2.3: Competency Modeling and KSAs
Read this article, which discusses knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) and discusses the qualifications and attributes a job candidate will need to perform for a particular position. This authors focus on obtaining a job in the U.S. federal government, but you can apply their insight to identify and apply KSAs to any position opening.
This article discusses the Dunning-Kruger Effect, noting that poor performers most often fail to learn from their mistakes. This inability to self-critique and self-correct poses obstacles for HR. While HR can provide feedback channels for employees to learn from, employees must also possess the skills needed to identify and remedy weaknesses in their own performance. Make the connection between these obstacles and the important task of HR to properly assess knowledge, skills, and abilities to find valuable human resources.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention: “The Importance of KSAs (Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities)”
The Importance of KSA’s (Knowledge, Skills and Abilities) in the Federal Application Process
KSAs describe the qualifications and personal attributes (knowledge, skills and abilities) you need to successfully perform the job requirements of a certain job. The hiring agency hopes to find these unique requirements in the person they hire. A primary purpose of KSAs is to measure the qualities that will set one candidate apart from the others. In general, hiring managers will consider applicants who match the position’s defined KSAs more highly than those candidates who lack these important qualifications.
Knowledge statements refer to whether the candidate has the necessary organized, factual, and procedural knowledge to perform the job adequately. This knowledge relates directly to the performance function.
Skill statements refer to whether the candidate is able to manually, verbally, and mentally manipulate data and things related to the position. Hiring managers can use a timed performance test to measure the quantity and quality of these skills. Examples of job skills include the ability to use specific computer software programs or operate a certain type of machinery or vehicle.
Ability statements refer to the ability to perform certain observable job-related activities, such as the ability to plan or organize work. Candidates typically show they possess these abilities by stating they have performed these job functions in the past during previous work assignments. Note that “aptitudes” describe whether a candidate has the potential ability to perform a certain activity in the future because they may have studied or performed similar work in the past.
KSAs—Why You Cannot Ignore Them
Some job applicants, such as those applying for a federal position for the first time, are unsure whether responding to the KSA requirements are optional. Always be sure to respond to the KSA portion of a federal application!
Agencies may assign relative weights to each KSA, such as by deeming some KSAs as mandatory (M), and others as desirable (D). While, you should focus on responding to the mandatory KSAs, remember to address every KSA on the list. Assume they are all equally important if the vacancy announcement makes no distinction among them.
Remember that every KSA must be job-related. An agency cannot ask for anything in a KSA that is not listed in the job description.
Writing Your KSAs
Do not assume the person who reviews your resume will infer information from your application or pick up on salient points. They will not. Even if there were time for this insight, reviewers and evaluators are not allowed to make any assumptions or inferences.
When you Develop Your KSAs, Be Sure to Follow These Guidelines
· Read the position announcement carefully.
· Gather the information you need to begin writing.
· Be specific.
· Be precise.
· Get to the point.
· Do not ramble.
· Use lots of examples.
· State what you have done specifically.
· Do not use acronyms.
· Present yourself in “clear and plain” language.
· Do not borrow or repeat language from the position description.
How to Write Responses to Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSAs)
If you apply for a position announced in the KSA format—describe how your experience relates to each KSA.
Follow these four steps when writing your KSA responses.
Step 1. Read the KSAs Closely.
To write a good response, make sure you understand what each KSA means. While, most KSAs are fairly general, the position announcement usually contains a brief summary description of the duties of the position. Read this summary description carefully.
Step 2. Review All of Your Experiences for Activities that Relate to the Individual KSAs.
Think about this step as a brainstorming session—review all of your work-related, volunteer, and other experiences and activities that may relate to the KSAs. For example, if the KSA refers to your ability to communicate orally, consider all of the times you have used your oral communication skills.
For example: When you were an administrator you instructed your work colleagues about the new computer procedures they should follow. As a management analyst you presented your recommendations for new workflow procedures during the annual staff retreat.
Consider any relevant education, training, self-development programs you participated in, or awards you may have received.
For example: A training program you completed on effective briefing techniques, or an award you received for an oral debate you participated in.
Consider experiences you have had in non-work related areas, such as volunteer or school-related activities. These experiences are just as valid as work-related examples, as long as they are relevant to the KSA you are writing about.
For example: While you were a Cub Scout leader you chaired a fund raising activity; when you were a student you served as a student council representative.
Consider your experiences in order—earliest to most recent—so you are sure to include all of your relevant jobs or experiences. Include paid, unpaid, and volunteer jobs, experiences and training. Keep in mind that the experiences you had in one job or area may apply to more than one KSA.
For example: The KSAs “ability to meet and deal with members of the general public” and the “ability to coordinate the activities of a subordinate staff” both involve skills in oral communications.
Do not worry about being repetitive. Since reviewers rate each KSA separately, as long as the information you provide is relevant, it does not matter if you have used it in another KSA.
Step 3. Analyze the Experiences you have Identified.
Scrutinize all of the experiences you identified in step two and concentrate on the things you think will impress the reviewers. How did you use your relevant knowledge, skills, and abilities in the jobs and experiences you identified? You will use your responses to this question to write your KSA (step four). Some call this process task analysis.
Here are some examples of the kinds of questions you should ask about your experiences:
· What kinds of knowledge and skills did you use while performing your job?
· What steps, procedures, practices, rules, policies, theories, principles or concepts did you use?
· How did you apply this knowledge, principles, and concepts in your work?
· How did you apply the knowledge, skills, and abilities you have to accomplish your work?
· What kind of supervision did you receive? Did you supervise others?
· How was your work assigned? Did you assign work to others?
· What was your responsibility to accomplish your work?
· Did you work and make decisions independently? In what ways?
· How did your supervisor and your co-workers review your work?
· What guidelines did you use to accomplish your work?
· Were the instructions you used to perform your work in written or oral form, or both?
· Did you use procedural manuals?
· What other written procedures did you use?
· What kind of oral instructions did you use?
· How much judgement did you use to apply the guidelines you used to accomplish your job?
· Were the guidelines you used easy to apply or did they require interpretation?
· How difficult were the guidelines you used to interpret your job?
· How complex was your job?
· What was the nature of the work you did?
For example: “Tasks were clear-cut and related directly to one another,” or “The work involved different and unrelated processes and methods,” or “The work consisted of broad functions and processes of an administrative or professional nature.”
How difficult was it to identify what needed to be done?
For example: “Decisions required an extensive analysis of the situation since there were many alternatives,” or “Extensive analysis was required to define the nature of the problems I was asked to fix.”
· How difficult was the work you did?
· How did your work affect other processes or individuals?
· Who did you have to contact on a daily basis?
· Why did you have to contact these individuals?
· What was your role in these discussions or meetings?
For example: “to provide information,” “to receive information, “to influence or advise someone,” or “to convince someone of something.”
Once you have completed steps one, two and three, you will have a good understanding of the KSAs and lots of facts about your experiences. You are ready to complete the final step.
Step 4. Show how the Facts you have Gathered about your Experiences Relate to the Individual KSAs.
Tell the reviewers about the experiences you have had in a way that clearly shows how they relate to the knowledge, skill, or ability. In other words, you need to demonstrate a link between your own experiences and the KSA. Do not assume this correlation is obvious, even if it may seem obvious to you. The review or promotion panel is not allowed to give you credit for your experiences unless you provide specific examples that show how and why your experiences relate to a particular KSA.
When telling this to the review or promotion panel, remember a few important facts:
· The reviewers will rate the content of your responses, not the writing style you use. You can use brief sentences or phrases as long as the review or promotion panel knows what you mean.
· Long responses do not guarantee a high rating. Give the review or promotion panel direct and concise responses.
· Do not use abbreviations, acronyms, or jargon—assume the reviewers will not understand them (which means they will not be able to credit your experience appropriately).