What Is a Job Narrative?

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Some employers, especially in the government, require a job narrative in addition to an application and resume. A job narrative is a summary in essay form of your particular qualifications for the open position, a written form that answers the traditional interview query “Tell me about yourself .” It demonstrates your written communication skills and highlights your experience and qualifications. Also called KSAs -- for knowledge, skills and abilities -- job narratives are opportunities to convince employers that you are the best candidate for their position.

What to Include in a Job Narrative

Job narratives should be between 300 and 500 words long and effectively convey your experience, knowledge, skills, abilities and other valuable employment characteristics. Explain your knowledge by outlining learning from formal education, training and experience related to the open position. For example, if you are seeking a marketing position, a marketing degree or certification and experience with marketing projects and jobs should be included, with descriptions of specific marketing-related jobs and achievements. Skills included in job narratives should be specific and supported with examples, such as word processing skills described with words-per-minute typing speed and word processing projects you’ve completed. Discuss abilities directly related to the open position requirements, such as leadership and public speaking abilities described with specific leadership roles and speaking in front of groups in previous jobs. Job narratives should also include other characteristics that are valuable employment attributes, such as problem-solving talent supported with specific examples of how you’ve solved problems at work.

Job Narrative Versus Resume

Job narratives are snapshots, or summaries, of employment characteristics, while resumes include employment history with specific dates and contact information. Although employers use job narratives in conjunction with resumes to assess a candidate’s written communication skills and abilities and determine suitability for the position, they use job narratives to compare qualified candidates’ employment characteristics.

How Employers Use Job Narratives

Job narratives are used to compare candidates and make decisions about which ones to interview. They are a screening tool to use early in the recruiting process. A compelling job narrative, well-written and on target with the job requirements, demonstrates candidate suitability. It effectively streamlines the recruiting process, allowing the hiring manager to more quickly assess candidates before interviewing.

Writing a Job Narrative

Write your job narrative with the goal of convincing the employer that you are the best candidate for the opening, and explain what you can do for the organization. Use active verbs and avoid passive voice in your writing. For example, use strong identifying verbs such as “coordinated” instead of “did,” “managed file system” instead of “filed reports” and “administered monthly reporting” instead of “ran reports.” Support your skills and experience with specific examples of your achievements in previous roles. Be brief but thorough, explaining how you did things, and include quantities when possible, such as how many people you supervised or how many reports you prepared regularly, to give an accurate idea of the volume of work you have handled.


  • “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Government Jobs”; Partnership for Public Service; 2010
  • “How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job: Your Complete Guide to Opportunities, Internships, Resumes and Cover Letters, Application Essays (KSAs), Interviews, Salaries, Promotions and More!”; Lily Whiteman; 2008

About the Author

Heidi Cardenas specializes in human resources, business and personal finance, small-business advice, home and garden and home improvement. Her professional background includes human resources and business administration, technical writing and corporate communications. She has studied horticulture and business administration, and enjoys guest blogging for publications including Herb Companion Magazine, Natural Home Living Magazine, and Mother Earth Living.

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