Most Senior Executive Service (SES) positions will require you to submit Executive Core Qualification (ECQ) narratives. When you’re developing your narratives, it is important to ensure the examples you provide match the ECQ titles of Leading Change, Leading People, Results Driven, Business Acumen, and Building Coalitions. But is that enough?
Let’s use Results Driven as an example. As a leader, aren’t you always creating results? Don’t so many things you do fall under multiple ECQ categories? How do you ensure that your Results Driven ECQ is presented in the way that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) expects?
Well, you obviously need to follow all of OPM’s guidance. Among other things, you must present your examples in the Challenge-Context-Action-Result (CCAR) format, follow any length requirements (usually 2 pages, or 8,000 characters per ECQ), and use examples that focus on your executive leadership or potential.
But here is possibly the most important word to keep in mind when doing all of these things: the competencies.
OPM has assigned specific competencies to each ECQ, and you can think of those competencies as the “lens” or perspective through which OPM wants to see your stories. If you don’t weave most or all of them into the narrative, you are at serious risk of being rejected by the Qualifications Review Board (QRB). Let’s go back to our Results Driven example.
The Results Driven ECQ involves the ability to meet organizational goals and customer expectations, and the competencies are: Accountability, Customer Service, Problem Solving, Decisiveness, Technical Credibility, and Entrepreneurship. Inherent to this ECQ is the ability to own and manage responsibilities and make decisions that produce high-quality results by applying technical knowledge, analyzing problems, and calculating/mitigating risks. This includes the ability to make timely, effective decisions and to produce lasting results through the assessment and evaluation of programs and policies, as well as to hold yourself and others accountable.
Regardless of how great you are at creating results, and how strongly you think your example meets the title of Results Driven, you must look at the specific competencies and ask yourself whether you can address most or all of them effectively. One of the best ways to do this is to turn those competencies into questions, and then answer those questions in the “action” section of your narrative.
Here are some of the questions you might ask when writing up your Results Driven ECQ narrative:
- What is the topic of the example? Was this an opportunity to improve the organization’s production, products, or customer service? (problem solving)
- What was the pressure to complete this project? Was it customer-driven? (customer service)
- Who were you accountable to during this initiative, and how did you ensure accountability at all levels? (accountability)
- Describe exactly what you did (your actions, decisions, communications, etc.) that moved the project, task, or problem to resolution or outcome. (problem solving)
- Were you ever responsible for any make-or-break decision that could have affected the project? (decisiveness)
- What actions did you take that demonstrate your mastery or specialized knowledge in your specific field? (technical credibility)
- In your results, can you describe how your actions and efforts positioned the organization for future success and growth? (entrepreneurship)
You can find job-winning, OPM-approved samples of SES application packages and a complete set of ECQ builders in CareerPro Global’s book, Roadmap to the Senior Executive Service. Get your copy today by searching on Amazon.
Barbara Adams is the President and CEO of CareerPro Global, Inc. (CPG). She has been on the leading edge of SES application development for decades. Committed to providing world-class service, she has also built an SES writing team that has assisted more than 2,500 clients develop their application materials. Ms. Adams has been featured on TV and radio and as a presenter at numerous career conferences. She is the co-author of several books and CPG’s new online Master Federal Career Coach (MFCC) certification program. Follow this link for some free training and to learn more.