Federal Job KSA Tips

Federal vacancy announcements describe all the information needed to complete an application such as the minimum required qualifications; the evaluation factors or knowledge, skills, and abilities (federal job KSAs) which will be used to rank applicants; a description of the work to be performed and where to send your application and the closing date.

After you identify a specific vacancy or hiring program which interests you, the next step is to submit your application or resume. Some vacancy announcements have the option of applying through automated procedures, which may require special forms and instructions. Follow all the instructions in the vacancy announcement, as well as any additional instructions given to you by the office which issues the announcement.

You are strongly encouraged to provide separate narrative statements with your application or resume, explaining that you possess the KSAs listed in the vacancy announcement. Addressing the KSAs will make you a stronger applicant for the position for which you’re applying. Statements addressing the KSAs should include examples of training, volunteer or paid work accomplishments, etc., which demonstrate that you have the required knowledges or skills. For example, depending on the position being filled, “oral communication skill” could be demonstrated by active membership in a campus speaking association or club, or by successful work as a volunteer academic tutor. Attach this additional information to your application or resume and ensure that your name, social security number, and announcement number are included on each page.

KSAs help the Human Resources Office in determining your basic eligibility and whether you are best qualified for the job, but they assist the hiring manager in determining whether you will be contacted for an interview.

Remember, in the Federal government, a full and complete application or resume is to your benefit! Tailor it to each job for which you apply with facts about your relevant education and experience (including volunteer activities), respond to all instructions and information requested, and make sure to mail it to the correct location in accordance with closing date instructions. An incomplete application or resume often precludes an applicant from further consideration!

If you choose to use a resume rather than the OF 612, you should include the following information:

Information to Include in Your Resume

Job Information
Announcement number (if applicable), title and grade (if known) of the position

Personal Information

  • Full name, mailing address (with ZIP code)
  • Day and evening phone numbers (with area code)
  • Veterans’ preference (see note below)
  • Country of citizenship
  • Reinstatement eligibility (if applicable)
  • Highest Federal civilian grade held (if applicable)

Note: If you served on active duty in the U.S. military and received an honorable or general discharge, you may be eligible for veterans’ preference and possibly for a noncompetitive appointment. To claim veterans’ preference, submit a DD 214, “Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty,” or other proof of eligibility for the type of veterans’ preference requested, e.g., 5 points, 10 points. For specific information on veterans’ preference, access the VetGuide on OPM’s Website at http://www.opm.gov/veterans/html/vetguide.htm


  • High school: Name, city, and state, date of diploma or GED
  • Colleges or universities: Name, city, state, ZIP code
  • Majors: Type and year of degree(s) received (If no degree, show total credits earned and indicate whether semester or quarter hours.)
  • Send a copy of your college transcript only if the vacancy announcement requests it.

Work Experience
Give the following information for all paid and non-paid work experience related to the job you’re applying for:

  • Job title
  • Starting and ending dates
  • Salary
  • Employer’s name and address
  • Supervisor’s name and phone #
  • Hours worked per week
  • Duties and accomplishments
  • Indicate if we may contact your current supervisor.

Other Qualifications

  • Job-related training courses (title and year).
  • Job-related skills, i.e., other languages, computer software/hardware, tools, machinery, typing speed.
  • Job-related certificates and licenses.
  • Job-related honors, awards, and special accomplishments, (e.g., publications, memberships in professional or honor societies, leadership activities, public speaking, and performance awards).

KSA (Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities) Tips

Pay Attention to Keywords

Whether you’re writing your first resume, updating an existing one, or answering a position’s Knowledges, Skills, and Abilities (KSA’s), stop and think about which keywords you need to add. You could be the most qualified person for the position, but you could be lost in a sea of applicants without the right keywords.

A Single Keyword Communicates Multiple Skills and Qualifications

When a recruiter reads the keyword “analyst,” he or she might assume you have experience in collecting data, evaluating effectiveness, and researching and developing new processes. Just one keyword can have tremendous power and deliver a huge message.

Study Job Announcements

This is the best way to determine important keywords. Review several job announcements and their questions for your ideal position. The jobs don’t have to be in your geographic target area. The idea is to find skills, experience, education and other credentials important in your field. You will probably find keywords frequently mentioned by different agencies. Focus on the “requirements,” “skills” or “qualifications” sections of job ads, and look for “buzzwords” and desirable credentials for your ideal job.

Be Concise

Don’t confuse telling your story with creating your autobiography. Recruiters are inundated with applications and are faced with weeding out the good from the bad. The first step involves quickly skimming through submissions and eliminating candidates who clearly are not qualified. Therefore, your application needs to pass the skim test. Look at your resume and/or KSA’s and ask yourself:

  • Can a hiring manager see my main credentials within 10 to 15 seconds?
  • Does critical information jump off the page?
  • Do I effectively sell myself on the top quarter of the first page?

The Sales Pitch

Because applications are quickly skimmed during the first pass, it is crucial your resume and KSA’s get right to work selling your credentials. Your key selling points need to be prominently displayed at the top of the first page of the resume and directly address each question asked in the KSA section. For example, if an advanced degree is an important qualification, it shouldn’t be buried at the end of a four-page resume. If a KSA question asks about your writing ability, immediately detail your experience instead of enjoyment of it.

Use an Editor’s Eye

Many workers are proud of their careers and feel the information on a resume should reflect everything they’ve accomplished. However, a resume shouldn’t contain every detail and KSA’s should only address the question at hand. So be judicious. If your college days are far behind you, does it really matter that you pledged a fraternity or delivered pizza? The editing step will be difficult if you are holding on to your past for emotional reasons.

Consider starting your KSA writing with a sample. It makes your writing task much easier than starting from scratch.

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