How to Write a Great Business Acumen ECQ

Even in this unique writing style we call ECQs, Business Acumen stands out as a little bit different. Of course, each ECQ should be executive in scope, fall within the past 10 years, follow the Challenge-Context-Action-Result (CCAR) format, include impactful results, and address the specific competencies.

For example, your Leading People ECQ will ideally include two career stories that address the competencies of team building, developing others, conflict management, and leveraging diversity.

Business Acumen has three competencies (Financial Management, Human Capital Management, and Technology Management), but unlike the other ECQs, they don’t always “flow” as naturally together.

In fact, many people find it extremely difficult to think of career stories that incorporate all three of the Business Acumen competencies. And even when they do, the stories tend to be overly dense and confusing because there’s just too much information packed in there.

Here is a highly effective best practice and perspective to consider for Business Acumen: Imagine you are on the review board. You may be reading career stories from a senior military officer, a corporate executive, or a seasoned federal manager. Moreover, the setting could be anywhere in the world, from the boardroom, to the battlefield, to countless other work environments. Regardless of the applicant’s background or the setting, you, as part of the review board, need to be able to see that the applicant is comfortable and capable in managing the financial, human capital, and technological aspects of programs and organizations.  

So, when writing your Business Acumen examples, think of this particular ECQ as three “mini-ECQs,” instead of trying to combine the somewhat disparate topics of financial, human capital, and technology management. The examples may have to be a bit shorter than normal, since all three still have to fit within the two-page limit. Additionally, the three CCAR examples can come from different positions or programs within the past 10 years, or they can come from the same position.

Ultimately, by taking this straightforward approach, you can more clearly present your top career stories while effectively addressing the Business Acumen competencies.


Lee Kelley is an Iraq war veteran, former Army Captain, and author who now serves as the senior writer on CareerPro Global’s writing team. Leveraging the company’s vast expertise in assisting thousands of SES and federal job seekers, Lee has personally developed hundreds of resumes and more than a thousand ECQs. He is also the Director of Training and Veteran Transitions, and has provided USAJOBS resume-writing workshops to hundreds of federal employees and military personnel. In addition, Lee co-authored the book Roadmap to the Senior Executive Service: How to Find SES Jobs, Determine Your Qualifications, and Develop Your SES Application. His latest book is titled Inside Marine One: Four U.S. Presidents, One Proud Marine, and the World’s Most Amazing Helicopter.

Posted in Career Tip of the Month

Tags: Senior Executive Service, federal career advice

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