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What Is a KSA and How Will Does It Factor in My Job Search?

February 11th, 2011 · Leave A Comment

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What is a KSA?Times are tough. Many people are finding themselves without work and are left to once again search for a new job. Many are turning to the government since they are known for offering stable positions, competitive benefit packages and fulfilling work. While these jobs offer a great many advantages you will need to apply carefully because government jobs are known for their stiff competition. It is critical that you carefully structure your KSAs to ensure that you stand out from the masses of other candidates.

KSA Defined

If you are new to applying to government jobs, you may be unfamiliar with KSAs. The government posts the majority of their positions on a searchable website database called USAJOBS. The site is simple to use and once you have registered you will find that many jobs require the submission of KSAs or a detailed description of your KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS and ABILITIES. KSAs are primarily submitted in conjunction with a resume.

If a position you are applying for requires KSAs, it will provide a specific set of questions for you to answer. The completed document should be about one page in length. Remember failure to provide KSAs will result in your application not being considered. They must be supplied and they must be well written and in the proper format. Once submitted, your KSAs will be evaluated by HR staff. Each question will receive a score between zero and twenty. Your score will be determined by how accurately your knowledge, skills and abilities prepare you for the position at hand. The score you receive will likely be the determining factor to deciding whether or not you will receive the job.

Let’s look at each of the KSA requirements a little more to better understand exactly what the government evaluators are looking for.

• Knowledge: The statements included under knowledge on your KSAs should apply to your level of experience and your ability to adhere to commonly practiced procedures relating to the position.

• Skill: These statements indicate a demonstrated proficiency for certain tasks. Often skills are determined by specific tests administered to provide hard facts relating to skill levels. A good example of a skill is the ability to type at a certain speed or the skill of driving a particular type of vehicle as demonstrated by proper licensing.

• Ability: These statements indicate that you can perform a specific function at the current time. Often these abilities are directly related to tasks that will be required on the job. As an example, you may have the ability to life 50 pounds or the ability to organize a team or plan an activity.

The Best Approach

If you want your KSAs to stand out and get your resume the attention it deserves, you should carefully prepare your KSAs. These questions will be answered most effectively if you showcase your understanding of the job by demonstrating your ability to perform specific tasks. Use the keywords found in the job announcement to show that you have the knowledge, skills and abilities that they desire.

Some subsets within the KSAs are more detailed than others. For example, knowledge will generally be demonstrated over a variety of questions while skills will require more concrete and specific answers. Your knowledge can spring from a variety of sources including education and employment. Draw from both academic experiences and those acquired in the workplace. If you have the knowledge required, find a way to express this thoroughly in your KSA responses.

Many find it helpful to spend time brainstorming before composing their KSAs. What knowledge do you think they are looking for? Ask others for their opinions as well. While you may not have direct experience demonstrating specific KSA requirements, with creativity and brainstorming you may be able to find applicable activities to include demonstrating your proficiency.

During your brainstorming think critically to determine how to best classify experiences. For example the understanding of a particular computer program is knowledge, being able to create a specific output is a skill. Read the posting carefully to fully determine which skills are required for the position and then showcase your skills with real life examples.

Creating the KSA

As you read the KSA questions, think about your potential responses. Each answer should indicate your knowledge, skill and ability in specific areas. Remember that you must demonstrate both your ability to complete the task and evidence to support your claims.

A great way to achieve this goal is to describe your knowledge, skills and abilities using specific wording found in the posting. Then support these claims with evidence in the form of real life examples and experiences. It works best to put the evidence first and then to follow up with supporting information. For example on a questions asking about accounting education say something like, “I received my degree in accounting from the university in this year.” Then support this claim with the relevant knowledge that you obtained during this time.

Numbers can be especially powerful as you draft your KSA responses. Rather than stating, “I prepared accounting records,” try including numbers and saying, “I prepared monthly accounting reports for six independent companies with a turnover time of only two days.” Numbers provide validity to your responses.

You can also respond to KSA questions using previous responsibilities by outlining specific achievements like training certifications, awards, honors or duties. Always write in an active voice as this makes your responses more entertaining and energetic.

Make sure you put the necessary time and effort into your KSA responses. They are one of the most important factors for determining which candidate will be hired for competitive government positions. Your responses should be grammatically correct and well written. Additionally make sure your responses are concise and to the point. They should contain relevant responses backed up with specific examples. Make sure your examples are accurate and supported with quantifiable information like numbers. Your responses should be well organized and should make it easy for the reviewers to find the information they are seeking. Focus on your achievements rather than just stating that you know how to do something. Before sending them in, make sure you have someone read them over to ensure proper grammar and sentence construction.

This is a guest post. About the author:

Jason Kay is a professional resume writer and provides guidance with federal job applications. He contributes to career magazines and websites such as, which provides KSA writing services and KSA samples.

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Tags: Federal Job Search · Government Job Search · Job Search · KSAs