Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

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A KSA, or Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities, is a series of narrative statements that are required when applying to United States Federal government job openings. KSAs are used to determine, along with résumés, who the best applicants are when several candidates qualify for a job. The knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) necessary for the successful performance of a position are contained on each job vacancy announcement. In 2009 the Office of Personal Management asked federal agencies to stop requiring job applicants to fill out the questionnaires, to be phased out within a year.[1][2] A similar model, the KASE (Knowledge, Attributes, Skills and Experience) framework is used by the careers advisory service at King's College London.[3]

KSAs are brief and focused essays about one's career and educational background that presumably qualify one to perform the duties of the position. A knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA) is a concise essay about one's talent and expertise and related experiences (work, education, volunteerism) and accomplishments. A series of KSA statements are usually required when applying for most federal government and some state and city government jobs. KSAs are used as a metric to assess the capabilities of a prospective applicant in terms of likely ability to perform the duties of the job. Most government hiring officials look for a short, crisp, and clear KSA that emphasizes results or accomplishments obtained in previous work.

KSA statements are also known as Evaluation Factors. Other agencies sometimes call them "Rating Factors", "Quality Ranking Factors", "Knowledge, Abilities, skills, and Other Characteristics", or "Job Elements". The name can be just a name but it often influences content and length of the essay. Every agency has its own regulations, but most of the time the each KSA factor should be 1/2 to 1½ pages long.

The below definitions are defined by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management:

  • Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs) – The attributes required to perform a job and are generally demonstrated through qualifying service, education, or training.
  • Knowledge – Is a body of information (factual or procedural knowledge) required for performance of a function.
  • Skill – Is proficiency (direct application of knowledge) to perform a particular task or a learned psychomotor act.
  • Ability – Is the enduring capability to perform an observable behavior or competent performance that results in an observable product.

The scoring of KSA essays is based on a scale of from 1 to 100. Job applicants must score above 70 to be considered for the position. High scores are derived through answering the KSA question as specifically as possible, providing examples from previous employment or training that clearly demonstrate the applicant meet the qualifications.

When applying to federal government positions, a Federal Resume is usually required in addition to KSA statements.


  1. ^ Losey, Stephen. OPM: Stop using KSAs when hiring, Federal Times, (June 23, 2009).
  2. ^ Losey, Stephen. Hiring reform: KSAs to be phased out within a year, Federal Times, (June 23, 2009).
  3. ^ "King's Careers and Employability". University of London.