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Application Trends Among SES Positions

Over the past several years, Senior Executive applications have been a lot like life—they tend to change a lot, and they push you out of your comfort zone. The following tips will enhance your awareness of what to expect if you’re out there looking for SES positions. Additionally, the list is provided in the order of most to least common.

Traditional Application: The vast majority of the time, we still see a requirement for an SES resume, a full set of ECQs, and perhaps a couple of TQs. We recommend using a five-page limit on the resume, and two-page limit for each ECQ and TQ. Although each vacancy may have its own unique application and formatting requirements, the standard approach is Times New Roman, size 12, with 1” margins all around.

The Five-Page All-Inclusive Resume: We developed this particular resume based on application trends among several agencies, especially the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In these applications, you will see the ECQs and maybe a couple of TQs listed, but it says to submit “resume only.” In these cases, they don’t actually want full essays. Instead, the ECQs and TQs must be represented within the five-page resume.

USAJOBS SES Resume: While the majority of SES vacancies allow you to upload your own five-page resume, or even email it, every once in a while, the agency forces you to use the USAJOBS resume builder application. The content of your resume won’t be affected, but be advised that the USAJOBS resume builder has a range of character and formatting restrictions, such as 5,000 characters per job in the work history.

The Four-Page Resume: This one is rare, and the Department of the Air Force seems to be the only one using it. However, if you plan on applying for any SES positions within this agency, read the “How to Apply” section very carefully, because the four-page format has some very unique and restrictive requirements.

The Two-Page Resume: This one is even more uncommon, but we have seen a few of them lately within DHS. We interpret this page limit to mean “just the facts.” In other words, the resume is designed to provide a very basic snapshot of what you’ve been up to for the past 10-15 years, along with other basic information, such as education, training, etc. Apparently, they want to get most of their information during the initial hiring process from the TQs and ECQs.

Lee Kelley is an Iraq war veteran, former Army Captain, and author who now serves as the senior writer on CareerPro Global’s writing team. Leveraging the company’s vast expertise in assisting thousands of SES and federal job seekers, Lee has personally developed hundreds of resumes and more than a thousand ECQs. He is also the Director of Training and Veteran Transitions, and has provided USAJOBS resume-writing workshops to hundreds of federal employees and military personnel. In addition, Lee co-authored the book, Roadmap to the Senior Executive Service: How to Find SES Jobs, Determine Your Qualifications, and Develop Your SES Application. His latest book is titled, Inside Marine One: Four U.S. Presidents, One Proud Marine, and the World’s Most Amazing Helicopter.


Barbara Adams is the President and CEO of CareerPro Global, Inc. (CPG). She has been on the leading edge of SES application development for decades. Committed to providing world-class service, she has also built an SES writing team that has assisted more than 2,500 clients develop their application materials. Ms. Adams has been featured on T.V. and radio and as a presenter at numerous career conferences. She is the co-author of the book, Roadmap to the Senior Executive Service: How to Find SES Jobs, Determine Your Qualifications, and Develop Your SES Application. Learn more.

Posted in Career Tip of the Month

Tags: Senior Executive Service, SES, application trends



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