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How to Write Your KSA Answers to Get That Government Job
Today’s volatile economic climate and expected layoffs mean many people are looking for new jobs. For many of you, a US government job can offer security, excellent benefits, and interesting work. But be aware: the competition for these jobs is fierce and you need to stand out from all the other applicants to get a placement – which is where KSA becomes a prime opportunity that you can use to land that govt job.
What is KSA?
The US Office of Personnel Management maintains a searchable database, called USAJOBS, that lists government job opportunities. Once you’ve signed up online, you’ll find that specific position openings often require you to fill out a detailed description. Knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA) in addition to your resume.
Every job that requires a KSA will usually have specific KSA questions for you to answer on a page of written material. This is not an optional task. You must do it and you must do it well. Each KSA answer is scored by HR personnel on a 0-20 scale that reflects how well your knowledge, skills, and abilities match the complexity, influence, variety, situations, and interactions that characterize the job you are applying for. KSAs are often the deciding factor in your evaluation for a job in the US government. So, what are KSAs? According to the CDC’s help page in KSA:
the knowledge Statements generally refer to an organized body of information of a factual or procedural nature that, if applied, would make possible adequate performance in a job. A body of information directly applicable to the performance of a function.
skills Statements refer to the skilled manual, verbal or mental manipulation of data or things. Skills are easily measured by performance testing where the quantity and quality of performance is tested, usually within an established time frame. Examples of skillful manipulation of objects are skill in typing or skill in operating a vehicle. Examples of skilled manipulation of data are skills in calculations using decimals; Editing skills for transposed numbers, etc.
capacity Statements refer to the power to perform an observable activity at the present time. This means that abilities are demonstrated through activities or behaviors that are consistent with those required on the job, such as the ability to plan and organize work. Abilities are different from competencies. Competencies are simply the potential to perform an activity.
How should you answer KSA questions to improve your chances of getting a government job?
The most effective answers to KSA questions reflect your understanding of the job requirements based on a detailed analysis of the job description and typical work. You should pay attention to the key words used in the job description and use those words to describe your knowledge, skills and abilities.
generally, the knowledge Skills are more abstract and therefore generalizable to many different tasks and responsibilities. Knowledge comes from academic and life experiences, but is not limited to education and employment. Any knowledge you have that is relevant to the job you are seeking should be included in your KSA response.
It’s a good idea to consider, with yourself and others, what “knowledge” you should claim because you can demonstrate it through your written answers. For example, let’s say the position requires “being able to manage projects.” Even if your work experience did not provide an opportunity to manage a project, your experience raising PTA funds for a year, albeit an unpaid activity, can legitimately be claimed as “project management experience.” It’s up to you to describe the knowledge you’ve gained in a way that translates into the job you’re applying for.
idea skills Knowledge can be tested as abilities ie, understanding how a spreadsheet program can help manage a budget; Being able to create an Excel spreadsheet to track expenses is a skill. Extract skill requirements from job postings and provide evidence that you have those skills. For example, the position of pharmacy assistant is required the knowledge Proven training and performance by skills Gained from previous experience handing out medication and working with clients.
How to write an effective KSA response
In answering KSA questions, you are making claims about your knowledge, skills and abilities. Then you must back up those claims with credible evidence. You need to develop your KSA responses with an eye on two key variables: relevance of content and quality of presentation. The National Forest Service provides an excellent tutorial on the dos and don’ts of writing effective KSA responses.
Describe your knowledge, skills, and abilities in terms that directly relate to the job, using keywords you pull from job postings. Then “prove” with specific examples what you’ve done in the past and what you can do in the context of what you’ve done. Place your compliance with key job requirements at the beginning of the appropriate KSA answer or paragraph. For example: If the job requires a degree in accounting, for the first position you can clearly say, “I completed my accounting degree at XYZ University” do Then continue to describe your experience in accounting jobs.
Numbers can be your friend when it comes to providing proof to your reviewers. instead of saying, “I wrote a report” Consider that, “I prepared monthly reports on six field tests with a lead time of two days”.
Knowledge and skills can also be demonstrated using an overview of your previous responsibilities, including examples of specific tasks, describing the training or certifications you have received, and citing awards or recognition for achievements. Reviewers want to see action words in your KSA answers and for that you should write in active vs passive voice. You should say: “I analyzed the data…” no “Data analyzed”. You can find a great list of action verbs at Action Skills – Power Verbs.
Finally your KSA answers should be:
- Be concise
- Be relevant
- Be specific
- There are quantitative examples
- Make it easy for reviewers to detect your compliance with key job requirements
- Be task and achievement oriented
- Write well No typos and good sentence construction. It’s a good idea to have someone else check your answers before you send them because sometimes it’s hard to see your own mistakes.
Remember, KSA answers separate those who are qualified for the job from those who are Most of the time eligible
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