Answer The Following Question In One To Two Well-Written Paragraphs How to Write Your KSA Answers to Get That Government Job

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How to Write Your KSA Answers to Get That Government Job

The current volatile economic situation and expected layoffs mean that many people will be looking for a new job. For most of you, a job with the US government offers security, excellent benefits, and interesting work. But remember: the competition for these jobs is fierce and you have to stand out from all the other applicants to get a spot – which is where KSA becomes the important opportunity you can use to get a government job.

What is KSA?

The US Office of Personnel Management maintains a searchable database, called USAJOBS that lists government job openings. Once you’ve signed up on line, you’ll find that specific position openings often require you to complete a detailed description of your Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSA) in addition to your resume.

Every job that requires a KSA has specific KSA questions that you will usually answer as part of a page of written content. This is not an optional task. You have to do it and you have to do it well. Each KSA response is scored by human resources staff on a 0-20 scale that indicates how close your knowledge, skills, and abilities are to the complexity, impact, diversity, situations, and interactions that characterize the job you are applying for. KSAs are often a deciding factor in your evaluation for a US government job. So, what are KSAs? According to the CDC’s Help Page on KSAs:

Knowledge Statements refer to an organized body of information usually of a factual or procedural nature that, when used, will make adequate work performance possible. A set of information that is directly used to perform a function.

skills Statements refer to skilled manual, verbal or mental manipulation of data or objects. Skills can be easily measured through a performance test where the quantity and quality of performance is tested, usually within a set time limit. Examples of skillful manipulation of objects are the skill of typing or the skill of operating a car. Examples of skilled data manipulation are the skill of calculating with decimals; editing skills for transferred numbers, etc.

Ability Statements refer to the power to perform an observable activity at the present time. This means that abilities are proven through activities or behaviors similar to those required by the job, for example, ability to plan and organize work. Abilities are different from abilities. Skills are just the potential to do the activity.

How can you answer KSA questions to improve your chances of getting a government job?

The most effective answers to KSA questions demonstrate your understanding of the job requirements based on a detailed analysis of the job description and typical tasks. You should pay close attention to the key words used in the job description and use those words to describe your knowledge, skills and abilities.

In general, knowledge are more abstract than skills and therefore can be generalized to many different tasks and responsibilities. Knowledge comes from academic and life experiences including, but not limited to, education and work. Any knowledge you have gained that is relevant to the job you are looking for is something you should include in your KSA answer.

It’s a good idea to brainstorm with yourself and others, what “knowledge” you should possess because you can demonstrate it through your written answers. For example, let’s say that the position requires “being able to organize a project”. Although your work experience does not provide an opportunity to manage a project, your experience running a PTA fundraiser for a year, albeit an unpaid activity, can be legitimately claimed as “experience to manage a project”. It is up to you to describe the knowledge you have acquired in a way that translates to the job you are applying for.

Think skills as capabilities that can be tested ie, understanding how a spreadsheet program can help manage a budget is knowledge; being able to create an Excel spreadsheet to track expenses is a skill. Remove skill requirements from job postings and provide evidence that you have the skills. For example, the position of Pharmacy Assistant is required knowledge demonstrated through certified training and skills gained from previous experience in dispensing medicines and working with customers.

How to write an effective KSA response

When answering KSA questions, you are making statements about your knowledge, skills, and abilities. You need to back up those assertions with credible evidence. You should develop your KSA answers with an eye on two important variables: content relevance and presentation quality. The National Forest Service provides excellent guidance on the dos and don’ts of writing effective KSA responses.

Describe your knowledge, skills, and abilities in terms directly connected to the job using the keywords you pulled from the job posting. Then “prove” through specific examples what you can do because of what you did in the past and the context in which you did it. Place your compliance with the essential job requirements at the beginning of the appropriate KSA response or at the beginning of a paragraph. Example: If the job requires an accounting degree, the first place you can clearly state, “I completed my degree in accounting at XYZ University” do; then go on to describe your experience in accounting tasks.

Numbers will be your friend when it comes to providing proof to your reviewers. Instead of saying, “I write the reports” consider saying, “I prepared monthly reports on six field tests with a lead time of two days”.

Knowledge and skills can also be demonstrated by using an overview of your past responsibilities with examples of specific tasks, by describing the training or certifications you have received, and by citing awards or recognition for achievements. Reviewers like to see action words in your KSA answers and that requires you to write in an active versus a passive voice. You say: “I checked the data…” not “Checking data”. You can find a great list of action verbs at Job Skills – Power verbs.

In conclusion your answers to the KSA should:

  • Be concise
  • Be relevant
  • Be specific
  • Have quantitative examples
  • Make it easy for reviewers to find your compliance with key job requirements
  • Be action and accomplishment oriented
  • Well written with NO TYPO and good word processing. It’s a good idea to have someone else look over your answers before you send them because sometimes it’s hard to see your own mistakes.

Remember, KSA answers separate those who qualify for a job from those who are eligible lol qualified.

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