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Best Ways to Answer Federal Self-Assessments

Best Ways to Answer Federal Self-Assessments

Kathryn Troutman /

Just when you got those pesky knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA) statements under your belt when applying to federal government jobs, a new trend has emerged: Self-assessment questions.

Also called job-specific questions, self-assessment questions are found in increasing numbers of government agencies’ applications. They will be new to some federal job seekers, but don’t be put off. These questions are intended to simplify the federal application process by replacing KSA job-element statements. Familiarize yourself with their format to ensure you answer them to your best advantage.

The Purpose of Self-Assessment Questions

These are really pre-interview questions to determine job eligibility. Your resume, as well as your responses to the core and self-assessment questions, are integral in determining your basic and specialized qualifications for the position.

Self-assessment questions can ask for responses that include: “Yes/No,” “True/False” and “Check All That Apply.” They can also require you to rate your skill level on a scale of 1 through 5 (5 usually being the highest). All questions relate to the duties and specialized experience required for the job.

It is important to know that if you are well-qualified for the job, you should rate yourself at the highest level. If you can’t score yourself a 4 or 5, think carefully about whether you should apply for the job, as HR specialists will be interested in top candidates only.

Examples, Please

You can browse samples of self-assessment questions in FBI job announcements. Go to the FBI job Web site, and choose to browse job listings – with or without registering. Then open one of the announcements, scroll to the bottom and click “View Vacancy Questions.” There, you will see question requests for essays and self-assessment choices.

For another example, browse job listings at the IRS, which also uses the resume and question format for applications. To see the job-related questions associated with a particular listing, view an open position and then click on the “Qualifications & Evaluations” tab.

Be Ready to Back Up Your Rating

As you read the self-assessment questions, you’ll find many are followed by a secondary question: “If you selected 5, please give example.” Be ready to write an impressive story demonstrating your skill level in this area. Your answer should provide details about the situation or project, the challenge, your response and the results. Think of this answer as a mini-KSA, providing one excellent example that is at least a half-page long and includes supporting specifics.

Prove Your Skill Level on Your Resume

To ensure you’re perceived as a good fit, you also should consider updating the language in your federal resume so it matches the application’s critical elements. Make sure you demonstrate your level 5 score on your resume. Describe experience and projects that not only relate to the 5 rating in the application, but also to the job’s qualifications.

This resume update is important. When considering your application, HR specialists will review your resume against your answers to verify your own assessment. High self-assessment that is not supported by information in your resume, essay responses or supporting documents may eliminate you from best-qualified status or result in a lowered HR-assessment score.

How Qualified Are You?

If you are a 4 or 5 on at least 90 percent of the questions in these applications – there can be 10 to 30 of these questions – you most likely will be a good candidate for the listed position.

Realize, too, that these self-assessment questions could easily arise again in your interview, so prepare yourself by printing them out. Also, be ready to discuss the examples you provided in the application, because the interviewer will be looking for these examples.

Do all this, do it well and you’ll get closer to landing that job.

Want to beef up your KSA or Resume? Earn your degree.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    3 months ago


  • Winter_day_in_chicago_with_charlie_001_max50


    over 3 years ago


    It would be such a huge relief to everyone if the interview process was straight forward. The first step would be for the employer to create a very absolute and clear assessment of the job, and what type of person they seek to fill it. Then you can know if you should interview at all. Instead we have a torturous guessing game that wastes their time and ours. Are the questions designed to elicit information, or a nuanced gauge of your character? People hate know-it-alls and boastful show offs, so we are taught to be a humble lot- not really very good at giving ourselves top marks! It seems that big BS'ers will win out over a more honest type of person.

  • Fox_in_snow_max50


    over 5 years ago


    I have advanced degrees and just lack some of the experience that is required. It is extremely frustrating to have spent 10 years+ in school so that I can get a job that I love and lack some of the required experience and not even a interview. I am not a dummy! How can I get my foot in the door - I can do the job (even if I have to bone up at home [reading literature, books, etc.]. The KSA's that is another story.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 5 years ago


    Look at the economy, they pick the best and pay them nothing.

  • 715551-2-falls-at-hanabanilla-cuba_1__max50


    almost 6 years ago


    The trouble that I see with the KSA's is some of us rate ourselves lower than taking a test on our skills simply because we are more critical and expect the best from our abilities and efforts, or worse yet compare ourselves to others who are experts at them, I mean our role models or mentors. In conclusion, we come out short, if we took a test at an agency, that would probably be a better measuring device, than asking for our personal opinion of ourselves.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Account Removed

    over 6 years ago

    These are even a more pain than the KSA's. Seems employeers are trying to conduct an interview in writing.

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