SES ECQ Writing Services

What Is ECQ?

ECQ stands for Executive Core Qualifications. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) defined these ECQs to provide a framework by which government agencies and departments can assess candidates’ executive leadership. This way, they can ensure candidates are qualified for executive positions, such as leadership, strategy, coalition building, financial acumen and other roles.

Employees who are currently classified as General Schedule (GS) 14s or 15s, those who have completed SES Candidate Development Programs (CDPs), or C-Level corporate executives may apply for SES vacancies, but they need to demonstrate that they meet the requirements through a thorough ECQ package or statement comprised of ECQ narratives. Your ECQ narratives should show how you meet each of the ECQ leadership requirements. An independent Qualifications Review Board determines whether you should be certified to take on an SES role.

Learn More About ECQs

What Are the 5 Executive Core Qualifications?

Candidates must possess five ECQs to qualify for an SES position. Let’s look at each of these ECQs in depth. You’ll notice each one is fairly general and includes a list of more specific competencies that fall under the given ECQ’s umbrella. Each of these ECQs is important for SES positions and is interdependent of the others:

1. Leading Change

This ECQ is based on the premise that all organizations can progress and adopt positive changes. Leaders should play an active role in seizing opportunities for strategic change that can help the organization meet its goals. That also means SES professionals must be able to keep the organizational vision at the forefront at all times. This ECQ includes six competencies:

  • Creativity and innovation
  • External awareness
  • Flexibility
  • Resilience
  • Strategic thinking
  • Vision

2. Leading People

SES positions are leadership roles, so it makes sense that qualified candidates must be able to lead people effectively. Leadership is an important means of unifying personnel under the organization’s shared mission and objectives. Leadership also involves providing support to individuals in the organization. Some specific skills candidates should have are included in the following competencies:

  • Conflict management
  • Leveraging diversity
  • Developing others
  • Team building

3. Results Driven

SES leaders must be goal-oriented in their work. Being results-driven is a quality employers look for in employees of all levels, but especially in executive roles. Leaders must help steer the organization toward fulfilling its goals. This involves analyzing problems, using technical knowledge and calculating risks to make decisions that move the organization closer to fulfilling its mission and meeting customer expectations. The competencies critical to this ECQ are:

  • Accountability
  • Customer service
  • Decisiveness
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Problem solving
  • Technical credibility

4. Business Acumen

Business acumen is essential for executives in government roles — just as it is in the private sphere. Executives must be able to strategically manage all types of resources, including finances, personnel and technology. These areas are covered in the three competencies specified under this ECQ:

  • Financial management
  • Human capital management
  • Technology management

5. Building Coalitions

Coalitions are partnerships or alliances allowing different groups with aligning interests to combine their resources in a mutually beneficial way. Building coalitions is a vital skill for SES leaders. This ability may include forming partnerships internally or with external government agencies, private sector or nonprofit organizations, international organizations or foreign governments. The OPM identifies three competencies included in this ECQ:

  • Partnering
  • Political savvy
  • Influencing/negotiating

What Are the Fundamental Competencies?

In addition to the five ECQs and specific competencies they encompass, the OPM also identifies six areas it considers as fundamental competencies. These competencies underlay all the ECQs. Rather than pointing to specific skills, you should ensure these competencies weave their way throughout your ECQ statement in implicit ways. The fundamental competencies include:

SES leaders must have good “people skills.” How would the people you work with say you treat them and others? Hopefully, words like “respect” and “courtesy” would be high on the list. An executive should be sensitive to others’ needs and feelings and know how to respond.

Oral communication is a critical skill for executives in any organization. This ability includes good listening and conversational skills. You should be able to clarify information as needed and have meaningful interactions with others. You should also be adept at giving clear and persuasive oral presentations.

Written communication is also a critical skill. Executives must be able to compose various types of documents that are concise, well organized, clear and persuasive.

SES leaders must maintain a growth mindset rather than feeling as though they have arrived or are done learning. Having this mindset means you must be aware of where your weaknesses and strengths lie so you can actively work on improving yourself and your skill set through training, higher education and other learning opportunities.

Executives must have a strong moral compass and consider the ethical implications of every decision they make and behavior they exhibit. Integrity and honesty are crucial character traits that should inform the work SES leaders do.

SES leaders must understand their role as public servants. They should have public interests in mind when forming organizational goals or making decisions for the organization.

What Form Do ECQ Statements Take?

ECQ statements will all look a bit different depending on the candidate, but all candidates should follow some specific best practices. The OPM specifies professionals should use the Challenge-Context-Action-Result (CCAR) Model to write their ECQ narratives.

Your statement will be organized into five distinct sections, with each section focused on a particular ECQ. Within each of these sections, you should follow the model above, including specific examples and highlighting the results of your actions. We recommend using recent examples taken from the last decade. You should also come up with new stories for each section rather than reusing stories in more than one section.

For page limits, formatting and other details, you should pay careful attention to the directions in the job announcement. You can share these requirements with a writing coach or assistant if you work with one so they can help you adhere to these guidelines.

This model helps you cover all the relevant information in stories or examples you share in your ECQ narratives:

Before discussing actions you took, clearly describe the challenge you or your organization was facing. Challenges don’t necessarily have to be negative circumstances or problems. A challenge could also be a goal you took on, for example. Another way to think about challenges is to ask yourself what the impetus was for the actions you took.

You should also provide context for each story you share. When and where did this story take place? Who was involved? You don’t have to include irrelevant details, but you should mention any background information a reader needs to know to understand the full impact of your accomplishment in the story.

Every professional faces challenges. What a review board really wants to know is how you responded to them. What actions did you take? Be as specific as possible, and make sure your actions relate to the ECQ you’re addressing. For example, maybe you spearheaded an effort to modernize certain systems and practices, showing your ability for leading change.

Sharing the actions you took is necessary for the process, but your work isn’t done just yet. Reviewers also want to know what the results of those actions were. Did you achieve your goal? Did you solve the problem? Did you affect positive change in the organization? If you can quantify the results of your actions, do so. Otherwise, focus on qualitative results, and be as specific as you can.

What Is the Process of Developing ECQs?

Developing your ECQs is a critical process if you want to land an SES position. You can take a few steps to develop your ECQs in a way that fulfills all requirements and helps you put your qualifications on full display:

If you’ve never developed an ECQ statement before, the process can seem overwhelming. You’re already taking an important step to inform yourself by reading this page. An online course can help to break it down even further and give you the tools you need to create your ECQ statement. Online courses can allow you to work at your own pace and use the information you’re learning to develop your ECQs as you go.

CareerPro Global offers two online courses: an ECQ Best Practices course and an ECQ Mastery: Next Level class. This second course includes the same information you’ll find in the Best Practices class, but it adds an interactive component for enhanced learning. As you complete each ECQ, you send it to one of our experts to review. An experienced senior executive writer will give you the detailed feedback you need to improve your ECQs.

Understanding ECQ meanings is one thing, but this doesn’t tell you what ECQ statements should look like. A great way to get a better feel for ECQ narratives is to review examples. You can find examples online, but make sure you only use ones from reputable sources like CareerPro Global to ensure you’re looking at positive examples. You can also review samples from the OPM.

In some cases, you may also find examples that point out mistakes you should avoid. These can also be helpful as long as it’s clear what aspects of the ECQ statement are lacking. Whatever examples you look at, keep in mind your own ECQs will take shape differently from the samples you see since the purpose is to highlight your experiences and achievements. Still, examples can help you understand the general form that ECQ statements take so you can use a similar structure and insert your own content.

One of the most fool-proof options you can take advantage of to develop your SES core qualifications is to work with experts who can help you through each step of the way. Of course, you understand your own experience and qualifications better than anyone, so you must be actively involved in the process. But some expert help can be invaluable for organizing and communicating your ideas.

At CareerPro Global, we can set you up with one of our Master Federal Career Advisors and a Senior Executive Writer who will help you through the process over several weeks. First, your advisor will help you brainstorm ideas. Then, you’ll use our model to organize your concepts and get them down in writing.

After you figure out the raw content you want to include, a talented writer will transform this information into well-organized ECQ statements that thoroughly address each qualification and fundamental competency. An editor will review the document, and then you’ll receive your first draft to look over. You can then discuss the product with your advisor and writer and make any changes if necessary. Your writer and advisor will also be available to answer any questions you might have throughout the process.


Create a Stellar ECQ Package With Help From CareerPro Global

With decades of experience and a 99.6% customer satisfaction rating, CareerPro Global is a partner you can trust to help you create an ECQ package that puts your qualifications on full display. Writing an ECQ statement can be a daunting task, but we demystify it through our online resources so you can feel empowered to tackle this process more effectively.

Consider working with one of our Master Federal Career Advisors and Senior Executive Writers. They can help you through each step of the process and write your ECQ narratives so these statements accurately reflect your impressive qualifications — and do so in accordance with OPM’s standards and the requirements in the job announcement. Our team is committed to your success. Get started by contacting us to request a consultation.

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What Our Clients Are Saying

With only a week and a half to assemble an SES package, CareerPro matched me with an outstanding writer who developed a set of solid ECQs, TQ, and a resume. I cannot say enough about their step-by-step process for brainstorming stories to meet the qualification criteria and their quick turnaround. It was a rapid and intense collaboration, and the product was pure gold.

Jeff B.

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