Marking the One Year Anniversary of Federal Hiring Reform, Kathryn Troutman, "Federal Resume Guru" and President of The Resume Place, Addresses the Great KSA Debate


One year ago, John Berry, Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and President Obama made bold moves to improve the application process for federal jobseekers by eliminating the dreaded Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSA) narratives from federal applications. Kathryn Troutman and The Resume Place, the leading experts in Federal Resume Writing and Career Consulting, witness firsthand the effects and confusion that government job applicants face regarding Federal Hiring Reform and the supposed elimination of KSAs in federal applications. Receive advice and tips from Ms. Troutman and The Resume Place on how to handle KSAs in the federal resume with the newly published fifth edition of the Federal Resume Guidebook.”

Federal Resume Guidebook, 5th Edition by Kathryn Troutman

Federal Resume Guidebook, 5th Edition by Kathryn Troutman

It’s no secret that the federal application process is a daunting task for most jobseekers, especially considering that applying for federal jobs is a totally different beast than applying to positions in the private industry. The separate KSA narratives required to apply for government jobs have kept many highly qualified applicants from applying for these positions. The Resume Place provides expert advice regarding federal resume writing and how to deal with KSAs in the applications for federal positions.

One year ago, President Obama published an Executive Order mandating human resources specialists eliminate the dreaded Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSA) narratives from the first-time federal application by November, 2011.

On Thursday May 19, 2011, Kathryn Troutman addressed the National Press Club to discuss how the lingering effects of the recession combined with the Obama administration’s reform of the federal hiring process, has resulted in more Americans than ever applying for federal positions.

In his recent speech at a panel discussion in Washington, DC, John Berry declared, “We have gotten off of KSA island. It’s an amazing leap forward.”

The OPM Press Release published on Tuesday, May 18, 2011 listed the following hiring improvement statistics: “Since the launch of the Hiring Reform initiative in May 2010, OPM has supported federal agencies with 351 training sessions in 66 cities for 17,300 people involved in the hiring process. Successful outcomes from this effort have included:

  • Hiring based on resumes and cover letters 91 percent of the time;
  • 96 percent of job opportunity announcements no longer require KSA essays;
  • Hiring managers now have more choices
  • Applicants are now seeing shorter, easy-to-read job announcements;
  • 86 percent of announcements in plain language;
  • 66 percent of announcements are five pages or fewer.”

However, today, a USAJOBS Vacancy Announcement listed KSAs as a requirement to apply for a position. This Department of Health and Human Services advertisement for a GS-343-11/12/13 position, salary: $62,467.00 – $115,742.00 per year, for a Program Analyst included this information for applicants: “Your qualifications will be evaluated on the following competencies (knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics): 1. Ability to design and conduct studies; 2. Ability to monitor grantee performance; 3. Ability to communicate orally.”

The KSA listing in this HHS job announcement statement can be puzzling for federal jobseekers, who have heard that the KSAs are eliminated from requirements. Federal job applicants are trying to follow the directions, but there are no directions in some of the USAJOBS announcements regarding the submission of KSAs.

KSAs are obviously still important to the human resources specialists when determining the Best Qualified candidates. For savvy federal jobseekers, the KSA listings in the announcement are important clues to writing a Best Qualified application.

Since the KSAs are not required as separate written narratives, recommendations for including knowledge, skills and abilities competencies in the federal application are given by Kathryn Troutman, the leading federal career consultant and author of several federal job search publications including the recently released fifth edition of the “Federal Resume Guidebook.”

Kathryn Troutman recommends that the federal jobseeker include KSA accomplishments in the work experience section of their federal resume. The KSAs can also be briefly covered in the cover letter. The job applicant can prove their KSA skill level in the questionnaire multiple-choice selections. Finally, the KSAs could become interview questions in the government job interview.

“’Don’t ignore those KSAs, even though they are eliminated,’ said Kathryn Troutman, whose company, The Resume Place, helps federal job applicants.” wrote Joe Davidson in his Washington Post article on May 19th, 2011.

2011 Hiring Reform eliminated KSAs – maybe. They are 96% eliminated as separate written narratives but KSAs are still listed in most federal job announcements. Kathryn Troutman recommends that the government job applicant include KSA accomplishments in the USAJOBS federal resume, cover letter, best selections in the multiple choice questionnaire, and as preparation for the federal job interview.

For tips on how to include KSAs in the federal resume, please read The Resume Place’s article on how to properly include KSAs in the Federal Resume.

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