Part 5 – Key Personnel
This article is part of the shortened content of a training course I held last year at our company for a number of trainees on how to write winning proposals for MATOC or IDIQ contracts. There are 10 parts to this training. In the previous article, we went over the Past Experience section of the proposal. This article is about the Key Personnel section of the proposal.
Importance of the Key Personnel Section:
One of the crucial factors in preparing a winning proposal is the Key Personnel section and how well it is presented. Despite its importance, it is usually overshadowed by other issues in the proposal; a mistake made even by experienced proposal managers. Proper presentation of the Key Personnel, including proper selection and reformatting the resumes and other factors, are a challenge that need to be considered when planning for the proposal execution.
Who are the Key Personnel?
Often, the RFP specifically lists who it considers the Key Personnel for that project. Yet there are instances when it is left to the proposal manager to decide who to present as Key Personnel for the Project. Key Personnel usually include, but are not limited to, Project Principal, Project Manager, Project Engineer, other key Team members and any other Key Personnel deemed vital to the completion of the project. These are usually skilled experienced professional and/or technical personnel who are essential for the successful execution of the project.
How to present your Key Personnel Qualifications?
It is a common mistake that many junior proposal writers/managers make thinking that since the qualifications of their Key Personnel are good or even outstanding, they do not need to put enough energy into its presentation. Presentation of the qualifications is in fact the primary task of the proposal team and it should receive proper attention. I have seen many instances when winning proposals have turned into a loser due to the improper presentation of otherwise very good qualifications of Key Personnel.
Overall there are three areas in the proposal that you should work on to increase the effectiveness of your presentation of your Key Personnel:
Many RFPs allow you to have an introductory note for the proposal. Do mention the key qualifications that stand out for your key personnel along with other factors so that the evaluator’s mind becomes familiar with the idea and you can build your reasoning on that in later stages. If the RFP allows you to have an introductory note for the Key Personnel section, work on it so that the key qualifications of your personnel and how it relates to the project at hand is well documented and stands out.
Compliance Matrix & Graphics
One of the best ways to show the qualification of your key personnel is through the inclusion of a compliance matrix illustrating all candidates’ major strengths against RFP requirements. This sums up the best qualities in the resumes (see below) and also gives a clear view to the evaluation team as to your compliance with the RFP requirements as well as your strengths.
Also if the RFP allows you and/or you have room, do include charts and other illustrative graphics to show the capabilities of your team. Concentrate on the major strengths and highlight them. For example, if your key personnel’s education is above what the RFP requires (e.g. it requires BAs and you are offering MAs and PhDs) try to illustrate this with a pie-chart or any other graphical piece that highlights their qualifications.
The most effective and important part of the presentation of your Key Personnel qualifications is in the resume section. RFPs usually require that you include the resumes of your Key Personnel. The most important factors to consider about resumes are:
- Never use the same resumes that your candidates (whether in-house or recruited) provide. They are crafted to be general and generic. You need to craft the resume to be project specific.
- Make sure that your prepared resumes present your candidate’s specific background, experience, and skills relevant to the specific project you are bidding. Highlight those qualifications and capabilities that are crucial in this specific project. You might need to interview the candidate to get the important facts out of him/her.
- Mention and emphasize relevant experience and ensure that the evaluator understands the relationship of the cited experience to the proposed project.
- Assess a candidate’s experience in the broad scope of requirements for the proposed position, not just technical credentials. Then cover areas such as technical tasks, commonalty of technical and/or management disciplines, management tasks, complexity of work, span of control, location(s), similarity of problems/challenges, customer(s), earlier program phases, etc.
- Mention characteristics such as flexibility and responsiveness.
- Format: The best approach is to write the resumes in a format that will best sell the candidates, unless the RFP provides a specific format. All resumes in a proposal should be similar in appearance, but minor format and style modifications can be made to better sell specific candidate capabilities.
Finding Proper Key Personnel:
Selection of the Key Personnel with the best qualifications is a difficult job that needs proper attention. You should start from your in-house pool of employees but not stop there. If you don’t have the winning qualifications, you need to go out and recruit the proper talent:
The first place to look is the pool of in-house employees. You need to consider the delay in bid selection (usually from 2 months to several months) when selecting employees. For example if you have a very capable project manager who is going to finish his current project in 2 months, then by all mean use him. But if he is going to be tied up for the next year, he would not be a suitable candidate.
Many a times you will need to recruit new talent for your projects. Recruiting key and critical candidates is a task that can consume much more time than anticipated. Since the quality of your proposed personnel is crucial to success, recruiting is too important to delay: Some other bidder may lock up a person who would be a perfect fit with your team. With this in mind, consider the following:
- You should start recruiting early in the proposal process, immediately after you determine what your key positions are.
- Plan on developing more than one candidate for key/critical positions. Even the most qualified and enthusiastic candidates may succumb to the offers of a competitor. Or, worse yet, you may find that your “ideal” candidate is not as qualified as you thought.
- Dedicate a senior person to direct the recruiting effort.
- Your recruiting resources could include current/past employees, competitors, professional organizations, and employment services.
The Issue of Consent:
I have seen some companies use resumes found on the Internet or given to them by recruiting agencies without the individual’s consent. This is unethical and it can get you in trouble. Don’t do that. Get the consent of the candidate by a formal letter. Many RFPs require that the resume be signed by the individual. Even if the RFP does not require this, it is sound practice to ask your candidate or even employee to sign on his resume – remember we are talking about the resume that you have prepared for the proposal and not his standard one.
I have also seen a tendency in some decision makers that when the task of finding proper candidates becomes hard, they are lured into accepting a temporary solution. This temporary solution can be providing the resume of an employee or new recruit who is not fully qualified, or the resume of an employee who will be tied up with other projects and cannot be on the contract, if awarded, for the entire duration. This is a serious mistake.
First of all, if the temporary solution candidate is not the best fit, he/she is going to lower the chances of having a winning proposal. Secondly, usually the RFP spells out very strict rules for change of Key Personnel and you are at the discretion of the Contracting Officer to accept the change or not.
Therefore, DO NOT plan on such a move. Find the right candidates from the beginning and use them in your proposal.
In the next article, we will go over Management.
(See my other articles at our blog at http://www.gdicwins.com/blog/)