Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pathways For Students & Recent Graduates to Federal Careers


The Federal Government values the contributions made by students and recent graduates of all ages and backgrounds. We have been placed at a competitive disadvantage, though, compared to other sectors in recruiting and hiring students and recent graduates. To address these difficulties, President Obama signed Executive Order 13562, entitled "Recruiting and Hiring Students and Recent Graduates," on December 27, 2010.

This Executive order established two new programs and modified another. They are the Internship Program for current students; the Recent Graduates Program for people who have recently graduated from qualifying educational institutions or programs (2 years from the date the graduate completed an academic course of study); and the reinvigorated Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program for people who obtained an advanced degree (e.g., graduate or professional degree) within the preceding two years. These programs, collectively the Pathways Programs, are streamlined developmental programs tailored to promote employment opportunities for students and recent graduates in the Federal workforce.

As directed by the Executive order, OPM issued a final Pathways Rule to implement these programs. The final rule aims to improve recruiting efforts, offer clear paths to Federal internships for students from high school through post-graduate school and to careers for recent graduates, and to provide meaningful training and career development opportunities for individuals who are at the beginning of their Federal service.

Internship Program

Director Berry talks with students at the DC Robotics Regional Competition.
The Internship Program is for current students. It replaces the Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) and Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP). The new Internship Program provides students in high schools, colleges, trade schools and other qualifying educational institutions with paid opportunities to work in agencies and explore Federal careers while completing their education. To find out more about the Internship Program, go to the Program Fact Sheets webpage.

Recent Graduates Program

The Recent Graduates Program provides developmental experiences in the Federal Government. It is intended to promote possible careers in the civil service to individuals who, within the previous two years, graduated from qualifying educational institutions with an associates, bachelors, masters, professional, doctorate, vocational or technical degree or certificate from qualifying educational institutions. To be eligible, applicants must apply within the previous two years of degree or certificate completion except for veterans precluded from doing so due to their military service obligation, who will have up to six years after degree or certificate completion to apply. For more information about Federal employment information for veterans, go to OPM's Feds Hire Vets website. To find out more about the Recent Graduates Program, go to the Program Fact Sheets webpage.

Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program

For more than three decades, the PMF Program has been the Federal Government's premier leadership development program for advanced degree (e.g., masters or professional degree) candidates. Executive Order 13562 expands the eligibility window for applicants, making it more "student friendly" by aligning it with academic calendars and allowing those who have received a qualifying advanced degree within the preceding two years to participate. It also directs OPM to set eligibility requirements and minimum qualification standards, and to make the PMF experience more robust and substantive for participants. To find out more about the changes to the PMF Program, go to the Program Fact Sheets webpage.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Set Personal Goals...The Right Way

You might be considering career goals such as finding a new or better job, getting a promotion or making your job more enjoyable.

It's common knowledge that most people don't stick to their goal. Of those who do, less than half will have successfully maintained their goals after six months, according to research by psychology professor John C. Norcross of the University of Scranton.

Here are some goal-setting tips to help you be successful in keeping your resolution and making the most of your career in 2012-13.

First, be honest with yourself. Take time to reflect on your goals and determine whether you truly are committed. What is your motivation? Psychological research suggests goals set on intrinsic rewards such as personal satisfaction and increased self-confidence are more effective motivators than extrinsic rewards such as money, approval from others or status.

In setting goals, the field of executive coaching commonly uses the acronym SMART, which stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Consider each one:

Specific: The specifics of your goals should be articulated by identifying who, what, when, where and why. Rather than having a general goal of "finding a better job," identify the parameters and requirements you are looking for in a new job.

Measurable: You should be able to translate your goals into measurable factors. For example, rather than "increasing your professional network," say "I will add two new contacts to my network every week" or "improve my job performance score by 10 percent."

Attainable: Many resolutions don't pan out because they were never realistic. Lower your standards if needed and set smaller goals. Once you've achieved your goal, you can always set another one. This is better than deflating your motivation by setting daunting goals. You can set a series of goals for yourself as needed or break larger overall goals into smaller, more manageable steps.

Relevant: If you accomplish this goal, how will your life be better? Write a paragraph about what your new life will look like after you achieve your goal. If this doesn't invoke excitement and enthusiasm then you probably will not follow through.

Time-bound: Give yourself a deadline with a date and time. When do you want to accomplish this goal? What is a realistic time frame? You are more likely to keep to a task if you schedule time to do it and keep working at it regularly.

Finally, you need to set yourself up for success by controlling your environment. It not only works for weight loss or cutting unhealthy habits, it applies to career goals.

Do you have a supportive social network? Tell someone you trust and who you think will support you with your new goal, and ask for support. Ask for the person's honest advice and refine your goal until you are absolutely convinced you can achieve it.

Find others with like-minded goals for support as well. If your goal is to have a more positive attitude about your job, surround yourself with the positive people in your office, not the ones feasting on sour grapes or gossiping at the water fountain.

If your goal is to find a job, join a job club. A job club is a group of individuals who meet to discuss and share information about job searching and career enhancement.

While it's better to set goals for yourself than not have any goals, you want to be SMART in your goal setting.

Monday, August 20, 2012

When searching for a job, don't get discouraged!

If you've been looking for a new job or just a job for any length of time and are feeling sluggish about your job search, chances are you've gotten discouraged somewhere along the way. It happens to everyone.  Dreamfedjob has put a list of the 10 most common motivation killers that we have observed in job seekers. If any apply to you, start troubleshooting. One thing's for sure: You won't get far in a job search without motivation.

1. Discouraging labor statistics. The last couple of years have been extraordinary in the emergence of numbers-based reporting on the jobs issue. At base, these numbers are most helpful to corporations, governments and other entities that use the information in longer-term planning. In my opinion, job seekers are not as well served by the data since they can't actually use it; but they certainly are impacted psychologically - and rarely in a positive way.

What to do about it --  Stop focusing on statistics, at least until you're re-employed.

2. Generalized career information in occupational directories. As guides that describe a variety of jobs, these are wonderful tools for career changers and others who need information to choose career paths. Unfortunately, some of the guides are misleading, particularly in overstating the need for degrees or specialized certifications. Sadly, job seekers sometimes turn away from promising careers when told authoritatively that the field requires those degrees. This holds particularly true with government jobs.

What to do about it --  Confirm information by talking with people working in the field.

3. Inflated job postings. Perhaps you already knew this, but many postings ask for more skills than are actually needed. Why? One reason is that an inflated posting discourages casual responses. The employer benefits by having fewer people to consider. The practice is not without its casualties, however. Job seekers frequently review postings to determine their own marketability, then stumble away in disbelief at how "unskilled" they are.

What to do about it --  Lean away from job postings and focus on networking, where candidates are judged individually.

4. Unproductive networking. Speaking of networking, it's sad how often job seekers drop the process after a few coffee meetings. Since networking is partly a strategy and partly a lifestyle, it's unrealistic to expect leads to sprout from every encounter. That said, some types of networking are more effective than others; to be involved in the latter can knock the wind out of a job search.

What to do about it --  Troubleshoot your networking and improve it.

5. Feeling that things aren't fair. We know that you know life is not fair.  So why are people so discouraged in their job search after discovering that candidates with connections get more breaks?

What to do about it --  Accept the "unfairness" and make it work for you.

6. Anticipating age bias. Mind you, I didn't say "experiencing age bias." When and how often age bias occurs is its own question. Separate from any actual occurrence, however, is the psychic burden carried by candidates who worry that it will happen. And the worry alone is enough to make people say, "No one will hire me. I'm too old" - which can lead to curtailing one's search.

What to do about it --  Face your fear and get out there. Other people your age are getting hired; how are they doing it?

7. Unresponsive employers. It's hard to get fired up about a search when no one calls you back. Worse yet is to be interviewed and then ignored. One tends to avoid rejection when possible, so the natural reaction is to stop reaching out to employers.

What to do about it --  Get a thicker skin and improve your odds by contacting more, not fewer employers.

8. Hanging out with unemployed people. That's ironic, isn't it? On the one hand, you benefit from the support of others in the same boat. But if you spend too much time with people who aren't working, unemployment starts to seem normal. Sometimes unemployed people slow each other down.

What to do about it --  Pay attention to how you feel after a session, then eliminate meetings that bum you out.

9. Scary anecdotes. Why do people tell you terrible stories about whatever situation you're experiencing? Pregnant women routinely hear about complicated childbirths, while job seekers are treated to tales of someone's cousin who's been looking for three years, lost everything and had to sell a kidney.

What to do about it --  Put your fingers in your ears and sing loudly. Ignore. Put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward.

10. Comparing current options to your last position and concluding there aren't any decent jobs out there. Sometimes we're our own worst enemies. If you've been measuring every opportunity against your last job, you're likely holding yourself back.

What to do about it --  Review opportunities with an open mind. Sometimes "good enough" is all you need, at least for now.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Have a talk with yourself, you'll be surprise how much you can get out of it

Last week, my blog talked about being positive and taking advantage of what we know about the human brain.

Visualizing is playing a future event in our minds before it goes real time and if we do this well, it seems visualizing will enhance the pre-played event turning out successfully on the day.

Naturally, some people are skeptical about visualization. A friend pointed out to me, having read my blog last week that you could visualize yourself winning the race till the cows come home, but it won't make the slightest difference if you’re running the 100 meter race against Usain Bolt. He is right, but what the concept does is help us to be our best; even if that is not being the best.

I remember visualizing every single race I had run in years past, particularly the marathons. It really helped me in the long run (no pun intended). If the race was going according plan then it meant that my visualization was accurate and that gave me confidence.

So often, we know we are capable of a far better performance than what we achieve, be it in sport, work or other aspects of our lives. Lots of things just get in the way and visualizing will help us remove those road blocks.

A subject closely allied to visualizing is self talk, and no, I am not going crazy. Scientists agree the human nervous system cannot tell the difference between an actual experience and one vividly imagined. This means we can make a difference by making sure the inputs into our brains are accurate and appropriate.

We talk to ourselves in words, pictures and emotions at 300 to 400 words a minute. The effects of these conversations are huge in determining our self-image and therefore our beliefs in what we are capable of achieving.

What all of this means is the conversations we have with ourselves about ourselves, experiences we have and the comments we receive from others have a strong influence in determining our future: when the mind talks the body listens and acts accordingly.

So it seems we need to be aware of the messages we are giving ourselves about ourselves, because by doing this well we can change the legacies of past conditioning.

The net effect of passed inputs and current self talk manifests the attitude we have about people, things and circumstances today.

So many of the circumstances we get landed with we cannot change right now, but the choice that no-one can take from us is how we choose to act towards the circumstances. That choice is ours alone.

So much of our attitude can be attributed to the self talk we carry out minute by minute.

Sometimes the self talk is quite accurate, while other times we get fed information that leads us to wrong assumptions and wrong self talk.

For example, if we watch the TV news we will be deluged with all of the things that have gone wrong on the day, here and around the world. After a while it would be easy to put the message into our minds, through self talk, that our country is populated with drunks, child molesters, and crooks running for president.

With the exception of the horrible political ads we are seeing right now, the reality is that the horrible deeds are being performed by less than 1 per cent of people in our country. Unless we remember this, we can easily let self talk say our country is a terrible, violent and unsafe place to live in.

Some see a rose bush full of thorns and others see a thorn bush full of roses. Our attitude towards the thorns and roses will determine our success.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Employment Background Checks and Credit Reports

You’ve applied for a job. You sent a letter, made a phone call, submitted your resume. Perhaps you’ve had an interview. Did you know that when you apply for a job, an employer may ask your permission to do a background check before hiring you? Depending on the employer and the job, that background information might include your employment history, your driving record, criminal records, and your credit report.

Your credit report has information about where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you have filed for bankruptcy. Credit reporting companies and other businesses that provide background information sell your file to employers that, in turn, use it to evaluate your applications for employment. Employers also are allowed to use these reports to consider you for retention, promotion or reassignment.

Did You Know?

Not only do credit reporting companies provide information to employers, but they also sell it to creditors, insurers and other businesses that, in turn, use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, or renting a place to live.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, enforces the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), a law that protects the privacy and accuracy of the information in your credit report. The FCRA spells out your rights as a job applicant and an employer’s responsibilities when using credit reports and other background information to assess your application. The law also enables you to get a free copy of your credit report by requiring each of the three national credit reporting companies —TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian — to provide it to you every 12 months if you ask. That means if you stagger your requests to each of the companies, you can get a free copy of your credit report every four months.

Key Employment Provisions

The big picture is this: An employer must get your permission before asking for a report about you from a credit reporting company or any other company that provides background information. If you don’t give your okay, your application for employment may not get a second look. That’s up to you. But if you don’t get the job because of information in your report, the employer has some legal obligations: First, the employer must show you the report; second, the employer must tell you how to get your own copy. The report is free if you ask for it within 60 days of learning the bad news.

Here are more details about these provisions:

Notice and Authorization. Before an employer can ask for reports about you from any companies that provide them, it must tell you that it might use the information to make a decision. This notice is separate from other documents you get — like an application. An employer may not get a report about you for employment purposes without getting your permission or authorization first, usually in writing.

Pre-Adverse Action Procedures. If an employer might use information from a credit or other background report to take an “adverse action” — say, to deny your application for employment or a promotion, to terminate your employment or to reassign you — he must give you a copy of the report and a document called A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act before taking the adverse action. Read your report, and contact the company that issued it if you find inaccurate or incomplete information.

You also can explain any inaccurate or incomplete information to an employer, but that won’t fix errors in your report. To do that, you have to contact the company that issued the report and dispute the information. If an investigation reveals that a correction is warranted, the credit reporting company or other company providing background information must send an updated report to the employer if you ask them to. Even if the information is not corrected in time to benefit you with that particular employer, it’s a good idea to dispute inaccurate information so it can be corrected before your next job interview or assignment comes along.

Applying for a Job?

Before you apply for a job, it’s a good idea to order a free copy of your credit report. Each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian — is required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months, if you ask for it.

To order, visit or call 1-877-322-8228. When you order, you’ll need to provide your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. To verify your identity, you may need to provide some additional information that only you would know — for example, the amount of your monthly mortgage payment if you own a home. Each of the three national credit reporting companies may ask you for different information.

If you prefer to order your reports by mail, complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to:

Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

You you can print it from

An employer must get your permission before asking for a report about you from a credit reporting company or any other company that provides background information.

Adverse Action Procedures. If an employer takes an adverse action against you based on information in a report, it must tell you — orally, in writing, or electronically. The notice to you must include:
  • the name, address, and phone number of the company that supplied the credit report or background information;
  • a statement that the company that supplied the information didn’t make the decision to take the adverse action and can’t give you any specific reasons for it; and
  • a notice of your right to dispute the accuracy or completeness of any information in your report and to get an additional free report from the company that supplied the credit or other background information if you ask for it within 60 days.
Notice of Negative Public Records

If a company provides an employer with a report that has negative information about you gathered from public records — for example, tax liens, outstanding judgments, or criminal convictions — that company either has to tell you that it provided the information to the employer or it has to take special steps to make sure the information is accurate.

If you get a notice that a company has provided negative public record information to an employer, you may have a chance to correct or clarify it, which, in turn, may help you get or keep a job. For more information about this, see How to Dispute Credit Report Errors at

If Employers Don’t Comply with the FCRA

There are legal consequences for employers who don’t comply with the FCRA, whether they fail to get an applicant’s okay before getting a copy of their credit or other background report, fail to provide the appropriate disclosures in a timely way, or fail to provide adverse action notices to unsuccessful job applicants. If you think an employer has violated the FCRA, report it to the FTC, because the law allows the FTC, other federal agencies, and states to sue employers who don’t comply with the law’s provisions. The FCRA also allows people to sue employers in state or federal court for certain violations.

The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint or get free information on consumer issues, visit or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. Watch a new video, How to File a Complaint, at to learn more. The FTC enters consumer complaints into the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database and investigative tool used by hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Federal Personnel Security Clearance Process Explained

At Dreamfedjob, one of the topics that always rises to the top is the issue of federal security clearances.  Since 1997, federal agencies have followed a common set of personnel security investigative standards for determining whether federal workers and others are eligible to receive security clearances.
  • The application submission phase. A security officer from an executive branch agency (1) requests an investigation of an individual requiring a clearance; (2) forwards a personnel security questionnaire (Standard Form 86) using the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) e-QIP system or a paper copy of the Standard Form 86 to the individual to complete; (3) reviews the completed questionnaire; and (4) sends the questionnaire and supporting documentation, such as fingerprints and signed waivers, to OPM or the investigation service provider. Once an applicant is selected for a position that requires a security clearance, government agencies rely on a multiphased personnel security clearance process that includes the application submission phase, investigation phase, and adjudication phase, among others. Different departments and agencies may have slightly different security clearance processes—the steps outlined below are intended to be illustrative of a typical process.
  • The investigation phase. Federal investigative standards and OPM’s internal guidance are typically used to conduct and document the investigation of the applicant. The scope of information gathered in an investigation depends on the level of clearance needed and whether the investigation is for an initial clearance or a reinvestigation for a clearance renewal. For example, in an investigation for a top secret clearance, investigators gather additional information through more time-consuming efforts, such as traveling to conduct in-person interviews to corroborate information about an applicant’s employment and education. After the investigation is complete, the resulting investigative report is provided to the agency.
  • The adjudication phase. Adjudicators from an agency use the information from the investigative report to determine whether an applicant is eligible for a security clearance. To make clearance eligibility decisions, the adjudication guidelines specify that adjudicators consider 13 specific areas that elicit information about (1) conduct that could raise security concerns and (2) factors that could allay those security concerns and permit granting a clearance.
In addition, once the background investigation and adjudication for a security clearance are complete, the requesting agency determines whether the individual is eligible for access to classified information. However, often the security clearance—either at the secret or top secret level—does not become effective until an individual needs to work with classified information. At that point, the individual would sign a nondisclosure agreement and receive a briefing in order for the clearance to become effective. DOD commonly employs this practice and, in some cases, the individual ultimately never requires access to classified information. Therefore, not all security clearance investigations result in an active security clearance.

Finally, once an individual is in a position that requires access to classified national security information, that individual is reinvestigated periodically at intervals that are dependent on the level of security clearance. For example, top secret clearanceholders are reinvestigated every 5 years, and secret clearanceholders are reinvestigated every 10 years.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Do you have too much experience?

Today's highly competitive job market presents challenges for everyone seeking federal employment. Recent graduates and seasoned professionals alike encounter a reduced number of opportunities in the federal workplace due to hiring freezes and budget shortfalls.

Although required by law, after submitting a resume and cover letter, these job seekers sometimes do not get a reply from prospective agency or have to wait six months to hear from them.

This is discouraging, but not a surprise when the government often receives hundreds of resumes for every job posted, as reported by, a website that helps people find the right government job to match their skills. The tight federal job market can be especially hard on job seekers with 15 or more years of work experience.

As they look through USAJOBS, they often find entry-level openings that require less education or experience than they have accumulated.

An overqualified job candidate is someone who has too much education or experience, or can be too highly-paid for the position sought.

When federal hiring managers review a resume, they first tend to weigh the level of education and a candidate's past experience against the job opportunity. If the candidate possesses qualifications that are higher than the position requires, a manager may set the resume aside. The hiring manager's top priority is to make the right hiring decision. It costs money to hire and train a new employee, and it is beneficial to the organization when the employee comes on board for the long haul.  It can be scary for an overqualified person who isn't finding job openings that match their credentials. How can you overcome this negative perception? Change the format of your resume: If you have a lot of skills, it can be helpful to organize your federal resume into a functional resume format.

Rather than presenting information in chronological order under each position held, highlight your skills and accomplishments as they pertain to the position you are seeking. You can include the companies or agencies you have worked for in the past without emphasizing titles that may raise concerns., a website dedicated to empowering federal job seekers, supports this tactic for overqualified applicants.

Customize resume to each specific position: Tailor each resume to include the attributes the prospective employer seeks. Highlight the things that show you are qualified, not overqualified. Be sure to include characteristics of your personality that show you are motivated, a team player and dedicated to performing the job effectively. Along with a positive attitude, these soft skills can help define you as an asset.

Call on your professional network:Never underestimate the importance of joining a professional association. People who know you can vouch for your experience and value to the company, even though your qualifications may be higher. This is one of the best ways to overcome negative perceptions.

Honesty is the best policy: Prospective employers, particularly in the federal government call your references, check your background and criminal history, and speak with the company or agency where you last worked. Be honest about the reasons you left, and make it known that you are flexible about salary in a new position. Today's economy makes this a reality.

Above all, focus on how your learned skills can benefit the agency. Good luck!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Top Areas Where Government Is Hiring

Over the next two years, the federal government -- the nation's largest employer -- is projected to hire nearly 193,000 new employees to fill "mission critical" government jobs in almost every occupational field, according to an new report from the non-profit Partnership for Public Service.

Medical and Public Health

Occupational areas and positions include physician (all disciplines), nursing, dietician/nutrition, occupational and rehabilitation therapy, radiology, pharmacy, industrial hygiene and consumer safety.

Security and Protection

Occupational areas and positions include intelligence analysis, international relations, foreign affairs, security administration, transportation security officer, park ranger, correctional officer and police officer.

Compliance and Enforcement

Occupational areas and positions include inspectors, investigators (including criminal), customs and border patrol and protection, import specialist and customs inspection.


Occupational areas and positions include attorney, contact representative, paralegal, passport/visa examining and claims examining/assistance.

Administration/Program Management

Occupational areas and positions include human resources, equal employment opportunity, management/program analysis, telecommunications and a variety of clerical support activities.

For additional information regarding government jobs, including federal job descriptions, visit

Friday, August 3, 2012

KSAs and your Government Employment Application - Part II

The federal hiring process has been criticized by many as overly complicated and time consuming.  Both managers and job applicants complain that the process is just too burdensome; creating the need for hiring reform.

On May 11, 2010, the President issued a memorandum – Improving the Federal Recruitment and Hiring Process, requiring agencies to implement significant changes to streamline and improve the current hiring process. “To deliver the quality services and results the American people expect and deserve, the Federal Government must recruit and hire highly qualified employees, and public service should be a career of choice for the most talented Americans.  Yet the complexity and inefficiency of today's federal hiring process deters many highly qualified individuals from seeking and obtaining jobs in the Federal Government.”

If you read Part I of this blog, by now you should have a clear understanding of the importance associated with writing solid narrative statements (KSAs) REGARDLESS of the federal hiring reform. Today's application process is really not too different from what it used to be:

Step 1
APPLICATION REVIEW: A Personnel Staffing Specialist will review your package to make sure you have completed the application correctly by including all of the appropriate documentation requested (lots of people don't make it past this point). If the application is correct, they will review your resume to decide if you have the basic qualifications for the position.

Step 2
RESUME REVIEW: The staffing specialist will then review your application to determine if you meet the minimum qualifications for the job. You can find this qualification information on every vacancy announcement. If you are qualified for the position, they will usually decide if you are QUALIFIED or HIGHLY-QUALIFIED. If you are either of these, then the KSAs are reviewed.

Step 3
KSA RATING AND RANKING: Each KSA will be reviewed by the Human Resources Staff and assigned a numerical score using a crediting plan or "scorecard". The scale is generally based on a point system. Ex: 5 points for barely successful, 15 points for successful and 20 points for highly successful.

Each level has a description of benchmarks, which are examples of tasks a candidate would perform at that level. Chances are, the hiring manager has emphasize the most important aspects of a job by assigning relative weights to each KSA.

Others will designate particular KSAs as being Desirable (D). It is important to remember that you need to address every one on the list. You should assume that all KSAs are equally important. Factors affecting level of credit your KSA is given include: complexity of duties, circumstances, impact, variety, duration and people contacted. Panel members take into account experience, education, training and awards as they relate to the factors. Once the total score (responses to KSAs, performance appraisal and training) is determined, you will be ranked among other applicants. If your KSAs are scored in the range of the highest scores, you will have your name included on the Best Qualified List. This group of Best Qualified candidates will go forward to the Selecting Official or hiring manager for consideration, who ultimately makes the selection for the vacancy.
Understanding the personnel review process and the importance of good KSAs is critical to your success in being hired by the Federal government.

KSA Example

Skill in presenting information both orally and in writing.

During my tenure with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and especially in my current position, a substantial part of my duties has required strong skills in presenting information both orally and in writing. As an example of my oral communication skills, I was selected by the office Director to be a presenter at an NCI symposium on the documentation of cancer research. This symposium was designed to inform cancer researchers about the new methods of cancer documentation within the NCI guidelines. This symposium was attended by 100+ participants consisting of researchers, scientists and support staff. I spoke on the history of the NCI, the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on documentation, and the relationship between NCI and the National Institutes of Health.

In my former position as Executive Assistant to the Office of the Director (OD), I served as the liaison between the support staff of the OD, the NIH executive support staff, and companies in the private sector. I was responsible for keeping all parties informed about assignments and tasks due to the OD. My ability to communicate this information clearly and succinctly was very important in ensuring that the assigned tasks were fully understood and completed in a timely manner.

Effective written communication skills are also critical in my current position. I have taken over a number of writing assignments previously completed by my supervisor. For instance, I draft monthly reports that update Division Directors and Institute Administrators on changes in procedures and regulations and their impact on operations. These written reports are concise yet detailed, and they are routinely approved by my supervisor without corrections. In addition, all office correspondence is routed through me to ensure procedural and grammatical accuracy before I give it to the Director for signature.

My experience and skills have been supplemented by several related training courses in oral and written communications that I have completed through the Graduate School, USDA, and the NIH Training Center. These courses include the following:

  • Report Writing - June, 2009
  • Federal Writing Skills - May, 2010
  • Advanced Briefing Techniques - November, 2011
  • Talking Clearly and Effectively - April, 2012

Thursday, August 2, 2012

KSAs and your Government Employment Application - Part I

The official federal job application tag-line reads something like this:

As a part of the Federal-Wide Hiring Reform Initiative (streamlining the hiring process), most government agencies are committed to eliminating the use of the Knowledge, Skills and Ability (KSA) narratives from the initial application in the hiring process for all external announcements.
Therefore, as an applicant for external announcements, you are NOT required to provide a narrative response to each KSA listed on the vacancy announcement.

The reality is that if you simply fill out the on-line application form without providing a KSA narrative responses in your work history, you will not be considered for any government job. If you want extraordinary results out of your federal application process, then I suggest you put in some extraordinary effort in the process. 

You have to be able to provide specific work history examples and clearly reflect the highest level of ability. Your KSA answers will be evaluated further to validate whether the level that you selected is appropriate. So, what are KSAs?
  • Ranking and rating factors
  • Evaluation factors, criteria
  • Job ranking elements
  • Supplemental statements
  • A written test
  • An elimination tool
Why are KSAs  still IMPORTMANT?

KSAs can be EXTREMELY IMPORTANT in the applicant evaluation process since they are scored. Poor responses may prevent you, as an applicant, from being considered among the "best qualified" group. Your score for experience is based solely on your responses to the KSAs, not the information included in your USAJOBS on-line resume, OF-612 (Optional Application for Federal Employment) or your personal resume. There’s an easy way to decide when to pay attention to KSAs. In a word, ALWAYS.

The federal resume or application is the information that tells the position selection decision-maker if you are qualified for the job and KSAs describe your skills using concrete examples so that the hiring manager can determine if you can perform their job. The application review is a three-step consideration process.

The Human Resources Review Process for determining your qualifications and for rating and ranking your KSAs goes as follows:

Your total application will be sent to the federal agency. This will include your federal-style resume or OF-612 and KSAs for a specific announcement. The announcement might ask for other information as well. You have to read the instructions to determine what they want, i.e., college transcripts, DD-215, your last supervisory evaluation, etc.

KSA Example

Ability to communicate effectively with customers and vendors

In my current job as a Supply Technician, I talk with customers and vendors every day. I help customers choose products and I answer their questions. I often help to solve problems.

In one case, a researcher needed a discontinued item. He had received the notice that the item was being discontinued and knew about the replacement item, but needed to make sure the same materials were used throughout his experiment. He really wanted more of the old item. I explained that I could get him some of the replacement item within 24 hours, but he was very upset that his experiment would not be valid if he used different equipment. Although he was very upset and sometimes yelling on the phone, I stayed calm and tried to help him. I remembered that another customer had chosen to return her old stock of the discontinued item. I checked to see if we still had it and we did. I was able to help the researcher by sending him the last of the discontinued item. I also asked him if he wanted to place an order for the new item for future use. He was very grateful and wrote a letter to my manager saying how helpful I had been.

In another case, I was assigned to help coordinate a vendor product trade show. It was my job to collect all of the vendor information, how much space they would need, if they needed electrical outlets or if they needed any special equipment. One of the vendors called and complained to me that the last trade show didn’t go well for him because the space he was given was smaller than what he requested. He had a big piece of equipment to display and it wouldn’t fit. It took several hours to fix the problem. He lost time and it disrupted the event for other vendors around him who had to be moved around. I listened to all of his concerns and told him I could fax him the page with all of the requirements he had given me so he could make sure it was correct. I also told him he could call me two days before the show so he could verify that everything he needed was in place. He was very happy with this solution and, on the day of the show, he introduced himself to me and thanked me for making sure that everything was set up properly for him.

I have also taken the following classes at Some State University:

  • “Creating Distinctive Customer Service,” Course Number: 1323, October, 2011.
  • “Assertive Communication,” Course Number: 8107, February 2012.