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Senior Executive Service Overview

The Senior Executive Service of the Federal government provides vision, and mission-accomplishment across Agencies. The application requirements are stringent and include meeting five specific Executive Core Qualifications. Read more…

By Diane Hudson Burns

The Senior Executive Service (SES) is comprised of visionary leaders, who are fully capable of leading change, people, results, business, and coalitions. This is the 40,000-foot-level job. Consequently, entrusted with such responsibility for vision and mission accomplishment across an Agency, SES applicants must prove their leadership qualities before peer review boards, which read and evaluate five essays and the federal resume, which may also accompany several Technical Qualification (TQ) essays, specific to the job.

The Senior Executive Service federal application includes an SES-level resume (4+ pages, plus addenda as needed) and five Executive Core Qualification statement essays (Leading Change, Leading People, Results Driven, Business Acumen, Building Coalitions). Each essay is no more than two pages (12-point font with one-inch margins), and must stand on its own merit. Full application packages may be up to 20 pages. SES applications can be submitted as a hard copy / presentation resume package, or as a text-file online resume builder (to USAJOBS.GOV or other Federal resume builder sites, as noted on a vacancy announcement).

The Executive Core Qualifications encompass about 27 competences focusing on leadership and public service:

Leading Change: Strategic Vision and Purpose | Creativity, Innovation, External Awareness, Flexibility, Resilience, Strategic Thinking

Leading People: Management of Human Capital, Recruitment, Retention, Providing Incentives, and Motivation | Conflict Management, Diversity, Integrity/Honesty, Team Building

Results Driven: Continuous Business Process Improvement | Accountability, Customer Service, Decisiveness, Entrepreneurship, Problem Solving, Technical Credibility

Businesses Acumen: Integrating the Management to People, Technology and Business Processes and Finances | Financial Management, Human Resources Management, Technology Management

Building Coalitions & Communications: Development of Partnerships | Influencing, Negotiating, Interpersonal Skills, Oral Communication, Partnering, Political Savvy-ness, Written Communications

The essays are stand-alone, meaning each essay must describe in detail, using the CCAR format (Context, Challenge, Actions, Results), two stories/examples of significant accomplishments spanning the spectrum of the 27 leadership competencies; of course grouped under each umbrella ECQ. The CCAR format must be transparent to the reader; and each story should include the context including timeframe, job title, and location of the accomplishment. Generalities and overview statements will not serve as strong essays.

Typically, the SES requires 10-15 years of executive leadership experience to qualify. The experience can come from within Federal employment or from industry at the equivalent level, i.e., Vice President, COO, Executive Vice President, and Director level, if deemed appropriate.

Find out more about the Senior Executive Service at