I recently presented at ALIA’s Student and Newgrad Group’s Key Selection Criteria (KSC) Workshop in Canberra. And to think a couple of years ago I was writing about attending these types of workshops! It was really great to be on the other side this time and giving back. At the bottom of this blog post is an embedded Facebook live of the workshop and links to each speaker’s presentations.

There were four speakers, me and:

  1. Andrew Finegan
  2. Christian West
  3. Melina Gannon

Andrew works at the National Library of Australia, but in previous years he’d worked in Vietnam and various other international destinations. Needless to say, he provided us with an international perspective. What surprised me is the process is not that different. When you answer KSC, it is common-place to tailor the language you use so it matches what is in the KSC. Andrew mentioned doing the same thing for international positions.

The difference is the somewhat personal screening questions you get asked once you’ve gotten through all those normal questions. Things like, “Why do I feel volunteering is the right thing for me to do at this time in my life?” and “What are the biggest personal adjustments I am likely to have to make to be accepted as a useful colleague and engaged community member in this assignment?”. It’s easy to see these types of questions are self-reflective and give you a chance to assess your own character by demonstrating you can work just as well in another country as you would at home.

Mel Gannon from Libraries ACT reminded us that some organisations, including Libraries ACT, don’t always advertise jobs on their own website. You need to look around for the various places they do advertise, including further up the Directorate chain. I am glad Mel also mentioned that it is ok, in fact, it is a great idea to call up the contact officer for any position you apply. This is wisdom I didn’t get until I’d already had two years of rejections in applying for library jobs. She also mentioned that the duty statement is just as important as the selection criteria when it comes to your application. So make sure you read both carefully!

Christian West from University of Canberra talked about knowing the language of the sector you are applying for. Not only can the language change between public, special and academic libraries, but it can also change from university to university. What does this mean? If you are applying for a job in an academic library you should know what the terms course, degree, units and the like mean to that university.

He also stressed that you should know what those keywords are asking you to do. I’m sure you’ve all seen KSC that look like “Demonstrated experience using an integrated library management system or an equivalent collection management system”. The keyword here is demonstrated, and if the KSC wants you to demonstrate, you need to show where, when and how you used an integrated library management system or an equivalent collection management system.

In my presentation, I reiterated how critical it is to get in touch with the contact officer. Honestly, I cannot stress that enough. You may think database management means you’ll be working with metadata all day, but if you called the contact officer you may find out that their type of ‘data management’ is closer to data entry. I also talked about language in the position description. I assured people that while the language used by government agencies can look like something a Savannasaurus sat on. There are tools that can help you decipher them. The Integrated Leadership System can help you figure out what is expected of each APS level and Cracking the Code can help through the whole application process. Fact Sheet 5 especially addresses KSC.

So to summarise, top tips from the ACT KSC Workshop are:

  1. Know where organisations advertise positions
  2. Tailor the language you use to match what is used by the organisation
  3. Understand the language the organisation uses
  4. Contact the contact officer
  5. Know what the keywords are asking you to do


  1. Andrew’s presentation
  2. Christian’s presentation
  3. Mel’s presentation

Till next time!
DFTBA (Don’t Forget to be Awesome)