Opm Executive Core Qualifications Essays

The Candidate Development Program Overview

Applying for Candidate Development Programs (CDP) may require different resume types and application procedures. As with any federal job announcement, candidates need to carefully read the entire announcement to properly prepare a resume package and any narratives, questionnaires, or other requirements (transcripts, most recent performance evaluation, references, other) to prevent the application from being ‘ineligible’ or ‘disqualified’.

Candidate Development Programs may be open only to members of a specific agency, only to GS-14s or GS-15s within the federal government, or some are open to the general U.S. population.

Senior Executive Service (SES) Candidate Development Programs offer the opportunity for exceptionally talented and well-qualified individuals to receive structured professional development and to gain valuable executive experience. Developmental assignments are a key component of a CDP program, designed to strengthen candidates’ understanding and ability to provide executive leadership in a multifunctional environment, and gain experience of the 28 leadership competencies required of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), in order for Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs) to be certified.

Upon successful completion of a CDP, candidates are eligible for OPM certification of the candidate’s Executive Core Qualifications in the form of 10 essays under the ECQ headings: Leading Change, Leading People, Results Driven, Business Acumen, and Building Coalitions (for a total of 10 pages of essays).  Once the ECQ essays are certified by OPM, entry into the SES is based on performance, OPM certification, and the availability of vacant SES positions.

The 3-Page ECQ Resume

  • The IRS CDP job announcement (Job Announcement Number: 16ES-CDPS007-0301-01-AB, and closes on September 1, 2016) requires a maximum 3-page resume that describes: significant achievements, increasing levels of responsibility as a manager and a solid record of successful professional performance. The announcement states: “In addition, you must show in your resume that you possess, or have the potential for development in the five Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs). Your resume should describe how your leadership experience relates to each of the following ECQs and its scope and impact.”

In addition to the five ECQs that must be addressed, the job announcement requests that each resume address at least one of five technical specialty fields, e.g., Accounts Processing & Customer Assistance, Information Technology, or three others; and, address broad knowledge or experience on the tax and/or finance aspects with tax-exempt bond transactions or tax credit bond transactions including Organizational Support, Organizational Knowledge, Stakeholder Relations and Education, Procurement, Human Capital Management, and several other categories.

The job announcement states: You must submit: 1) A resume. Resumes may not exceed 3 pages. Any additional information beyond three pages will not be considered. Your resume should reflect the Challenge-Context-Action-Result (CCAR) format.

So, you might be wondering now“How does one get all of these requirements into a 3-page resume??”

Now is the opportunity for you to shine in your writing and communication skills. Write tight and clear.

The best way to approach this resume format is to list the employment history with job titles and dates – and a brief position description (preferred format); followed by education and any additional specific requirements (presentations, significant awards, certifications required for the position) – maybe a total of one-half of a page or a bit more; and then followed by short topical paragraphs in the mini-CCAR (Context, Challenge, Actions, Results) format to describe each ECQ and the additional competencies. The story paragraphs will be short, perhaps one-third page or a bit more for each story for a total of five or more stories. Stories that are used to describe an ECQ, can also cover the technical specialty fields.


List the employment history with job title, organization and dates; followed by education and other short specific requirements; and then followed by the short topical paragraphs in the mini-CCAR (Context, Challenge, Actions, Results) format to describe each ECQ and the additional competencies.


Sample 3-page Resume Format (Truncated)


Address, City, State, Zip

Phone: 555-555-5555

Email: xxxx@gmail.com


Acting Director, Public Affairs Division, 12/2012 to present. Manage multiple high-priority requirements involved in formulating appropriate responses to inquiries relating to statistical, methodological, technical, and policy issues. Prepare complex data in format easy to understand by varied stakeholders ranging from top government officials to members of the public. Garner support of representatives from other U.S. agencies.  Closely monitor, facilitate and coordinate communications within and outside the agency regarding cases under review.

Chief, Central Classification Division, 01/2007 to 12/2012. Accountable for the adjudication of classification actions for 20,000 personnel. Collaborated with a variety of executives in different Business Units to meet requirements. Met with key stakeholders and coordinating officials to assess customer satisfaction, explain organizational policy, and resolve significant problems and issues. Liaison with senior leadership to brief operational/analytical information and classification evaluations. Ensured centralized classification servicing across the enterprise was in compliance with Office of Personnel (OPM) standards and law. Built relationships with leadership; shared classification knowledge, creating awareness, a key to understanding “fiduciary responsibility” pertaining to pay. Designed business and financial structures.

Executive Director, IT Center of Excellence, 01/2005 to 01/2007. Collaborated with six senior business executives (including CFO) in orchestrating a top-down and bottom-up approach to reorganizing the organization and changing the focus from into 4 newly created business units to leverage customer, human capital and technology assets. Charged with full strategic, operating, and leadership responsibility for the largest and most diverse IT Business Unit in the company (475 employees in eight states), training and education, software development, and sensor development. Managed financial system reviews ensuring effective internal controls.


MA, University of XXX, 20xx

BA, University of XXX, 20xx


EXECUTIVE CORE QUALIFICATIONS (Tip: These short ECQ stories can also be used in 5-Page SES/ECQ Resumes)

LEADING CHANGE: As Chief, I orchestrated change to the agency’s retirement plan to allow veterans to buy-back their military time.  This issue required congressional consultation, and was also an item negotiated in the local union agreement that would impact the entire workforce.  By inquiring with the Personnel Management Service staff,  I identified the members of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) who were planning a visit.   Gaining approval, I briefed the HASC representative on Plans and Force Management initiatives, including the buy-back for military time, with the caveat that I needed consultation with a congressperson. My actions expedited the approval for the change to be part of the retirement plan, and as a result initially benefited scores of veterans, and the open action from union negotiations closed. I then worked with HR to implement the new policies.

LEADING PEOPLE: I collaborated with senior leadership, and served as acting Director after a serious workplace violence incident. I rebuilt morale of the 350 personnel in seven offices in two states, and created a new path going forward for staff to ensure such violence would not repeat itself. I held meetings to discuss the issues, asked staff to put away prejudices and animosity, and moved forward under one identity. Also, I mended conflict among two groups, from the two legacy organizations. I obtained approval to fund a notable expert to speak at an all-hands meeting, who also helped the management team at a managers-only meeting learn of techniques to build the social and emotional well-being of their subordinates. Over the course of 20 months faced with managing a serious workplace violence situation that stemmed from long-standing office divisiveness, I provided relief for distressed staff, ensuring positive movement forward of programs in the division.

RESULTS DRIVEN: As Chief, I developed metrics for the production workforce, addressing concerns from leadership and ensuring that the staff was accountable for timely classification actions.  I formed a surge team to clear out a year-long backlog of more than 200 classification actions, and led the Business Unit (BU) Chiefs to evaluate data and develop metrics for each BU and individual classifier. I imbued Chiefs with a sense of accountability for the work that needed to be accomplished.  Within six months, I led the team to eliminate the backlog and reduce the classification action timeframe of more than 135 days, down to 28 days. Each classifier is now held accountable to defined metrics. Armed with these numbers, I effectively informed and managed leadership expectations.

BUSINESS ACUMEN: As Deputy Director, I led implementation of a funding reduction across the agency, in response to an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) tasking and directed an approximately $200M cut to the Core Contractor budget. First, I leveraged the agency’s Strategic Decision Framework to provide a methodical process to review, analyze and produce well-informed recommendations. I assembled the leaders of the agency’s three architectures, by which the agency is partitioned:  Mission, Business, and Information Technology to review, assess, prioritize, and recommend reductions in order to meet agreed upon target amounts. By sharing information prior to the final formation of the submission, the committees were able to better understand the “big picture” and assisted each other to meet the enterprise target. In the end, the mission architecture paid the business architectures shortfall with little to no impact to their mission. My extensive and exhaustive process enabled the agency to perform enterprise-level analysis, to include partner input, on a proposed solution to a significant personnel cut, while highlighting and mitigating quantifiable national level impacts. Leadership approved my recommendations, enabling the agency to meet OMB suspense and requirements.

BUILDING COALITIONS: I obtained funding to create the first Center of Excellence and was its first Executive Director. Brought together academicians, military and corporate executives to form an independent think-tank group charged with resolving and recommending solutions to issues for which standard financial principles and processes could not be implemented, due to the complexity of the issue. Chaired the meetings, and led the Center members to draft a charter and sign an agreement to provide support to all Business Units across the nation. Navigated discussion with varying opinions and led the senior representatives to agreement.

If you need additional assistance, check out our newly updated book (December 2015), The New SES Application, or visit our Services page for a quote. Diane can also deliver hands-on training in ECQ writing at your agency; contact us for a discussion.

The ECQ essays are required for entry into the SES and are used by many departments and agencies in selection, performance management and leadership development for management and executive positions.
ALERT: The recent pilot by the Office of Professional Management for 2 new methods (besides the traditional ECQs) have now been adopted as acceptable methods for applying for SES positions. These two methods, which either include the ECQs in the resume or use just ECQ “elements” are now part of the official Guide to Senior Executive Service Qualifications on the OPM website. Based on this FederalResumes.netsuggests waiting on writing your ECQs until you have an actual announcement.

The ECQs define the competencies to build a Federal corporate culture to drive for results, serve customers and build successful teams and coalitions with and outside the organization. Typically these essays are 1-2 pages each. FederalResumes.net writes ECQ statements using examples to show how you uniquely add value.

There are 5 ECQ essays to be written:

ECQ 1 – Leading Change

ECQ 2 – Leading People

ECQ 3 – Results Driven

ECQ 4 – Business Acumen

ECQ 5 – Building coalitions

Each ECQ must address the subject of the ECQ and the competencies under each ECQ. In addition, SES candidates must show the following Fundamental Competencies:

Competencies are the personal and professional attributes that are critical to successful performance in the SES. Thefundamental competencies are the attributes that serve as the foundation for each of the Executive Core Qualifications. Experience and training that strengthen and demonstrate the competencies will enhance a candidate’s overall qualifications for the SES.

Definition: These competencies are the foundation for success in each of the Executive Core Qualifications.


Interpersonal Skills: Treats others with courtesy, sensitivity, and respect. Considers and responds appropriately to the needs and feelings of different people in different situations.

Oral Communication: Makes clear and convincing oral presentations. Listens effectively; clarifies information as needed.

Integrity/Honesty: Behaves in an honest, fair, and ethical manner. Shows consistency in words and actions. Models high standards of ethics.

Written Communication: Writes in a clear, concise, organized and convincing manner for the intended audience.

Continual Learning: Assesses and recognizes own strengths and weaknesses; pursues self-development.

Public Service Motivation: Shows a commitment to serve the public. Ensures that actions meet public needs; aligns organizational objectives and practices with public interests.

More information on each ECQ is below. The competencies under each ECQ need to be addressed in the ECQ essays:

ECQ 1: Leading Change

Definition: This core qualification involves the ability to bring about strategic change, both within and outside the organization, to meet organizational goals. Inherent to this ECQ is the ability to establish an organizational vision and to implement it in a continuously changing environment.


Creativity and Innovation: Develops new insights into situations; questions conventional approaches; encourages new ideas and innovations; designs and implements new or cutting edge programs/processes.

External Awareness: Understands and keeps up-to-date on local, national and international policies and trends that affect the organization and shape stakeholders’ views; is aware of the organization’s impact on the external environment.

Flexibility: Is open to change and new information; rapidly adapts to new information, changing conditions, or unexpected obstacles.

Resilience: Deals effectively with pressure; remains optimistic and persistent, even under adversity. Recovers quickly from setbacks.

Strategic Thinking : Formulates objectives and priorities, and implements plans consistent with the long-term interests of the organization in a global environment. Capitalizes on opportunities and manages risks.

Vision: Takes a long-term view and builds a shared vision with others; acts as a catalyst for organizational change. Influences others to translate vision into action.

ECQ 2: Leading People

Definition: This core qualification involves the ability to lead people toward meeting the organization’s vision, mission, and goals. Inherent to this ECQ is the ability to provide an inclusive workplace that fosters the development of others, facilitates cooperation and teamwork, and supports constructive resolution of conflicts.


Conflict Management: Encourages creative tension and differences of opinions. Anticipates and takes steps to prevent counter-productive confrontations. Manages and resolves conflicts and disagreements in a constructive manner.

Leveraging Diversity: Fosters an inclusive workplace where diversity and individual differences are valued and leveraged to achieve the vision and mission of the organization.

Developing Others: Develops the ability of others to perform and contribute to the organization by providing ongoing feedback and by providing opportunities to learn through formal and informal methods.

Team Building: Inspires and fosters team commitment, spirit, pride and trust. Facilitates cooperation and motivates team members to accomplish group goals.

ECQ 3: Results Driven

Definition: This core qualification involves the ability to meet organizational goals and customer expectations. Inherent to this ECQ is the ability to make decisions that produce high-quality results by applying technical knowledge, analyzing problems, and calculating risks.


Accountability: Holds self and others accountable for measurable high-quality, timely, and cost-effective results. Determines objectives, sets priorities, and delegates work. Accepts responsibility for mistakes. Complies with established control systems and rules.

Customer Service: Anticipates and meets the needs of both internal and external customers. Delivers high-quality products and services; is committed to continuous improvement.

Decisiveness: Makes well-informed, effective and timely decisions, even when data are limited or solutions produce unpleasant consequences; perceives the impact and implications of decisions.

Entrepreneurship: Positions the organization for future success by identifying new opportunities; builds the organization by developing or improving products or services. Takes calculated risks to accomplish organizational objectives.

Problem Solving: Identifies and analyzes problems; weighs relevance and accuracy of information; generates and evaluates alternative solutions; makes recommendations.

Technical Credibility: Understands and appropriately applies principles, procedures, requirements, regulations and policies related to specialized expertise.

ECQ 4: Business Acumen

Definition: This core qualification involves the ability to manage human, financial, and information resources strategically.


Financial Management: Understands the organization’s financial processes. Prepares, justifies, and administers the program budget. Oversees procurement and contracting to achieve desired results. Monitors expenditures and uses cost-benefit thinking to set priorities.

Human Capital Management: Builds and manages workforce based on organizational goals, budget considerations, and staffing needs. Ensures that employees are appropriately recruited, selected, appraised, and rewarded; takes action to address performance problems. Manages a multi-sector workforce and a variety of work situations.

Technology Management: Keeps up-to-date on technological developments. Makes effective use of technology to achieve results. Ensures access to and security of technology systems.

ECQ 5: Building Coalitions

Definition: This core qualification involves the ability to build coalitions internally and with other Federal agencies, State and local governments, nonprofit and private sector organizations, foreign governments, or international organizations to achieve common goals.


Partnering: Develops networks and builds alliances; collaborates across boundaries to build strategic relationships and achieve common goals.

Political Savvy: Identifies the internal and external politics that impact the work of the organization. Perceives organizational and political reality and acts accordingly.

Influencing/Negotiating: Persuades others; builds consensus through give and take; gains cooperation from others to obtain information and accomplish goals.

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