capabilities contained in the organisation’s Capability Framework. This is corporate speak for ” we need to read that you understand our business. You have the right capabilities that  are a match for that role within our organisation”

Usually, the selection panel will go through the key responsibilities of the job and choose the capabilities that they believe an employee would need to do these duties effectively. For example, a position may have a duty included to provide reception services. In this case,  the associated selection criteria would probably be based on the capability of “Relationships”and its elements of “Communicates effectively” and “Commits to client service”.

Desirable selection criteria are preferred qualifications or memberships and criteria that are nice to have and may be of assistance in the role. Often these are criteria that an applicant can develop skills in and/or knowledge of in a reasonable amount of time while ‘on the job’.

How are selection criteria used?

Firstly for Shortlisting, initially the selection panel reviews each application, assessing the resume and reading through every response to selection criteria. The purpose of this is to determine if an applicant ‘meets’ the criteria. Meeting criteria means that based on the applicants CV or  resume and response to the selection criteria, the panel considers the applicant has demonstrated their ability to do the job. Generally, the applicant must meet a min of 80% of the essential criteria to be considered for the next stage of the selection process (usually a panel interview).

Secondly, this method is used for Interviews. Once the selection panel has decided who to interview, they will develop questions (or another type of selection activity) based on the selection criteria. These are often behavioral questions that reflect the duties of the job. For example, with the earlier example (the duty was to provide counter service to clients in a busy reception), the question could be “You are serving a customer,  and they are getting frustrated and angry with the process they have to follow. How do you use your communication skills to manage or resolve this situation?”

It’s also utilized for Referee reports, following the interview the Chairperson of the selection panel may chose to contact your referees. They will ask them questions concerning your professional abilities based on the selection criteria. This is predominately used to confirm the selection panel’s assessment of your abilities based on the quality of your written application and your performance at interview. Make sure your referees are aware that they could get a call!


 How do I address selection criteria? You are required to address each criterion separately, providing enough detail for the panel to assess your abilities in relation to them. While there is no specific word or character limit, the average response should be around 350 -500 words per criterion. The best approach is to

1. Understand the Position description 2. Provide evidence 3. Be positive and specific 4. provide outcomes/results .

  1. Understand the Position Description (PD) – Read the whole of the PD, considering the responsibilities of the job and how they relate to the selection criteria. Make sure you understand what sort of responsibilities relate to every criterion. For example, writing reports, negotiating with colleagues and providing information to clients all relate to a selection criterion based on “communicates effectively”. In your response to that criteria you should therefore cover your experience relating to writing, negotiating and providing information. You should make notes under each selection criteria regarding the types of things you should cover. You should let the panel know what aspects of the criterion you are addressing. For example, the excerpt below from an applicant’s response to the criteria uses the same terms (report writing, negotiating and providing information) to show how their experience relates to the role they are applying for:

“In several positions I was required to negotiate with colleagues and clients in relation to deadlines. for example, while working as an Account’s Assistant with XYZ Company, I had to liaise regularly with clients to negotiate deadlines for payment. I worked in partnership with them, clearly explaining the reasons for the deadline and adopting a flexible attitude if possible. I also ascertained a good understanding of my client’s business to ensure I understood and worked with their needs and their own specific deadlines. As a result of this relationship-building approach, I consistently received payments on time and was therefore able to maintain cash flow and decrease outstanding debts.”

  1. Provide evidence – It’s really important to formulate relevant examples from your work, study, life and/or volunteer experience that relate to each criterion and the associated duties. Decide which examples ‘fit’ best, then use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Approach and Result) to outline them. This approach ensures that you provide evidence of how you are suitable for the job, not just generic statements. With the example above: The S situation was working as Sales Officer with XYZ.  The task was negotiating the deal,; The A approach was explaining the reason for the deadline, being understanding of the client’s needs and adopting a flexible attitude and The R  result/ outcome was ensuring payments were received on time to prepare and submit the end of financial year  report,  by the required deadline.

Often the difficult part is knowing what examples to use from your work history and what sort of things to emphasize or highlight. You might find that you have too much information to fit into just a couple of pages or you may struggle to write a paragraph. It is best to be concise and avoid going off on tangents. Every bit of information should link to the selection criteria. It must be positive and specific, using positive and specific language and avoiding ambiguous or passive expressions, such as “I was involved in” or “I assisted in”. Use strong action terms and verbs and avoid passive language when describing your qualifications and experience, for example, say “I lead the project” rather than “As part of my ongoing duties, I participated in the project”. Avoid negative terms, such as “dealing with problems”. Instead, turn it around and couch the phrase as “meeting challenges”or “resolving issues”.

3. Review your work and once you complete your responses to the selection criteria, go back over your application and check that: · You have covered all aspects of the criteria· The structure of your response to each criterion is logical· The information is concise, there is not extra information that does not relate to the criterion · Your sentences are positive and clear· Your grammar and spelling is correct · The best approach is to ask someone else to read your work and ask that they consider the above points when assessing your response

In Summary, the most important things to remember:

· Read and understand the whole PD

· Address all the selection criteria

· Focus on the criteria based on the Core and Business Enabler Capabilities

· Give solid examples and don’t forget to outline the results and outcomes

· Try to keep to around 500 words per criterion · Sell your contribution

· Read through your work over and over and even have someone else edit and review too! Then press SEND!!

Finally, if this sounds all too difficult we can recommend the services of a resume writer.


Ivana Agapiou career and outplacement consultant and resume writer