Federal Resume Writing: KSAs and Keywords

Federal Resume Writing

Writing a federal resume requires a structured and nuanced approach using precise stylistic guidelines and expected phrasing derived directly from vacancy postings. The use of keywords and phrases from the job listing to describe your knowledge, skills, and abilities is critical to ensuring that your federal resume makes it through the initial screening process and into the hands of hiring managers and decision-makers.

What Are KSAs and How Are They Important to Federal Resume Writing?

Knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) are position-specific requirements that are featured prominently throughout the USAJobs vacancy posting. In addition, you can find these requirements outlined in the “How You Will be Evaluated” section toward the bottom of the vacancy posting. Often, several KSAs will be explicitly presented in this section. For example, these four KSAs were derived from a review of a USAJobs’ posting for a Project Manager within the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):

• Project Management
• Planning and Evaluating
• Oral Communication
• Written Communication

In addition to KSAs, the questionnaire included in the posting can provide valuable keywords and phrases that more precisely align your federal resume with the vacancy. The following key phrases were taken from the questionnaire accompanying the same posting from the FDA:

• Develop project plans that define scope, requirements, deliverables, and schedules.
• Manage, coordinate, and execute highly complex projects of national scope and significance in diverse areas.
• Identify and assess project risks and issues and develop and implement response strategies minimizing impact to project outcomes.

Private Industry Keywords vs. Federal Resume KSAs

When drafting a private sector resume, strategic resume writers rely on a list of keywords derived from targeted job postings and sprinkle the words throughout the document while calling specific attention to the higher-level skills. In addition to keywords, federal resume writing requires the candidate to not only present keywords throughout the document but also to expand upon how the candidate’s work history and accomplishments demonstrate the required KSAs.

For each job within your work history, you must list each KSA and describe how you demonstrated this proficiency. Additionally, phrases taken from the vacancy posting and questionnaire such as “develop project plans that define scope, requirements, deliverables, and schedules” should be stated verbatim or paraphrased throughout the document, followed by how you accomplished this in each position.

Like a private sector resume, a federal resume focuses on highlighting the candidate’s core skills and achievements, but the difference between the two lies in how this information is phrased and presented. An optimized federal resume must demonstrate the candidate’s career history while adhering to stringent presentation requirements.

Although writing a federal resume is complex and time-consuming, taking the time to identify as many KSAs and key phrases from the vacancy posting as possible may be the difference between getting an interview or not. To discover more strategies for writing an effective federal resume, review our comprehensive USAJobs Resume Guide.