Do KSAs Really Matter?

It can be difficult and time consuming to prepare KSA statement responses. However, they are a critical component to your federal job application package.

It depends if you want the job or not! In today’s economic environment, you cannot afford to be dispassionate about the first and last impression you make with a prospective client–including the federal government.

Think of your resume and the accompanying supplemental document, often referenced as a KSA form, as your first introduction to a recruiter that serves as a formal gatekeeper in either allowing or restricting you to interview for a job you may want within the Federal Government. You want to make it as easy possible for that person to say “Yes!”

The KSA document (Knowledge, Skills and Abilities) is one of the most important parts of the Federal job application process. To understand the process, it is important to understand a bit of its history.

The Federal Government, like any mammoth organization and/or large system, had a sporadic process to review, select and interview potential candidates to fill posted job vacancies.

The government wanted to improve the efficiency and turn-around time of employees responsible for filling job vacancies. It designed and implemented a streamlined, equitable applicant review process that permitted teams to quickly and effectively select, compare, measure, and rank qualified candidates competing for the same position. Considerations included comparing applicants against the unique requirements of the posted job, applicant competencies, background, experience, expertise, and education.

The KSA process was born.

  • Knowledge refers to the applicant’s depth of information about a particular job. It may encompass formal training, education, on-the-job experience, and depth of expertise associated for a particular role.
  • Skills relate to a unique set of competencies that permit an individual the ability to visually demonstrate specific actions that produce a particular product, service, and or outcome.
  • Abilities relates to a bundle of skills, knowledge, competencies and behaviors. When applied, they provide the individual the capability to meet job requirements in their entirety.

Seven Hints to Creating a KSA that Produces a Wow!

First, think of the KSA document as if it were an informal interview on paper.

1. Assure that you make a positive first impression by incorporating correct spelling, grammar, sentence structure in well thought out sentences that are in direct response to specific questions asked on the form.

Your response should be thorough, but concise. The information should be to the point, but with enough meaningful data to create a “wow”.

2. In answering questions, begin writing your sentences by using action words such as designed, implemented, created, addressed, assessed, etc. to demonstrate taking personal responsibility for producing a specific action and/or outcome related to the question asked.

3. Link specific favorable outcomes to as many statements as possible to demonstrate actual value-added impact. Notice the difference between the two examples below:

  • Designed engineering requirements for the F-14 engine.
  • Designed engineering requirements for the F-14 engine, resulting in 25% fuel efficiency and $1.5 million savings in energy costs.

4. In many Federal job postings, you will find qualification specifications listed as critical and others listed as desirable. Focus on providing data that directly addresses the critical qualifications first and the desirable attributes second.

5. The posting may actually highlight the designated percentage of importance for each qualification listed. Make sure to prioritize and target the designated qualifications with your statements. In other words, if the posting specifies 6-Sigma expertise as being 60%, engineering 25% and information technology 15%, don’t focus largely on information technology.

6. Don’t submit yet! Whether or not the KSA is submitted via on-line or hard copy, take a break for at least thirty minutes. Walk away from the form. Have a cup of coffee or tea. Watch a cartoon. Whatever you need to do to get your mind off the KSA section. Note: If the form is to be completed and submitted on-line, proactively assure there is no time-out period in which the server will automatically disconnect and or you have a chance of losing data. Print a sample copy of possible.

7. After thirty minutes, return and review the form. You will likely find weak points, spelling errors; sentences that you thought made sense and now wonder what you were thinking! Make the needed changes and follow directions to submit. Be sure to make an extra copy to review prior to your interview!

About the Author

Jason Kay is a professional resume writer and regular contributor to, a professional federal resume service and repository of sample KSA statements.