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Keep your selection criteria to six or less

Retention starts with making it easy to get people in the door. One way to turn people off applying is to make the application process too onerous. One way to make the process onerous is to have a long list of selection criteria. Long means more than half a dozen.

If your list of selection criteria is more than six, then chances are high you are falling for one or more of these traps:

Confusing selection criteria with duties. Selection criteria are the skills, knowledge, experience and qualities needed to perform the job. They are not what a person does.

Thinking the selection criteria need to cover every aspect of the job. They don’t. They need only cover the key requirements.

The more selection criteria you have the more difficult your job will be to select the best applicant. Applications will be longer, more repetitious, more difficult to assess. Your selection process will be more complex in order to cover all the criteria. Your report will be longer. This is not a basis for a time-efficient process that delivers a quality result.

When you have a long list of selection criteria you need to stand back and consider these questions:

  • Are these criteria appropriate for this level of job?
  • Is there repetition?
  • Are any of these criteria too detailed?
  • Is the mix of elements within a criterion appropriate?

As an example, let’s take this list of selection criteria from a local government job. This list of 19 criteria followed a list of 22 ‘major responsibilities’ for a middle level IT management role.

  1. Tertiary qualifications in Information technology (or related disciplines)
  2. A minimum of five to eight years professional experience in a similar role
  3. Local Government experience
  4. Proven ability to understand and assess complex technical issues, and write clear, concise reports that provide recommendations based on this assessment.
  5. Demonstrated ability to develop, write and produce Crystal Reports.
  6. Sound facilitation, conflict management, negotiation and problem solving skills.
  7. Ability to motivate and develop staff.
  8. Ability to work with minimum supervision and as part of a multi-disciplinary team.
  9. Knowledge of and commitment to Equal Employment Opportunity Principles.
  10. Demonstrated knowledge of and commitment to Occupational Health and Safety Legislation.
  11. Demonstrated superior communication skills, both verbal and written.
  12. Demonstrated ability to lead and to operate as a member of a team which has diverse and demanding responsibilities.
  13. Demonstrated ‘can do’ attitude with flexible and proactive approach.
  14. Demonstrated ability to create strategic plans and carry out implementation.
  15. Demonstrated ability to multi-task within a high demand work area.
  16. Demonstrated knowledge and experience in the use of all Microsoft Office Professional Applications.
  17. High level customer service focus.
  18. Expertise with the following products: Windows Server 2008; Window XP, Intersystems Cache, MS Exchange 2003, MS Office, CivicView, MapInfo products.
  19. Current Driver’s licence.

The job description also includes a detailed list of major and role-related competencies. The first step in revising the criteria is to make clear the relationship between the competencies, the role, and the criteria. Perhaps the criteria are not needed at all.

The list of duties is far too long. Given the person in this role has two main responsibilities, namely to lead and supervise the unit, and to deliver IT results, the duties could be organised around these.

The criteria are riddled with repetition. There is more than one criterion related to communication, IT knowledge and expertise, and management. Some criteria could be combined. It is questionable as to whether a suitable person needs to have worked in a similar role and have had Local Government experience. Needing a driver’s licence would also need to be checked to see if it essential. A revised version of these criteria looks like this:

  1. Tertiary qualifications in Information technology (or related disciplines) with at least five years professional experience in a similar role.
  2. Demonstrated ability to strategically lead and manage a diverse team that produces results consistent with Council goals.
  3. Demonstrated high level customer service skills and verbal and written communication skills, including the ability to produce Crystal Reports, write reports about complex technical issues, and negotiation skills.
  4. Expertise with the following products: Windows Server 2008; Window XP, Intersystems Cache, MS Exchange 2003, MS Office, CivicView, MapInfo products.
  5. Knowledge of and commitment to Equal Employment Opportunity Principles and Occupational Health and Safety Legislation.
  6. Current driver’s licence.

If there were still criteria that you wanted to include then the last two could be covered by stating in the job description that:

‘The successful applicant will be expected to have a current driver’s licence and to demonstrate a commitment to Equal Employment Opportunity Principles and Occupational Health and Safety Legislation.’

Whether this is the appropriate list depends on the core demands of the role. However, what it does achieve is a more manageable, focused list of criteria that is likely to attract a quality field.

Unless your goal is to make sure few people make the effort to apply, keep your list of selection criteria to five or six at most.

Other useful articles:

Dr Ann Villiers, learning guide, professional speaker and author, is Australia's only Mental Nutritionist® specialising in mind and language practices that help people build flexible thinking, confident speaking and quality connections with people. Visit www.mentalnutrition.com to learn more about Mental Nutrition. Visit www.selectioncriteria.com.au for free resources unlocking the mysteries of public service jobs.


 
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