SES Application & Resume Tips

January, 15, 2018

by Barbara Adams

If your career is peaking, you are ready for the next level and you have the comments from SESers in your performance evaluations to prove it, it is time to put together an SES application package. You need to start with the all-important resume.

Get Help With Your Resume

Dos and Don’ts for SES Applicationses-applications-photo2

There are five do’s and don’ts for an effective SES application which are:

  1. Don’t use the word “I” in your resume. Instead, drop the “I” (implied first-person point of view) and begin sentences with active verbs, such as “Developed,” “Directed,” “Led,” “Oversaw,” etc.
  2. Don’t spend too much space in your resume on positions older than 10 years. Instead, focus your work history on the past decade or so, and then summarize any earlier positions by listing the start and end years, job titles, organizations, and perhaps a brief explanation of your scope of responsibility.
  3. Do use the word “I” throughout your Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs) and Technical Qualifications (TQ). These first-person narratives should represent a collection of your top career accomplishments.
  4. Do read the job announcement very carefully and make sure you format your documents accordingly. If the job announcement doesn’t specify a length, font size, or margins, email the HR representative and ask. You don’t want to end up in the rejection pile because you failed to follow the agency’s formatting and application procedures.
  5. Don’t repeat the same examples in your ECQs and TQs. Can you overlap a bit in terms of using the same position, timeframe, or even program? Sure, but make sure each story stands on its own and shows a unique aspect of your leadership.

So, what sets an SES resume apart from a GS-14 or GS-15 resume? Many people think an SES resume must fit into a particular format or template, but that’s not really the case. Obviously, the format you choose is dictated by the online system of the hiring agency, the required information listed in the vacancy announcement or both. As they say in the marketing world, “content is king,” and the same thing applies to SES resumes.

Your resume “magically” becomes an SES resume not because of form, but because of content. The fact you are applying for an SES position makes it an SES resume and the content should reflect someone who is ready to step up to that level. When compared to other resumes for senior federal positions, an SES resume might not look much different at first glance. However, just as the SES represents a higher level of excellence in government and leadership, your resume should reflect a higher level of professionalism, achievement and abilities.


Three Bonus SES Resume Tips

  1. Be concise. Even as recently as five years ago, an SES resume could easily be eight, 10 or 12 pages long. Today, more and more federal agencies are moving toward concise resumes. For example, the Department of the Air Force limits SES resumes to four pages. Likewise, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is leading the way in using a five-page format that must also addresses Executive Core Qualifications (ECQ) and Technical Qualifications. With that in mind, there is clear shift toward shorter SES resumes. I recommend limiting all SES resumes to five pages. You still need to address everything the job announcement calls for, and you still need to focus on the last decade of work experience, but limiting yourself to five pages forces you to do so more concisely.
  2. Avoid listing overly personal information. Obviously, you will need to list your name, address, email, phone number and often your Social Security Number (SSN). However, religious and political affiliations, family status, country club memberships and hobbies have no place on an executive SES resume.
  3. Emphasize relevant and qualified accomplishments. Do not just list verbiage from your position descriptions or overarching duties. While some basic job descriptions are appropriate, your resume should be accomplishment-driven, and those accomplishments should be relevant to the position for which you are applying. You should utilize the Challenge-Context-Action-Result format when writing your accomplishments. Every bullet or sentence has the potential to include some or all of these components, and the most important ones are actions and quantified accomplishments.

Again, maybe you have been at the GS-15 level for a while now, and you feel that you can demonstrate the ECQs in both your resume and in a longer narrative format. Still, it is a good idea to get candid feedback from colleagues or members of the SES, attend an SES career development program (which looks nice on your resume!) or even seek assistance from a professional SES resume writer or career coach.

Hiring managers may receive hundreds of SES application packages and typically, they only interview a few of the top applicants. Your resume is the first part of your application package that is reviewed, so use the tips above to ensure it is comprehensive, compelling and convincing all at the same time.

Write an Interview-Winning Resume

Barbara Adams, President & CEO of CareerPro Global, the parent company,, and,one of the fastest growing Federal, Military, and Civilian Resume Writing and Career Coaching companies in the world.Ms. Adams has been a member of the careers community for the past 18 years.
She holds four prestigious industry certifications.Questions may be emailed to

Learn More About SES Resumes

Add A Comment