Five Tips for Navigating A SES Vacancy

Let’s face it—pulling up a Senior Executive Service vacancy on your monitor can be a bit overwhelming. A resume, five Executive Core Qualifications, and how many Technical Qualifications? Gulp.

One of the best things you can do to reduce this overwhelming feeling is to break the application materials down into bite-sized chunks, and then reverse-engineer your time so that you have a plan for getting it all done well before the job closes.

These five tips will also help: 

1. Read the entire vacancy from top to bottom. It’s important to take a few minutes and do this, with a keen attention to detail. Write down any questions you might have.

2. Take a close look at the duties and qualifications section. Think of the information in these areas as questions, and ask yourself, “Will I be able to show in my resume that I possess some, most, or even all of these skills, experiences, and education?” If the answer to all those “questions” is no, that could be a red flag.

3. Take a look at any Technical Qualifications. Ask yourself if you will be able to provide strong narrative responses that show you have relevant and recent experience in the technical areas they want to see. Again, if the answer is no, it could be a red flag that this job isn’t the best fit.

4. Carefully read the How to Apply and Required Documents section. This is critical, as each agency may have slightly different instructions. Sometimes you can email in your resume, other times you can upload your own resume to your USAJOBS account, and still other times, you will be required to actually use the USAJOBS resume builder. Likewise, sometimes there are length restrictions or other formatting requirements.

5. Read the vacancy again to make sure you didn’t miss anything. At least scan the whole vacancy again, and then email the agency contact with any questions about qualifications, timelines, or how to format your documents in terms of length, font size, etc.

By following these five simple tips, you can minimize the chances of missing critical information, or of spending your time applying for something that clearly isn’t a good match based on your skills, education, and experience.


Lee Kelley is an Iraq war veteran and former Army Captain who now serves as the senior writer on CareerPro Global’s writing team. Leveraging the company’s vast expertise in assisting thousands of SES and federal job seekers, Lee has personally developed hundreds of resumes and more than a thousand ECQs. He is also the Director of Training and Veteran Transitions, and has provided USAJOBS resume-writing workshops to hundreds of federal employees and our military. In addition, Lee is an author and executive coach. He co-authored the book Roadmap to the Senior Executive Service: How to Find SES Jobs, Determine Your Qualifications, and Develop Your SES Application. His latest book is titled Inside Marine One: Four U.S. Presidents, One Proud Marine, and the World’s Most Amazing Helicopter.

Posted in Career Tip of the Month

Tags: Senior Executive Service, SES, career advice

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