A Guide to Writing Executive Core Qualifications

Well written executive core qualifications (ECQs) can mean the difference of an interview with a federal review board or your Government resume and your poorly written ECQs hitting the bottom of a trash can in a hurry.

ECQ stands for Executive Core Qualifications and they are a vital part of what is looked at when you apply for a Senior Executive Service, or SES position with the Government. Only the cream of the crop need apply for SES positions and if you are one of the elite than you are among good company.

However, because you are among such distinguished company you have to be sure that you stand out even more than they will in order to be considered for the SES position you seek. One sure way to accomplish this task is by performing successful ECQ writing. Well written ECQs can mean the difference of an interview with a federal review board or your SES resume and your poorly written ECQs hitting the bottom of a trash can in a hurry.

The hiring recruiters that work for the federal Government use the ECQs that you submit along with those of everyone else competing for the same opening to help them determine who among you will have the competencies and the characteristics that they will be require for the specific opening. So as outstanding as you are, if your ECQs are not written properly you are literally shooting yourself in the foot and can easily cost yourself your dream job.

There are five main ECQs that are usually required when applying for an SES position. The five main ECQs are:

  1. ECQ 1: The first ECQ will deal with Leading Change.
  2. ECQ 2: The second ECQ will deal with Leading People.
  3. ECQ 3: The third ECQ will be Results Driven.
  4. ECQ 4: The fourth ECQ will deal with Business Acumen.
  5. ECQ 5: The fifth ECQ will deal with Building Coalitions.

Most of the time all five of these ECQs are required when you are seeking an SES position, but the specific requirements will be on the SES job announcement so you need to be sure to look and follow what the announcement is asking for to the letter. Failure to follow these instructions can lead to an automatic disqualification of your application.

The format that you want to use to write your ECQs is known as CCAR. CCAR stands for Challenge, Context, Action, and Results. Writing in the CCAR format ensures that you will cover all that the Government is looking for and the format breaks down as follows:

  • C, Challenge: This will show your ability to identify and then describe a challenge, a problem, or a specific goal.
  • C, Context: Once the challenge, problem, or goal has been identified you will then go into detail about who you may have worked with in order to solve the challenge, problem or goal. You will further want to describe the work environment while the challenge, problem, or goal was being attended to.
  • A, Action: Here you will have an opportunity to go into detail about the specific actions that you and anyone else you worked with took when facing the challenge, problem, or goal. The more specific the better and you want to show your ability to perform definitive and decisive actions.
  • R, Results: Here you will give the exact outcome that occurred as the direct result of your actions in regards to the challenge, problem, or goal. Here you have a chance to display that you can effectively accomplish tasks and display leadership.

When writing your ECQs using the CCAR format you need to be sure that you are in fact using the proper tone. Yes you want to certainly come off sounding intelligent, but that alone will not suffice. In order to dazzle and stand out you need to have the answers come off sounding as though they are coming from your own voice. So you have to have a nice balance of intelligence and sincerity. Otherwise, you risk coming off too pompous or uneducated and neither will get you an SES position.

Each section of the ECQs should be written both clearly and concisely and contain specific examples of your abilities and skills within. An obvious statement that cannot be under-emphasized is the fact that your ECQs should not contain any spelling or grammatical errors whatsoever. To that end be sure to check, re-check, and the re-check again to guarantee the best ECQs possible.

Another point to keep in mind with the ECQs is that you don’t want to get too drawn out with your writing. It is good to keep each section of the ECQs to about a page and no more than a page and a half in length if possible.

As far as how long it should take you to complete your ECQs, there is really no time frame. However, you do need to be sure that your ECQs encompass all the areas that are required and that your ECQs are executed with precision and accuracy.

ECQs are obviously a very important part of obtaining an SES position. Many people try to accomplish the perfect ECQs by themselves, but you have to remember there is trick to it just like anything else. Fortunately, there are a number of ECQ professional writers that you can consult with for help in writing your ECQs or who can take your information and mold it into the perfect ECQ answers.

However you decide to tackle the ECQs just be sure that they are as perfect as you can make them. Your ECQs will be your way of showing the Government that you are in fact the perfect candidate for the SES position that you seek. On the flip side, if your ECQs are written poorly it really won’t matter how qualified you are as your ECQs and the rest of your application will never see the light of day.

If you are this far and ready to apply for an SES position that means that you are a cut above the rest. You therefore owe it to yourself to do all you can to give yourself the best possible ECQ statement responses to obtain the position you are after.

About the Author

Jason Kay is a professional resume writer and regular contributor to KSADoctor.com, a professional federal resume service and repository of sample KSA statements.