Applying for graduate and entry level jobs is competitive and time consuming, with the National Skills Commission (2019) reporting that on average there are 21 applicants for every available position, with an average of three making it through to interview. As such, it is particularly important to know how to address selection criteria early in the application process to increase your chances getting that all-important interview!
Step 1: Make sure you understand the question
Sometimes employers make things easier by asking an actual question like ‘Why do you want to work here?’. Other times, they provide some sort of statement(s) to address, often just listing a number of essential and/or desired skill sets and personality traits that they are after. In the case of the latter, it is helpful to mentally convert those statements into questions.
Something that starts as:
1. What qualifications do you have/will have before starting?
2. Can you provide examples for where you have demonstrated strong interpersonal skills?
3. How have you demonstrated your work ethic and academic capabilities?
4. Have you had any experience in leadership positions?
Step 2. Identify personal experiences that demonstrate the required skills/traits
Graduate employers (at least the good ones) do not expect you to have years’ worth of highly relevant experience. As such, you need to take what experience you do have and show employers how that would be relevant to them. The following lists some examples of experiences you may have had that could be used to answer a couple of the previous questions:
1. Bachelor of Business, marketing major, University of Tasmania; Master of Finance, University of Tasmania.
It is important to focus on your most relevant and formal qualification, but you could also include previous studies in a different discipline or at another university, or even a short course you completed in a relevant software package.
2. Working on a group assignment, customer service role, committee/society position, networking events, coaching/mentoring, and mediating disagreements between friends/family.
If you have multiple examples to choose from, select the example most relevant to the company/role. If you are applying for a role in data analytics, a good example might be from a group project for an analytics class. If the company values diversity, try to think of an example that involved people of different cultures, religions, ages, sexual orientation, etcetera. This helps make the relevance of your experience really obvious and shows the employer that you have really researched the role and their company’s values. You can usually find a list of a company’s values on the position description or by searching ‘[company name] values’.
Step 3: Formatting/structuring your answer
One great format for answering questions is the STAR format. There are lots of great tutorials online (search ‘STAR interview format’) but to summarise:
Situation provides some context for a scenario.
Task explains something relevant to the situation that you did in the role/some sort of challenge.
Action explains what you did to meet that situation/challenge.
Results outlines how your actions lead to a positive outcome/what that outcome was.
An answer to ‘Can you provide an example of where you demonstrated strong interpersonal skills?’ may look something like the following:
I was a health representative for [company name] for over two years. In this role, I supported clients to make informed health decisions, which often involved high-stress situations. I developed my understanding of different cultures so that I could better understand client needs and ensured I maintained an open and approachable manner. I also paid attention to the client’s body language so I would know if they were feeling uncomfortable, allowing me to adjust my approach and provide additional, effective support in a timely manner. My understanding of different cultures, approachability, and emotional understanding ensured that I was able to provide the best support possible to all clients, regardless of their backgrounds, and uphold the company’s ‘friendly best practice’ principles.
To break it down:
I was a health representative for [company name] for over two years.
In this role, I supported clients to make informed health decisions, which often involved high-stress situations.
I developed my understanding of different cultures so that I could better understand client needs and ensured I maintained an open and approachable manner. I also paid attention to the client’s body language so I would know if they were feeling uncomfortable, allowing me to adjust my approach and provide additional, effective support in a timely manner.
My understanding of different cultures, approachability, and emotional understanding ensured that I was able to provide the best support possible to all clients, regardless of their backgrounds, and uphold the company’s ‘friendly best practice’ principles.
Addressing selection criteria and other questions isn’t always easy but like with anything the more experience you gain the easier it will get. Search UTAS Careers Connect, UTAS Careers Advisors, and UTAS ‘My Career Essentials’ for more advice and support.
My Career Connect:
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