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Federal Hiring 101: Learn What to Expect from Self-Assessments

Federal Hiring 101: Learn What to Expect from 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.

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Self-assessment questions can ask for responses that include: “Yes/No,” “True/False” and “Check All That Apply.” They also can 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 at 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, go to the IRS site, which also uses the resume and question format for applications. View their questions by choosing to browse their job listings and then scrolling to “View Vacancy Questions” button at the end of each listing.

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.

Further reading…

Resume and KSA Tips

What Are KSAs?

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

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    about 2 years ago



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    over 5 years ago


    In the IRS questions, for example, you are given a scenario and 4 possible answers to choose from. I'd like to see some guidelines on the correct answers. So many of the questions have 2 possible very good answers and in real life, they would hinge on your boss and your working relationship with him, the policies at your individual company and how independently you are allowed to work, at your position.

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    Account Removed

    almost 6 years ago

    Hello my name is Travis and I just want to say I think Obama is doing an excellent job for our country, and were I am at today is a beautiful day, may you all be lucky enough to have the sun cast upon your face and friends and family to enjoy it with.

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    Account Removed

    almost 6 years ago

    I, yes I, an eager overachiever who have withered some but not much have managed to harness my frustration caused by my current status, which may from a strangers standpoint look like a meager existance. I have harnessed my frustration and turned to creative ways to move forward in a desperate time of need, then I found this e-mail in my mail and am going to proceed in devouring the K.S.A test and take it all in as I am as worthy a competitor as the next. Today is a great day ladys and gentleman and I hope someone else who wants this opportunity as bad as I may be blessed with the wealth of knowledge that this contains. Farewell Fair all

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    over 6 years ago


    This was extemely helpful! It has been a while that I needed to search for a job and this certainly has help shed some light again.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    almost 7 years ago



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