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Senior Executive Service

By Diane Hudson Burns

The Senior Executive Service of the federal government comprises about 6,800 personnel of 1.8 million federal employees, and is the leadership cadre. The SES is a "senior service" with more than 50% of its pool ready for retirement in the next five years. This is one pool that employs the '50 something's'. Many retired industry executives and retired military officers seek SES positions.

Executive Core Qualifications:
The application process is challenging and typically requires a 20-page resume/essay package focusing on the five Executive Core Qualifications and 28 leadership competencies that fall under the Executive Core Qualifications, identified by the Office of Personnel Management:

Leading Change (Creativity & Innovation, External Awareness, Flexibility, Resilience, Strategic Thinking, Vision),

Leading People (Conflict Management, Leveraging Diversity, Developing Others, and Team Building),

Results Driven (Accountability, Customer Service, Decisiveness, Entrepreneurship, Problem Solving, and Technical Credibility),

Business Acumen (Financial Management, Human Capital Management, and Technology Management),

Building Coalitions (Partnering, Political Savvy, Influencing/Negotiating), and the cross-cutting fundamental competencies (Interpersonal Skills, Oral Communications, Integrity/Honesty, Written Communications, Continual Learning, and Public Service Motivation).

The Review Board
OPM's Quality Review Board is seeking strong demonstrated executive experience for initial career SES appointments. The review board combines the written package with comments taken from a formal structured interview, as a peer review process to certify leaders for the Senior Executive Service.

Minimum Requirements
To be considered for a SES position, a candidate typically needs 15+ years of experience at the senior leadership level in government (GS-15) or industry or military equivalent to qualify and be considered for an interview.

Application Procedures
Just like for any other federal position, a SES candidate needs to carefully review a vacancy announcement and identify the application requirements - which can vary from online to hard copy, to full 20-page application package - to the newer 5-page SES/ECQ resume-based qualification process.

Since the federal application process is a screen-out process, any missteps in the application package or procedure, will be an automatic disqualifier.

Leadership Programs
Many agencies sponsor SES Leadership Development or similar programs - usually one or two year programs where the candidate moves through varied leadership roles and details in different agencies.

Once the program is completed, they write their Executive Core Qualification statement essays and if qualified, are certified by the Quality Review Board. Once certified that they meet all of the 18 leadership competencies, for future applications, they only need to submit a resume and Technical Qualification Statements.

Technical Qualification Statements
Technical Qualification statements are essays directly responding to the agency's minimum qualifications for the position and these essays request specific expertise; as opposed to the ECQs, which require specific leadership competencies.

Applying for SES positions is challenging; however rewarding upon appointment. Nevertheless, many of the SES cadre is "50-something" and up.