The Senior Executive Service (SES) is a corps of approximately 7,000 men and women who administer public programs at the top levels of federal government. Positions are primarily managerial and supervisory. SES pay is linked to individual performance. Basic annual salaries for 2023 range from $172,100 to $235,600. Members of the SES are not eligible for locality pay and some positions include additional recruitment incentives.
The Senior Executive Service
The Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA) established a distinct personnel system that applies the same executive qualifications requirements to all SES members. The new system was designed to provide greater agency flexibility for selecting and developing federal executives within a framework that preserves the larger corporate interests of government. The SES covers managerial, supervisory, and policy positions above GS-15 (including Executive Schedule IV or V or equivalent positions) that are not filled by Presidential appointment with Senate confirmation.
How SES Jobs Are Filled
Each federal agency independently determines the qualifications required for SES positions, and whether to consider only current federal civil service appointees or all qualified candidates. There are two methods of entry into the SES:
Apply directly to a federal agency for a specific SES position or apply for a federal agency’s SES Candidate Development Program (SESCDP). Qualifications Review Board (QRB) certified graduates of an SESCDP advertised to “all qualified Civil Service appointees” or “all qualified persons” are eligible for (but not guaranteed) career appointment to an SES position without further competition.
OHM convenes Qualifications Review Boards (QRBs) to provide an independent peer review of candidates proposed for initial career appointment to the SES. The candidate cannot be appointed to the SES until the QRB certifies his/her executive qualifications. The QRB review is the critical last step in the SES selection process. By focusing attention on executive qualifications, the QRB helps ensure that technical skills do not outweigh leadership expertise in the selection of new senior executives.
Applicants must meet two types of qualifications for SES positions:
- The Executive Core Qualifications, which apply to every SES position; and
- Specific, professional/technical qualifications (if any) for the position being advertised.
Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs) common to all SES positions:
- Leading Change — The ability to bring about strategic change, both within and outside the organization, to meet organizational goals. Inherent to this ECQ is the ability to establish an organizational vision and to implement it in a continuously changing environment.
- Leading People — The ability to lead people toward meeting the organization’s vision, mission, and goals. Inherent to this ECQ is the ability to provide an inclusive workplace that fosters the development of others, facilitates cooperation and teamwork, and supports constructive resolution of conflicts.
- Results Driven — The ability to meet organizational goals and customer expectations. Inherent to this ECQ is the ability to make decisions that produce high-quality results by applying technical knowledge, analyzing problems, and calculating risks.
- Business Acumen — The ability to manage human, financial, and information resources strategically.
- Building Coalitions — The ability to build coalitions internally and with other Federal agencies, State and local governments, nonprofit and private sector organizations, foreign governments, or international organizations to achieve common goals.
The ECQs are mandatory qualification standards for every SES position. Agencies may also identify specific, professional/technical qualifications for the position being filled. The qualification standards for an advertised SES position are listed in the agency’s vacancy announcement. Applicants need to obtain a copy of the agency’s vacancy announcement to respond to these requirements.
How to Apply
- Check for SES vacancy announcements on USAJobs.gov. Call the agency contact, listed on the SES job announcement, for clarifications needed. Ask for additional information about application procedures and detailed qualifications requirements and print a copy of the SES Qualifications Guide. Be prepared to address the ECQs as outlined above and in the guide.
Read the job announcement thoroughly and pay special attention to any supplemental documentation that may be required. If you neglect to send in required documentation your package will be rejected. Use the same techniques outlined earlier in this chapter to evaluate the job announcement and focus on the ECQs. Your work descriptions must also showcase the required duties, responsibilities, expertise, and education required for the advertised position.
The SES application packages are complex to say the least and often require professional assistance. It is helpful to consult with professional certified Executive SES Writers who have experience writing executive resumes. They write hard-hitting ECQs (Executive Core Qualifications) that tell the real story behind your ability to Lead Change, Lead People, Drive Results, Build Coalitions and employ Business Acumen. Professionally prepared application packages will include all 27 core fundamental competencies throughout your five ECQs and your TQs (Technical Qualifications) must provide succinct examples of your experiences, accomplishments and results. Consider seeking professional assistance especially if this is your first SES bid or if you have been unsuccessful with previous attempts to enter the SES ranks.
Send your application directly to the address shown on the vacancy announcement or submit it online if allowed. Required documentation is generally faxed or sent direct to the human resource office listed in the job announcement. Apply promptly to meet closing dates.
Senior Executive Service Basic Pay Schedule (SES) (2023)
Senior Executive Service Appraisal System
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced in November of 2018 the following changes to the Senior Executive Service (SES) and Senior-Level (SL) and Scientific and Professional (ST) performance appraisal system certification process:
- Automatic renewal of fully certified appraisal systems based on OPM/Office of Management and Budget (OMB) review of annual data submission to determine ratings, pay, and awards decisions comply with statute and regulation.
- Agencies are no longer required to submit performance plans with certification requests; and
- Agencies will have greater flexibility to demonstrate pay differentiation using the combination of performance-based pay adjustments and performance awards, which will be referred to as “annual performance-based compensation”
OPM Acting Director Margaret Weichert stated in a memo to federal agency leaders that these changes are meant to “better support agencies in meeting their mission, enhance service and stewardship, and prepare for the Workforce of the 21st Century in support of the President’s Management Agenda (PMA)” and “reduce agency burden by removing procedural hurdles.”
OPM based the decision on agency feedback and the vision for effective governance set forth in the PMA.
Implementation will begin on Monday, January 7, 2019.
Senior Executive Service (SES), Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs),
Technical Qualifications (TQs), Managerial Technical Qualifications (MTQs)
or Professional Technical Qualifications (PTQs)
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