The required experience, skills, personal attributes, qualifications, knowledge and expertise needed to do a job effectively are outlined in the selection criteria of a job spec. It is vital you match your qualities to this outline when developing your CV and writing your cover letter.

Key steps to successfully address the selection criteria

Read it carefully

It is critical that you have a hawk-eye when reading the selection criteria to understand exactly what is required. For example, asking you to ‘demonstrate ability’ is very different to asking you to ‘demonstrate knowledge’. Take time to read the requirements in detail so that you can respond appropriately.

Match your skills

Ask yourself, do my skills match the outlined criteria? It will be a waste of time applying for a job where the selection criteria doesn’t match your skills and experience. Employers will also spot the incompetence a mile away. However, if you do match the criteria, it’s time to start thinking of experiences from past jobs where you have demonstrated the skills or attributes required. Write down as many appropriate examples as you can, then edit this list down to focus on your most impressive, relevant examples. These will form the basis of your responses.

Simplify the overload

A selection criteria can be quite comprehensive and therefore quite overwhelming. Try to break the criteria into sections so you can concentrate on answering small parts rather than one big essay. For example, the criteria requires you to have ‘both written and verbal communications skills with the ability to work well under pressure.’ This enables you to address and demonstrate three different areas; written communication, verbal communication and the ability to handle pressure. It is vital that you address all three components with specific, relevant examples.


Anyone can say they have time management skills or the ability to meet tight deadlines, but employers want you to prove it by giving clear examples from your work experience and past achievements. When addressing the selection criteria use the STAR method: Situation (set the context), Task (outline your role), Action (explain what you did), and Result (key positive outcomes).

Make it clear

Employers do not have time to ‘read between the lines’ so make your responses concise, direct, relevant and easy to read. As well as reviewing for grammar, spelling, layout and word limit, ensure you have used positive language and strong action words. Pay attention to the language of the criteria, address all sections and provide evidence for claims about your capabilities.

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