You’ve made the decision that it is time to prepare your Executive Corps Qualifications (ECQs). Where do you start?

• First, review the OPM guidance on writing ECQs; it can be found here: https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/senior-executive-service/reference-materials/guidetosesquals_2012.pdf. This guidance is nearly 9 years old but it is a good place to start.

• Identify your achievements and match them to specific ECQs. Before deciding what story to use in which ECQ, read the ECQ definitions and put the story in the ECQ where it fits the best. All achievements must be from the past 10 years and can only be used once. Focus on YOUR accomplishments, not those of your agency or organization. You should have 10 separate achievements and achievements should be from your executive level (this is generally GS-14 and up for current federal employees; O-6 and above for military members, and comparable experience for private sector applicants).

• Review the definition of CCAR (challenge-context-action-result) to make sure you understand it. Your ECQs must be prepared using the CCAR framework.

• Outline your stories. ECQ reviewers are looking for challenges above and beyond your daily work; try to have at least one action for each of the ECQ’s underlying competencies; and keep in mind that all results must show that you solved the challenge.

• Use as many metrics as you can. Throughout your narratives, be sure to include numbers of people, dollar figures, customers served, etc. And, quantitative results are always more compelling than non-quantitative ones. If you do use a qualitative result, you may want to use a quote from an award recommendation or performance evaluation. It’s not enough to just note that things are better; you need to prove it.

• Utilize “I” throughout your narratives. Although you may have worked with a team or supervised others during the achievement, your ECQs need to focus on your personal contributions.

• Remember your audience. While your agency may “want” you for a SES position, they can’t have you unless you are certified by a Qualifications Review Board (QRB). The QRB members who will review your ECQs if you are selected by your agency will not include anyone from your agency. That means your ECQ narratives must be understandable to those who do not know your work or your acronyms.

• Put in the required time. Putting together a strong ECQ package takes time. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) estimates that you should spend 40+ hours preparing the first draft of your ECQs—and another 6 months to get it right.

Ready to get started? There’s no time like the present!

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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.