How To Respond to Knowledge Skills and Abilities Factors When Applying for Government Jobs

Happy woman at job interview If you haven't looked for a job recently, particularly in the government field, you may not be familiar with the term KSA. It is an acronym for Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities. Federal job applicants are commonly required to complete a narrative statement on specified KSAs in order to be considered for a particular position. Such a statement is used to determine the proficiency of a candidate to perform the duties of a position. Therefore, in order to successfully compete for a position, it is important to understand how to fully explain on your knowledge, skills, and abilities gained through education, experience, and past employment. As with a resume, if you cannot effectively elaborate on why you are the best candidate for the position, applying for the position is a waste of the employer's time as well as yours.

Step 1

Carefully analyze the position description. There are several key tips to responding to questions on your knowledge, skills, and abilities successfully. The key to writing a solid response concerning your KSAs in regard to a particular factor is to carefully review and consider the job announcement for the position to which you are applying. Along with providing what KSA factors you need to address in a narrative statement, the announcement will give you specific clues about what language to use in your response. When you read the announcement consider what words stated in it are specific or common to the job and the field to which you are applying. Make note of these words and ensure when appropriate in your response that you use these words. Even if a previous employer used a similar, but slightly different word to describe the skill or ability you are addressing, use the word listed in the announcement. You will draw an immediate link between yourself and your capability to perform the job.

Step 2

Include specific examples. Further, Federal job announcement instructions provide an important strategy to fully and properly responding to KSA factors. They indicate your KSA response should provide "examples and explain how often you used these skills, the complexity of the knowledge you possessed, the level of the people you interacted with, the sensitivity of the issues you handled, etc." In essence, your response should be made up of several examples from previous experiences that demonstrate you have the requisite knowledge, skill, or ability sought.

The examples you provide should be descriptive and quantitative. If your work at a previous employer saved the company time, money, or any other resource, when using this experience as an example to respond to a KSA factor, indicate what and how much of it (time, money, etc...) your work saved. However, even if you don't have quantifiable results to give in your examples, ensure you provide the following four items for each example:

  • Provide a context of the situation. What did it require of you?
  • What about the situation made it difficult to solve or work through?
  • What steps did you take to resolve the issue?
  • What was the outcome of the action you took?

Step 3

Follow directions completely. There are also several stylistic points to responding to KSA factors in your narrative statement. Each KSA factor should be addressed on a separate piece of paper and should be a half a page to a page in length. Arrange your response so that the most important and key information is at the beginning of your answer. Your submission will likely be scanned so keep this in mind as you lay out the information. Write your response in the first person.

Finally, and most importantly, make sure that you carefully proofread your narrative statement prior to submitting it. Often communication is an important skill that is addressed in a narrative statement; therefore, it is vital that your grammar and writing are impeccable.


Even if you aren’t applying for a Federal job, it is important to learn about KSAs. If you can identify the key knowledge, skills, and abilities associated with your job or work field, you can think of examples from your education, experience, and past employment that demonstrate your work proficiency. These examples are prime responses to the behavioral based interviewing questions that many corporate employers use today. Therefore, having thought through your key KSAs and your examples to demonstrate them will make interviewing for jobs easier and likely more successful.

Jason Kay recommends you consider having your knowledge, skills, and abilities responses prepared by a professional writing service. KSA Doctor specializes in government job application assistance including KSA writing, federal resume writing, and SES resume writing.
 

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