KSA is an acronym that stands for knowledge, skills, and abilities. But, how is it used in the business world today? Let’s take a closer look and then you can test your knowledge with a short quiz.


A KSA (knowledge, skills, and abilities) is a detailed list of the qualifications that a person needs to perform a specific job. The KSA is created by the employer, and it helps them single out the candidate who’s the best fit for a job based on their answers to job-related questions. It’s a lot like a business version of Where’s Waldo? We need to find our Waldo from a sea of qualified applicants!

Until recently, the federal government used KSA essays as a selection tool in the initial stages of the hiring process for the majority of federal jobs. The hiring process was streamlined in 2010 and KSAs were phased out, although some government agencies still use some form of written essay assessments as a selection tool. Other businesses may also use a KSA to identify the best-qualified candidates to fill job openings, although they may call it by another term, such as quality ranking factor (QRF) or professional technical qualification (PTQ).

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A KSA is most often presented in the form of a supplemental job application with three or more job-specific, usually one-page essay questions. The responses are evaluated by an individual or a panel, and each answer will be given a value based on how closely it demonstrates the qualification required for the job.

KSA Examples

Now that you know what a KSA is, you’re probably curious about each of the KSA qualifications: knowledge, skills, and abilities. Here’s a brief explanation of each category:

Knowledge is your familiarity with the subject matter, or the information that you already possess that can be applied to the performance of the job. If you apply for a job as a human resource manager, you will need knowledge of federal employment laws. Or, perhaps you are applying for a position as an accountant, then you will need knowledge of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP).

Skills are your level of competence and expertise in a specific learned task. Skills fall into three main categories: physical skills, such as how quickly and proficiently you can type, or how well you can maneuver an automobile; verbal skills, such as how well you can communicate with coworkers or customers; and mental skills, such as accurately solving mathematical problems. Skills can be measured and tested. They can also be taught and developed through training and practice.

Abilities are the capacity to perform a specific job-related activity at the present time. In some cases, it might involve a physical ability, such as the ability to consistently lift 40 pounds over the course of an eight-hour workday. In other cases, the stated ability might require a combination of your knowledge and skills to produce an observable product. For example, you have knowledge of accounting principles and you are a skilled typist, but now we want to know if you have the ability to gather data and produce monthly financial reports that are timely and accurate.

Lesson Summary

Defining the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) for a job benefits both the employer and the potential employee. Prospective employers can weigh each applicant against an established standard in order to find the best match. KSAs are useful tools for employers to evaluate a candidate’s potential for success in a specific position. Potential employees can sell themselves and spell out exactly why they’re the best candidate for the job. Think of it as a mini job interview, with enough time to think carefully about each answer before you reply!