career tip of the month

Are Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs) Really Gone?

In the past, many federal vacancy announcements often required applicants to write separate KSA narrative statements. A few years ago, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) leadership decided to “do away” with KSAs as part of hiring reform and streamlining the federal application process.

The idea was that some qualified applicants would not apply because they did not want to write KSAs.

Since then, CareerPro Global’s (CPG) writing team developed thousands of federal resumes for our clients, and we’ve closely watched the evolution of the KSA. For a while, KSAs really did fade into the background. However, over the past few years, they have cropped up—only in a slightly different form. Agencies started including KSAs again, but instead of requiring separate narratives, they simply make them optional.

When advising our clients, we explain these optional KSAs with the analogy of a college professor giving extra credit. If you want the extra credit (and you do!), then you should ensure the KSAs are clearly represented in your resume.

Furthermore, we have started to integrate what we call “mini-KSA” statements into federal resumes, and this approach has been very successful. In other words, our clients routinely achieve “best qualified” ratings, and land interviews that lead to jobs.

Here in the second half of 2015, KSAs seem to be making a real comeback, and various agencies use different language to address them.

Below is an example of KSAs that are not actually called “KSAs” for a recent client’s application:


When the application process is complete, we will review your resume to ensure you meet the hiring eligibility and qualification requirements listed in this announcement. You will be rated based on the information provided in your resume and responses to the Occupational Questionnaire, along with your supporting documentation to determine your ability to demonstrate the following competencies:

  1. Economic Statistics
  2. Planning and Analysis
  3. Problem Solving
  4. Communication

We at CPG view this as their way of saying “if you include evidence of these competencies, you will receive a higher rating.” Incidentally, this client chose to include mini-KSAs statements in her resume, and landed an interview and a highly desired position.

Our professional verdict: OPM’s decision to discontinue KSAs was well-intended. However, individual organizations find KSAs to be a great tool for screening candidates, and so have found creative ways to fold them back into the federal hiring process.

Our professional advice: If you see KSAs in a federal job announcement, even if they are technically optional, take the extra credit!


By Lee Kelley

Mr. Kelley is an Iraq war veteran, former Army Captain, and author who now serves as the senior writer on CareerPro Global’s writing team. Leveraging the company’s vast expertise in assisting thousands of SES and federal job seekers, Lee has personally developed hundreds of resumes and more than a thousand ECQs.

He is also the Director of Training and Veteran Transitions, and has provided USAJOBS resume-writing workshops to hundreds of federal employees and military personnel. In addition, Lee co-authored the book, "Roadmap to the Senior Executive Service: How to Find SES Jobs, Determine Your Qualifications, and Develop Your SES Application." His latest book is titled, "Inside Marine One: Four U.S. Presidents, One Proud Marine, and the World’s Most Amazing Helicopter."

Posted in Career Tip of the Month

Tags: Senior Executive Service, SES



The free weekly e-report for Federal Executives, Managers & Supervisors

Get in touch with us

Email FEDmanager publisher

Copyright 2019
Hosted by Peak Media Company, LLC