Tips for Writing Effective ECQs

Senior Executive Services (SES)

The History of ECQs

In the 21st century, Government executives face special challenges. They must be visionary leaders with a strong commitment to public service. They must be able to apply “people skills” to motivate their employees, build partnerships, and communicate with their customers. Finally, they need solid management skills in order to produce optimum results with limited resources.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) helps make sure the Government selects strong leaders by developing the core qualifications used to test new career appointees to the Senior Executive Service (SES) and by administering peer review boards which evaluate whether candidates possess these essential leadership qualifications.

The Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs) were developed in 1997 after extensive research on the attributes of successful executives in both the private and public sectors. They were revalidated and reissued with a few modifications in 2006. In their current form, they represent the best thinking of organizational psychologists, human resources professionals both at OPM and other agencies, and Senior Executives themselves.

The ECQs are:

  • Leading Change
  • Leading People
  • Results Driven
  • Business Acumen
  • Building Coalitions

In 2008, OPM piloted two new methods for selecting members of the SES, the Accomplishment Record and Resume-based methods. Both of these methods continue to be based on the ECQs. However, the Accomplishment Record method differs from the traditional approach to selecting SES members in that applicants are not asked to address the five broad ECQs but rather on a select few of the 28 executive competencies underlying them. The Resume-based option is even simpler, with the applicant showing possession of the ECQs in a standard resume format.

All current vacancies for career SES positions and SES candidate development programs at departments and agencies across the Federal Government appear on OPM’s official job website located at

Tips for Writing Effective ECQ Statements and Accomplishment Record Narratives

These are the same tips that The Senior Executive Service Writers, Consultants and Trainers will encourage you to follow when writing your SES ECQs and totally application. These are great! Kathryn Troutman


  • Follow the instructions in the announcement carefully; ignoring page limits or other formatting requirements may jeopardize your application.
  • Material should be easy to read:
  • Use paragraphs or bullets to separate items.
  • Use headings and subheadings to indicate categories.
  • Use all capital letters, bold or italics to highlight important information.
  • Leave some white space; don’t type margin to margin.
  • Avoid using small size type.
  • Don’t make reviewers hunt for experience (e.g., “see attachments”). Put all relevant information in the write-up.
  • Application should be neat, clean, and typed.
  • Make sure photocopies are legible.
  • Don’t attach copies of training certificates, awards, or position descriptions.
  • Number all pages.
  • Don’t assume Spell-Check and Grammar-Check will catch all the errors; review every word.

More Tips

  • Avoid statements that describe your personal beliefs, philosophies, or commitment to social or political causes unless they are necessary to describe the results you have achieved.
  • Don’t reveal information about your political affiliation or activities unless you are using experience as a political appointee to qualify.
  • Don’t identify your race, sex, national origin, color, religion, age, marital status, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, or any other non-merit factor.

And Finally…

  • When you’re finished, ask three people (preferably dispassionate and knowledgeable individuals) to review your application.


SES-Book-Final-230w-reflecNeed More Help?

More Tips, Samples and Writing Inspiration available in Kathryn Troutman and Diane Hudson Burn’s book – The New SES Application.

Expert ECQ Writing and Developmental Editing Services are available to ensure that you write the best ECQs.

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