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Despite Federal Hiring Reform, Job Seekers Should Still Address KSAs

Federal Resume GuidebookINDIANAPOLIS—Last year, the federal hiring process underwent many changes. Most notably, federal agencies were instructed to “eliminate any requirement that applicants respond to essay-style questions when submitting their initial application materials for any federal job.”

These questions are known as KSAs, which stands for Knowledge, Skills and Abilities. Although these essay-style questions have been eliminated from the federal application, job seekers should still address their knowledge, skills and abilities in their federal resume.

In the new fifth edition of her best-selling book Federal Resume Guidebook, Kathryn Kraemer Troutman explains, “In the past, KSAs took the form of long, one-page, 8,000-character narratives that described experiences that served as proof of an applicant’s knowledge, skill or ability in each required area of expertise. These narratives were then formally ‘rated and ranked’ with a scoring system based on the complexity of the experience. The difference that has come as a result of President Obama’s federal hiring reform is the way KSAs are incorporated into federal applications.”

According to Troutman, most federal applications now are composed of two or three parts:

  1. The federal resume with KSA-style accomplishment statements.
  2. A questionnaire with self-assessment questions, which cover the KSAs for the position.
  3. Additional requested documents, such as transcripts and veteran’s documents.

Troutman further explains, “KSAs now go into the resume in the form of accomplishment statements of up to 150 words, and the questionnaires are graded, serving a similar purpose to the old KSA narratives. Occasionally, you might also see the request for short—4,000 characters—essay answers about KSAs as part of the questionnaire. The highest-scoring applicants could achieve status as Best Qualified. Next, these applicants may be referred to a supervisor for consideration, which includes being placed on the ‘List of Certified Eligibles.’”

Throughout Federal Resume Guidebook Troutman offers a wealth of advice for addressing KSAs in federal resumes and questionnaires. Here are a few of the tips she shares with readers:

  • KSAs written in the first person (“I did this and that”) are more compelling and real to the human resources reviewer and the supervisor.
  • Some agencies are listing their KSAs in the announcement and are telling job seekers to include them directly in the resume. Other agencies are not so clear about where to cover KSAs. Troutman recommends that job seekers cover the KSAs in the resume no matter what the instructions are in the announcement.
  • Whether job seekers are writing KSAs in their resume or questionnaire essays, they should provide specific examples of paid and nonpaid work experience, education, training, awards and honors that support the skills required for the position.
  • KSAs should include the elements of a good story: an appealing opening that makes some general statement about the job seeker and his or her experience or opinions; an effective example that demonstrates the KSA; and a closing that draws it all together.

In Federal Resume Guidebook Troutman also provides 21 sample USAJOBS federal resumes. These examples include KSAs.

Additional information about KSAs, federal resumes and the federal hiring reform can be found in Federal Resume Guidebook. The book is available at Amazon.com, in major bookstores, and from JIST Publishing.

About Kathryn Kraemer Troutman

Kathryn Kraemer Troutman is a federal resume expert, career consultant and government human resources career trainer with more than 30 years of experience in the specialized federal job market. She is also a sought-after trainer of federal job seekers and HR professionals. For more information about Troutman, click here.

About JIST Publishing

JIST, America’s Career Publisher, is a division of EMC/Paradigm Publishing. As the leading publisher of job search, career and occupational information, JIST empowers today’s workforce and students to achieve long-lasting rewards in their careers. 


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