KSAs in the Resume


Federal applicants are familiar with employers' requests to include a separate Knowledge, Skills and Abilities narrative (KSA) in their applications. Now, some vacancy announcements are requiring KSAs within the text of the resume. Knowing the best way to incorporate this information into your resume could be key to landing your next job.

Take the case of one Air Force applicant. He applied to an Air Force civilian GS-7 position at Offutt Air Force Base in Ohio. Having read that KSAs needed to be included in the resume, he submitted his application without a KSA narrative attached. But then he started doubting himself. The request seemed so unusual. Had he misread the application? Was his application going to be thrown out as a result?

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It turns out this applicant could rest assured. Novel as the application seemed, he understood the directions correctly. If your next application requests the same of you, don't be put off. Many job candidates find that applications requiring the new KSA treatment are easier to submit.

Why KSAs?

Whether incorporated into the resume or submitted separately, KSAs are a vital part of government applications. In a nutshell, KSAs are the specific knowledge, skills and abilities an agency seeks in a candidate. How far a candidate gets in the application process is likely to be determined by the ability to convincingly address the agency's requested KSA factors.

Federal agencies have been asking for KSAs for more than 20 years. The federal human resources specialists or a panel of experts read the KSAs and "rate and rank" qualifications. The score usually determines whether a candidate is referred to the supervisor and possibly whether an interview results.

But in the interest of efficiency and also to attract more candidates by making the application process easier, many job vacancy announcements from the Department of Defense, government intelligence agencies and the National Security Agency are now requesting that KSAs are incorporated into the resume. (Take note: In its online applications, the Federal Bureau of Investigations still requires KSAs to be addressed separately in essays.)

How Do You Include KSAs in Your Resume?

Including KSAs in your resume is simpler than you might think.

As a prospective job candidate, you may incorporate your KSAs in your resume's Work Experience or Additional Info section.

When doing that, you should aim to use some of the employer's actual KSA language in the KSA-supporting work examples you provide. If possible, try to quantify some of that information with numbers, dollars or percentages.

Remember that rather than use the popular bullet style of private industry resumes, many public sector candidates find it useful to showcase their KSAs through paragraphs on their resume, as the examples below illustrate.

Related: Does your resume pass the 6-second test? Get a FREE assessment.

Both of these examples, while formatted differently, include the actual words used in the employer's KSA request. Many people write KSAs without repeating those words -- that is a mistake.

KSA: Ability to analyze accounting systems and improve processes.

Option 1: Include this headline and descriptive accomplishment in the Work Experience section.

Analyze Accounting Systems and Improve Processes: Developed improved processes for my internal and external customers to gain access to automated accounting systems. The challenge was to design an intake sheet that gathered all the customer information and training the customers in efficiently accessing multiple, complex online accounting systems. I have successfully trained more than 40 accounting staff from 5 major Defense agency customers in accessing the databases saving time from frustrating phone calls, errors and repeated problem solving.

Option 2: Include this accomplishment in the Resume Builder's Additional Info field

Context: I developed improved processes for my internal and external customers to gain access to automated accounting systems. The CHALLENGE was designing the original intake sheet for customer information and passwords, keeping it simple and getting the right information to set up their access codes into the databases. Actions: I designed and tested the worksheets and created functional training material for internal and external customers so the information was received successfully.

Results: This improved the process, effectiveness and efficiency of work operations. I was able to train customers in accessing their accounts in multiple accounting databases with one form, rather than phone calls and continual troubleshooting. This saved hours of time. Also allowed customers to finish system builds through better instruction.

KSA Examples or Stories Told with the CCAR Model

Also observe that the bottom example uses something known as a context, challenge, action and results format (CCAR). The CCAR can prove a useful way to help HR specialists better understand and identify the challenges a candidate faced and the results produced.

One Last Point

Don't get too concerned about the length of your federal resume when including KSAs. Federal resumes are generally longer than most private industry resumes, and agencies should allow for ample room to include examples that support your KSAs.

Do You Have the KSAs to Do the Job?

As far as that Air Force applicant is concerned, still no word on whether he got the job. But one thing he can rest assured about: He got the KSA part of the application dead on.

Related: To apply for jobs that match your skills, visit the Military Skills Translator.

The Next Step: Find the Right Veteran Job

Whether you want to polish up your resume, find veteran job fairs in your area, or connect with employers looking to hire veterans, Military.com can help. Sign up for a free Military.com membership to have job postings, guides and advice, and more delivered directly to your inbox.

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