UNDERSTANDING THE SES
CRACKING THE FEDERAL
Copyright © 2009-2017
The Senior Executive Service (SES) lead America’s workforce. As the keystone of the Civil Service Reform Act
of 1978, the SES was established to provide executive management ensuring that the United States is responsive
to its citizens. These leaders possess well-honed executive skills and share a broad perspective on government
and a public service commitment that is grounded in the Constitution. Members of the SES serve in the key
positions just below the top presidential appointees. SES members are the major link between these appointees
and the rest of the federal workforce. They operate and oversee nearly every government activity in approximately
seventy five federal agencies. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) manages the overall SES
program, providing approval of candidates and oversight of program activities as agencies implement their
There are usually three options for applying, but the applicant must apply as required in the “How to Apply” section
of the vacancy announcement:
Traditional ECQ Narrative Method: Using this method, the vacancy announcement directs applicants to submit
an SES resume and narratives addressing the Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs) and any technical
qualifications. The ECQ statement, addressing all five ECQs, is limited to a maximum of ten pages. OPM has a
specific format for the traditional method, and it needs to be adhered to exactly as stated. Each ECQ should to
have one to two examples – we recommend two. The first example needs to be about three quarters of the
response and very strong (with significant detail) and the other makes up the last one fourth of the response. Of
course, if you have two equally strong examples, use both but make sure you remain under two pages in total.
Most important is that the examples show depth and breadth of leadership experience. Each example within the
ECQ needs to reflect the Context, Challenge, Action, Result (C-C-A-R) structure. Actually typing these words into
your document as you draft it can be helpful for ensuring you are addressing these concepts; you can delete them
later. You need to make sure the ECQ "proves" competencies (see below) using work history going back no
further than ten years. It generally takes an average of twenty hours to prepare a complete set of ECQs using this
Resume Only: This option was designed primarily for high-level positions requiring sophisticated leadership skills
or positions with hard to obtain technical qualifications that will likely limit the number of applicants. Under this
method, the vacancy announcement directs applicants to submit only a federal resume. Applicants show
possession of the ECQs and any technical qualifications via the resume. Agencies generally limit resumes to no
more than five pages, including an optional cover letter (see Chapters 6 and 8). It generally takes an average of
ten hours to prepare an ECQ resume.
Accomplishment Record: Under this method, the vacancy announcement directs applicants to submit a resume
and narratives addressing selected competencies (e.g., strategic thinking) underlying the ECQs and any technical
qualifications. This permits candidates to submit a more streamlined application targeting the selected
competencies instead of the lengthy ECQ narratives that have become standard. Agencies generally identify five
competencies, one for each ECQ, that applicants must address in accordance with the instructions in the vacancy
announcement. Narratives addressing the competencies are normally limited to one page per competency. It
generally takes an average of fifteen hours to prepare a complete set of ECQs using this method.
Below is a list of the SES competencies:
ECQ 1 Leading Change
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 & Innovation
ECQ 2 Leading People
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.
ECQ 3 Results Driven
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.
ECQ 4 Business Acumen
This core qualification involves the ability to manage human, financial, and information resources strategically.
Human Capital Management
ECQ 5 Building Coalitions
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.
For more information about preparing your SES application package please contact us here, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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