July 6, 2021


By Alex Harrington, Executive Director

There is no doubt that from the last 15 months COVID-19 has shaken-up the pre-pandemic workplace view of the 'management / leadership' paradigms. In fact, in the thick of this unrelenting pandemic that has amazingly transformed the workplace as we know it — and this includes the federal government — leaders, at all levels, are far more important now...than ever. 

As a job seeker looking for an opportunity in the federal government, not only should you showcase your technical know-how and experience, but you must also highlight your leadership skills, especially how you used them to adapt to meet the new demands and challenges during this pandemic. In fact, senior managers and executives in the federal government will be looking for talented candidates who can perform with very little supervision, possess exceptional leadership skills, and can connect everyday activities to the organization's strategic priorities.

The best way to organize and highlight your success stories and experiences as a leader, regardless of what level of leadership you currently hold, or have held (e.g., executive, middle management, supervisor, project leads, emerging leaders, high-performing employees, etc.) you should build Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs) into your resume, as well as interviews.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) developed ECQs in 1997. They are based on various attributes and qualities of effective and successful executives in both private and public sectors:

  • Leading Change. The ability to bring about strategic change, both within and outside the organization, to meet organizational goals.
  • Leading People. Involves the ability to lead people toward meeting the organization's vision, mission, and goals.
  • Results Driven. The ability to meet organizational goals and customer expectations.
  • Business Acumen. Involves the ability to manage human, financial, and information resources strategically.
  • Building Coalitions. 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.

I realize that ECQs are primarily designed as requirements for entry to the Senior Executive Service (SES). The SES was established in 1978 to “...ensure that the executive management of the Government of the United States is responsive to the needs, policies, and goals of the Nation and otherwise is of the highest quality.” 

It is vital for those applicants who are targeting SES positions in the federal government to highlight their executive qualifications by using the recommended OPM ECQs. However, ECQs can also be embraced by:

  • Those who are currently holding positions at the executive or senior leadership level. Because ECQs can be used to help identify strengths and areas for improvement for the purpose of continuous learning.
  • Supervisors can use ECQs as a tool in performance management, as well as in coaching and mentoring their employees.
  • And for those applicants who aspire to the next leadership level, ECQs can be used to help create career plans, such as the Individual Development Plan (IDP).
  • In fact, I think all high-performing employees should incorporate ECQs in the development of their foundational competencies, such as communications, interpersonal skills, etc. 

To learn more about ECQs here or at “Guide To Senior Executive Qualifications”.

Also, below you will find suggested topic areas for interviews and STAR stories at the executive, middle management, supervisor, project leads/emerging leaders, and high-performing employee's level.


About the Author

Alex Harrington is currently a Federal civil servant and a Certified Career Services Provider and Global Career Development Facilitator. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps and is a Persian Gulf War veteran.

Alex Harrington
Chair & Executive Director
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