The federal resume is a significant part of the application process, but it’s doesn’t make up all of the steps required to get a federal job. Many agencies require you to answer application questionnaires which can qualify as KSAO’s (knowledge, skills abilities, other), which use multiple-choice and short essay responses. How these questions are answered can determine your rating along with other factors. Here’s the good news: All federal agencies are required to provide information about how it will rate or assess its applicants, so you will know up front what will be expected of you and how you will be judged.

You may also be asked for additional pieces of information, such as your college transcripts. If your resume is not accompanied by all requested documents it is a high probability your application will likely be disqualified—so read carefully, submit all documentation and follow through!


How to answer application questionnaires

Application questionnaires are used to screen candidates. Questionnaires vary in terms of content and length, but may contain up to 50 or even 100 multiple-choice questions. Question formats may include yes/no, true/false, short-essay or standard multiple-choice questions. Please note that some positions allow you to preview the questionnaire in the job posting, but generally you will complete the questionnaire when you submit your application.

To best answer these questions, take the time to consider all your skills. Those acquired through work, volunteer services, education, etc. all apply. Your questionnaire responses should mirror your resume. Some questionnaires include statements that ask you to summarize your experience in performing certain tasks with a range from “no experience” to “expert”. If you claim to be an expert on every question answered but your resume doesn’t validate that claim, you will be rated lower as a result. You should be able to back up your response through your resume. If you find yourself ranking low on several of these questions, it may be a signal to you that you are not qualified for that particular position. A rule of thumb should be your ability to rate expert on 80% of the questions. If this is not the case, than consider a different position or a different grade.

Application Essays

Each job announcement will list specific qualifications or knowledge, skills and abilities the agency wants to see in an applicant. When writing short essays, you need to describe in writing how your experiences match the desired qualifications. These essays are usually If required to write these short essays, how far you get in the application process will likely be determined by your ability to convincingly address these qualifications.

As you write, be sure to include as much information as you can that responds to each qualification. Your essay answers should be reflected in your resume. Address key words and phrases mentioned in the position description, focus on experiences to which you directly contributed and avoid acronyms. When recounting your experiences, tell a story by explaining
1.) The challenge(s) you faced.
2.) The action(s) you took.
3.) The result(s) from your actions.

Writing application essays is a great opportunity to use real-life examples to describe the experiences, education, volunteer services and activities listed on your resume.

Depending on the position and agency, you may be asked to submit multiple documents or forms with your application. Some of the more common types of documentation include college transcripts, professional certifications or proof of non-competitive status. In most cases, you will be able to mail or fax these documents separately if they are not accessible in an electronic file. Make sure that each document reinforces the knowledge, skills and abilities listed in the qualifications of the position which you have already spoken to in the other components of your application.


You may need to submit college transcripts if you need to verify receipt of a degree, special coursework or if you are claiming superior academic achievement. Plan in advance to obtain your transcript, as some schools may need a few weeks for processing. If you are unable to obtain an official transcript, check with the HR contact listed on the job posting—some agencies may accept unofficial documents.

Verification of status

If you claim veteran’s preference or another type of non-competitive status, you must submit the appropriate documentation to verify this status. The forms you need are generally listed in the job posting. also provides links to many of these forms.