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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Coppola

Demystifying the Difference: Cover Letter vs. Selection Criteria

When it comes to applying for a job or a position, it's essential to understand the various components of the application process.

Two common requirements that often confuse applicants are the cover letter and selection criteria. While both play crucial roles in showcasing your qualifications and suitability for a job, they serve distinct purposes.

In this article, we will explore the key differences between a cover letter and selection criteria, providing clarity and guidance to help you craft compelling application materials.

Example of a cover letter

Cover Letter: Introducing Yourself and Showcasing Your Fit

A cover letter is a personalized letter addressed to the hiring manager or employer, accompanying your resume. Its primary purpose is to introduce yourself, express your interest in the position, and highlight why you are a suitable candidate. Here are some key characteristics of a cover letter:

  • a. Introduction and Salutation: Start with a formal greeting, addressing the hiring manager by name if possible. Introduce yourself and express your interest in the position.

  • b. Personalization and Customization: Tailor your cover letter to each specific job application. Research the company and the role to understand their needs and align your skills and experiences accordingly.

  • c. Concise Overview of Your Background: Summarize your relevant qualifications, experiences, and achievements. Focus on the most compelling aspects that directly relate to the job requirements.

  • d. Showcasing Fit and Passion: Demonstrate your understanding of the company's values, goals, and challenges. Explain how your skills, knowledge, and enthusiasm make you a strong fit for the role.

  • e. Closing and Call to Action: Express gratitude for considering your application and include a polite request for an interview or further discussion. Provide your contact information.

Selection Criteria: Addressing Specific Job Requirements

Selection criteria, also known as key selection criteria or KSC, are a set of specific requirements outlined by the employer or hiring organization.

They serve as guidelines for assessing applicants' suitability for the position. Selection criteria are usually presented as a list of skills, qualifications, experiences, or attributes that candidates must address in their application.

Here's what you need to know about selection criteria:

  • a. Detailed Responses: Each selection criterion requires a detailed response addressing how you meet the specific requirement. Use examples, experiences, and achievements to support your claims.

  • b. STAR Method: Structure your responses using the Situation, Task, Action, Result (STAR) method. Describe the situation or problem, the task or objective, the actions you took, and the results or outcomes achieved.

  • c. Clear and Concise Writing: Ensure your responses are well-structured, easy to read, and directly address each criterion. Use specific keywords from the criteria and provide evidence of your skills and experiences.

  • d. Demonstrating Competencies: Focus on showcasing your relevant competencies, such as teamwork, leadership, problem-solving, communication, and adaptability. Align your experiences with the desired criteria.

  • e. Compliance with Instructions: Pay close attention to any specific instructions provided by the employer regarding word limits, formatting, or submission methods. Failure to comply may result in disqualification.

Differentiating Cover Letter and Selection Criteria

The primary distinction between a cover letter and selection criteria lies in their purpose and focus.

A cover letter allows you to introduce yourself, demonstrate your fit for the position, and express your enthusiasm. It provides an opportunity to showcase your overall qualifications and present a persuasive narrative of your candidacy.

On the other hand, selection criteria require you to address specific job requirements outlined by the employer. It demands more detailed and structured responses, highlighting your skills and experiences relevant to each criterion.

Selection criteria help employers assess your suitability based on specific qualifications and competencies.


Understanding the difference between a cover letter and selection criteria is crucial when applying for jobs.

A cover letter serves as your introduction and showcases your overall fit for the position, while selection criteria require detailed responses addressing specific job requirements.

By mastering these two components of the application process, you can present a comprehensive and compelling case for your candidacy, increasing your chances of securing the desired position.


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