How to Survive KSAs

Is there anything more dreadful than writing KSAs? It was only last November where I remembered writing 9 KSAs over a weekend (for two openings) and feeling like I just ran a marathon.

The only good thing about KSAs is that they are so painful that it limits the number of people that apply. With the rise of online applications, it is very easy to write a quick cover letter and apply to 3-5 private sector jobs in an evening. With KSAs, it takes a weekend to apply to a job.

In order to make it easier for someone out there, I’ll list my top 5 KSA tips:

1) Keep it to a page. Each essay should be about one page.

2) Key words. This is not rocket science. Reiterate the key words mentioned in the KSA question as well as the words sprinkled throughout the job application and description.

3) Vary your experiences. You need clear examples to demonstrate your skills. Do not describe at a high level what you’ve done. Give concrete example and make sure you do not duplicate too much. Feel free to use examples from outside of work such as running a volunteer organization or school projects.

4) Give the process a few days. Pace yourself and do a couple KSAs a day. Let your brain have time to think of good examples.

5) Outside eyes. After writing, give yourself a day or two to relax before looking at the KSAs again. There is nothing worse than a misspelling or incorrect grammar. Better yet get an outside set of eyes to review your application.

What are your tips for surviving the KSA process? Join the conversation below.

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Chances are, you’re applying to similar positions with similar KSAs. Always save a copy and then you can just cut/paste. I had a whole folder on my computer with KSAs oriented to different types of positions. This will make it infinitely easier each successive time.

I agree with the one-page-per question estimate. I have heard that quoted often.

I got to where I had a general paragraph explaining and/or bullet-listing my past responsibilities as relates to the KSA in question. Then I had a bulleted list of the positions wherein I held those duties and the years.

Always have a trusted coworker read them over. It helps to have another set of eyes read them, from someone who understands the government ways.

Learn the buzzwords the agency likes. Diversity, program management, budget management — whatever the case may be. Using the right words is a big part of success.

After a while, you’ll have applying for gov’t jobs down to a science. Good luck!