What Is a KSA and How Do You Write One? (With Example)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 19 November 2022

Published 6 December 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

KSAs are essays to help employers assess candidates' knowledge, skills and abilities, or KSA, for a specific job role. These documents may accompany a job application or take the place of an application.

Learning what a KSA is and how to write one can help you craft an impressive application and ensure that you provide enough information to employers to make it through their selection process. In this article, we answer the question, 'what is a KSA,' provide steps on how to write one, explain the benefits of writing a KSA for a job application and give an example of a KSA.

What is KSA?

Looking at the terms that constitute the acronym KSA can help answer the question, 'what is a KSA?' The term KSA describes qualifications written by a prospective candidate to convey their knowledge, skills and abilities. KSA helps employers quickly screen the candidates most suitable for a role. Employers may call this by other names, such as Professional Technical Qualification or Quality Ranking Factors.

You may use the KSA form of a written essay or narrative assessment for job applications. Candidates may submit a KSA to supplement or in place of a job application. An employer may sometimes request that job candidates answer specific questions in their essays, which helps assess these qualities. Each answer is usually evaluated on a scale from 1 to 100 as to how closely it matches the required qualification for the role.

Related: What Is a Job Application Form and Why Is It Important?

What are the elements of KSAs?

A KSA contains three elements, namely, knowledge, skills and abilities. The importance of each of these elements is as follows:

Knowledge

Knowledge is the information you obtain by studying, researching and experiencing activities, events or other subjects. Knowledge is applicable in professional settings to help you perform certain tasks. In a KSA form, you can include your knowledge about the job to which you apply. This may consist of your education credentials, such as a degree or certification. You can quantify your knowledge in categories such as:

  • Federal regulations: Knowing the laws and regulations that the government creates and enforces

  • Document preparation practices⁠: Knowing how to write, file or publish documents for business

  • Engineering practices: Knowing how to design or build specific tools, machines or other equipment in industries.

  • Project management methods: Knowing how to use tools and techniques to manage projects.

  • Principles of art: Knowing fundamental rules and elements for art forms such as photography, film, drawing or digital media.

Related: How to Job Shadow and Learn the Most from Your Experience

Skills

Skills are talents you possess that enable you to perform job tasks. When including skills in a KSA, check to see what skills an employer may require or expect for the job you're applying for. Skills are applications of knowledge. For example, if you know art principles, your skill may be creativity and photography.

You can enlist hard skills, which are specific talents that give you the capability to perform a job task, such as photography. Similarly, you can also mention soft skills, which are personal qualities that contribute to job performance, such as being a good communicator and having interpersonal skills. Here are some examples of hard and soft skills:

  • carpentry

  • computer repair

  • leadership

  • public speaking

  • drawing

  • problem-solving

  • analysis

Related: Hard Skills Vs. Soft Skills: Definitions and Examples

Abilities

Abilities are the capacity to express the skill. Abilities include proficiency levels such as beginner, intermediate and expert, to measure how well you can perform the skill. The following are examples of abilities:

  • The ability to organise: Results are indicated by how well you organise and plan work, meetings and projects.

  • The ability to analyse issues: This shows how the situations, processes and problems are understood.

  • The ability to communicate verbally and in writing: This demonstrates how well others can understand you.

Related: Clerical Skills: Examples and How to List Them on Resume

Pros and cons of KSAs

There are some benefits and drawbacks of KSAs:

Pros of KSA

Though not all employers require this document, you may benefit by writing a KSA. Here are examples of the pros a KSA offers:

  • Highlights specific skills. The narrative or essay form helps solidify some of your skills and qualifications that you may not be able to emphasise in your resume.

  • Improves chances of selection. A KSA that closely matches the job requirements can help employers notice you and may significantly improve your chances of getting an interview with the company.

  • Demonstrates knowledge application. The essay question for a KSA may help show how you apply your knowledge and demonstrate the benefit you can offer the team and the organisation.

Related: How to Sell Yourself in a Cover Letter (With Steps and Tips)

Cons of KSA

The KSA model has come under criticism as an evaluation metric for several reasons, including:

  • Redundant: It is lengthy and includes some redundancy.

  • Complex: It adds frustration and complexity to the application process.

  • Subjective nature: The terms are often interchangeable and challenging to differentiate.

How to write a KSA

A KSA is your opportunity to show your knowledge, skills and abilities that can help you get a job. For an effective KSA, you can often follow the STAR method. Here are five steps to creating a KSA:

1. Prepare a short summary or range of appropriate skills in the relevant area

Consider the knowledge, skills and abilities that the position you're applying to may require. Write a summary of your knowledge, skills and abilities. This summary can be one to two sentences long.

It's helpful to include keywords in your summary because many employers use digital tools to identify keywords in job applications and may give these applications preference. Read the job description to find keywords or phrases that the employer uses. If there is an essay prompt for a KSA form, be sure to read this critically and include key terms.

Related: How to Use the STAR Interview Technique

2. Describe the situation or context

When answering the essay prompt or expanding upon the summary of your skills, it's useful to describe a situation in which you used this skill. Share an instance of how applying a specific skill improved the results. Doing this shows employers that you can apply your knowledge and may indicate the proficiency level of your abilities. Providing context may also show an employer how your skills may be relevant to the job position.

This is why you can consider discussing in detail a skill set that the employer mentions explicitly in the job description. This shows you have the right qualifications for the job, are attentive to detail and understand the job role.

Related: How To Answer 'What Is Your Greatest Achievement?' Interview Question

3. Explain the task

After providing the context of the situation, explain the task you performed to show this skill or ability. It may be helpful to talk about the goal and steps taken to achieve this. This part of the STAR method can also provide context for your audience. When sharing details about the task, you can share the expectations from you or why this was your responsibility. These details can provide valuable information about your previous work experience.

Related: How to List Work Accomplishment Examples on Your Resume

4. Describe your actions

Write about the actions performed as per the task requirement. Share each step you may have taken, and you share your thought process to provide additional insight. If it was a team effort, you can share this but keep the focus on yourself, as you're the candidate who is trying to impress a potential employer.

Related: How To Assess Yourself (With Self-Evaluation Examples)

5. Detail the results

It's important to describe the results of your actions. Try to quantify your success with a statistic, if possible. For example, you may share that you were able to increase sales by 10% in a quarter with your customer engagement strategy. When choosing a situation and task to discuss, try choosing a situation where you had the most success.

This is more likely to make a good impression on an employer. If you share a situation in which you were unsuccessful, explain what you might do differently this time to show you learn from your mistakes.

Related: Job Interview Tips: How to Make a Great Impression

KSA example

Review this KSA example for reference:

Demonstrated creativity, analytical thinking and planning skills to create a successful multi-media marketing strategy.

As a marketing manager, I manage a marketing and sales team for my current employer. This job role includes overseeing content creators, sales representatives, designers and marketing analysts. I also developed marketing strategies to achieve the company's business goals, such as increasing sales each quarter by 5% and acquiring high-ticket customers.

When our competitor began to surpass us with their customer loyalty programmes, I worked with my team to make customer service and management the focus of our efforts. First, I brainstormed how we could connect with consumers on a personal level. After choosing to optimise our social media engagement, I created a detailed plan for the content creators and sales representatives to reach consumers with posts and undertake more personalised interactions with social media users.

With this new strategy and script for interacting with consumers via social media, customer acquisitions grew consistently. To evaluate the strategy's effectiveness, I also undertook surveys with customers who reported that they preferred our personal approach and were more likely to purchase having a positive interaction with the company. Our reports showed a 15% increase in sales and customer acquisitions at the end of the quarter.

Related: 13 Expert Tips on How to Start a New Job Successfully

The model shown is for illustration purposes only, and may require additional formatting to meet accepted standards.

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