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

In the past, many federal vacancy announcements often required applicants to write separate Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities narrative statements. A few years ago, OPM leadership then 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 even apply because they did not want to bother with writing KSAs.

Since then, CareerPro Global’s (CPG) writing team has developed thousands of federal resumes for our clients, and we’ve closely watched the evolution of the Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities section. For a while, KSAs really did seem to fade into the background. However, over the past few years, we have been seeing them crop up more and more often—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 describe 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.

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

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

Here 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

    1. Planning and Analysis

    1. Problem Solving

    1. Communication

We at CPG view that as a fancy 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: The top-level OPM guidance and 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!

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