Monday, September 26, 2011

Federal Job Cover Letters?

Do I need a cover letter when applying to Federal jobs?

The short answer is no. More than one HR specialist has told me that cover letters are
a waste of time. They add bulk to the application package and give the HR folks more
material to review (or discard as the case may be). So is it best to save a tree? Maybe

Could there be a benefit in including a cover letter in your application package? Yes. If
you have to explain something in your resume that is out-of-the-ordinary, such as a gap
in employment that is especially long (over a year) or a change in career progression,
a cover letter can be just the thing you need to explain to the reader the “why” of your

And don’t forget to tailor your cover letter to the job and make it a powerful one. Be sure
you make a solid connection between the skills desired and the skills you are bringing to
the Agency. Remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression!

Have KSA Essays Disappeared?

So many Federal job seekers are ecstatic that KSA (Knowledge, Skills and Abilities) essays have disappeared from many of the vacancy announcements. But have they really disappeared?

The answer is no. Many agencies will not ask you to submit KSA essays the initial time
you apply to a job. However, if they like your application materials, they may ask you
to respond to several essay questions later in the process. Some will ask for applicants to
submit essays by email. Some may ask for applicants to bring KSA essays with them to
an interview they’ve scheduled. And others may ask applicants to write essays on-site—
yes, on-site—before or after an interview with the hiring official.

Whatever the scenario, the reality is that some agencies will still want to see if you can
write. Why? Because what we do in the government is run programs and write reports.
It may be an email report to your supervisor, or a more elaborate report to Congress.
One of the best ways to determine if you can put some sentences together in a coherent
fashion is by using KSA essays.

The bottom line is that KSAs haven’t disappeared, they are just hiding from us!