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Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities


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Page updated 8/14/2016


KSAOs - Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, & Other Characteristics


KSAs are also referred to as Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, and Other Characteristics (KSAOs). They are required for the selecting official to identify the best qualified candidate for the position. Most look at writing KSAOs as drudgery, however it is a necessary part of your employment application, if requested on the job announcement. To qualify for a position you must meet two types of factors; Selective Factors and Quality Ranking Factors.

KSAOs are attributes needed to perform a specific job function that are demonstrate through qualifying training, education and experience. The following definitions will help you understand what the selecting official is looking for when reviewing your submissions:

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Knowledge - Familiarity with information including descriptions, facts usually procedural in nature, and expertise that when implemented, encourages good job performance. Examples include knowledge of:

  • Federal directives, agency, and department regulations
  • Various procedures and operational systems
  • Logistics, staffing, accounting, and budget principals
  • Engineering techniques and practices
  • Environmental health and safety compliance regulations
  • Business and administrative practices
Explore and apply for all job vacancies in the government and private sectors to improve you chance of employment.

Skill - An acquired ability to perform tasks efficiently and on time such as the manipulation of data or operating systems to achieve pre-determined results. The use of  mental, physical, or verbal processes that can be measured through testing or observation and that are quantifiable. Skills are obtained through on the job training, formal education or classes, etc. Examples include skill in:

  • Data entry
  • Operation of various vehicles such as fork lifts, autos, etc.
  • Information technology (IT) proficiency
  • Mechanical, electronic or computer repair
  • Trades such as plumbing, carpentry, and/or HVAC
  • Second language application and proficiency

Ability - The competency to do an activity either mental or physical when required. Abilities are observed through the work functions that are completed by the employee. Skills and abilities can be interchangeable in KSAOs. A skill is the manipulation of things, data, or people and an ability is the capacity to perform. Workers can have the ability however unless observed through actions the desired ability may not transfer to a skill set. Examples include the ability to:

  • Plan and organize work (observable)
  • Evaluate and analyze issues, problems, and operational programs
  • Communicate efficiently in writing and orally
  • Mentor and coach others

Other Characteristics - Attributes either physical or mental or characteristics that don’t apply to other areas.
Examples are:

  • Proactive attitude and takes initiative without prompting
  • Able to cope under stressful situations - handles complex assignments
  • Can be counted on to complete tasks and is reliable. Work is often completed ahead of schedule with exceptional quality
  • Handles multiple work assignments successfully

This factor is often required for jobs or positions that to a greater degree encounter these characteristics such as jobs in law enforcement and air traffic control.

Sample KSAs


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