Senior Executive Service: 6 Tips for Preparing Your Package

With the upcoming surge of potential Senior Executive Service (SES) retirements, qualified federal employees will likely have more opportunities to advance to the SES. Recent statistics show that 62% of the senior executives on board in 2020 will be eligible to retire by 2025 and 79.8% by the end of fiscal 2030.

To make the SES more accessible to a broader selection of candidates, the federal government has implemented several initiatives, including SES Candidate Development Programs (CDP) and other development and mentorship programs. These initiatives can be inspiring for employees who may not yet see themselves as potential SES candidates. Although achieving an SES position requires dedication and hard work, attaining this career goal is within reach for qualified federal employees with the proper guidance and preparation.

In many cases, the application process for the SES has been streamlined, making it less overwhelming for potential candidates. To uncover tips for preparing your SES package, read on.

SES Selection Process

SES leaders possess well-honed executive skills and share a broad perspective on government and a public service commitment grounded in the Constitution.

Members of the SES:

  • Serve in the key positions just below the top Presidential appointees.
  • Are the major link between these appointees and the rest of the Federal workforce.
  • Operate and oversee nearly every government activity.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) manages the overall Federal executive personnel program. It provides day-to-day oversight and assistance to agencies as they develop, select and manage their Federal executives. The SES process for selecting applicants consists of several steps that begin with the job posting. From there, a diverse panel of agency SES members, known as the Executive Review Board (ERB) reviews applications and rates candidates based on their qualifications and experience.

The ERB recommends a limited number to the selecting official. The selecting official decides which candidates to interview and makes a selection. Before a candidate is appointed as a career member of the SES, their Executive Core Qualifications (ECQ) must be certified by an independent Office of Personnel Management led Qualifications Review Board (QRB).

Tips for Preparing Your SES Package

Nancy Segal shares insights on preparing your SES package to increase the chances of attaining SES.

Here are the six tips to keep in mind:

  1. Confirm you have SES qualifications: This means having specific accomplishments to document your leadership experience in each of the Executive Core Qualifications (ECQ) and any Technical Qualifications (TQ) required. Being qualified for the SES means having done more than just your job. Although there is no time-in-grade for the SES, most successful candidates are GS-15 or equivalent.
  2. Examine the job posting carefully: Many SES postings require a full set of ECQs, along with a SES resume and Technical Qualifications. Some postings only require a five-page resume (and perhaps separate TQs) to apply. However, if you’re selected, you’ll need to prepare ECQs.
  3. Include all the information the job posting requires: SES resumes should be five pages, include evidence of your executive accomplishments (related to the ECQs and TQs), and contain plenty of accomplishments to demonstrate your value and numbers to give your work context. The focus of your resume and all requisite experience used for your ECQ needs to be from the past 10 years. This guidance is from the OPM, and your experience should be from the requisite grades/ranks.
  4. Use the CCAR (Challenge, Context, Action, Result) rubric: When preparing your ECQs, refer back to these. Keep in mind to list your accomplishments, not duties. Also, showcase your leadership by demonstrating your executive-level experience and using leadership experience language.
  5. Make sure your Result proves you solved the Challenge: Ideally, your results need to show a clear before and after and include metrics.
  6. Remember your audience: Your ultimate audience for your ECQs is someone other than your supervisor or even anyone in your agency. Before you can be appointed to the SES, your ECQs must be approved by a QRB. No one on the Board may be from your agency or know you. This means that your ECQs need to convey your executive leadership experience in an understandable way to people who do not know you and may need help to understand your work. Don’t use technical language or acronyms.

Additional Career and Leadership Training Resources

The benefits of Federally Employed Women (FEW) membership include premiere training on the national, regional and chapter levels and provides members with knowledge about:

  • The federal system
  • Career development and planning techniques
  • Personal effectiveness and awareness of the broader issues that impact women

The focus of FEW’s training is to improve professional and leadership skills while advancing workplace marketability through the following core areas:

Get in touch to learn more. We’d love to hear from you.

Nancy Segal is a sought-after instructor, facilitator and speaker for government agencies. She has over 30 years of government experience, including leading or managing various federal human resources programs and developing and implementing strategies and policies in major functional areas. This includes performance management, employee relations, staffing and recruitment, training, and strategic planning, among others.