Update on “KSA’s” (Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities)


Unless you are fairly new to the Federal job hunting process, you will likely remember the time when the majority of Federal job announcements required candidates to submit essays describing their Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSA’s) at the same time the resume was submitted. They were typically narratives that were as long as 8-10 pages, depending on the number of KSA’s required.

This requirement added significant time to the application process for the job seeker and those people reviewing the applications. Writing KSA’s or essays is such a daunting process for some people that it often deters very qualified people from applying for federal jobs.

In May 2010, President Obama issued an Executive Order asking Federal agencies to improve the Federal recruitment and hiring process. Since then, some agencies are allowing candidates to provide their resume in a .doc or .pdf as part of the initial application.

Does this mean KSA’s have gone away?

Not necessarily.

While some Federal job announcements make no mention of KSA’s, many state that applicants will be EVALUATED based on their knowledge, skills, and abilities in specific areas, even though there is no requirement to submit any KSA’s.

  • Most agencies have eliminated the KSA’s as an initial requirement.
  • Some agencies require the KSA’s to be incorporated into the resume.
  • Other agencies have required some form of essay incorporated into the questionnaire.
  • I have also had clients who went to the interview and were asked to submit KSA’s before a second interview.
  • Another one of my clients was asked at the interview to go into a separate room and write his responses to three KSA’s.

So, what do you do?

My advice: be prepared to demonstrate your KSA’s throughout the resume, the interview, and quite possibly impromptu in writing if you are selected to interview.

Here is an example of five KSA’s in a recent job announcement for a budget analyst position:

Your qualifications will be evaluated on the basis of your level of knowledge, skills, abilities and/or competencies in the following areas:

  1. Knowledge of a wide range of commonly used budgetary methods, practices, procedures, regulations, policies, and processes to formulate, justify, and execute the budget for assigned budget accounts.
  2. Knowledge of DoD acquisition requirements, development, and approval processes.
  3. Skill in the application of methods and techniques (e.g., cost-benefit analysis, amortization, depreciation, and prorating revenues and costs among customers) to analyze and evaluate the effects of changes in program plans and funding.
  4. Ability to gather assemble, and analyze data to prepare budget estimates, develop alternatives, and make recommendations to resolve budget/funding problems.
  5. Knowledge of missions, functions, goals, objectives, work processes, and sources of funding pertinent to installation programs/organizations.

The announcement did not state that separate narratives were required to be submitted. Instead, it stated to clearly identify the “KSA qualifications” in the resume.

3 Strategies for incorporating KSA’s into the resume:

Note: The USAJOBS.gov Résumé Builder does not have a “Qualifications” or “Key Competencies” section, so be sure to use the “Additional Information” section at the end of the Builder.

1.  One successful approach is to demonstrate on the first page of the traditional resume that you have the required knowledge, skills, and abilities.

You will need to convince the hiring officials – succinctly and quickly – that you have the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities required to perform the duties and responsibilities of the job.

Begin your resume with a Qualifications or Professional Summary. I recommend writing a 3-4 line summary using key requirements.

Then, create a bulleted section highlighting your key strengths identified in the job announcement.

Here is an example of rewording KSA #2 (above: Knowledge of DoD acquisition requirements, development, and approval processes.) to incorporate into the resume:

  • Exceptional working knowledge of DoD acquisition requirements, development, and approval processes – currently manage $5B in acquisitions, including security contractors for overseas missions.

Note the first part of the sentence restates the KSA statement, the second part demonstrates an example.

2.  The second place to incorporate KSA statements and key words is in a Key Competencies section.

Identify and select key words from the KSA’s and list them in a Key Competencies section after the Qualifications section. Based on the first KSA above, appropriate key words include: budget methods, budget practices, budget policies/procedures, regulations, formulation, justification, and execution.

3. Another successful strategy would be to incorporate your responses to these requirements into the first two or three jobs areas on your resume, assuming you have related or similar experience within that position.

An example of how to address the first KSA into a job area follows:

Comprehensive knowledge of budget methods, practices, procedures, regulations, and policies—and the ability to apply this knowledge to formulate, justify, and execute accounts valued at $65 million.

Then, proceed with a few key bullet points to back up that claim. For example:

  • Formulated, justified, and executed a $65 million budget for the Department of Commerce’s _____(insert name)____ program—earned an award for sustained superior performance.
  • Selected to train junior budget analysts on the application of common budgetary methods, practices, and procedures.
  • Updated the organization’s 225-page budget policies and procedures document to reflect recent changes.

Follow this approach for each KSA statement, possibly one per job area, depending on your experience. When writing your accomplishments, explicitly describe two or three accomplishments that relate to the KSA.

If you find yourself wondering: What if I do not have all of the knowledge, skills, and abilities stated in the KSA’s? You probably already know the answer — maybe this job is not for you. This is a good way to determine if you should invest the time and effort into applying for that particular position. It would be best to find a position where you can demonstrate accomplishments related to the KSA’s so you will be determined “Best Qualified.”

Bottom Line on KSAs

Carefully check the job announcement to determine if you will be evaluated based on your knowledge, skills, and abilities in key areas. If so, be sure to thoroughly demonstrate this in your resume with solid examples.

Camille Carboneau RobertsAbout the author…

Job-Hunt’s Federal Job Search Expert, Camille Carboneau Roberts, established CC Career Services in 1989 to provide total career management services to help clients land jobs faster. Expert services include federal resumes, private sector resumes, military-to-federal resumes, and social media resumes and profiles. Contact Camille via email at [email protected], through LinkedIn, Twitter (@CamilleRoberts), or Facebook (CC Career Services).
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