The Art of Writing a KSA – Your Best Accomplishment Record (AR) Stories

by Ligaya Fernandez*

Writing your KSAs

Writing your KSAs

After the federal resume is written and you have reviewed the announcement further, your writing isn’t finished yet! It is highly likely that you will have to address the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA) required for the position. The KSAs are critical to your entire application and your score. The human resources specialists want to know what knowledge, skills and abilities you have that will demonstrate you are able to perform the duties of the position. In essence, the KSAs are interview questions that you will answer at the very beginning of the job search process.

What Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities DO You Have?

The case study here is for a biologist with the World Health Organization. He has a lot of KSAs, such as knowledge of a variety of research methods, analytical skills, AND writing and editing abilities.

You CAN use one work experience for more than one KSA, but you have to describe the experience with information that is directly relevant to the specific KSA.  For example, you can use your experience as a sales manager to describe your oral communication skills or your management abilities. It is also a good idea to pick up keywords from the KSA question and use them to describe your KSA.

Accomplishment Records/KSAs Are Really Just Great Examples of Your Work

What the HR specialist REALLY wants is a good example that shows your ACCOMPLISHMENT RECORD as it demonstrates this knowledge, skill or ability. You can’t just say, “I have five years experience in project management,” or, “My job requires excellent interpersonal skills.”

What are KSAs or Qualifications Statements?

They are specific information/examples about your:

  • Experience;
  • Education;
  • Training;
  • Awards; and
  • Achievements

That demonstrate that you have the KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS, ABILITIES (KSAs), and other characteristics needed to do the job.

Why are Qualifications Statements/KSAs required?

Merit competition – The government is VERY fair in reviewing applications. They ask for more information on paper, to make sure they select the best qualified candidates.

To identify “best-qualified” candidates – The KSAs are great written statements that can demonstrate your qualifications. Success in most government jobs requires significant writing, analysis, and interpersonal skills, so the KSA statements will highlight the skills that you are offering the HR specialist. Please take your time and write a few sets of KSAs to jumpstart your federal job campaign.

How to Write Competitive KSAs

1. Study vacancy announcements to find your ideal job.

  • Determine keywords.
  • Find skills, education, experience and credentials important in the field.
  • Use keywords when describing your KSAs.

2. Use the CCAR Method to write your KSAs.

Context: Describe the problem or goal.

Challenge: Describe the circumstances in which you had to meet your goal or solve the problem, including information such as:

  • Individuals or groups involved (e.g., agency head, Congressional member, state rep, supervisor, media, demanding customer, etc.)
  • Environment in which you had to operate (e.g., limited resources such as money, time or personnel; bad weather; negative publicity; short deadline; low morale; lack of knowledge/skill/expertise, etc.)
Action: Describe the actions you took to solve the problem or attain your goal.

Results: Describe the results/outcomes of your actions, or accomplishments attained. Be sure to cite information such as:

  • Money saved
  • Time reduced
  • Efficiency/productivity gained
  • Knowledge transfer
  • Deadlines met (internal and external)
  • Awards or commendations

3. Other Tips

  • Understand what the job entails.
  • Don’t be shy; sell yourself.
  • Be realistic; don’t exaggerate.
  • Use keywords when describing KSA.
  • Don’t use keywords thoughtlessly.
  • Give relevant examples.
  • Be concise and to the point; address the KSA.
  • Have a friend review your resume and qualifications statements.
  • If you don’t have anyone else who can look at your materials, review, review, review!

*AUTHOR’S BIO: Ligaya J. Fernandez retired from the Federal Government after 21 years of service. All of her Federal career was in the field of HR management. Her last assignment was as a senior research analyst with the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board where she authored several reports that were widely received, including reports dealing with the Federal Career Intern Program, the hiring of upper-level employees, the quality of Federal vacancy announcements, and the job search experiences of new hires. Ligaya also worked at the former Customs Service, the FAA, and Army as a personnel staffing and classification specialist. She was a college instructor before she worked for the Federal Government. She has a master’s degree in management.


Agency Name: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Department Name: National Health and Environmental Affects Research Laboratory

Position Title, Series, Grade: Lead Research Biologist, 0401, 14

Announcement Number: 10101

Title: Knowledge, Skills & Abilities
Describe your experience with a variety of: advanced statistical approaches, programming languages of statistical analysis and graphics, information management software tools to access, collect, compile, synthesize, maintain, analyze, model, and/or report on large, complex ecological and environmental research data sets, including promising approaches for technology transfer of computational methods. Please provide specific examples of analytical tools and approaches you have utilized.

In November 2006 to September 2007, I was detailed to the World Health Organization (WHO) as an associate biologist. I was tasked to develop a statistical approach for mapping the risk of contracting malaria in two villages in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Malaria has been reported to have regularly occurred in these two villages for many years with, in many cases, fatal results. The WHO wanted to be able to predict with more accuracy the occurrence of malaria, not only in the two villages, but in the whole country. Mapping was critical in successfully controlling incidence of malaria.

To map the risk, I used SAS, a powerful statistical software package, to develop a statistical model to predict the risk of occurrence. I traveled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to actually observe the occurrence of malaria in the two villages and to collect data. When I arrived, I found that estimation was complicated by the local variation of risk that cannot be accounted for by the known variables. Also, my work became more challenging because data points of measured malaria prevalence were not evenly or randomly spread across the area to be mapped.

To overcome this challenge, I used a simple two-stage approach for producing maps of predicted risk:
1. I used logistic regression modeling to determine approximate risk on a larger scale, and
2. I employed a geo-statistical approach to improve prediction at the local level.

This two-stage approach resulted in a map showing the improvement of risk prediction brought about by the second stage.

Before the end of my detail, I presented my two-stage approach to mapping the risk of malaria to the WHO. The WHO has adopted the approach I developed not only in the two villages in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but in other African countries as well.

To recognize my novel approach, the WHO awarded me its Humanitarian Award in 2007. In addition, I have published a peer-reviewed article titled, “A spatial statistical approach to Malaria mapping,” in the spring 2008 issue of the journal Science describing my methodology.

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