Three Insider Tips for Writing a Strong SES Resume

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.

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.

Here are three tips to help you do exactly that:

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.

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 assisted more than 2,500 clients 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 new book, Roadmap to the Senior Executive Service: How to Find SES Jobs, Determine Your Qualifications, and Develop Your SES Application.

Posted in Career Tip of the Month

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