Seventeen Tips from a CDP Executive Review Board for Writing Your SES CDP Resume

By Kathryn Troutman and Diane Hudson, Authors, The New SES Application

Seventeen tips may seem like a lot for writing your Senior Executive Service (SES) Candidate Development Program (CDP) resume, Executive Core Qualification (ECQs) statements, and Technical Qualifications (TQs). However, this application package is a lengthy, specific, and detailed. The more tips you can gather and incorporate into your application package, the better.

Some CDP announcements received hundreds and even thousands of applications. As such, the resume and written narratives need to be highly competitive for these coveted CDP positions, which can lead to your ECQs being certified by Office of Personnel Management. You will then have the opportunity to then apply for Senior Executive Service (SES) positions – with only a resume and TQs going forward. This upfront homework is paramount in the process of developing a CDP resume package.

Here are seventeen suggestions from a CDP Executive Review Board to help you develop a stellar CDP resume package, edited by Kathryn Troutman and Diane Hudson, co-authors of The New SES Application:

  1. Write tightly and concisely. Read the announcement in its entirety and follow the rules for the required resume length for an application. For example, the Air Force SES federal resume is four pages. If the length of the resume is not specified, do your best to keep the SES CDP resume around five pages.
  2. Feature your highest level of accomplishments within the past five years. Your current position and second most recent position should be the longest in length in the resume. As you move back in your chronology, the descriptions of your duties and accomplishments should be shorter. This format will help you keep the resume to about five pages.
  3. Be sure that the resume states and demonstrates how you have met the mission of your agency. Speak to the mission of the agency in your resume and across your accomplishments.
  4. Include a short profile for the top of the resume, not to exceed 8 to 10 lines. It needs to be short and powerful, grabbing the attention of the reader. Use active verbs and tie the language to your accomplishments. Instead of saying “Excellent communicator in writing and orally,” say “Communicate with senior level leadership internally and stakeholders externally leading to signed agreement for multi-million dollar program implementation.” Tell what you do and how you apply your expertise.
  5. Use active voice verbs that represent leadership, agency-level programs, innovation, first-time program launches, high-level expertise, decisiveness, creativity, resiliency, and customer service. We included many active voice keywords in The New SES Application on pages 71 to 81.
  6. Analyze the keywords from the technical qualifications and specialized experience in the announcement and integrate the keywords into your resume.
  7. Use leadership language. Do not use the following words in your SES CDP resume: tasked with; helped with; assisted with; participated in; duties include; perform duties as team member; while serving as; or other similar passive language.
  8. Your CDP resume should match your ECQs. The resume should include short bullet statements that describe the stories used in the ECQs. The resume should support the ECQs.
  9. Include your relevant and recent education, training, awards, presentations, conferences attended, articles/publications, committee memberships, board memberships, and certifications.
  10. Add important and relevant non-profit activities, board memberships and outside interests to the resume. These entries could help you to stand out against your competition.
  11. Limit the use of personal pronoun “I.” You can use the personal pronoun “I” limited in accomplishments, as personal narrative statements of success. Do write using first person narrative in the ECQs and TQs.
  12. Do not include quotes from supervisors or accolades by others. You have to prove your good works by performance, not quotes.
  13. Do not include paragraphs or long sentences with historical or philosophical statements before each accomplishment. Just write the accomplishment. If some background is needed, add it into the accomplishment statement.
  14. Do not overwrite with processes that you followed to achieve the goal. Include three or four administrative steps, but no more. Focus on the context (breadth and scope of the situation), your challenge, several significant actions, and the results that made a difference to organizational performance.
  15. Pay close attention to the Technical Qualifications. They are read BEFORE the ECQs. The TQs represent your technical expertise.
  16. Be sure to speak about supervising a culturally diverse team.
  17. Hit the mark with your resume. Remember that you are applying for an executive leadership position to lead change, lead people, achieve results, demonstrate business acumen and build coalitions. The resume should be written to meet the needs of your stakeholders, the American public, and staff. Demonstrate that you can solve problems to achieve an objective with flexibility and resilience.

Use these tips as you write your CDP application to help you set yourself apart from your competition – and good luck!

— Kathryn Troutman and Diane Hudson Burns

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