When ECQs Don’t Make The Cut

December, 11, 2014

Over the past decade or so, our Senior Executive Service (SES) writing team here at CareerPro Global has helped thousands of people develop ECQs (Executive Core Qualifications) that represent their accomplishments and executive potential in the best possible way.

Most of the time, our clients come to us for help early in the process. But sometimes, clients call and say something like this: “Please help! I wrote my own application materials, and was offered an SES position, but my ECQs were disapproved by OPM!”

In these situations, we look at the problem areas and work with the client to get his or her ECQs up to par. Obviously, each set of ECQs is different, and each person’s career stories are unique. Still, let’s highlight some of the issues and best practices that we used on many of our “ECQ rewrites,” all of which have resulted in resubmission and subsequent OPM (Office of Personnel Management) approval.

Issue: Examples were more than 10 years old.

Best Practice Applied: Challenged client to provide examples from within the past 10 years (5-7 years is the “sweet spot”).

Issue: Examples were vague and did not use the Challenge-Context-Action-Result (CCAR) format.

Best Practice Applied: Partnered with client to restructure examples and to ensure each one began with a clear CHALLENGE/CONTEXT paragraph, which served to “set up” the story by describing the individual’s job title, the timeframe, the scope and complexity of the organization/position, and then the “problem” or challenge that needed to be overcome/changed. Next, restructured each example to include three to five paragraphs of ACTIONS, followed by a robust RESULTS paragraph.

Issue: No evidence of executive leadership. ECQs read like project management descriptions.

Best Practice Applied: Worked with client to present examples that were “executive in scope,” such as influencing senior decision making, coordinating with interagency partners, participating in and leading strategic planning, changing major business processes, and achieving results that impacted the entire organization/enterprise/industry/division.

Issue: No evidence of the competencies in some, or all, of the ECQs.

Best Practice Applied: Educated client on how the competencies in each ECQ are the best guide for selecting which stories to use. If a particular story can’t be told naturally by addressing the competencies in that ECQ, then it may not be the best example.

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 T.V. and radio and as a presenter at numerous career conferences. She is the co-author of the book, Roadmap to the Senior Executive Service: How to Find SES Jobs, Determine Your Qualifications, and Develop Your SES Application.

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