KSAs and Applying for Federal Jobs

Many criminal justice jobs are found inside government departments or agencies. Jobs seekers need to be aware that applying for federal jobs is quite different than applying for private sector jobs. Government jobs can require KSAs, resumes, videotaped interviews, written exams, and written statements. The application process can take months to complete. The end result may not be a job offer, but the opportunity to be put on a waiting list. Private sector jobs usually require a resume or cover letter followed by a series of interviews. The application process is much shorter. The most qualified candidate will receive a job offer, not be put on a waiting list.

What is a KSA?

Many government jobs will require a KSA and a resume. Think of a KSA as a cover letter, but much more involved. If a KSA is part of the application process, it will be included in the job announcement. The announcement will specifically lay out which Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities you need to perform the job successfully. Most announcements will list between four and seven items you must address. If you fail to address these items, you can automatically be disqualified.

You may think that writing a KSA will be easy, since the government is telling you exactly what needs to be addressed. However, it can be difficult. If you just say that you have knowledge about law enforcement procedures, your chances of getting an interview are pretty slim. Use specific examples to sell yourself. Answer each of these points with clear, concise specifics, but do not ramble on. Make your point and move on to the next skill that needs to be addressed.

You may wish to tell the agency about a new procedure you developed for the major crime unit. The announcement does not ask you to address that particular skill, but you believe it will help you stand out as a candidate. Do not include it. If the government wanted to know about that skill, it would have been asked for. Your KSA will be reviewed to see how qualified you are for the job and how well you can follow simple directions. Many extremely qualified candidates take themselves out of the running because they failed to address the questions asked.

Finally, always proofread your work. This is simple, but one that many candidates fail to do. Misspellings and poor grammar are a reflection of the type of work you produce. No agency wants to interview someone who produces sloppy work.

If you are having trouble writing a KSA, do not panic. There are many different books and websites dedicated just to writing a KSA. These resources provide examples, formats, and tips to make your KSA more powerful. In addition, you can always hire someone to write your KSA. Many resume writing companies offer this service..

Applying for Federal Jobs

If you are considering applying for a criminal justice job with the federal government, it is important to start the process as soon as possible. Job announcements can remain open for many months. The sooner you get your application in, the sooner you can be considered. Plus, some positions will require you to take exams. It can be a few months before you know if you are even eligible to sit for an interview. You may be the best qualified candidate, but that does not mean you will be offered the job. People who already work inside the agency may be considered first. Some jobs will also give preference to veterans. If you were looking for work in the private sector, you would apply to a variety of different jobs. You should do the same when it comes to looking for government jobs.

Last Updated: 04/29/2014