Writing Great KSA Factor Responses

In addition to providing a resume, federal job applicants are typically required to complete narrative statements on specified knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) factors. These statements, which accompany an applicant’s cover letter and resume, are required to be considered for employment. This portion of the selection process is based on the premise that past behavior is a predictor of future performance and behavior. Therefore, in order to successfully compete for a federal position, an applicant must be able to relate relevant knowledge, skills, and abilities gained through education, experience, and past employment to the relevant position.

Although the KSA process may seem daunting at first, much of the information you need to complete these statements is in job announcement. This announcement provides the KSA factors must be addressed as part of the application process as well as specific clues about what language and examples you should use in your response. By selecting and using key terms from the announcement in a KSA response, you can demonstrate a fit for the position to which you are applying. Tailor the terms you use in your response to the job announcement and position being applied to and not the vernacular of a previous employer. Further, when possible address a KSA factor with an example of a time when you successfully resolved a problem or worked on a project that is the same as the position of interest. This approach will make it as easy as possible for a recruiter/hiring manager to see a direct connect between you and the position for which you are applying.

Once the key terms and relevant examples to utilize in KSA factor responses have been selected, the information needs to be organized and a strong statement drafted. The statement should be approximately one to two pages in length, and each KSA factor should be addressed in a separate response. Begin your response statement by providing a context for the situation, task or problem that you dealt with. Provide details around what your job was, who you were working for, and why the situation was significant or problematic. Next, explain the action you took to address the situation. If applicable, highlight initiative or actions above and beyond the call of duty that you took to resolve the situation. Finally, describe the outcome or resolution of the situation. To the extent possible, make your explanation of the situation and its resolution quantitative. If you saved an employer time or money, ensure that your statement clearly highlights this important outcome. By making your statement as descriptive and quantitative, you assist the recruiter in putting the situation you faced and the outcome in context.

Although the KSA statement process can be time consuming, it can make the difference between being viewed as a qualified or unqualified candidate. Therefore, take some time to review the job announcement and reflect on your background. You will then be in a good position to craft KSA statements that demonstrate your proficiency in several key skill areas for the position to which you are applying.

One more tip I’ve learned over the years for writing great KSA factor responses is to begin my writing with a sample KSA factor. It makes the writing much easier, faster, and more professional looking.


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