Demonstrating Leadership in a Senior Executive Service (SES) Application
Senior Executive Service (SES) applications are comprehensive and may require various technical and professional qualifications, depending on the career field. However, in every case, leadership is a critical requirement for landing a job in the SES (and then performing as a member of the SES). New members come from either within the federal government, corporate America or the military. They are typically senior-level leaders with a strong background of leadership and results. But simply having the background is not necessarily enough. You have to “prove it” through your resume, Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs) and even your Technical Qualifications (TQs).
So how do you do that? There are a variety of ways to accomplish this, and each application is unique, but here are a few tips for expressing your leadership in each of the main components of the application:
ECQs: The ECQs are Leading Change, Leading People, Results Driven, Business Acumen and Building Coalitions—but when it comes right down to it, these are all just different, broad areas of leadership. As a member of the SES, you will be expected to do all of these things in a variety of challenging assignments, so, naturally, you need to provide current and relevant examples to show what you’ve done. Stick to your most relevant achievements in the past five to seven years, if possible. Focus on examples that show you leading change, creating results, etc. in the context of your leadership. In other words, keep yourself in the middle of the action (Yes, you will use a lot of “I” statements), and don’t get too “lost” in the technical details of the situation.
TQs: Even though these are naturally more technical in nature than ECQs, you are still applying for an SES position, and you are still expected to demonstrate leadership. You must address all of the different technical issues the hiring agency asks about, but also try to focus on examples in which you a) influenced the entire organization or sub-organization; b) worked and coordinated at the highest levels of your organization, and with interagency partners; or c) all of the above! Again, in your TQs, try to stick to your most relevant leadership achievements in the past five to seven years, if possible.
Resume: First, go back and review your incredibly well-developed ECQ and TQ narratives! Now, turn those stories into quantified bullets that show the challenge, action and results of your leadership. For example, “Overcame internal resistance and external pressure by developing a strategic five-year plan for changing program performance measurement and accountability; new method streamlined critical business processes by 35% and was adopted as a best practice for agency-wide implementation.” Additionally, make sure you don’t simply cut and paste your position description. While it is important and appropriate to include your overall duties and responsibilities, you should also provide 5-10 of your top achievements for each position going back approximately 10 years.
Whether you are working on your ECQs, TQs or resume, it is good to keep in mind that under the ECQ “Leading People,” OPM (Office of Personnel Management) wants to see how you built teams, developed individual team members, overcame conflict, and leveraged diversity. It’s not a bad idea to keep those competencies in mind as you develop not only your ECQ narratives, but also your TQs and resume.
You can find job-winning, OPM-approved samples of SES application packages, and a complete set of ECQ builders in our book, Roadmap to the Senior Executive Service. Get your copy today by clicking on this link or searching the title on Amazon.
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 TV and radio and as a presenter at numerous career conferences. CPG recently sent a team to instruct senior officials at Warner Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, in best practices for developing their SES application materials. She is the co-author of the new book, Roadmap to the Senior Executive Service: How to Find SES Jobs, Determine Your Qualifications, and Develop Your SES Application.
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