New SES 5 Page Resume

December, 11, 2014

Barbara Adams

Changes in SES Application Requirements: The Five-Page Resume

Although there are conflicting opinions on how hiring reform in the federal government is affecting the Senior Executive Service (SES) hiring process, there have definitely been some changes in SES vacancy announcements. For example, just a couple of years ago, 8-, 10-, or even 12-page SES resumes were still very common. However, as early as 2009, some agencies began placing a five-page limit on SES resume submissions.

Many perceive the growing popularity of the five-page restriction in SES resumes as a trend toward shorter, more concise presentations, and associate it with the ongoing hiring reform in the federal government. After all, one of the stated goals in the President’s memo on hiring reform is to “improve the quality and speed of agency hiring by…reducing substantially the time it takes to hire mission-critical and commonly filled positions.”

If you are at the level of applying for an SES position, then you could probably fill one of those 10-page resumes with all of your experience. Obviously, it can be difficult to fit an entire career’s worth of experience into only five pages. However, there are additional restrictions. More and more SES vacancy announcements do away with full Executive Core Qualification and Technical Qualification (TQ) narratives and require the applicant to “address” them within the body of the five-page resume.

This can be challenging, and here are two very simple but effective methods you can use:

Be straightforward. You can simply include a short summary of each of the five ECQs somewhere in your resume. For each one, it is best to summarize a specific example using the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) preferred Challenge, Context, Action, Result (CCAR) format. When you do this, you will be tempted to simply list the ECQ you are addressing (Leading Change, Leading People, etc.).

The new OPM 2010 SES Guide states, “It is not necessary or even advisable to annotate the resume with ECQ titles.” Notice the guide did not say that it was not allowed, but only that is was not “necessary” “advisable.” For the record, some of the newest members of the SES Corps have listed the titles of the ECQs they are summarizing, so some individual agencies do not seem to mind.

Having said that, I strongly recommend that you use your own best judgment, follow the exact rules in the job announcement, and pay close attention to OPM’s guidance. Perhaps the best method is to be straightforward in summarizing the ECQs, but instead of including the titles, simply bold or capitalize keywords that clearly demonstrate which ECQ you are addressing.

You can also use a straightforward approach to address any TQs required in your five-page resume. Simply list the TQ at either the beginning or the end of the resume and then summarize your response using CCAR.

Be subtle. Another method is to address the ECQs/TQs in a more subtle way, and simply “weave” them throughout your work history. Again, you can capitalize or bold certain words to make them stand out. People have been successful using this method, as well, but by being so subtle, you do increase the chance that the person reviewing your resume will overlook your accomplishments or won’t make the connection to the ECQs/TQs.

So, whether it’s related to hiring reform or a simple coincidence, throughout 2010, there has been a dramatic increase in these types of application restrictions, especially from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Only you can decide if you want to be straightforward or subtle, but now you should have some easy methods for handling SES vacancy announcements that require you to address ECQs/TQs in a five-page resume presentation.

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 helped more than 2,500 clients to develop their application materials. Ms. Adams has been featured on T.V. and the 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 forthcoming book, Roadmap to the Senior Executive Service: How to Find SES Jobs, Determine Your Qualifications, and Develop Your SES Application.

Barbara Adams, President & CEO of CareerPro Global, the parent company of,, 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.

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