Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Behavioral-Based Interview: Questions for a Human Resources Specialist

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by Amin Huffington

Dreamfedjob - Turning unemployed into employed.
Gone are the days when the interviewer would ask a silly questions such as "Where do you see yourself five years from now?" Today's interviewers are using a new tool to find specific information about you: The Behavioral-Based Interview.

Behavioral-Based Interview Overview Behavioral-based interviews focus on discovering how a candidate performed in specific work related situations.  This interview technique seeks to uncover how a potential employee actually did behave in a given situation; not on how he or she might behave in the future.  The premise behind this technique is that a good predictor of future performance is how someone performed in the past in a similar situation.  Behavioral-based interviews are becoming more common throughout industry and government and many candidates are familiar with this technique and are well prepared for these interviews.  Candidates can and should draw on previous work related experiences as well as non-work related experiences (e.g., school projects, community involvement) that are relevant to the interview questions.

A Human Resources Specialist should demonstrate experience in the following competencies:

Human Resource Communication: Acquires and applies critical financial concepts and practices, based upon a thorough understanding of the Federal Government.

Most likely interview questions to assess this competency:

  1. In this role, you will be managing multiple assignments and HR initiatives.  In the past how have you created awareness of programs and initiatives across the organization?  What challenges did you face?  How did you handle them?
  2. What tools or methods have you utilized to disseminate information effectively to an organization?  How did you select the most appropriate one to use?
  3. Share an example of a time when someone came to you with a question regarding a matter outside of your scope of responsibility.  How did you handle this?

Key behaviors they will be looking for:

  • Maintains an understanding of own HR area and a current and accurate understanding of all organizational HR initiatives, services and applications for the purpose of creating awareness and optimizing customer service
  • Identifies the key points related to organizational HR programs that should be understood by the agency [company] employee population
  • Contributes to the knowledge and understanding that employees have relating to an organization’s HR programs
  • Communicates new/changed HR programs to employees using the most effective method(s) of communication (e.g., email, briefings)
  • Assists with the training or retraining of employees on organizational HR programs as required
  • Partners with other organizations both inside and outside of  agency or company
Human Resource Consultation: Administers grants and cooperative agreements, applying knowledge of organizational needs and deadlines
Most likely interview questions to assess this competency:

  1. Describe a time when you had to assess organizational needs and recommend solutions to management?  How did you approach this assignment?  Who did you involve in the process?  How did you present the options?  What was the result?
  2. Think of a successful relationship you have maintained with a manager you support.  How did you build a rapport and obtain his/her trust?  How were you able to help him/her confidently and independently address and resolve human capital issues?
  3. How do you work with your customers to ensure that HR policies are successfully integrated into the organization?  What steps do you take to address issues that arise?

Key behaviors they will be looking for:
  • Assures that HR policy, regulatory and program issuances are properly integrated with other staff actions and are thereby fully supportive of the organization’s mission and service outcomes
  • Uses HR principles and business change processes to improve efficiency and effectiveness
    Uses appropriate tools/approaches to gather and disseminate information (e.g., meetings, email, briefings, presentations, surveys)
  • Maintains confidentiality of sensitive information
  • Scans the environment to assess organizational needs, identifies potential options and presents to management recommended solutions, including the pros and cons of each
  • Understands the added value of, and uses face-to-face interactions to engage and create understanding
  • Provides recommendations and/or reports on leading HR practices and procedures
  • Serves as a trusted advisor, providing management advisory assistance, problem resolution, and technical guidance in assigned program areas in a responsive and timely manner
  • Transfers knowledge and coaches others, enabling them to independently address human capital issues within their organization
Human Resource Law, Regulation and Policy Research and Analysis: Understands Human Resource (HR) laws, regulations and policies; assesses their potential effect on agency or company procedures; and ensures they are effectively applied in all human capital matters

Most likely interview questions to assess this competency:
  1. Tell me about a time when you were responsible for developing procedures as a result of new laws.  Who did the changes impact?  How did the changes impact them?  What steps did you take communicate the changes to the organization?
  2. How do you stay abreast of the latest HR and employment laws and regulations?  What information sources do you use?
  3. Provide an example of a time when a law, regulation, or policy had a significant affect on the organization.  How did you handle this situation?  What was the result/outcome?
  4. What is your approach for researching and analyzing HR laws for an organization?
 Key behaviors they will be looking for:
  • Possesses knowledge of HR laws, regulations and policies
  • Researches, analyzes and/or interprets HR laws, and ensures they are integrated in daily operations as appropriate
  • Develops and/or recommends changes to procedures resulting from new laws
  • Stays abreast of current and potential future changes in HR laws, regulations, and policies and assesses the impact of these changes on the organization
  • Gathers and benchmarks with other organizations, in both the public and/or private sector, to determine the best approach for integrating laws, regulations, and policies at an agency or company
Human Resource Management Knowledge: Develops and monitors processes and organizes resources to achieve desired results

Most likely interview questions to assess this competency:

  1. How do you stay current on HR practices and tools within human resource management?  What sources of information do you use?
  2. Summarize a situation where you were responsible for developing a strategy for fulfilling an HR need of an organization.  What was the need?  What was your approach?  What was the result/outcome?
Key behaviors they will be looking for:
  • Maintains knowledge of current practices and tools used within assigned HR specialty area (e.g., recruitment, benefits, classification, employee training, career development, evaluation, employee/labor relations, performance management, recognizing/rewarding employees, employee morale)
  • Stays abreast of changes in the HR profession and anticipates and prepares for the implications of these changes on current and future HR related plans and processes at an agency or company
  • Anticipates the impact new organizational processes may have on personnel
How will I be rated?

While you are answering the questions, the interviewer or panel, will be writing down a number based on your answers.  This number will be between 0 and 4.  At the end of the interview the numbers  are added that this is how the person is chosen for the job.

Standard Competency Proficiency ScaleScore Proficiency Level Description
0 Not Demonstrated 
  • You have not demonstrated this competency and likely have not had related training or experience.
1 Baseline
(theoretical knowledge) Shows basic knowledge and understanding sufficient to handle routine tasks.   Focus is on learning.
  • You are training or on-the-job training; beginning to develop this competency and have completed formal
  • You understand and can discuss terminology, concepts, principles, and issues related to this competency;
  • You utilize the full range of reference and resource materials in this competency.
2 Progressing
(limited practical application and experience) Has depth/breadth of knowledge to handle non-routine situations.  Begins to take initiative.  Focus is on applying and enhancing knowledge or skill.
  • You have applied this competency in occasional situations and still require minimal guidance to perform successfully;
  • You understand and can discuss the application and implications of changes to processes, policies, and procedures in this area.
3 Proficient
(practical application and experience) An expert who can handle broad organizational/professional issues; works independently; has long-term perspective; coaches, guides and empowers others.
  • You have consistently provided practical/relevant ideas and perspectives on process or practice improvements which may easily be implemented;
  • You are capable of coaching others in the application of this competency by translating complex nuances relating to this competency into easy to understand terms;
  • You participate in senior level discussions regarding this competency;
  • You assist in the development of reference and resource materials in this competency.
4 Master
(recognized thought leader)
All criteria must apply An expert whose advice is sought out by others, from both within the an agency or company and from the Department or other organizations; Shapes the organization/profession; is visionary; focus is strategic; copes with the unknown.
  • You have demonstrated consistent excellence in applying this competency across multiple projects and/or organizations;
  • You are considered the “go to” person in this area from within an agency or company and/or outside the agency or company;
  • You create new applications for and/or lead the development of reference and resource materials for this competency;
  • You are able to diagram or explain the relevant process elements and issues in relation to organizational issues and trends in sufficient detail during discussions and presentations, to foster a greater understanding among internal and external colleagues and constituents.
When you are working on your resume, don't forget to keep in mind the type of experience that the interviewers are most likely to want to see.  Good luck.

For additional information on HR Specialists see: http://www.dreamfedjob.com/careers/0203_Personnel_Clerical_and_Assistance_Specialist.html and
http://www.dreamfedjob.com/careers/0201_Human_Resources_Management_Specialist.html

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Interview Questions for Information Technology Specialist Web and Application Administrator

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by Amin Huffington

Dreamfedjob - Turning unemployed into employed.
1. Why are you applying for this position?

2. Describe your knowledge of and hands-on administration experience with Web servers, sites, and applications in an enterprise environment.  Include your responsibilities, accomplishments, size of the environment, applications you’re familiar with, admin tools used, and infrastructure (e.g., backend storage, virtual, multiple networks, etc.).  Are you currently working in this role/environment?

3. Describe your knowledge and level of experience with Web and application server software such as Apache, IIS, JBoss, Tomcat, Lucene, and/or other Web infrastructure and product dissemination software, and how you’ve installed, configured, and maintained these to meet user and mission requirements.

4.  Describe your knowledge and level of experience with the administration of content management systems (CMS).  What are the pros and cons of a CMS as opposed to a flat file system for Web site data?

5. Describe your experience with and level of expertise with the Solaris operating system.   With the Windows operating system.

6. Describe your knowledge and experience in Information Assurance within the Web area, including your responsibilities, certifications, knowledge of policies, etc.  What measures would you take to better secure an out-of-the-box Web server such as Apache?

7. Identify a couple issues and/or problem areas that are frequently encountered when dealing with Web and Application Servers and how you have addressed them (or would).  Describe your experience with and ability to perform system troubleshooting.

8. Describe your experience leading projects, tasks, and/or teams.  Please include the complexity, the size/scope of the projects, tasks, or teams, and your role.

9. Describe your experience with and ability to work with diverse groups of people (technical/non technical), customers, team members, vendors.

10. Describe a Web-related situation where you took the initiative to improve customer service, improve system performance or sustainability, or help ensure a project/task was successful.

11. Describe your knowledge of and hands-on experience with Web site/page design, including use of Web page development tools and Web page design and markup languages such as HTML, CSS, XML, XSLT.

12. Describe your experience supporting a 24x7 environment.  Are you willing to provide on-call/weekend support and support after-hours scheduled maintenance, when needed?

13. What other skill sets, experience, certifications, and/or personal strengths can you bring to this position?

14. Do you have any questions regarding the position, the agency or company, or any other questions?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Effective KSA Examples

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by Amin Huffington

Dreamfedjob - Turning unemployed into employed.
At the GS-5/7 level:As an undergraduate student of International Relations at Georgetown University, I was required to produce a minimum of 5 research papers per semester. These are technical papers that present and support a thesis statement or a research issue with little existing research available, providing detailed documentation to justify my position and information. In my senior year, I produced a 25-page paper that explored the issues of Muslim women in China, a topic about which there is almost no existing research information. The paper received top recognition and was a principle infl uence for my being selected for a prestigious and highly competitive, intensive International Policy study program at the University of Michigan.

At the GS-9/11 level:For the past fi ve years I have served as a free-lance writer, preparing text for publication in technical manuals, magazines and other publications. I have written and edited materials in such subject matter areas as medicine, the arts, politics and law enforcement. I am able to conduct research and select the appropriate level of complexity for the target audience.

In addition to the technical writing and editing that I have performed, I have published a collection of essays and several short stories. I am a member of the Washington Area Writers Guild and have been a guest speaker for American University’s Professional Writing Seminar.

At the GS-12/13 level:As a program manager with the Maryland State Correctional Administration, I have been required to prepare detailed written reports and regulations on development and management of correctional programs throughout the state. I have created procedural manuals and policy guidelines that are now accepted standards for all Correctional Administration operations. These written materials are clear, concise and detailed and convey highly technical matters that could be vital to the safety and well-being of the staff as well as the prison population. My manual on the proper search of inmate living space (shakedown procedures) provides detailed guidelines for securing individuals while safely searching for contraband. The manual provides thorough descriptions of unusual and innovative methods of concealment and has resulted in a 72-percent increase in the seizure of contraband since its implementation.

At the GS-14/15 level:As Director of Development with General Dynacon, I was responsible for directing the creation of all marketing materials for federal defense industry marketing. I created complex technical proposals, often comprised of many volumes and thousands of pages of highly technical data. I prepared the introduction and abstract portions of these proposals, synthesizing the information to create an informative overview of the contents in order to convey the information to non-technical management officials. These proposals were instrumental in securing new corporate business, and I consistently received bonuses based on my performance.

Tips for Writing Great KSAs

  1. Follow the Situation, Action, Results Model to describe your accomplishments.
  2. Use clear, concise statements written in the first person.
  3. Spell out all acronyms.
  4. Describe recent education and training that enhanced your skills in a particular competency.
  5. Include special projects if they are relevant to the KSA.
  6. Include awards that relate specifically to a particular KSA.
  7. Focus on specific challenges and results. If possible, quantify your accomplishments.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sample KSA - Ability to Lead

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by Amin Huffington

Dreamfedjob - Turning unemployed into employed.
We suggest you follow the following format when addressing KSA questions:

SITUATION:Describe a specific situation (problem, challenge, opportunity, goal) and its significance to the mission you served.

  • Describe enough of the situation with which you were dealing to give the reader an idea of what the importance of the situation was to the organization or team. What kind of problem, challenge, situation, or goal were you dealing with?
  • What was the signifi cance of the situation? What was at stake or what was its importance to the organization or to you?
  • Talk about the individuals and groups you worked with and/or the environment in which you worked at the time, e.g., customers, co-workers, stakeholders, shrinking budget, low morale, etc.
ACTION:Discuss the actions you took that led to notable results. Strike a balance between telling enough of what you did that it gives a flavor for how you work, but do not tell them everything. Invite questions about what you did.
  • Everyone will understand that you may have acted as a part of a team or with the assistance of others. Describe what your contribution was and assume it was as important to the outcome as anything anyone did.
  • Do not describe everything you did. Describe the parts of what you did that will invite the reader to ask questions. Describe the part of what you did that clearly was instrumental in the outcome that made a difference.
  • Was there anything of signifi cance about the conditions that made your actions special or unusual? Was there something of importance that required your actions?
RESULTS:Give specific examples of the results of your actions to demonstrate the quality and effectiveness of your work. If possible, quantify/qualify your results, or give some kind of measure of the contribution the results made to the team mission.

KSA Sample: "Ability to Lead"

As a manager for the past 14 years, I have developed performance and training, plans, counseled, appraised and hired employees, worked with unions, and taken disciplinary actions. I have gone from supervising five employees to managing 100 headquarters and fi eld employees.

As the head of the Department’s Office of Discrimination Resolution, I inherited a 4-year backlog of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaints and a 10-member staff. At the same time, the Department issued a mandate requiring us to reduce the complaints backlog within 60 days and to eliminate it within 4 months. I had neither the funds nor the time to hire additional staff, so I set out to make the maximum use of the human resources I had on board.

My first step was to review the complaints inventory to determine which complaints could quickly move through the system and which ones required in-depth review. I then reorganized the offi ce by defining the structural needs of the EEO program and assessing the skill levels of my employees. I created fi ve teams, using my own staff as well as fi eld staff and ensured that work was evenly distributed to each group. I worked closely with my employees to develop appropriate performance standards for their new assignments.

In addition, we discussed the training that would be needed to enhance their performance. I ensured that each employee understood the importance of his or her contribution to the project. Throughout the transition to teams, I kept an open-door policy and listened closely to employee’s suggestions. As a result, the teams developed a remarkable “can do” attitude toward this overwhelming workload. The spirit and determination with which we worked together enabled us to meet the Department’s goal of eliminating the complaints backlog within 4 months.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Writing a Federal Resume

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by Amin Huffington

Dreamfedjob - Turning unemployed into employed.
What is a Resumé?
The resumé is a marketing summary of your skills, accomplishments, experiences, and education designed to capture a prospective employer’s interest. It also provides the information that will justify how you have rated yourself on an electronic assessment questionnaire.

Your resumé can become a self-awareness experience that will reframe how you see yourself at work and raise your level of confi dence.

What is the Difference Between a Private Sector Resumé and a Federal Resumé?
A federal resumé requires a minimum of 5 pieces of information that are not included in a private sector resumé:
  1. The Job Announcement Number, Title, Series, and Grade
  2. Social Security Number
  3. Veteran’s Preference (Yes + number of points; or None)
  4. Citizenship
  5. Highest Federal Salary Earned (may be placed at the Job Title of most recent Federal job)
 There are many other details that most Federal job announcements ask for, but we have discovered that the 5 pieces of information above will be enough.

Elements of the Resumé:

  • Personal Information Required Federal Information (see above)
  • Experience (both paid and voluntary)
  • Name and phone number of Supervisor for most recent jobs and whether or not they have your permission to contact them (“Yes, you may contact.” “Please do not contact.”)
  • Education and Training
  • Special Job Qualifications
The resumé format that Dreamfedjob encourages is suggested by research that has looked at how hiring officials read resumés and how the eye tracks. We use this research to lay out information in the most readable format possible. Remember the formula is based on solid research. Compared to traditional resumés, there are two unusual characteristics of the resumés we propose you put together:

Your resumé will begin with a “Summary” of the value you bring to the job for which you are applying. This summary is a marketing statement and should be written to provoke the reader’s interests. For each job you have had, a set of 1 to 4 “accomplishment statements” will be presented individually and separated from the body of your description of what you did.

Targeting Your Resumé

Carefully read and make sure you understand all the sections of the announcement. Getting the assistance of a Career counselor to help with this process will help you make a more effective resumé. Determine how you are best qualified for the position and plan how you will make that “good fit” apparent in your resumé. Think about what accomplishments you want to present to convince the hiring offi cial you are the best qualified applicant in the applicant pool.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Why are KSAs Important?

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by Amin Huffington

Dreamfedjob - Turning unemployed into employed.
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. Remember, your score for experience is based solely on your responses to the KSAs, not the information included in your resume.

The federal resume or application is the information that tells the 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 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.

Step 1APPLICATION 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 2RESUME 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. You will not be able to find out how many points are assigned to each KSA. You just need to write them knowing they will be graded.

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.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bad KSA sample vs. Good KSA Sample

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by Amin Huffington

Dreamfedjob - Turning unemployed into employed.
One of the most common errors made in addressing KSAs is to start switching randomly or haphazardly. Applicants may jot down thoughts with no organization and structure, and in some cases, no relationship to the KSA.

What is written initially is put on paper and attached to the application package. Prior to responding to each KSA, brainstorm and think about what type of tasks you performed and why you performed them in relationship to the KSA. Think about for whom you performed the tasks.

Ask yourself whether you made any major accomplishments. When performing these tasks, did a significant impact on the work environment occur? By asking these questions, you think critically and objectively about the tasks you performed. In addition, it will help remind you to think “only” about tasks directly related to the KSA.

There will be times when a particular task performed will apply to more than one KSA. In those situations, you may discuss the same task under different KSAs, but be sure to show the direct relationship of the task to the additional KSAs and to show a different phase of the activity. To reinforce the idea of organizing your thoughts when responding to KSAs, ask yourself the five standard questions as a checklist regarding individual tasks performed:

1) What action was performed?
2) Why was the action performed?
3) For whom was the action performed?
4) What were the accomplishments?
5) Did the action produce a significant impact on others or the work environment?

ELEMENT: ABILITY TO COMMUNICATE ORALLY. (THE WRONG ANSWER)

As an Employee Development Specialist, I interact with a variety of people, from staff to managers regarding training needs. I provide training to staff on a variety of topics. I set up training for staff. I meet with vendors. I have had many employees thank me for providing them with a better understanding of their training needs. My supervisor told me I was doing a great job.

This first attempt provides limited detail regarding the tasks being performed. In addition, subjective information regarding how others feel about him is included.

Now, look at the applicant’s new and improved version below.

ELEMENT: ABILITY TO COMMUNICATE ORALLY. (THE RIGHT ANSWER)

As a Supervisory Employee Development Specialist, I interact with staff, managers and supervisors on a daily basis to convey information on training programs, provide guidance on training needs, and supervise employee development staff. Specifically, I perform the following tasks:
  • Conduct numerous training classes, both formal and informal, to groups of 15 to 35 individuals on such topics as “Instructors Skills”, “Planning for Your Future”, “Career Growth”, “Using Lotus-1-2-3”, “Providing Guidance to Your Employees” and “Basic Functions of the PC”.
  • Meet with managers, supervisors and vendors to discuss training that is needed for specific groups, divisions or sections. For example, the agency’s Administrative Division had an influx of new secretaries who lacked Lotus 1-2-3 experience, which was now needed for a major long- term project in the Division. After determining the Division’s training needs and meeting with managers, I provided training to all secretaries. This training contributed to the Division meeting projected deadlines for work output.
  • Brief upper management on specific budget needs and operating costs for employee training. In addition, I gave a formal presentation to upper management for an agency wide training program. Although the agency was facing cuts in other program areas, I was able to persuade management to approve this training.
  • Supervise and provide guidance to 5 employees in the Employee Development Division. In addition, I meet with subordinates several times during the rating period to discuss employee concerns, goals, progress reviews, and the final performance rating. This past rating period, I developed an “Improvement Plan” that encompassed additional on-the-job training and formal training classes for employees who were weak in specific areas. I guided them in meeting established goals. Due to the positive turn-around in employee performance, this “Improvement Plan” has been deemed a success by upper management.
  • Completed the following training courses: 1) Effective Communication, 1/07; 2) Improving Supervisory Skills, 4/09; and 3) Negotiation with Others, 9/10.
  • Selected as “Supervisor for the Quarter” 4/08 to 6/09 by staff due to my concerns, interests, and efforts in helping subordinates to improve their performance.
In the second KSA response, the applicant specifically discusses the type of people he interacts with, the purpose of those contacts, and what accomplishments have been achieved.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Six Steps to Strong Accomplishment Statements

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by Amin Huffington

Dreamfedjob - Turning unemployed into employed.
The following steps will help you to develop your action statements that give evidence of your accomplishments. Select skills necessary for the position you are applying.
Step 1. State the problem, need or challenge
Provide secretarial support, write letters, memos, and reports, as needed.
Step 2. Identify a skill
Write letters and memoranda
Step 3. Cite an example of how you used this skill
For three years wrote letters and memoranda for the office director’s signature.
Step 4. Describe the circumstances
Who, what, when, where, why, and how.
Daily, independently researched and drafted letters in response to congressional inquiries, requests for information from companies and the public, and red borders for the seventh floor principals.
Step 5. Reinforce with measurable data—numbers, dollars, percentages, volume per month, year, etc.
Wrote 20- 25 responses to congressional inquiries per week during a 6-month period; wrote 25-30 responses to public inquires per month; wrote 3-6 red borders per week during crises, ensuring that all were grammatically correct and in compliance with correspondence regulations.
Step 6. Give results. What was accomplished because of your use of this skill? Productivity, morale, customer service, problem solving, money saved, etc.
Handled the correspondence previously done by two secretaries, and reduced turnaround time significantly. Received cash award for outstanding performance.

SAMPLE ACCOMPLISHMENT STATEMENTS
  • Designed a 5-month training program for career employees that was expanded and implemented nationwide as an in-service training program. Determined course requirements, coordinated arrangements, selected and contracted trainers, selected and purchased training materials. Three hundred employees have been trained annually. (Received Cash Award)
  • Managed and coordinated, independently, the mailings, handouts and site logistics of three meetings during a 30-day period. Arranged for 50 people from five agencies and ten companies per meeting to be cleared in advance to enter Main State. Met all deadlines and resolved last minute details.
  • Lead member of team responsible for implementing an automated accounting system for foreign exchange which provided immediate access of currency positions and improved accuracy by 100% to management and foreign exchange traders.
  • Headed a project team responsible for the evaluation of procedures and policies, implemented and managed changes for better utilization of resources based on team findings.
  • Achieved team and individual incentives for identifying fraudulent activity and preventing losses. Net loss avoidance averages over $2 Million.
  • Introduced word-processing to the letter of credit department which improved quality, speed and accuracy of documents by 100% and reduced operating costs by $60,000.
  • Instrumental in retaining 85% of customers through completion of MCI conversion project. Awarded a cash bonus award from executive management.
  • Served as liaison between CoreStates and Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) which resulted in student loan accounts being updated in a timely matter.

Monday, August 22, 2011

KSA Help

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by Amin Huffington

Dreamfedjob - Turning unemployed into employed.
Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSA’s) are a method used to rate and rank minimum qualification candidates.  Under this method, the position description is analyzed to identify those KSA’s necessary for optimum job performance in that particular vacant position.  During the ranking process, the candidate’s input will be rated against predefined levels of experience.  The KSA’s listed on the Merit Promotion Vacancy Announcement are the employee’s opportunity to present to the personnel staffing specialist their work experience, education, and volunteer experience as it relates to each KSA.  It is each employee’s decision on how best to present him/herself in writing.

It is important to note that since KSA’s are used to rate and rank minimum qualified candidates that the failure to submit a KSA will result in disqualification for the advertised position.


WRITING A RESPONSE TO KSA’S:

As you begin the process to respond to a KSA, you may wonder:

How do I get started?
What kind of information do I include?
What kind of training is relevant to the KSA?
Does my volunteer experience count?

The answers to these questions vary greatly, based on each individual’s experience and background.  However, there are established guidelines and suggestions which may assist you in the development of strong, clear, and concise KSA’s.

How to Get Started


To begin you should:

  • Gather your reference material such as your old resumes, past and current copies of position descriptions, copies of narratives for individual awards, and college transcripts.
  • Review the KSA titles listed on the Vacancy Announcement to determine whether you have held jobs which had duties that directly relate to the listed KSA’s.
  • Draft your experience in chronological order.
  • Title each position by organization (i.e., company, agency, office, etc.), and list employment dates.
  • In the introductory sentence be sure to state your job/position title, series, and grade level.  Don’t make the reader guess the type of positions you have held.



Type of Information to Include:

Concentrate on the KSA you are writing about, and for each position express only the duties you performed which directly relate to that KSA.  For example:

  • A KSA titled “Ability to communicate verbally and in writing,” explain the duties in positions you have held that require you to communicate (i.e., receptionist, trainer, or instructor, etc.).
  • Give examples of the different types of written communication you have done (i.e., technical handbooks and procedures, response to congressional inquiries, presentations, or training given, etc.).
  • List college courses or other training that demonstrates your communication skills (i.e., Composition and Writing, Public Speaking, or Speech, etc.).
  • Extra credit for training is given for college credit courses taken on an employee’s own time and initiative.  The course may not have been paid for by the government.  Courses taken from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) or a private vendor, when the tuition and employee’s time is paid for by the government, are not considered for extra credit, but as part of work experience.
  • Volunteer experiences should also be listed, if appropriate to the KSA title.  Experience as treasurer of the PTA or scouting organization would be appropriate for a KSA title such as “Ability to work accurately with figures.”

NOTE:  Only your response to the KSA’s should be attached to the application form.  Unless requested in the vacancy announcement, letters of appreciation, performance appraisals, documentation of awards, and other types of personal reference material should not be attached.

Looking for the Right Words


Reviewing your position description will help formulate your ideas and translate them into a written format.

  • Use your own words.
  • Position descriptions describe jobs, not people, and how they impact their jobs.
  • Write clearly and concisely (some classic examples of not writing what you mean:  “I always classify myself and then check my classification;”  “I am skilled in handling myself”).  Be sure you say what you mean.

Don’t be afraid to use the word “I” and active verbs such as:

  • I composed letters…..
  • I analyzed travel regulations…..
  • I compiled statistical data for reports…..

Avoiding the use of the first person leaves the reviewer to wonder who really did the work.  “Sixty conservation plans were prepared,” is an example.  By whom – you, the whole office, the janitor?

Don’t be modest or humble.  If you don’t tell them who will?  You are trying to sell yourself.  You want your name to be referred to the selecting official.

·         The KSA’s are each employee’s opportunity to present him/herself to the personnel staffing specialist.
·         You want all of your education and experience to count.

Do’s and Don’ts of KSA’s


DO’S


  • Read carefully the vacancy announcement for the position for which you are applying.  Underline the knowledge, skills, and abilities required by the position.
  • Describe your work experience so that you emphasize the work that used the skills required by the advertised position.
  • Express accomplishments in specific terms.  Use numbers or kinds.  For example, “prepared four initial review drafts of series, designed and installed 70,000 feet of terrace, wrote a monthly column for 3 weekly newspapers with a combined circulation of 40,000.”
  • Use active verbs to describe what work you actually did.  Be specific.
  • Keep your experience examples brief.
  • Use your own words in filling out the experience blanks.
  • Include all experience, whether paid or volunteer.
  • Arrange your experience in chronological order.
  • If you lack certain experience, say so, but mention pertinent training and say that you would like the chance to apply it.
  • Be consistent between the resume and your KSAs.
  • Have your KSA’s typed or write/print so that each word is legible.  Make sure it and supporting materials are neat and clean.  Nothing turns off a rater faster than a messy, coffee-stained application.  They can’t rate it if they can’t read it.  Employers want resourceful, professional employees who will reflect credit on the agency.  If you can’t type, persuade a friend, or hire a typing service.
  • Have the application package reviewed by a colleague or first-line supervisor to ensure the materials are complete and well worded.

DON’TS


  • Don’t exaggerate.
  • Don’t be humble.
  • Don’t describe the work of the organization, generally, or the work of others.
  • Don’t omit church, community, or club work.
  • Don’t make your KSA’s a “challenge” to the reader.  Hard-to-read KSA’s seldom receive full credit in the evaluation process.
  • Don’t assume that because the raters know you personally, that they know what a good job you do.  The rates may be more impressed by someone who took the time to tell them.
  • Your response to a particular KSA should stand on its own.  Don’t refer the rater from the KSA response to the resume or to attachments.  It’s a sign of laziness.
  • Don’t “snow” the rater by trying to pass off philosophy for knowledge or experience.
  • If it takes two staples to hold the packet together, it’s probably too much “stuff.”  Limit each KSA response to about one and a half pages, typewritten and single-spaced.
  • Last, but not least, don’t lie.  People do check references, so when selling yourself, resist the temptation to aggrandize.

Summary


Remember, your Resume and KSA responses are the first step in your climb up the career ladder.  Give them the time and attention they deserve.  Don’t be afraid to seek help in preparing your resume or KSA responses from your personnel officer, a supervisor, or trusted professional friend.  Many people are genuinely interested in seeing others grow and advance.  Managers, particularly, want to see their employees accept new challenges in the areas where they are most needed.  If you have a good relationship with your supervisor, enlist his or her help.  Often, others can help you assess your strengths more objectively than you yourself sometimes might.

Finally, edit and proofread.  And, edit and proofread again.  After all, if you can’t get your job application right, what can you do?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

More KSA tips ...

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by Amin Huffington

Dreamfedjob - Turning unemployed into employed.
A question often asked by applicants is, “Why do I have to do KSA’s when I’ve already sent you a resume?”  When you read the answer, keep this in mind: a KSA is to a resume what a silver bullet is to a shotgun pellet.

In an effort to drive the Federal hiring process toward a universal application format, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) gathered together several agencies from around the government to create one resume format that would include all of the crucial data required for Federal application into one uniform resume format. The product that resulted was the USAJOBS Resume Builder.

The USAJOBS Resume Builder allows you to create one uniform resume that provides all of the information required by government agencies. Instead of creating multiple resumes in different formats, you can build your resume once and, “… be ready for all job opportunities.”  Even if you don’t use the USAJOBS resume builder resumes, in whatever form, are meant to describe your general background and experience.

KSA’s present you with the opportunity to highlight your knowledge, skills and abilities with regard to the specific job to be filled at the specific agency and specific office in which the position functions.  The electronic resume, while important, is meant to be a one-size-fits-all approach to the job application process.  And it does have the advantage of saving time, effort and energy which would be spent reinventing the wheel each time you see a job you are interested in.  That having been said, many resumes I’ve seen over the years are merely ‘data dumps’ from the applicant’s job descriptions.  We’ve all seen the stilted job description language that has been standardized and homogenized so that it looks like every person has done the same thing, regardless of agency or location.  And with word processing, electronic cutting and pasting from one document to the other is a breeze to fill up the space in a resume builder experience block - for you and for every other person with a passing interest in a job at a place they’d like to go someday.

On the other hand, the KSA asks, “…so what have you REALLY done?”  If written well, it identifies the challenges you’ve faced and the accomplishments you’ve made.  But not always.  A recent KSA response was, “What I learned about the subject, I read on the internet when I looked it up to answer this KSA.” 

A good way to start off any KSA is with a phrase like, “As a wildlife technician with the USFWS in Durango, Colorado…”  This accomplishes a number of positive things for you.  First, it provides an easy cross-reference with your resume.  Second, it identifies the level of authority and responsibility of the position when you performed the duties (e.g., clerk, technician, professional, supervisor, etc.)  Next, the knowledgeable reader of your KSA can quickly recognize that you performed work in a forested and mountainous region rather than at the beach.  Which of these two work environments might help you may depend on the location of the job you are applying for. 

A good way to continue is with a specific and detailed description of the work you accomplished.  An example might be, “I performed environmental analysis on 29 projects in my 4 years in the position.  I have conducted NEPA analysis and/or written 10 NEPA documents during that same time period.”  You can show you are knowledgeable about the requirements governing such work by citing the law, regulation or standard operating procedure that you followed to successfully complete a task or project.  The most effective way to express your experience is through action verbs.  An action verb is a word that conveys action/behaviors and reflects the type of performance that is to occur (i.e., purchase, design, write, supervise).  Action verbs reflect behaviors that are measurable, observable, verifiable, and reliable.  You can find some action verbs for KSAs and resumes at the end of this article. 

This is a good place to identify the equipment (e.g., operated a standard soil truck mounted with a soil probe and auger) or software program (e.g., Excel, ProTracts, ArcGIS) you used in accomplishing the work you performed.

Don’t forget training that you received that is relevant, but avoid providing a laundry list of titles that duplicates what’s already in your resume.  Highlight a few and describe how you applied what you learned to the job.  And be sure to showcase any course(s) that you taught in the specific area of the KSA.  (You can repeat teaching experience in a KSA such as “Ability to communicate orally and/or in writing.”)

Repeat this process for each position you held that provides experience/training relevant to the KSA and, ultimately, to the job you are applying for.

While your background may not have provided experience and training in every KSA, if all you have in the way of an answer is one like the websurfer I mentioned earlier, you might want to reconsider your decision to apply for the job.  True, it can’t hurt and who knows, even with low scores on the KSA’s you could make the referral list because you have little if any competition for a particular vacancy.  The only thing you have to lose is your time.  If you’re like me, and I know I am, you may want to conserve your ammunition by targeting your applications rather than just blasting away at everything that moves.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Addressing KSAs with your Federal Job Application Package

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Your application must fully address the KSAs specified in the vacancy announcement. KSAs are simply a means of more clearly identifying the specific prerequisites for the job. The closer your skills and background match the KSAs, the better your job prospects will be. To help you understand the way VA and the rest of the federal government use KSAs, click on the links below.

What are KSAs?

KSAs -- Knowledge, Skill, Ability

Specific KSAs are needed in performing certain jobs. Individual KSAs are demonstrated through qualifying experience, education, or training. KSAs are defined as:
  • Knowledge - an organized body of information, usually factual or procedural in nature. For example, having knowledge of human resources' rules and regulations could be used as a KSA for a Human Resources Specialist position. To respond to this KSA, you should indicate what human resources rules and regulations you are familiar with, discuss how you applied these rules and regulations in the work environment, and describe other significant situations you were involved in where you applied these rules and regulations.
  • Skill - the proficient manual, verbal, or mental manipulation of data or things. For example, having skill with operating personal computers could be used as a KSA for an Office Automation position. To respond to this KSA, you should indicate what type of personal computers you have operated, discuss the various types of software programs you have used, and describe how these programs were used in your work environment.
  • Ability - the power or capacity to perform an activity or task. For example, having the ability to use a variety of laboratory instruments could be used towards a Laboratory Technician position. To respond, you should describe the types of laboratory instruments you have used, discuss the types of assignments you completed using the laboratory equipment, and describe the impact using the laboratory equipment had on your work environment.

Importance of KSAs

KSAs are used to distinguish the "qualified candidates" from the "unqualified candidates" for a position.

A vacancy announcement will list the KSAs in terms of "specialized experience" requirements. You will be evaluated against each KSA to see if you qualify. You must show either the relevant education requirements or one year of experience that shows the KSA requirements.

Some positions might also have KSAs listed as "selective factors" that are unique requirements for that position. If there are selective factors listed on the vacancy announcement, you should address your experience that is relevant for each selective factor requirement. If you do not, you will not receive further consideration in the evaluation process.

A resume is important to the job application process since it shows your general experience, education, activities, and other accomplishments. The KSAs listed in the job opening are also important because the KSAs provide you with an opportunity to draw attention to and expand on the specific factors the agency is looking for and provides an opportunity for you to spell out why you are the best qualified candidate for the job.

If you choose to rely on your basic application rather than write separate responses to the KSAs, you should be sure that your basic application covers all the KSAs. As an applicant, it is your responsibility to show how your education and experience meet the requirements for positions.

Writing Your KSA Responses

To prepare responses to KSAs:
  • Read the vacancy announcement thoroughly.
  • Review your resume.
  • Add information relevant to each KSA.
  • Link all of these different examples explicitly to the KSAs.
  • Write your KSAs in the first person.
  • Focus on any outcomes to which you directly contributed.
  • Make sure your answers reflect your level of responsibility.
  • Target each KSA answer to read between half a page and a page in length.
  • Review your answers.
  • Ask a friend who knows you well to read over your finished answers.

Additional Information About KSAs

Give examples that show:
  • Initiative: You saw a problem and resolved it.
  • Innovation: You developed a new system; used software for a new purpose.
  • Leadership: You mentored less experienced employees.
  • Complexity: You experienced challenging times on the job.
  • Scope: You were involved in a variety of work that covered many functional areas (e.g., personnel, budget, information technology, etc.).
  • Teamwork: You were part of a team activity whose members possessed different skills and abilities, shared a common purpose, and worked together to achieve clearly identifiable goals (remember when showing team activity to identify YOUR role in the team, not the role of the team).

Sample KSA Responses

Knowledge of health sciences. - While in college pursuing my Bachelor's Degree in Allied Health, I took courses in (give specific examples which show you have knowledge of anatomy and physiology). At the same time, I gained additional knowledge of health in my position at.... In this job I was responsible for (give specific examples). Performing these assignments gave me an opportunity to gain knowledge of (list some examples of knowledge's you gained). Indicate whether you have any special skills, received any awards for what you did in your job, or have completed any training that you can relate directly to the KSA.

Skill in collecting, analyzing, and summarizing data using computer software. - In my current position, I have used the following software packages [list examples]. Using these software packages, I have been able to complete assignments such as [give examples that show what you completed, what you did, and what the outcome was]. I completed these assignments for [indicate who requested] and performed them as part of a project on [indicate if part of a larger project]. The final result of the actions I performed included [give examples] and supported others in the work environment by [give reasons].Indicate whether you have any special skills, received any awards for what you did in your job, or have completed any training that you can relate directly to the KSA.

KSA DOs AND DON'Ts

DO:
  • Carefully read the vacancy announcement and note the required qualifications and KSAs.
  • Use action verbs and statements.
  • Include all current experience related to the KSAs whether paid or volunteer.
  • Arrange all of your experience in logical order (for example, chronological).
  • List education and training and identify title of course, hours, and relationship to the KSAs.
  • Include awards, month and year received, a brief description as to why you received the award and how it relates to the KSAs.
  • Type all information, or write legibly so that it can be clearly understood.
  • Tell what you do know and can do, not what you don't know and cannot do.
  • Describe your experience and emphasize the skills you used that relate to the KSAs.
DON'T:
  • Don't use words from your position description in writing your KSA responses.
  • Don't describe work of others or that of the organization.
  • Don't exaggerate.
  • Don't be humble.
  • Don't omit church, community, or club work.
  • Don't cross-reference items in your application.
  • Don't just state the kind of award and when it was received.
  • Don't make it challenging for the reviewer - it probably won't get full credit if it cannot be read.
Don't attach unsolicited material such as letters of recommendation, training certificates, copies of awards, or examples of work.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Cover Letter

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A cover letter is a short introduction letter that accompanies your resume. The cover letter should persuade the employer to read your resume. It is especially important to use a cover letter when mailing a resume to an employer.
 
Suggested cover letter layout: List your name, complete address, and telephone number with area code at the top of the page.

  • Address the cover letter to a specific person. Include the employer contact information: name, address, telephone, and e-mail address.
  • First paragraph: Begin with an introduction paragraph to explain how you learned about the job or the company. (Job fair, newspaper, friend.) Name the specific position that you are applying for.
  • Second paragraph: Briefly write up your skills to aim toward the open position and explain what you can bring to the job. Do not simply repeat the information in your resume. Be creative when explaining why you are the best job match. The goal of the cover letter is to encourage the employer to read your resume.
  • Third paragraph: Explain the next action you will take. For example: I will telephone in one week to follow up on this position. Be sure to thank the employer for their time, stating that you look forward to interviewing with them.
  • Close and sign your letter. For example:
Respectfully,

Your handwritten signature

Type your name

Additional tips for cover letters:
  • Use paper that matches your resume (white or ivory).
  • Use the same color and font size as your resume.
  • Make it brief, no more than one page.
  • Write in your own words for a natural style.
  • Write a new cover letter to aim at the job requirements for each job for which you are applying.
  • Proof read your cover letter for correct spelling and grammar. Also, ask another person to proof read your cover letter.
  • Be sure to sign your cover letter.
Sample Cover Letter

Mr. John Smith, District Manager
Smith Advertising
503 Sunset Road
River City, VA 22240
Dear Mr. Calhoun:

I am interested in the receptionist position advertised recently in the River City Chronicle.
Enclosed is my resume outlining my clerical experience and customer service skills. My qualifications include:
  • Personable, with excellent customer and employee work relationships.
  • Current personal computer skills with a variety of software packages.
  • Self-starter with excellent problem solving skills.
  • Reliable, received an award for outstanding attendance from ABC Company.
At your earliest convenience, I would like to meet with you to discuss how my skills might benefit Smith Advertising. Please expect my telephone call next Thursday morning to arrange a meeting time. Also, feel free to contact me at (304) 555-6210 or by e-mail at kbrown@someip.net
Thank you for your time and consideration for this position. I look forward to hearing from you.
Sincerely,

Ken Brown
678 Rapid Falls Drive
River City, VA 22401
(304) 555-6210