How to Write a Federal Job Application Narrative


The federal job application process is often a comprehensive one. Although many federal positions do not require a cover letter, some more competitive positions may require you to write a narrative or KSA letter in addition to your application and resume. The KSA (Knowledge, Skills, Abilities) is basically a federal cover letter describing your experience, communication skills and overall suitability for the position. Once submitted, the KSA narrative will be scored and ranked with those of other applicants. The Human Resource Office will then determine who is the "best qualified."

  • Review job announcements thoroughly and carefully to determine how your knowledge, skills, and abilities fit in with the major duties of each position. Look out for keywords or buzzwords that appear frequently throughout the job description. Also, circle or highlight certain KSA factors in the announcement that match yours. Indicating specific KSA factors, keywords and buzzwords will give your narrative focus as well as a competitive advantage.

  • Gather information supporting your knowledge, skills and abilities. KSA factors can include professional experience, relevant courses, volunteer work, certifications and hobbies. Categorize your outline with separate sections for knowledge, skills and abilities.

  • Compose each paragraph to demonstrate proactive experience. You may structure each paragraph using the Context, Challenge, Action, Result (CCAR) model. For example, you may answer "Ability to network with all levels of personnel" by describing the steps in a situation where you resolved a dispute with a superior on behalf of a subordinate.

  • Complete and submit your KSA narrative in a timely manner.

Tips & Warnings

  • Be concise in your narrative. Tell as much about yourself in as few words as possible.
  • Keywords and buzzwords are particularly effective in capturing the hiring manager's attention.
  • As hiring managers score your experience solely on your KSA narrative, you must ensure that your KSA is factually and grammatically correct, and conveys focus while demonstrating enthusiasm. In other words, invest.

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