A KSA Question That Baffles Me

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This topic contains 5 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  Steve Ressler 8 years, 10 months ago.

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  • #95237

    George H. Foster

    As a person who does not work for the Federal Government, and their only experience with it was a member of the US Army, stationed in western Germany and Vietnam – with a very small , I am, in general, confused by these questions in general, since I have no idea what the audience is expecting.

    The one that is most baffling is what I have come to call the Nathan Bedford Forrest Question – regarding dealing with people with varied backgrounds. I call it that, because it seems to be designed to deal not with different points of view to the problems at hand (which, given my extensive consulting experience, is a normal situation for me), but to some sort of racial or ethnic differences. This is confusing for me, since this both not a requirement for work in the private sector, and puts me in the position of trying to prove the negative.

    On an opportunity I am looking at at the VA (I am 30% disabled, service connected), it goes like this:

    Ability to communicate orally and in writing with a wide range of individuals from varied backgrounds which may include national VA program officials, national level offers and contractors, members of the press, and members of congress and their staff personnel.

    On and off since 9/11 I have applied for various opportunties, giving up because I became convinced that that my applications were being ignored, if not outright thrown away.

    I understand that the VA may need people with my extensive Project/Program Management experience, so I am thinking of attempting again.

    Any ideas out there on just what to say, what not to say, and how to say it?

  • #95250

    Steve Ressler

    To me it looks like it is getting at interpersonal skills. And since project management is dealing with so many stakeholders, how good are you at interpersonal skills and dealing with lots of different stakeholders with different priorities and different backgrounds.

    Key is to use examples of how you’ve done this.

  • #95248

    Rob Ahern

    First, no one is ignoring you and you application materials certainly aren’t being thrown out as long as you’re applying via USA Jobs and following all of the directions. Getting a Federal job is tough- there’s a ton of competition- and it’s unrealistic to think you’re going to hear back about most (or even many) of the applications you submit. Regarding your specific question, “varied backgrounds” means whatever you want it to as long as you discuss experiences you’ve had and acknowledge those you haven’t had but look forward to in the future. Understanding diversity (experiential, cultural, racial, ethnic, etc.) is a significant component of Federal work and the presence of such diversity makes our workforce strong; it is important that prospective employees recognize and respect this fact and are well-positioned to work with colleagues from a wide variety of backgrounds- it’s a big country, and folks from all parts of it work in government. It also looks like the particular role you’re interested in may be fairly high profile, so it will likely be critical to demonstrate your ability to communicate effectively. Prior to submission, I recommend sharing your KSA responses with several people; take their (constructive) comments and work to prepare a series of clear, well-written paragraphs. Presentation may be an important part of this application, and this is you opportunity to show how capable you really are.

    Hope this helps; good luck!

  • #95246

    Amanda Blount

    I tell people all the time, the way I do mine has been different from everyone else, but I keep going up, so I can’t be too bad. I have used your question, and I will give you an example of how I would answer it.

    Keep in mind, this question is on almost every job I have seen. Once you get it right, then all you have to do is copy it.

    Keep in mind… I just made up the below bullets from no experience at all. I meshed some of my experience with some my friend told me she had. You alway need numbers. And do not be afraid to request input from a job well done from the highest member and the lowest member of your group.



    Ability to communicate orally and in writing with a wide range of individuals from varied backgrounds which may include national VA program officials, national level offers and contractors, members of the press, and members of congress and their staff personnel.


    I list each position I have ever held under each KSA and explain each answer as a seperate answer. I give no less than 5 bullets for each KSA….

    Company ABC

    * Extensive work and communication with various levels of the public from laborers, to congress members.
    * Created and supervised the first and only VTC training project in TN which brought together a huge number of soldiers and civilians; this VTC saved time, money, and materials.
    * Work sucessfully with the VA Contracting Office Teams on projects for veterans and their families. These families consisted of people from various religious, racial, and generational backgrounds. I help the families navigate the VA process and provided translators and service support resources when needed.
    * Provided customer service to over 250 returning troops within 3 months on specific projects concerning suicide prevention and PTSD.
    * Conducted VA training on (your specific project – Ex: Suicide Prevention and PTSD) with various groups of the public up to 500 trainees. The members who attended were emplorers, civilians, and soldiers from every class, station, racial, and social background. I received a letter of appreciation from Congressman Jones, and ABC trucking company for my direct, yet informative training session.


    Now do this with every job you have ever had, and do this with every KSA (normally no more than 5). And list no less than 5 bullets under the job title – but feel free to add more if it is important.

    I am sure with your consulting work, your communication skills over a wide range of people will not be hard to document.

  • #95244

    Tom Vannoy

    One angle they are looking for in this question is – can you handle yourself talking to someone on your staff one moment and the next handle the ‘pressure’ of talking to a Congressional staffer who is asking very specific questions about the budgetary impact of the program you support.

    Are you able to communicate with the various levels of government and its representatives in an effective manner, do you innately recognize the different types of information they need and the different ways in which they want it delivered.

  • #95242

    Henry Brown

    An Article in Govexec.com and ESPECIALLY the comments will go a long way toward answering your question(s).

    Having said that your KSA question, of concern, is a basic boiler plate question, the response of which, as GovLoop and others have said, SUPPOSEDLY addresses your communication and interpersonal skills

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