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Ch.2 - General Staffing and Career Appointments

Statute: 5 U.S.C. 3391- 3395

Regulations: 5 CFR Part 317, Subparts E and F

The Guide to Processing Personnel Actions: Chapter 13 - Senior Executive Service (SES) and Chapter 14 - Promotions, Changes to Lower Grade, Level or Band, Reassignments, Position Changes, and Details

The SES offers agency managers considerable flexibility in filling executive vacancies while still providing fair access to executive jobs based on merit. The SES positions may be filled through competitive or noncompetitive appointment. Examples of noncompetitive appointment are: reassignment or transfer of a current SES appointee; reinstatement of a former SES career appointee; and the appointment of a graduate of an OPM-certified SES Candidate Development Program (CDP). CDP graduates may be noncompetitively appointed if they were selected through civil service-wide competition for the CDP. (Under former regulations, there was a rarely used alternative of limiting a CDP to applicants within a single agency. A graduate of such a CDP must compete for his or her initial career SES appointment, as stated on the Qualifications Review Board certification issued to the graduate.)

Agency Responsibilities

Written procedures. Each agency is responsible for establishing written procedures to implement the provisions of 5 CFR part 317, Employment in the Senior Executive Service. The merit staffing procedures established to implement 5 CFR 317.501 (recruitment and selection for initial career SES appointment) should make clear to all parties, including selecting officials and applicants, how SES positions are filled competitively.

Executive Resources Boards (ERB). Agency heads are required to establish one or more ERBs to conduct the merit staffing process for initial career appointments, as stated in 5 CFR 317.501. This includes reviewing the executive qualifications of eligible candidates, making written recommendations to the appointing authority regarding these candidates, and identifying the best qualified candidates from which the selection is to be made. As discussed in Chapter 1, however, an ERB should have a much broader charter to be most effective.

OPM Responsibilities

Staffing requirements. OPM establishes basic staffing requirements and may review an agency’s SES staffing process at any time to determine whether legal and regulatory requirements are being followed. OPM will direct corrective action when necessary to assure compliance with law and regulation.

Qualification Review Boards (QRB). OPM establishes interagency QRBs to certify the executive qualifications of candidates for initial career SES appointment. [More information about QRBs later in this chapter.]

Five years continuous service. OPM monitors the requirement in 5 U.S.C. 3392(b) that as a minimum, at least 70 percent of SES members Governmentwide must have 5 or more years of current continuous service in the civil service immediately preceding their initial SES appointment. There is no quota set in law or regulation for individual agencies.


Among other objectives, 5 U.S.C. 3131, states that the Senior Executive Service is to be administered so as to, “enable the head of an agency to reassign senior executives to best accomplish the agency mission,” and to, “provide for the initial and continuing systematic development of highly competent senior executives.” The SES system provides flexible assignment rules to accomplish these fundamental and complimentary objectives.

The Senior Executive Service is a national asset. Mobility involves using a full range of assignment authorities to leverage the skills of executives for greater mission accomplishment and to prepare them for higher-levels of service, whether within the agency, or elsewhere in Government or society. Our nation is best served when agencies and executives work together strategically to field the strongest and most agile executive corps possible.

Mobility encompasses both temporary and permanent job assignments involving change from previous assignment patterns, (e.g., to different business lines, disciplines, program areas, components, regions, headquarters, or other divergent environments). Means can include details, short- or long-term reassignments and transfers, use of the Intergovernmental Personnel Act authority, sabbaticals, formal training and other creative ways to expose executives to challenges or otherwise expand their capacity to serve. Assignments could be to other agencies, state and local governments, and institutions of higher education, non-profit organizations, private sector companies or international organizations.

Mobility can be an important element in succession planning. Its benefits are best realized when agency leadership deliberately assesses the ability and potential of agency executives against current and future leadership requirements and actively builds its executive corps to address those requirements. Potential benefits include:

  • Broadening and strengthening executive core qualifications of all executives;
  • Bringing greater creativity and broader perspectives to bear on agency problems;
  • Developing broader networks that help carry out agency missions, particularly in times of heightened national security;
  • Promoting career development and expanded opportunities for executives;
  • Selling potential leaders on desirability and potential of a career in the SES;
  • Providing the agency leaders who are able to handle greater challenges;
  • Enabling agile agency response to critical staffing requirements and new demands; and
  • Developing bench strength for the agency’s future. 

Ultimately, SES rules require an executive to move when agency needs require it. Even where advance written notice and consultation are mandated, the bottom line is that an executive who declines a directed reassignment may be removed through adverse action procedures. Still, in most agencies, signing up for the SES is not the same as signing up for mobility. Certain allowances described elsewhere in this guide recognize this distinction, e.g., if a mobility agreement is accepted at the beginning of the SES member’s service, he or she is not eligible for discontinued service retirement if he or she later declines a position outside the commuting area. However, if the mobility agreement is added after the SES member is in the position and he or she declines the position outside the commuting area, he or she would be eligible for discontinued service retirement. A separation is not qualifying for discontinued service retirement if, after the mobility agreement is added, the SES member accepts one reassignment outside of the commuting area and the SES member subsequently declines geographic reassignment.

Agencies should carefully evaluate whether a mobility program, whether broad or targeted, may strengthen their executive corps. Such programs should prove their worth by engaging the voluntary participation of an agency’s executives. An agency may also request temporary increases to its executive resources allocations to support mobility assignments.

Mobility can also be voluntary; SES members can seek opportunities and new positions on their own, at any time for personal development. OPM encourages SES members to continually broaden their perspectives (see CHCO memorandum on “Guidelines for Broadening the Senior Executive Service” dated November 7, 2008). [Also see Chapter 7 for additional information on Mobility Assignments and the Fifteen Percent (15%) Governmentwide Rotation Goal.]

Conditions of Employment

Citizenship. The SES contains no citizenship requirement, but some agencies may have separate controlling legislation requiring citizenship. In addition, a general appropriations act restriction, with some exceptions, prevents agencies from using appropriated funds to pay non-citizens if they work in the continental United States.

Further, an agency may administratively restrict consideration for SES positions to citizens. This decision may be a matter of agency policy or a job determination. No special justification is required.

Employment of Relatives. 5 CFR part 310 and related requirements address the restrictions regarding the employment of relatives, and the exceptions which apply to the SES.

Selective Service Registration. SES appointees are subject to the statutory bar to appointment of persons who fail to register under the Selective Service law. [5 CFR part 300, Subpart G]

Verification of Employment Eligibility. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 [P.L. 99-603], requires SES appointees coming from outside the Federal service to verify they are eligible to work in the United States.

Employment during Terminal Leave. Members of a uniformed service (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, etc.) on terminal leave pending separation may be appointed to and receive pay from another Government position, including an SES position [5 U.S.C. 5534a].

Employment Restrictions

Dual Incumbency. Agencies cannot employ two individuals in the same position at the same time (“dual incumbency”). Nevertheless, there are options available to agencies to provide continuity in key positions and to meet other transitional needs. When an incumbent’s intention to leave has been documented, an agency may establish a different position to employ a designated successor for a brief period of time pending the incumbent’s departure. For example, when an office director is leaving, a temporary special assistant position could be established for a short period to facilitate orientation of the incoming director to the office’s operations. OPM may authorize the use of SES limited appointment authorities for short periods of time for temporary executive positions established under such circumstances. If the successor is eligible for career appointment (e.g., is a career appointee or was selected through SES merit staffing and has been QRB certified), he or she can be appointed as office director and the departing executive can be assigned to the temporary position to facilitate transition. This does not require OPM involvement since a career executive can serve in a temporary position without a change in type of appointment.

Experts/consultants. Under 5 U.S.C. 3109(c), positions in the SES cannot be filled by expert or consultant appointment. Therefore, it is not appropriate to assign such individuals to the policy-making or executive work which characterizes the SES.

Independent regulatory commissions. Under 5 U.S.C. 3392(d), the appointment of an individual to any SES position in an independent regulatory commission “shall not be subject, directly or indirectly, to review or approval by any officer or entity within the Executive Office of the President.”

Private sector temporary employees. Under 5 CFR 300.502(b), private sector temporary employees cannot be used to perform SES work.

Types of SES Appointments

Statute: 5 U.S.C. 3132(a), 3393, 3394

Regulations: 5 CFR Part 214 and 317 Subpart F

There are four types of SES appointments: career, noncareer, limited term, and limited emergency. Agency heads are authorized to make all types of SES appointments under regulations and procedures established by OPM and within the agency’s numerical space allocation.

Career appointments

Career appointments are made without time limitations and provide certain job protections and benefits not conferred by the other types of SES appointments. Career appointments may be made to either Career Reserved or General positions [SES Position Designations and Appointment Authorities, in Chapter 1]. Tenure and benefits are the same no matter the type of position to which appointed. Initial career appointments must meet the competitive SES merit staffing provisions in 5 U.S.C. 3393, at the time of selection for the SES or for an SES candidate development program. The individual’s executive qualifications must be certified by an OPM- administered QRB before appointment.

Career appointments may also be made under noncompetitive procedures to reassign or transfer a current career SES appointee or reinstate a former career SES appointee who completed an SES probationary period. These actions do not require QRB approval.

Noncareer Appointments

Noncareer appointments are made without time limitation, but the appointee serves at the pleasure of the appointing authority. The agency must have a noncareer appointment authority from OPM [Allocating Noncareer Appointment Authorities, in Chapter 3]. The appointment can be made only to a General position in accordance with the staffing procedures for noncareer appointments discussed in Chapter 3.

Limited Term and Limited Emergency Appointments

Limited appointments are defined under 5 U.S.C. 3132:

  • (a)(5) - limited term appointee means an individual appointed under a nonrenewable appointment for a term of 3 years or less to a Senior Executive Service position the duties of which will expire at the end of such term.
  • (a)(6) - limited emergency appointee means an individual appointed under a nonrenewable appointment, not to exceed 18 months, to a Senior Executive Service position established to meet a bona fide, unanticipated, urgent need.

Limited appointments are made only to General positions. The agency must have a limited appointment authority from OPM or use an authority from its limited appointment pool (three percent of the agency SES allocation). Appointments must be made in accordance with the staffing procedures for limited appointments discussed in Chapter 3.

Qualifications Requirements

Statue: 5 U.S.C. 3392(a), 3393

Regulations: 5 CFR Part 317, Subpart D

Qualifications Standards

The agency head or a designee (e.g., the ERB) is responsible for establishing qualifications standards for each SES position in the agency. A qualifications standard must be established for a position before any appointment is made to that position. If a position is being filled competitively, the standard must be approved before the position is announced. If the duties and responsibilities of a position are substantially altered, the standard should be reviewed to determine if a new one is needed.

Qualifications standards may be established for individual SES positions or for groups of similar positions. Standards should be set at a high enough quality level so that those who meet the standards are well qualified, not just minimally qualified, to perform the job.

Developing Standards. Under 5 U.S.C. 3392, qualifications standards for Career Reserved positions must be developed in accordance with OPM requirements. Standards for General positions must be developed in consultation with OPM. Qualifications standards requirements for Career Reserved positions are listed below; and may also be used in developing standards for General positions in lieu of consultation with OPM.

The standard must be in writing and must identify the breadth and depth of the professional/technical and executive/managerial knowledge, skills, and abilities, or other qualifications (e.g., certification or licensure), that are essential and desirable for successful performance. Mandatory qualifications must be met for a candidate to be eligible for the position. Desirable qualifications are used to help rate and rank eligible candidates.

The standard must be specific enough to enable the user to identify qualified candidates and to enable the ERB to make qualitative distinctions among candidates for rating and ranking purposes when the position is being filled competitively.

Each qualifications criterion in the standard must be job related. However, the standard may not emphasize agency-related experience to the extent that it precludes well qualified candidates from outside the agency from appointment consideration.

Mandatory qualifications standards may not include any of the following:


Time in grade requirements does not apply to the SES, so applicants do not need to have spent a certain amount of time at the GS-15 or equivalent level.

National Security Professional (NSP) Qualification for NSP SES. OPM and the NSP Executive Steering Committee (ESC) encourage agencies to implement a qualification requirement for NSP-designated SES positions for demonstrated ability to lead inter-agency, inter-departmental, inter-governmental activities, or comparable cross- organizational activities. Agencies may exercise discretion and flexibility in defining and elaborating upon the qualification requirement based on their positions and mission demands. OPM and the ESC recommend a multi-agency or equivalent experience for selection into NSP SES positions. OPM and the ESC have defined the qualifying "inter- agency" experience as follows:

Individuals should have "inter-agency" experience related to national security serving in a leadership capacity (formal or otherwise) on a temporary or permanent assignment, on a multi-agency task force, in an inter-agency liaison capacity, and/or as a volunteer. The experience should meet the following criteria:

    • extensive involvement (i.e., substantial time commitment or decision-making responsibility);
    • tangible results or accomplishments; and
    • separate experiences in at least two organizations or a single experience involving multiple organizations.

For additional information see CHCO memorandum on “National Security Professional Development (NSPD) Interagency Personnel Rotations Program Guidance on Strong Preference” dated July 15, 2016.

Possession of Certification as a Mandatory Technical Qualification. Unless authorized by statute, agencies may not use possession of certification (e.g., Program/Project Management Certification) as a mandatory technical qualification. Individuals who lack the certification yet possess the requisite experience and training to perform the duties of the position should be considered. However, agencies may require future acquisition of certification by specifying a timeframe for obtaining it (e.g., within 18 months from the date of appointment to the position) in a mandatory technical qualification. In their policy document, agencies should specify the consequences for employees who do not acquire certification within the specified timeframe.

The following is an example of an acceptable technical qualification:

Program Management Certification. Applicants must possess or be eligible for Level III Program/Project Management (P/PM) certification in accordance with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Program Manager Certification Standards, the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA), or Federal Acquisition Certification for Program and Project Managers (FACP/PM). Applicants who currently possess or are eligible for Level II Program/Project Management (P/PM) certification and can achieve Level III certification according to DHS, DAWIA, or FAC-P/PM standards within 18 months from the date of appointment to this position will also be considered. Please indicate in your application your level and source (DHS, DAWIA, FAC-P/PM) of certification or eligibility for certification.

Retaining Qualifications Standards. If a qualifications standard is changed or a position is cancelled, the standard shall be retained at least two years.

Executive Core Qualifications

“Executive Qualifications” is the term used in statute [5 U.S.C. 3393] to describe the qualifications required of all agency selectees for the SES and that must also be certified by a QRB for all initial career appointments to the SES. These qualifications are in addition to specific professional/technical qualifications that agencies establish for individual jobs. OPM has defined executive qualifications in terms of five meta-leadership competencies associated with SES-level jobs. These Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs) are Leading Change, Leading People, Results Driven, Business Acumen, and Building Coalitions. Proficiency levels for the ECQs are available at Proficiency Levels for Leadership Competencies. Definitions and illustrations for the levels are provided. Agencies might use them to anchor responses to structured interviews or to assess leadership competencies.

ECQ 1: Leading Change
Definition: This core qualification involves 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.

Creativity and Innovation

Develops new insights into situations; questions conventional approaches; encourages new ideas and innovations; designs and implements new or cutting- edge programs/processes.

External Awareness

Understands and keeps up-to-date on local, national, and international policies and trends that affect the organization and shape stakeholders' views; is aware of the organization's impact on the external environment.


Is open to change and new information; rapidly adapts to new information, changing conditions, or unexpected obstacles.


Deals effectively with pressure; remains optimistic and persistent, even under adversity. Recovers quickly from setbacks.

Strategic Thinking

Formulates objectives and priorities; implements plans consistent with the long- term business and competitive interests of the organization in a global environment. Capitalizes on opportunities and manages risks.


Takes a long-term view and builds a shared vision with others; acts as a catalyst for organizational change. Influences others to translate vision into action.

ECQ 2: Leading People
Definition: This core qualification involves 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.

Conflict Management

Encourages creative tension and differences of opinions. Anticipates and takes steps to prevent counter-productive confrontations. Manages and resolves conflicts and disagreements in a constructive manner.

Leveraging Diversity

Fosters an inclusive workplace where diversity and individual differences are valued and leveraged to achieve the vision and mission of the organization.

Developing Others

Develops the ability of others to perform and contribute to the organization by providing ongoing feedback and by providing developmental opportunities to learn through formal and informal methods.

Team Building

Inspires and fosters team commitment, spirit, pride, and trust. Facilitates cooperation and motivates team members to accomplish group goals.

ECQ 3: Results Driven
Definition: This core qualification involves 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.


Holds self and others accountable for measurable high-quality, timely, and cost-effective results. Determines objectives, sets priorities, and delegates work. Accepts responsibility for mistakes. Complies with established control systems and rules.

Customer Service

Anticipates and meets the needs of both internal and external customers. Delivers high-quality products and services; is committed to continuous improvement.


Makes well-informed, effective, and timely decisions, even when data are limited or solutions produce unpleasant consequences; perceives the impact and implications of decisions.


Positions the organization for future success by identifying new opportunities; builds the organization by developing or improving products or services. Takes calculated risks to accomplish organizational objectives.

Problem Solving

Identifies and analyzes problems; weighs relevance and accuracy of information; generates and evaluates alternative solutions; makes recommendations.

Technical Credibility

Understands and appropriately applies principles, procedures, requirements, regulations, and policies related to specialized expertise.

ECQ 4: Business Acumen
Definition: This core qualification involves the ability to manage human, financial, and information resources strategically.

Financial Management

Understands the organization's financial processes. Prepares, justifies, and administers the program budget. Oversees procurement and contracting to achieve desired results. Monitors expenditures and uses cost-benefit thinking to set priorities.

Human Capital Management

Builds and manages workforce based on organizational goals, budget considerations, and staffing needs. Ensures that employees are appropriately recruited, selected, appraised, and rewarded; takes action to address performance problems. Manages a multi-sector blended workforce and a variety of work situations.

Technology Management

Keeps up-to-date on technological developments. Makes effective use of technology to achieve results. Ensures access to and security of technology systems.
ECQ 5: Building Coalitions
Definition: This core qualification involves 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.


Develops networks and builds alliances; collaborates across boundaries to build strategic relationships and achieve common goals.

Political Savvy

Identifies the internal and external politics that impact the work of the organization. Perceives organizational and political reality and acts accordingly.

Influencing/ Negotiating

Persuades others; builds consensus through give and take; gains cooperation from others to obtain information and accomplish goals.

Fundamental Competencies 
Definition: These competencies are the foundation for success in each of the Executive Core Qualifications.

Interpersonal Skills

Treats others with courtesy, sensitivity, and respect. Considers and responds appropriately to the needs and feelings of different people in different situations.

Oral Communication

Makes clear and convincing oral presentations. Listens effectively; clarifies information as needed.


Behaves in an honest, fair, and ethical manner. Shows consistency in words and actions. Models high standards of ethics.

Written Communication

Writes in a clear, concise, organized, and convincing manner for the intended audience.

Continual Learning

Assesses and recognizes own strengths and weaknesses; pursues self- development.

Public Service Motivation

Shows a commitment to serve the public. Ensures that actions meet public needs; aligns organizational objectives and practices with public interests.

Career Appointments

Statute: 5 U.S.C. 3393

Regulations: 5 CFR Parts 317, Subpart E

Because the SES is separate from the competitive and excepted services, there is no provision for noncompetitive movement from these services into an SES career appointment, even if an employee’s current position is placed in the SES. (The provisions of 5 CFR 315.602 covering movement from the Office of the President or Vice President or the White House staff do not apply to SES career appointments. Additionally, Executive Order 11103 addressing the noncompetitive eligibility of returning Peace Corps volunteers does not apply to SES positions.)

Candidate Development Programs. The merit staffing procedures in this section also apply to the recruitment and selection of individuals for an OPM-approved SES candidate development program. An individual who successfully completes the program and is certified by a QRB may be appointed to the SES without further competition. If a candidate graduated from an agency program that conducted an agency-wide competition only (under the previous 5 CFR 412 (i.e., published prior to December 2009), then the candidate must compete for his/her first SES career appointment. However, in this case, if selected for an SES career appointment, the candidate does not need to be certified by the QRB again. (See Area of Consideration below.)

Preferences. While the CSRA excluded the SES from veterans’ preference [U.S.C. 2108(3)] it did not exclude the SES from Indian preference. Therefore, vacancy announcements in the very limited number of agencies where Indian preference is applicable should contain the statement: “Preference will be given to American Indians.”

Prohibited personnel practices. Agency records for all competitive actions should clearly show that the actions are proper and legitimate. The actions should fully conform to the spirit and the letter of 5 U.S.C. 2302 on prohibited personnel practices, including the prohibition against political consideration, either favorable or unfavorable. For a list and description of prohibited practices, see Further, in making career SES appointments, agencies should apply the same principles that are in Civil Service Rules 4.2 and 7.1 for filling vacancies in the competitive service, i.e., they should act solely on the basis of merit and fitness and without regard to political or religious affiliations, marital status, or race.

Merit staffing reviews. OPM may review proposed career appointments to ensure they comply with all merit staffing requirements and are free of any impropriety.

Merit staffing plan template. Agencies may review the template in ESCS to assist with developing an SES Merit Staffing Plan.

Merit staffing checklist. Agencies may use the checklist in ESCS for reviewing the staffing action for an SES vacancy to be filled by career appointment that utilized one of the following SES selection methods: traditional Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs), Accomplishment record, or Resume-based.


Area of Consideration

Under 5 U.S.C. 3393(a), the search for candidates must at a minimum, include “all groups of individuals within the civil service.” Agencies may also recruit from outside the civil service (i.e., all groups of qualified individuals).

The “civil service” consists of all persons who occupy positions in the executive (includes excepted service), judicial, and legislative branches, except positions in the uniformed services (the armed forces, the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service, and the Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). Included are experts and consultants who occupy appointive positions, and individuals in the Postal Service and the Postal Rate Commission. The District of Columbia Government is not part of the Federal civil service.

A person is considered to be in the civil service only if occupying a civil service position at the time of application. When competitive recruitment for an SES position is limited to the civil service, SES reinstatement eligibles outside the civil service and SESCDP graduates with noncompetitive eligibility may apply for noncompetitive consideration for that position.

Vacancy Announcements

Agencies are required by law to announce the SES vacancies they intend to fill by initial career appointment to at least all Federal civil service employees. They must also notify the Department of Labor’s United States Employment Service offices of SES vacancies when recruitment for career appointment is extended outside the Federal service [5 U.S.C. 3327]. To meet these legal requirements, agencies are required to publish information about vacancies to be filled by initial career appointment in USAJOBS ( [5 CFR 317.501(b)(2)].

Agencies are responsible for confirming that their individual SES vacancy announcements have been successfully entered into USAJOBS. If a vacancy to be filled by initial career SES appointment has not been published as required by 5 CFR 317.501(b), the consequences are serious and will affect recruitment actions. The agency must demonstrate that it has met the statutory requirements cited in the preceding paragraph before the proposed selection can be forwarded to a Qualifications Review Board. Evidence that a vacancy announcement has been included in USAJOBS is provided by entering the OPM Control Number into ESCS when creating a QRB case record.

The SES vacancy announcements are available through USAJOBS but can also be available through the respective agency and its website. Vacancy information is disseminated through the Federal Jobs Database to America’s Job Bank and state employment offices.

Entering data in USAJOBS. Agencies enter SES vacancy information, including job entries and full text vacancy announcements, directly into USAJOBS. For complete instructions/tutorial, see

Closing date. The closing date of a vacancy must allow for a minimum open period of 14 calendar days and must be consistent with closing dates of any agency supplemental announcements [5 CFR 317.501 (b)(2)]. Extension of the original closing date must also be entered into USAJOBS.

If there is a break between the closing date of the initial announcement and the beginning date of the new announcement, the new announcement must be open at least 14 calendar days from date of its entry into USAJOBS.

Vacancy announcement content. Agency announcements must include the following:

  1. name of the issuing agency;
  2. announcement number;
  3. position title, series, pay plan;
  4. duty location;
  5. number of vacancies;
  6. opening and closing dates and any other information concerning how receipt of application will be documented and considered;
  7. Selection Method (Traditional ECQs, Resume-Based or Accomplishment Record);
  8. brief description of duties;
  9. area of consideration;
  10. SES pay ranges;
  11. ECQ and technical qualification requirements;
  12. basis of rating;
  13. what to file;
  14. equal employment opportunity and reasonable accommodation statements;
  15. contact person or contact point;
  16. instructions on how to apply; and
  17. other required information [see 5 CFR 104].

Note, however, that 5 CFR 330.104(a)(13), (14) and (15) regarding veterans’ preference, the career transition assistance program (CTAP) and the interagency career transition assistance program (ICTAP) do not apply to an SES vacancy announcement.

Multiple vacancies. Although rare, agencies may advertise for more than one vacancy for the same SES position (e.g., Regional Director positions in different geographic locations).

Multiple selections. If an agency advertises a position and the vacancy announcement states one vacancy is to be filled, the agency may NOT make multiple selections from that vacancy announcement.

Organization/location. Agencies should ensure the information in department and/or agency fields in USAJOBS is appropriate. Agencies may not fill a position in an organization or location other than that advertised (e.g., The Department of Homeland Security may not fill a position in United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement if the announcement was for a position in United States Customs and Border Protection, a different organizational component, or fill a position in a duty location other than was specified in the announcement.)

Nonprofit Employment Services and Commercial Recruiting Firms

These services and firms may be used in addition to other recruitment sources in accordance with the provisions of 5 CFR part 300, Subpart D, when their use is likely to provide well-qualified candidates who would otherwise not be available, or when well-qualified candidates are in short supply. The service or firm must use the agency’s qualifications standard and the position must also be included in OPM’s USAJOBS under the SES vacancy listing and be open to “all groups of qualified individuals.”

Candidates applying directly to the agency and those identified by a service or firm must be given equal consideration and must complete the full SES merit staffing process, including ERB referral to the appointing authority and QRB certification, before appointment.

Recruiting for SES Candidate Development Programs (SESCDP)

The recruitment procedures described above also apply to entry into an SESCDP. All candidates are selected through SES merit staffing procedures. [See 5 CFR part 412 and Chapter 7 for information about SESCDPs.]

Area of Consideration. Recruitment for SESCDPs is from either all groups of qualified individuals within the civil service, or all groups of qualified individuals.

Applicants who do not hold career or career-type appointments. If a candidate is not serving on a career or career-type appointment, the candidate must be appointed using the Schedule B authority at 5 CFR 213.3202(j). Schedule B appointments must be made in the same manner as merit staffing requirements prescribed for the SES, except that each agency shall follow the principle of veterans’ preference as far as administratively feasible. Positions filled through this authority are excluded under 5 CFR 412.302(d)(1) from the appointment procedures of part 302, pertaining to employment in the excepted service. Appointment may not exceed or be extended beyond 3 years.

 Assignments must be to a full-time non-SES position created for developmental purposes connected with the SES candidate development program. Candidates serving under Schedule B appointment may not be used to fill an agency’s regular positions on a continuing basis.

Agencies must create SESCDP records in ESCS. See ESCS How-To-Guides on the ESCS website.

OPM Support for QRB-Certified SESCDP Graduates

CDP-Opps Listserv

The Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program (SESCDP) Opportunities listserv (CDP-Opps) (, helps all agencies recruit for SES vacancies and helps place current QRB-certified SESCDP graduates. The purpose of the listserv is to: (1) help agencies identify top talent for SES positions more quickly, and (2) increase the placement rate of QRB-certified CDP graduates. QRB-certified graduates who apply to vacancies and meet the position-specific technical qualifications can be immediately non- competitively appointed allowing agencies to potentially identify top talent in a manner that will reduce time-to-hire from months to weeks.

QRB-certified SESCDP graduates who register for the CDP-Opps listserv will be alerted to SES vacancies submitted by Agency Offices of Executive Resources. While agencies will still regularly announce SES vacancies on USAJOBS, CDP-Opps participants will receive notifications through the listserv and have opportunity to apply and have their applications immediately reviewed, including before the USAJOBS announcement needs to be posted or before it closes.

Agency Executive Resources (ER) offices are encouraged to share SES vacancies with certified graduates via the CDP-Opps listserv simply by sending an e-mail to

Each SESCDP vacancy notification should include the following:

  • Agency and Bureau
  • Job Title
  • Job Series
  • Duty Location
  • Travel
  • Security Clearance
  • Technical Qualifications Requirement
  • Brief Description of Duties
  • List of required application materials, for example:
    • Current Resume
    • Technical Qualifications Statements (if necessary)
    • OPM-issued SES Certificate
    • Any other required items
  • Application Submission Deadline
  • Agency ER Contact Information (where candidates send their resume and application)

Offices of Executive Resources are encouraged to announce to CDP-Opps as soon as a vacancy opens, but if the vacancy announcement is already on USAJOBS, please send the following to the listserv:

  • Agency and Bureau
  • Job Title
  • USAJOBS link
  • Agency ER Contact Information (where candidates send their resume and application for advance non-competitive consideration)

OPM will regularly evaluate the listserv in terms of usage, feedback, and requested improvements.

QRB-certified SESCDP graduates can register for the CDPOpps listserv by following these steps:

1. To register for the CDP-Opps listserv, please visit the OPM listserv website

2. Click “Join or Leave CDPOpps” (Only QRB-certified SESCDP graduates are eligible to enroll.)

3. Enter your Name and Email Address and click “Join CDPOpps”

For more information on the CDP-Opps listserv, please send an email to

Merit Staffing Selection Methods

Streamlined Agency Initial SES Application Requirements

Agencies are encouraged to identify opportunities to streamline their initial application requirements for SES positions. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, agencies should seek to eliminate or minimize application requirements that may deter candidates from applying, while at the same time adopt hiring and QRB submission methods most effective for each agency’s successful SES hiring and accomplishment of mission. The following are some options that agencies may consider:

  • Traditional Application Method: This method directs applicants to submit a resume, a separate narrative (no more than 10 pages) addressing the ECQs, and, if applicable, a narrative addressing any mandatory technical qualifications. The ECQ statement must address all five ECQs and is limited to a maximum of ten pages. An advantage of this approach is that the ECQ narrative submitted by the selected individual may suffice with little or no additional information for the QRB submission.
    • Under 5 CFR 317.501(c)(1) an agency must provide that competition be fair and open and that all candidates compete and be rated and ranked on the same basis. An agency should therefore be careful to state the recruitment method in the vacancy announcement and require applicants to submit materials in accordance with the chosen method, as determined by the agency. NOTE: If the traditional application method is used, agencies should pay close attention to the restrictions they impose relating to ECQ narrative format. While it is usually understood and encouraged that each ECQ should be addressed in 2 pages, agencies should not exclusively disqualify (through indication in the vacancy announcements) those candidates that exceed the 2 pages per ECQ, if the entire narrative conforms to the 10-page limit. In addition, agencies should also not disqualify those candidates that provide more, or less, than 2 examples per ECQ. If these restrictions are annotated on the vacancy announcement, they must then be enforced by the agency and further, OPM. Draft language is provided below for the traditional application method as it pertains to addressing the ECQs:
    • Draft Language: 

      Executive Core Qualifications (ECQ): The ECQs were designed to assess executive experience and potential, not technical expertise. They measure whether an individual has the broad executive skills needed to succeed in a variety of SES positions. All applicants must submit a written narrative to address the ECQs. Your narrative must address each ECQ separately and should contain one or two examples per ECQ describing your experiences and accomplishments/results.

      The narrative should be clear, concise, and emphasize your level of responsibility, scope and complexity of programs managed, program accomplishments, policy initiatives undertaken and the results of your actions. Applicants should not enter "Refer to Resume" to describe your experiences. Applications directing the reviewer to search within the application or to see the resume are considered incomplete and may not receive further consideration. The narrative must not exceed 10 pages.

      There are five ECQs:

      ECQ1 - Leading Change

      ECQ2 - Leading People

      ECQ3 - Results Driven

      ECQ4 - Business Acumen

      ECQ5 - Building Coalitions

      • Failure to submit a narrative statement addressing each of the ECQs may cause your application to be deemed incomplete and not be considered. See OPM’s page on ECQs for additional information.
    • Resume-Based Application Method: This method provides an alternative to the Traditional Application Method. In the Resume-Based Method, applicants submit only a resume with no written ECQ narrative thereby reducing the burden of lengthy written materials at the onset of the application process. The burden rests with the applicants to show possession of the ECQs and technical qualifications via their resumes.
    • Accomplishment Record: This application method involves a hybrid version of the traditional application method and the resume-based application method, where the applicant provides a streamlined written accomplishment record (not to exceed five pages) addressing certain (not all) ECQs or competencies. The hiring agency can set specific competencies to be addressed or allow the candidate discretion to choose those competencies which best reflect their executive experience. The hiring agency should decide which approach is most appropriate depending on the requirements of the position to be filled. When the time comes for the agency to submit a selected candidate’s file for review to the QRB, the agency supplements the accomplishment narrative with a shortened QRB Template. The Accomplishment Record allows an agency to identify specific competencies underlying the ECQs deemed by the agency to be most critical in assessing candidates for the advertised position. Some human resources practitioners consider rating and ranking candidates against more narrowly defined competencies chosen for their relevance to the SES position to improve the validity of results.

    Application Documentation Requirements
    Method Applicant Submission Materials Candidate Level of Effort
    Resume ECQ Narrative (No more than 10 pages) Technical Qualifications (TQ) Responses Accomplishment Record (5-page narrative)













    Accomplishment Record





    Moderate to Significant

    * Agency may require candidates to clearly address TQs within their resume or submit separate responses to no more than two TQ requirements (Per OPM Guidance).

    Use of Technical Qualifications

    When recruiting for executive positions, agencies should seek to balance executive skills and technical qualification requirements. OPM encourages agencies to conduct an analysis of qualification requirements to avoid duplicating requirements that may already be reflected in the ECQs. Likewise, agency requirements for lengthy TQ narratives may potentially deter qualified candidates from applying. A possible approach is for agencies to modify the language within vacancy announcements to instruct applicants to clearly demonstrate their technical competencies through their resumes. Another possible approach is for agencies to limit TQ requirements to no more than one or two specific qualifications which are focused and critically - relevant to the specific position.

    Merit Staffing Requirements (Rating and Selection)

    The procedures an agency uses for rating and ranking candidates and for making the subsequent selection for an SES position or SES candidate development program must meet the requirements of applicable law, rule, and regulation, including the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures.

    As a minimum, under 5 CFR 317.501(c), an agency’s procedures must provide the following:

    • The ERB may delegate preliminary qualifications screening, rating, and ranking of candidates. An agency should follow its SES merit staffing plan when selecting preliminary rating panel members. The ERB must consider the technical and executive qualifications of each eligible candidate.
    • All eligible candidates must be rated and ranked on the same basis. However, if a current SES career appointee or a reinstatement eligible applies in response to a merit staffing vacancy announcement, the agency has the option of including the individual in the competitive process (in which case the individual is rated and ranked in the same manner as other applicants) or considering the individual under noncompetitive appointment procedures (i.e., reassignment, transfer, or reinstatement).
    • Candidates may be grouped into broad categories (e.g., highly qualified/Top Group, well qualified/Middle Group, and qualified/Bottom Group). Candidates need not be given numerical ratings, since veterans’ preference and the “rule of three” do not apply to the SES. There must be adequate differentiation among candidates on the basis of the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other job-related factors, as reflected by the position’s qualifications standards to enable the relative ranking of candidates. Experience may be credited only to the closing date of the vacancy announcement to avoid inequities.
    • The record must be adequately documented to show the basis for qualifications, rating, and ranking determinations. If the ERB delegates rating and ranking of applicants in a given case, the ERB retains responsibility for the result. Therefore, the ERB must endorse the rating and ranking results as its own or document the basis for any adjustments made by the ERB before certifying the list of best qualified candidates to the appointing authority. The ERB must give the appointing authority written recommendations on all the eligible candidates and identify the best qualified candidates. To avoid additional paperwork, the ERB may provide rating sheets on the candidates instead of preparing separate written recommendations on each candidate. However, the ERB must still certify in writing the list of candidates provided to the appointing authority. The ERB certificate may be sent first to a supervisory official who will make a selection recommendation to the appointing authority. In these instances, the full certificate and the ERB recommendations on all the candidates should be forwarded to the appointing authority along with the name of the proposed appointee.
    • The appointing authority must make the selection in accordance with agency prescribed procedures from among the candidates the ERB identified as best qualified. Selection must be based solely on the qualifications of the candidates, not on political or other non- job-related factors.
    • The appointing authority must certify in writing that the proposed appointee meets the qualifications requirements of the position. The appointing authority, or the ERB, must also certify that appropriate merit staffing procedures were followed.
    • The executive qualifications of the proposed appointee must be sent to OPM for QRB certification.

    Recommended Merit Staffing Practices

    The following are some best practices currently in use at some agencies:

    • Try to use a variety of candidate assessment tools, rather than relying excessively on the assessment of candidate narratives against crediting plans.
      • Interviews, especially structured interviews with standardized questions, should normally be an essential part of the assessment process.
      • In some cases, formalized assessment centers may be an appropriate means to assess candidates.
    • Reference checks are also useful, to verify information provided by the applicant and to assess competencies such as Integrity/Honesty.
    • Use category rather than numeric ratings when rating ECQs, which are comprised of clusters of individual competencies and are therefore difficult to score with a degree of precision supporting numerical rating.
    • It is good practice to provide training for members of rating panels. Rater training ensures all raters have a common understanding of the rating process and ECQ definitions. The training can range from short and simple instructions to very detailed presentations.
    • To increase efficiency, automate the selection process to the greatest extent possible. For example, some agencies provide candidate materials electronically to their ERBs in advance to expedite the assessment process.
    • It is good practice to notify applicants of their status at key points in the selection process: 1) application received, 2) application assessed for qualifications, 3) applicant referred for appointment consideration (or not) and, 4) applicant selected (or not).

    Inquiries, Appeals, and Corrective Action

    Applicant Inquiries and Appeals

    Individuals are entitled to information about the nature of the procedures used in recruiting and selecting candidates for any position. Applicants are also entitled, upon request, to know if they were found qualified for the position and if they were referred to the selecting official for consideration for appointment. They may have access to qualifications questionnaires or reports of qualifications inquiries about themselves, except for information that would identify a confidential source.

    Agencies may provide other procedures tailored to their needs, to handle complaints about the staffing process. An applicant has no right of appeal to OPM against actions taken by the ERB, QRB, or appointing official. Other avenues afforded by law or regulation (e.g., the Office of the Special Counsel or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) may be appropriate (e.g., prohibited personnel practice allegations). For additional information, see

    Corrective Actions

    If it is determined that an individual was not placed on a selection certificate of best qualified candidates as a result of a statutory, regulatory, or procedural violation, the agency may, as a corrective action, select the individual for career appointment to another SES position without conducting a new merit staffing action. However, the individual must meet the technical and executive qualifications for the new position and must be approved by a QRB.


    The corrective action authority does not require, but does permit, the agency to select the individual noncompetitively.

    Documenting Merit Staffing Actions

    Under 5 CFR 317.501(d), an agency must keep sufficient records to allow reconstruction of the merit staffing process for two years after an initial career appointment. (If no appointment results from a vacancy announcement, the records must be kept for two years from the closing date of the announcement.) At a minimum, the records should include:

    • the OPM Control Number for the vacancy listing in the automated USAJOBS and copies of any separate agency announcements (The control number is assigned when entering a vacancy announcement);
    • list of recruitment sources used (e.g., agency vacancy announcement distribution list, any newspaper or journal advertisements, any use of nonprofit employment services or commercial recruiting firms);
    • copy of qualifications standard and position description;
    • originals of all applications received by the agency;
    • the rating and ranking procedures (rating plan), and names and organizational titles of rating panel members;
    • written recommendations of the panel/ERB (signed and dated), including a list of the groupings of all applicants and the supporting rationale, or rating sheets;
    • any references, or qualifications questionnaires or inquiries, obtained on the candidates;
    • record of which, if any, candidates were interviewed;
    • any recommendation by a selecting official to the appointing authority if the two are different individuals;
    • the appointment action (signed and dated);
    • appointing authority certification that the appointee meets the qualifications requirements of the position;
    • appointing authority or ERB certification that appropriate merit staffing procedures were followed; and
    • copies of any complaints about the staffing process and agency findings and response. 

    Qualifications Review Boards

    Statute: 5 U.S.C. 3393(c)

    Regulations: 5 CFR 317.502

    The CSRA stresses that the SES is primarily an executive corps and requires all new career appointees be certified by a QRB. Through independent peer review, QRB members ensure that all new executives have solid executive skills. 


    OPM administers QRBs, which includes drawing on members of the SES to participate on the Boards and to advise on QRB policy. OPM works with agencies to solicit names of executives to serve on QRBs. Each Board consists of SES members from three different agencies. A majority of each Board’s members must be SES career appointees. Board members are not permitted to review their own agency’s candidates, and if a member otherwise believes he or she cannot provide an impartial review, the member will be excused from the case.


    The QRB certifies the executive qualifications of candidates for initial career SES appointments. QRB members judge the overall scope, quality, and depth of a candidate's executive qualifications and experience within the context of the five Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs) by fairly and objectively assessing all documents in the candidate’s QRB case.

    Criterion A: Demonstrated executive experience.

    Criterion B: Successful participation in and graduation from, an OPM approved SES candidate development program.

    Criterion C: Possession of special or unique qualities forecasting executive success. Criterion “C” cases are appropriate when exceptional candidates with demonstrated executive experience have been sought out but are not available. This criterion case applies to candidates whose professional and technical backgrounds suit them particularly well for the SES position despite a lack of demonstrated experience in one or two of the executive core qualifications. Such candidates must also demonstrate, however, high potential for quickly acquiring full competence in all of the core qualifications. For example, an attorney may have outstanding legal skills and in-depth knowledge of the specialized field for which the SES position is responsible, but he or she may not have managed human, financial, and information resources. In this instance, an agency may propose such a candidate for consideration under Criterion “C”. (Approval of these cases is based on the agency’s entire submission, including the proposed Individual Development Plan (IDP), and imposes an obligation on the agency to carry out the proposed executive development activities). The IDP should be developed for the candidate to accomplish within a 12-month time frame (probationary period).


    An OPM staff member serves as a QRB Administrator for each Board. The QRB Administrator conducts a briefing about the hiring selection methods used by agencies, gives instructions on the certification process and Board member roles, answers questions from QRB members, and provides any other guidance and staff support as appropriate.

    The Board members independently review each set of documents (i.e., “case”) pertaining to an individual who has been selected for initial career appointment (see Submitting Cases for QRB Certification later in this section). After review of each case, the administrator facilitates discussion to reach consensus. The final decision to approve or disapprove is by majority vote. Prior to a final decision, Board members can elect to have candidates and agencies re-write those ECQs (no more than two) that are identified as falling short of demonstrating executive leadership.

    Approval. The QRB must find demonstrated executive-level experience in a majority of competencies in each of the five ECQs to recommend approval under Criterion A and Criterion B. A QRB may approve a case but recommend formal managerial training to supplement experience in one or more of the ECQs. If that occurs, the agency may make the appointment, but should develop an IDP, in consultation with the employee, to assure that the individual receives the recommended training.

    To approve a Criterion C case, the QRB should find demonstrated executive level experience in a majority of competencies in at least three of the five ECQs, with the remaining one or two ECQs that need further development clearly addressed by the Special and Unique Qualities Memo and IDP (see “PROCEDURES for document submission” section).

    Disapproval. If a QRB case is disapproved, the agency may choose to have the case submitted to the next regularly scheduled QRB as is or returned to the agency for improvements. Agencies are encouraged to resubmit a returned case within 60 working days of the initial QRB disapproval. In a resubmission, the QRB will still only consider experience obtained before the closing date of the announcement. Before resubmitting, the agency is advised to review the case to determine whether additional supporting material can be provided as to the candidate’s executive qualifications.

    An agency may resubmit a case initially rejected based on Criterion A as a Criterion C case, if appropriate (i.e., the candidate has “special or unique qualities”). The Criterion C case must include an IDP and documentation of the candidate’s unique and special qualities. A new case must then be entered into ESCS for the subject position.

    If a case is disapproved a second time, a new case on the candidate may not be submitted for the same position until the candidate acquires additional qualifying experience in those deficient areas noted by the QRB. Since qualifying experience is credited only to the closing date of an announcement, OPM generally requires the agency to hold a new merit staffing competition to credit the additional experience. The closing date of the new announcement will be at least 12 months later than that of the original announcement. There is no appeal for second time disapproval.

    If a Criterion B case is disapproved, the agency has the option to resubmit the package, or it can ask the candidate to pursue additional development to address issues raised by the QRB. If a Criterion B case is disapproved two consecutive times, the agency must provide the candidate additional development before submitting the case again.

    Re-Write. Not considered a full approval or disapproval, this option allows Board members to give candidates and agencies an opportunity to re-address those ECQs (no more than two) that lack evidence of executive leadership. Upon notification of the re- write option, the agency has 14 working days to ensure the re-write is completed and returned to OPM. Re-writes are returned to the Board members that conducted the initial review.

    Other. The names of QRB members, their organizations, and the records of their individual actions are not subject to release.


    There is no time limit on QRB certification — any existing time limit on a previously approved certification is removed. OPM’s QRB Administrator uses ESCS to validate the QRB certification. In addition, for Criterion B cases only, the individual candidate receives a printed certificate documenting his/her eligibility for either of the following:

    “Career appointment to the Senior Executive Service without further competition in any agency to any position for which this individual is determined to be otherwise qualified.” [Graduates of OPM-approved Candidate Development Programs (CDPs) for which the area of consideration was not restricted under the previous version of 5 CFR 412.104(a)(2) (i.e., published prior to December 2009)]; or

    “Career appointment to the Senior Executive Service in any agency to any position for which this individual is determined to be otherwise qualified, after competition in accordance with 5 CFR 317.501.” [Graduates of OPM approved Candidate Development Programs (CDPs) where an exception to the recruitment area requirement under the previous version of 5 CFR 412 was granted; see Area of Consideration, under Recruiting for SES Candidate Development Programs, earlier in this chapter.]

    QRB Recommendations for Executive Development. Agencies should advise appointees of any QRB recommendations for additional executive development, and this development should be included in their Executive Development Plans. OPM may ask agencies to provide written verification of progress toward implementing any such QRB recommendations within 18 months of appointment.

     Suspension of QRB Case Processing

    • In accordance with its authority under 5 U.S.C. 3393(c) and 3397, and its regulation at 5 CFR 317.502(d), the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will continue to accept and process new agency QRB cases when an agency head departs, announces his or her departure, or when the President announces the nomination of a new agency head, in certain circumstances. OPM guidance, Modified Agency-Specific Senior Executive Service (SES) Qualifications Review Board (QRB) Moratorium during Agency Head Transitions [August 15, 2019] can be found on the CHCOC website. Placement of agency-specific QRB moratoriums will depend upon the means by which the individual serving as the acting agency head received that designation —
    • When an acting agency head serves under a Presidential Appointment (with or without Senate confirmation), immediately preceding the designation, the agency is not placed on a QRB moratorium.
    • When bi-partisan boards and commissions, and agencies that have acting agency heads that are not currently serving on a Presidential Appointment, that entity may request a blanket exception to the moratorium, which OPM will consider on a case-by-case basis. 

    When an agency blanket exception is approved, the agency should fill only positions that are necessary to ensure continuity of critical agency operations. In circumstances where an agency blanket exception is not approved, the agency will still be able to request exceptions for specific positions. Requests for exceptions should be signed by the agency head or the official who is designated to act in the agency head’s absence. Agencies should address the following factors in their requests:

    • the impact on the agency should the position not be filled during the moratorium;
    • the likelihood the new agency head will have personal interest in the case;
    • the organizational level of the position (include organization chart);
    • the degree to which the candidate would be involved in policy matters;
    • any special or unique qualifications of the candidate;
    • candidate’s resume;
    • whether the candidate is currently on a Schedule C or noncareer SES appointment;
    • whether the candidate is currently performing the duties of the position via detail or “acting” designation and the length of time for the detail or “acting” designation (e.g., 30 days);
    • how long it may be before the new agency head is appointed;
    • how long the position has been vacant; and
    • when the Agency Head has not yet departed, whether he or she has certified that the action is necessary to ensure continuity of critical agency operations.

    If OPM declines the request for an exception, the agency must withdraw the case.

    The Governmentwide QRB moratorium issued when there is a change in Administration will continue to be followed to provide the incoming Administration some ability to determine its executive leadership. [A memo dated November 18, 2016, was sent to all Agency Heads and Chief Human Capital Officers regarding the Governmentwide Moratorium on Senior Executive Services (SES) Qualifications Review Board (QRB) cases.]

    As agencies may already process noncompetitive SES selections (e.g., reassignments, transfers, etc.), the modified SES QRB moratorium provides them with similar latitude as to merit staffing selection, in accordance with applicable regulations. This will also reduce burden to agencies and their SES time-to-hire and create a more efficient process for agencies to respond to critical and exigent needs.

    Resumption of QRB Case Processing. After an agency head has been sworn in, agencies may request (by email to that OPM resume the processing of QRB cases.

    Requesting OPM to resume processing of agency QRB cases. The message must be sent from the senior Executive Resources Office official, or higher-level official (such as the Deputy Secretary, Chief of Staff, or ERB Chairperson), and should specifically indicate the new agency head’s intention to resume processing its QRB cases.

    Additionally, the information should include the title and name of the new agency head and the date he/she was sworn in. If QRB cases are being submitted in conjunction with the request to remove the moratorium, the email should list those specific cases. An agency need not wait until it has a QRB case to submit to request the moratorium be ended; however, it is required that the agency head be sworn in and approve the request. OPM will respond via email regarding the agency’s request.

    When OPM initiates a message to the agency asking if it would like to have the QRB moratorium removed, the agency may respond by email to convey the new agency head’s decision.

    Submitting Cases for QRB Certification

    QRB Submission Methods

    OPM requires a hiring agency to submit to the QRB the following basic materials: the specific vacancy announcement for the SES position for which the agency is hiring (Criterion A and C); the resume of the candidate selected by the agency for initial appointment to the SES; and evidence the agency has applied merit staffing procedures through certification by the agency’s appointing official that documents the selection of, and decision to submit, the candidate for QRB certification.

    Additionally, OPM requires the hiring agency to submit evidence that demonstrates the candidate’s proficiency in the ECQs. OPM accepts agencies’ evidence/demonstration of ECQs by using one of three submission methods: (1) traditional written ECQ narrative; (2) QRB Template; and (3) Accomplishment Record.

    1. Traditional ECQ Narrative

    This traditional method involves the submission of a written narrative statement (limited to no more than 10 pages) in which the candidate provides information about the results achieved that reflect the candidate’s proficiency in each of the ECQs through a demonstration of a majority of the competencies in each ECQ. Agencies have the flexibility to use a resume-based application intake method and require only the final selectee to complete the ECQ narrative for QRB submission. This submission method provides the most comprehensive and detailed evidence- supporting information for QRB review but may also be the most burdensome and time- consuming for the candidate.

    1. QRB Template

    In lieu of an ECQ narrative, an agency may elect to submit a QRB Template. This is a submission method that allows the agency to populate a standard template provided by OPM. The template can include substantive information highlighting a candidate’s demonstrated ECQs, obtained by the agency from interviews, as well as any other materials required by the agency during the agency’s merit staffing process. The template is meant to be completed by the ER Staff in conjunction with the ERB and interview panels and the selecting official. This submission method may be the least burdensome for the candidate because it eliminates the requirement for the candidate to prepare an ECQ narrative and requires the agency to obtain and describe the candidate’s information. It is appropriate, however, for the agency to consult with and involve the candidate in the completion of the template. The signing appointing authority or ERB Chairman is responsible for its content and affirmations. On average, a completed template of seven to eight pages in length should be sufficient to provide the best evidence for all ECQs.

    1. Accomplishment Record

    This QRB submission method is a hybrid version of the ECQ narrative and QRB Template methods that includes the candidate’s written accomplishment record (not to exceed five pages) addressing certain ECQs or competencies (which the hiring agency determined), and the agency supplements the accomplishment record with a shortened QRB Template. This method typically occupies a middle ground with respect to the comprehensiveness of information provided to the QRB – between the ECQ Narrative method and the QRB Template method – and also balances the preparation of materials between the agency and the candidate.

    Summary of QRB Documentation Requirements
    Method QRB Submission Requirements Candidate Level of Effort
    USAJobs Vacancy Announcement Resume ECQ Narrative QRB Template Accomplishment Record

    Traditional ECQ Narrative (up to 10 pages)







    QRB Template







    Accomplishment Record (up to 5 pages)






    Moderate to Significant

    * Agency may elect to submit ECQs in lieu of the QRB template (Resume-Based Method) or the QRB template and Accomplishment Record (for the Accomplishment Record Method).

    General Requirements

    A case will be accepted only from an agency, as a result of the SES merit staffing process or successful completion (as certified by the agency) of an OPM-approved SES candidate development program. Agency requests for certification of a candidate by a QRB must validate in ESCS that merit staffing procedures were followed and that the appointing authority certified the candidate’s qualifications for the position. No individual may request his/her own certification. Furthermore, OPM will not submit for QRB review the conversion of a noncareer SES employee to a career SES appointment in the employee’s own position or a successor to that position, since there is no bona fide vacancy [CFR 317.502(e)].

    An ESCS record will show under which criterion (A, B, or C) a certification is requested.

    The primary basis for submitting a case as Criterion A is “demonstrated executive experience”; relevant training and development activities may also be cited. Criterion C should not be used in lieu of Criterion A solely because an agency has difficulty proving “demonstrated executive experience.” Therefore, for Criterion C, an agency must document “special or unique” qualities in terms of the agency’s program or mission, or some other directly related SES consideration.

    In the rare event that a candidate’s experience is so highly specialized that it would not be possible for someone outside of that field to provide a fair, competent, and objective assessment of the candidate’s executive core qualifications, the submitting agency can request that OPM assign the case to a review board with at least one member with a comparable career background. OPM will review each request on a case-by-case basis, and make a reasonable effort to accommodate the request, if possible. Such requests may cause a delay in reviewing the candidate’s package.

    Agencies must submit a Criterion A or C case not more than 90 working days from the closing date of the vacancy announcement. Cases that exceed this timeframe will be returned to the agency for a new merit staffing process. Submission of QRB cases by agencies covered by a QRB moratorium will be reviewed only if an exception to the QRB moratorium processing has been approved, which is done on a case-by-case basis. As agencies become aware of the possibility of not meeting the 90-day deadline, they must request an extension for each case affected prior to the 90th day. OPM may grant a brief extension for good cause.

    A Criterion B case should be submitted for SESCDP participants within 12 months from the ending date of an OPM-approved SES candidate development program.

    Probationary Period

    Statute: 5 U.S.C. 3393(d), 3592, 10 U.S.C. 1599e

    Regulations: 5 CFR 317.503

    An individual’s initial SES career appointment becomes final only after the individual successfully completes a one-year probationary period. This probationary period begins on the effective date of the personnel action initially appointing the individual to the SES as a career appointee and ends one calendar year later. For example, if an individual was appointed to the SES on June 1st, the probationary period ends on May 31st of the following year. However, a probationary appointee is considered to have completed probation at the end of his/her last tour of duty within the probationary period.


    Newly appointed SES members of the Department of Defense must serve a probationary period of two years. See 10 U.S.C. 1599e.

    Supervisory Responsibilities During the Probationary Period

    • Follow through on agency initiated or QRB recommended training.
    • Observe the employee’s performance and conduct.
    • Hold periodic, documented discussions of progress with the employee, clearly outlining the strengths and weaknesses of the employee in relation to the position’s performance requirements. 
    • Complete a probationary assessment of the individual’s performance before the probationary period ends. If QRB certification was based upon special or unique qualities (criterion C), document results of executive developmental activities undertaken based upon agency commitments or QRB recommendations related to that certification.
    • Certify that the appointee performed at the level of excellence expected of a senior executive during the probationary period or, if it becomes apparent after full and fair consideration that the employee’s performance is not suitable for satisfactory executive work, initiate action to remove the employee from the SES. An employee’s probationary period may not be extended beyond 1 year solely for the purpose of providing the employee an opportunity to improve performance. Note that an agency’s failure to meet its regulatory obligation to timely certify a probationer’s performance does not prevent the probationary period from ending. [See Chapter 8 for notice and timing requirements that must be met to affect removal under probationary procedures.]

    Electronic Submission and Documentation Requirements

    All QRB cases should be submitted electronically through ESCS. No e-mail submissions will be accepted unless submission via ESCS is not possible and the agency has previously communicated the ESCS issue with SERS and received approval to submit the QRB case via e- mail as an exception. Any QRB cases submitted via e-mail must be followed up with an ESCS submission once the ESCS issue has been resolved.

    Procedures for document submission are as follows: A labeled cover sheet should be placed to separate each document listed below (in that order) and should be scanned as one document (these are the only documents forwarded to Board members). Additional documents and extension approvals should be sent as separate PDF attachments.

    Criterion A

    • Vacancy Announcement
    • Resume
    • ECQ Narrative
    QRB Template
    • Vacancy Announcement
    • Resume
    • QRB Template
    Accomplishment Record
    • Resume
    • Accomplishment Narrative
    • QRB Template

    Criterion B

    • Mentor Evaluation
    • Resume
    • ECQ Narrative or QRB Template
    • IDP (signed)


    Agencies will be asked to provide additional documents for Criterion B cases as needed.

    Criterion C

    • Vacancy Announcement
    • Resume
    • ECQ Narrative or QRB Template
    • Special & Unique Qualities Memo written by the selecting official or higher, addressing:
      1. why this candidate is so special or unique and will be an effective executive
      2. what makes this candidate a superior choice for this SES position over other candidates who demonstrated executive level experience in all five ECQs
      3. Which one or two ECQs need further development (weak) for the candidate 
      4. How the candidate will acquire full competence in the one or two weak ECQs in the next 12 months (can reference the IDP)
    • Signed IDP addressing: A clear executive development plan to ensure that the candidate will acquire executive level knowledge and experience in the one or two weak ECQs and associated competencies in the next 12 months (i.e., the probationary period)

    Crediting Service

    The following conditions apply to credit service towards completing the probationary period, as stated in 5 CFR 317.503(d):

    • time on leave with pay while in an SES position is credited. Earned leave for which the employee is compensated by lump-sum payment on separation is not credited;
    • time in a non-pay status (e.g., LWOP and furlough) while in an SES position is credited up to a total of 30 calendar days (or 22 workdays). After 30 calendar days, the probationary period is extended by adding time equal to that served in a non-pay status (e.g., if the individual was absent for 50 calendar days, the probationary period is extended by 20 calendar days);
    • time following transfer to an SES position in another agency is credited (i.e., the employee does not have to start a new probationary period). Credit is given for time served during a probation period prior to transfer; and
    • time absent on military duty or due to compensable injury is credited upon restoration to the SES when no other break in SES service has occurred [5 CFR part 353]. 

    Moratorium on Removal During Probation

    The provisions of 5 U.S.C. 3592 restricting the removal of individuals from the SES for 120 days after the appointment of a new agency head or noncareer supervisor also apply to probationary removals. If an individual completes the probationary period while the restriction is in force, removal when the restriction ends must be affected under procedures that apply to post- probationers. [See Chapter 8 for information on removal during probation and additional information on the moratorium.] There is no provision for extending the probationary period.

    Reappointment to the SES When Probation is Not Completed

    A career appointee who leaves the SES before completing the probationary period must undergo a new merit staffing competition to be reappointed. However, the individual need not be recertified by a QRB unless the individual had been removed for performance or disciplinary reasons.

    An individual who separated from the SES during the probationary period and has been out of the SES more than 30 calendar days must serve a new 1-year probationary period upon reappointment, except as provided in the next paragraph. Previous time in a probationary period may not be credited toward completion of the new probationary period when the separation exceeds the 30-day limit.

    A new one-year probationary period is not required in the following situations:

    • the individual left the SES without a break in service for a Presidential appointment and is exercising reinstatement rights under 5 U.S.C. 3593(b) and 5 CFR 317.703;
    • the individual left the SES without a break in service for other civilian employment that provides a statutory or regulatory reemployment right to the SES (e.g., service with an international organization) when no other break in service has occurred; or
    • the break in SES service was the result of military duty or compensable injury, and the time credited was insufficient to complete the probationary period. [See Crediting Service earlier in this chapter.]

    Other Guidance

    A new one-year probationary period is not required if the individual left the career SES without a break in service for a noncareer-SES appointment and is selected for another career SES appointment under merit staffing procedures, when no other break in service has occurred. The individual is only required to complete the remainder of the probationary period if it was not previously completed.

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