SES Qualifications and Application Flow

Street Sign that Says Opportunity AheadThe SES application process is daunting and formidable, filled with confusing terms and jargon and loaded with stringent requirements. The vacancy announcements read like technical manuals, full of caveats, choices, and sometimes-conflicting information. The process can be successfully negotiated, however, if you keep in mind one basic tenet, and that is that the development of a successful SES application is both an art and a science. It is the careful marriage of the art and science that will result in a strong SES application and ultimate selection of you as the best-qualified candidate. Our SES applications carefully identify and comply with the required mechanics of SES applications while carefully and artfully presenting our customers’ most valuable contributions and potential assets to the hiring organization.

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Our quality controlled process ensures no stones are left unturned in the development, process, and delivery of your SES application.

The SES Application Process:

  1. Application for Senior Executive Service positions are reviewed by Human Resources (HR) specialists to ensure all materials asked for in the vacancy announcement are included with the application, and that all instructions were followed. Those who make this “cut” will then be moved on to the next level of application review to determine the best qualified individuals to interview.
  2. Those applications making it past the first two screenings will be referred to the hiring agency’s Executive Review Board (ERB) to review all applications. This is the point where the ECQs, TQs, and/or MTQs are critical. Failure to meet any one of the Mandatory Technical or Executive Core Qualification standards will eliminate a candidate from further consideration. A screening panel will evaluate the candidates for this position composed of a diverse mix of senior executives selected for organizational and/or functional backgrounds relevant to this position. The panel members will individually review each of the applications in terms of the SES qualifications criteria contained in the announcement. The qualifications stated are the minimum requirements of the position to be qualified; a rating schedule will be applied by a screening panel to determine which candidates are considered to be best qualified. Then, they will meet to discuss each application, and reach a consensus decision as to the best qualified, qualified, or unqualified candidates.
  3. The panel will interview the top 10% of all of the best qualified candidates based upon consistently applied criteria. The panel will then make a recommendation of those best qualified candidates who should be referred to the selecting official, in priority order. If there is any debate, discussion, or disagreement about who the selected candidate will be, the scores of each candidate’s PTQs will be used to break the tie. Final selection of a candidate is contingent upon the selecting authority.
  4. Most agencies will then have their high-level HR (or, in some cases, hired consultants) thoroughly review the applicant’s ECQs and put them through a “mock QRB” to give feedback and input BEFORE sending to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for certification. The applicant may or may not be involved with this process, as every agency is different. If you are selected for OPM review and certification, you can call the Point of Contact listed on the last page of the vacancy announcement for useful feedback and information.
  5. Finally, the applicant’s ECQs are sent to the OPM for certification.
  6. OPM will put you in a “queue” and you will be notified on what day your Qualifications Review Board (QRB) will meet to review your ECQs. You will likely know the results, if not that same day, then within a very short period of time.
  7. If OPM does not consider you to be SES material (based upon breadth and scope of answers to ECQs), you will be rejected and the agency will be notified.
  8. If OPM finds that you, the applicant, have not adequately addressed the 28 required core competencies, OPM will send the ECQs back to the agency and you are usually given a limited timeframe to correct deficiencies and then resubmit.
  9. If OPM considered the ECQs to be demonstrative of executive core qualifications, they will be CERTIFIED by OPM and the applicant will never have to generate another set of ECQs again.

In summary, your entire presentation will undergo intense scrutiny by the hiring authority, who is primarily concerned with your technical, Senior Executive Service, and Executive Core Qualifications.

Chalkboard Thought Web with Leadership in the CenterAll parts are equally important, and even if you have an “in” with the hiring authority, we at SES Resume Writers will always tell our clients to remain vigilant and not rest on their laurels. There may be someone else out there with just as much experience, but who may have a better presentation. In federal hiring, the presentation is key. It is your interview. In the private sector, it’s true that “if you can just get that interview, you can get the job.” In the federal sector, you have so many “hoops” to jump through before anyone who knows you can lift a finger to help. Your application has to go through many screenings before you get to that interview. So, what we tell our SES clients is that “your application IS your interview.”


Additional Suggested Information on the Senior Executive Service: