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Prove that you have the skills
Just saying you have the skills, knowledge or experience is not enough. You need to prove you have them, and the way to do that is to give them and example.
So, how do you tell your story?
There are several models for giving the example but they boil down to a simple process:
Very briefly set the scene for your example – where you were and what you were doing. (Two lines)
Very briefly describe your task – what you were trying to organise, lead, communicate etc. (Two lines.)
Then describe, step-by-step, the Actions you took. This is the most important part and is where you demonstrate your skills. It could take from five to 15 lines and you could use dot-points to highlight your actions.
Briefly state the positive result of your actions. It must have been successful.
All your stories must all be about a specific situation that really happened at some time, somewhere in your past work experience.
Common mistakes applicants make
Claims – Don’t confuse claims to have the skills with demonstrating them. Claims are just you saying things like, “I am approachable, fair, flexible and considerate. I can be firm should a situation arise that requires it.” “I always come up with a solution for a problem presented to me.” “My management skills are acknowledged as exceptional by my colleagues.”
These are NOT demonstrations and will not be accepted by the panel, so you should avoid all such statements and get straight into one or two good examples of that describe your actions in a specific situation. In your actions you can explain that you were, if fact, “fair and flexible”.
Describing your past duties – does not demonstrate your skills either. The panel is more interested in how you used the skills that reading a list of past duties. The skill is what you need to do the duty and is transferrable from job to job.
The same goes for any other general statements such as, “Leadership is the ability to positively influence behaviours, attitudes and actions of individuals or groups towards the achievement of the goals of the Dept of Education”. Being able to define a skill does not demonstrate you have it.
Quotes – are equally useless. “ My manager recently sent me an emails saying, ‘Cheryl, your contribution to this ward is outstanding. Your efficiency, dedication, and enthusiasm, make it a pleasure to have you on my team’.” This demonstrates nothing.
Stick to good examples of how you applied that skill doing a specific task and the panel will love you.
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So what makes a good example?
For any skill you could provide a range of examples but the one you chose must impress the panel that you really have the skill and you can apply it in the target position.
The duty statement is your guide, so always check it and see how they intend you to use the particular skill. For example when responding to “Organisation and time management skills” check the Statement of Duties” to look for what you will have to organise.
The example must be specific. General claims mean nothing. Don’t talk about what you generally do or what you job requires you to do: write about some specific thing that did happen on some particular day. Don’t be tempted to make one up.
The action you took must be concluded and successful. “Work in progress” is not concluded so your skills have not been proved. Keep to work that has been concluded and has a proven successful outcome.
Write in the past tense and be consistent in this. Tell the story of something that has happened in the past.
Use little space on setting the scene and giving background. There is a tendency to give too much background information to the panel.
The action part is where you gain your marks. It is the most important part and must show how you achieved the result. Describe the action you took step by step. The panel will be making a judgement on how you applied the skills and this is what they are looking for to make that judgement. This part could take six to twelve lines.
You might use bullet points to do this. At least use bullet points in your initial draft, to get the sequence right. A mixture of paragraphs and bullet points is easy to follow, but do not bullet point the Situation part or the Result part.
“I” must be your favourite word because this is your application and the story is about you demonstrating how clever you are. Remember: The example you give is only an excuse to talk about yourself.
Give your application a heading such as:
Response to the Selection Criteria
For the position of Research Officer, Number P12345
Princess Margaret Hospital
Mary Applicant, 5 Sleuth St , Casuarina, WA 6056
Ph: (08) 9185 8888
Before you submit
Read the instructions again.
Make sure you have selected English AUS as the Language in MS Word. Go to Tools and change the Language to English AUS and then
Run a Spelling and Grammar check.
You cannot edit your own work so have a colleague read it or have it reviewed by an outside HR person.
Finally, avoid these mistakes:
Don’t make claims that you had the skills and described the positions and duties you had in previous positions where you used those skills.
Don’t forget to read the information pack or instructions that told you the maximum number of pages to write or which of the criteria to respond to etc.
Not reading the duty statement. The panel need to be shown that you can do their job, so read the duty statement, responsibilities, outcome statement or however they describe the duties, very carefully.
Trying to cut corners and simply copy and paste examples from past applications.
Writing too much or too little. Aim for about half a page for each response. Generally the lower down the list the less important, so use less space.
Using the same example several times because it had the similar skills demonstrated in it.
Saying “see above” or “see my résumé”, making them look around. They won’t. You must provide the required information under for each criterion.
Using passive language . Not “A work party was formed”, say “I formed a work party”.