Many agencies require that you prepare and submit TQs (also known as Mandatory Technical Qualifications or Professional Technical Qualifications) with your SES application. Think of these as the old knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) statements we used to write prior to 2009, whenever applying for a federal job. TQs are reviewed carefully at the agency level but never seen by a qualifications review board – QRB. When you review a job announcement, be sure to look at the TQs before deciding whether to apply. If you cannot provide specific examples of when you demonstrated each TQ in your work, you may want to consider picking a different announcement.

Although there is no prescribed format for preparing your TQs, I recommend that you to use OPM’s Challenge, Context, Action, Result (CCAR) model when preparing them. Think about composing your TQs to tell a story that demonstrates your possession of the relevant technical expertise. Start your example with a general statement that you have consistently demonstrated that technical expertise over the course of your career; you may want to provide a sentence or two that discusses the various jobs, agencies, etc., where your expertise was demonstrated.

Then, discuss a particular challenge you faced; include the specifics of the goal you were trying to meet and the obstacles you faced in doing so. Those obstacles could pertain to resources, people, technology, etc. (challenge) Then talk about your job, your role, and the specific environment you were working in when you faced the challenge (context). Next, discuss the specific steps (one by one) you took to overcome the challenges (actions) that demonstrate your technical expertise. Finally, discuss the outcome and include any metrics you can to demonstrate that you achieved success because of your technical expertise (result).

There is no overarching OPM guidance on the length of a TQ or the freshness of the story. The vacancy announcement may spell out specific character limits for the length of your TQ response. Common sense tells us that the more recent the story, the better. However, if your best example is from 20 years ago, you are allowed to use it. You may also repeat an example that you use in your ECQs but remember to frame it differently as the Executive Core Qualifications (ECQ) are focused on your leadership, while your TQs are focused on technical knowledge and expertise. Try to use at least 2 specific examples / stories for each TQ.

Nancy Segal is a federal human resources training and job search expert. Following her own 30-year federal HR career (much of it at the senior level), she founded Solutions for the Workplace LLC in 2003 to provide an HR management perspective to both federal managers and astute applicants to U.S. government positions. Nancy has unmatched federal career management insight, high standards, and respect for people’s time, and her clients use this to their advantage.