In advertisements for public sector jobs (that is, jobs in government departments, some local Councils, universities, public hospitals etc) you will often see a list of essential and desirable criteria followed by the statement “Common selection criteria also apply”. This means that you are also required to address several additional criteria that are ‘common’ to all jobs with that employer. The most frequent ‘common selection criteria’ are:
- Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)
- Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S)
- Ethical Practice
- Ethnic Affairs Priority Statement (EAPS)
This page explains what these criteria are and how you should address them in your application.
What exactly are ‘common selection criteria’?
Employers and employees in the public sector are required to uphold certain standards of conduct and principles of operation in the workplace.
Some of these standards are legislated and it is therefore compulsory for employers and employees to adhere to them. For example, the Occupational Health and Safety Act (2000) and the Occupational Heath and Safety Regulation (2000) lay down general requirements which must be met at every place of work in NSW.
Similarly, the Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act (1975) and the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act (1977) make it illegal to discriminate against people on a wide range of grounds including sex, pregnancy, marital status, race, colour, ethnicity, religion, nationality, disability and others.
Other standards are not (yet) legislated but are agreed practices to which a particular employer is committed. For example, the Ethnic Affairs Priority Statement (EAPS) suggests ways to promote a culturally and linguistically diverse society and encourages employers to develop plans and programs to increase the participation of all people in the workplace.
‘Common selection criteria’ require you, the job applicant, to demonstrate in your application that you understand what each criterion means and how it may apply to you in the workplace of your target employer.
How do I know what the common selection criteria are for the position I want to apply for?
In some cases the job advertisement will list the common criteria you must address. For example: Applicants must also show evidence of familiarity with OH&S and a commitment to implementing EEO in the workplace. In other cases the advertisement will advise you to download a Position Statement or Information Package, which will contain a list of the common criteria you need to address. Information Packages usually also contain a brief explanation of the common criteria or will refer you to a website where you can read a description of all the criteria. You can also download a .pdf file with our short explanations of the common criteria but you should first of all refer to information provided by your target employer.
How do I address common selection criteria?
Don’t take the shortcut of simply copying out the information the employer provides about common criteria. The employer expects you to demonstrate that you understand how the criteria are relevant to you in the employer’s workplace. To write a convincing response, we suggest you work through these steps:
- Establish a list of exactly which common selection criteria you need to address (this will vary from job to job, sector to sector).
- As with your essential and desirable criteria, type out the common criteria as headings in your Application / Statement of Claim for the position.
- Take careful note of the key word in each criterion which indicates what is expected of you in relation to each one. Are you expected to “understand”, “be familiar with”, “demonstrate a commitment to”, “demonstrate experience of”? You should include the correct expression in your response.
- Refer to the information provided by the employer and/or the information we provide in our .pdf to familiarise yourself with the meaning of each common selection criterion. Make sure you understand the information – seek advice at UNSW Careers and Employment if you are unclear on any criterion.
- Now, reflect carefully on how each criterion might be relevant to you in the workplace. For example, ask yourself:
How will my behaviour at the workplace be affected by my commitment to EEO? Or
How will I carry out my work now that I understand the requirements of OH&S?
- Come up with concrete examples of how each criterion impacts on your workplace behaviour. If you have already held employment (casual, part-time or full-time), find examples from your past employment where you implemented the common selection criteria you’re considering (even if you didn’t realise it at the time!). For example, if you worked stacking shelves in a supermarket, you were certainly required to follow some OH&S requirements about not lifting excessive weights, making sure you did not obstruct the aisles, cleaning up spills etc.
- Construct your answer to each criterion by writing, first of all, two or three sentences in which you state what you understand that criterion to mean. Begin with “I understand that EEO means ….” Or “I understand that OH&S Legislation requires that ….”
- Next, add two or three sentences in which you state how your understanding of that criterion has already affected how you work or how it will be relevant to your work with this employer.
- For example, if you have already held employment you might write: “In my part-time position as a Shelf Fill Assistant at Coles Supermarket, I always observed the OH&S procedures put in place by my employer. These included: using mechanical devices when lifting heavy weights, avoiding all trip hazards in aisles and access areas, and immediately cleaning up any spills or slip hazards such as water on the floor.”
- If you have not yet held employment, or the criterion is not one that applied in your past employment, write about how you will respect this criterion in the workplace of your target employer.
- For example: “The position of Policy Advisor in the Attorney-General’s Department clearly requires the highest standards of ethical behaviour with respect to the public and co-workers. In particular, Policy Advisors must avoid any real or perceived conflict of interest. For example, if I discovered that a matter on which I was advising involved a friend, family member or business with which I had any connection, I would immediately disclose this information to my supervisor and seek advice on possible conflict of interest.”
Need more help?
The Careers Consultants at UNSW Careers and Employment can provide feedback on your draft answers for common selection criteria. Make an appointment for Individual Assistance – but make sure you’ve followed the steps above first.
You can also download a .pdf file which provides explanations of common selection criteria: OH&S, EEO, EAPS, Ethnic Affairs Priority Statement. But remember do not simply copy information about common criteria into your application. Employers will not be impressed, and you won’t get an interview, let alone the job.