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So, you’ve found the perfect position to apply for, and it’s time to write the all-important job application. While your resume offers an employer an overview of your skills, work history, and qualifications, the purpose of your cover letter and application is to provide details of how you can demonstrate the specific skills required for the advertised position. If you are applying for a government position this almost certainly involve addressing several key selection criteria.

The STAR method is a popular way of structuring your responses against the advertised criteria, and can be summarised as:

star method image

The important thing to remember is that you are telling a story to the hiring panel – a story about you – and stories need to be interesting and relevant, so:

  • Keep your responses clear and concise – nobody wants to read a boring story.
  • Ensure that the examples you give are relevant to the role you are applying for.
  • The task and actions need to sufficiently demonstrate your skills for the advertised position.
  • Take care to describe the results in measurable terms – e.g. sales growth, increased client base, expansion into new areas, efficiencies gained.

Here’s an example.

Essential criteria: Work effectively as part of a team.

It’s not going to be particularly interesting to simply say that in your last position “you were a member of a successful team who delivered projects on time by communicating effectively”. Anyone can say that! You need to provide more detail to keep the panel interested, and to stand out from the other applicants, in order to secure that all-important interview.

It will be far better to say something like this:

One of my key strengths is that I am a team player. Recently, while working as an Information Technology Assistant in the Regional Office of the Department of XYZ, I was part the software development team responsible for implementing a new records management system into the organisation (The Situation). I was given the responsibility of ensuring that all team members were kept up to date with the project milestones (The Task). I created an electronic bulletin board and posted daily updates and relevant news, issued a weekly e-newsletter to all stakeholders, hosted a weekly Skype Q&A session, and used an e-calendar system to create alerts and reminders for all key actions (The Action). These initiatives meant that our team communicated regularly and effectively and enabled us to complete the implementation project ahead of schedule (The Result).

So take some time to think about strong examples from your own experiences that could clearly display your abilities and strengths and the way that they might demonstrate many common key selection criteria.

Don’t forget – the STAR method can also be a powerful tool to help you to formulate your verbal responses in an interview. Think about those broad questions that might start with: “Give me an example of a when you had to complete a task within a tight deadline”, or “Tell me about a time that you showed initiative in your workplace” – use the STAR approach to tell the panel your story – your actions, your achievements and your outcomes – and be very clear about what your role and responsibility was, and what actions you personally took in order to get the task completed, or the situation resolved. If you were a member of a team project, it’s OK to say so – just remember to highlight the role you played within that team.