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Ch. 7 - Executive Development

Statute: 5 U.S.C., 3373-3375, 3396, 4103, 4121

Regulations:  5 CFR Part 334; 5 CFR Part 410; 5 CFR 412.202, 412.301, 412.302, 412.401

Executive Order – Strengthening the Senior Executive Service

Faced with constant challenges, changing technologies, and a fluid environment, executives need to continually broaden their perspectives and strive for professional development. Executives should seek to strengthen their Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs), skills, and knowledge to make more informed decisions and devise innovative solutions to the complex challenges they encounter. Engaging in continuing development can assist executives in achieving those goals.

There are many ways for executives to benefit from learning and developmental opportunities. There are many ways to provide learning and developmental opportunities for executives. Leadership and self-development typically relate to experiential activities, developmental relationships, assessments and feedback, and instruction-led development. Specific activities may include developmental assignments, job rotation, coaching, networking, mentoring, multisource feedback and other structured training programs.

Development of Current Executives

Executive Development Plan

Each senior executive is required to prepare, implement, and regularly update an Executive Development Plan (EDP) as specified in 5 CFR 412.401. EDPs must be reviewed annually and revised appropriately by the agency’s ERB, or similar body designated by the agency, to oversee executive development using input from the performance evaluation cycle. EDPs will:

  • function as a detailed guide of developmental experiences, including short and longer- term experiences, to help senior executives meet organizational needs for leadership, managerial improvement, and organizational results;
  • address enhancement of existing executive competencies and other competencies to strengthen the senior executive’s performance; and
  • outline developmental opportunities and assignments to allow the senior executive to develop a broader perspective in the agency as well as Governmentwide.

Consistent with 5 U.S.C. 3396(d) and other applicable statutes, EDPs may provide for sabbaticals and other long-term assignments outside the Federal Government.

Executives are encouraged to review OPM’s Framework for the Continuing Development of Federal Senior Executives to assess their current state of development and create an EDP to strengthen specific competencies.

OPM has developed a sample EDP for Agency use.

OPM’s Framework for the Continuing Development of Federal Senior Executives

This executive development framework incorporates mandatory training, recommended key leadership behaviors, developmental objectives, and developmental opportunities at each specific stage of an executive’s lifecycle of learning. Executives are also encouraged to review the framework to assess their current state of development and create a plan to strengthen specific competencies.

Each career stage of the SES lifecycle is characterized by key leadership behaviors that define the characteristics necessary to achieve and sustain executive excellence. Furthermore, the developmental objectives provide executives direction and focus to enhance the desired behaviors. The recommended developmental opportunities identified in the framework for each career stage provide the specific experiences that enable executives to build their leadership capability.

The framework, coupled with organizational and individual executive needs, should be used during the executive development phase of each agency’s talent management process (for more information see the section below entitled Annual Leadership Talent Management and Succession Planning Process). It is critical to involve executives in identifying their developmental objectives and experiences, and to recognize that development should be individualized. No “one-size fits all” solution exists for individual development. Each executive and their supervisor should work together to outline developmental goals and select appropriate development to meet the requirements and learning needs of the specific executive.

Agencies are also encouraged to use multiple strategies to hold executives accountable for continued development (e.g., as part of the competency element in their performance standards, ERB regular talent management review). In 2012 OPM released the Executive Development Best Practices guide. This guide contains a compilation of best practices used by the public and private sector to support executives’ continued learning.

Many private organizations have recently shifted the focus of their leadership learning and development efforts from formal, classroom-based training programs to less formal on-the-job learning experiences. These organizations have largely made this shift in recognition of the abundant research demonstrating that 70% of learning takes place on-the-job; 20% of learning results from meaningful relationships and coaching; and 10% of learning occurs through formal training. The 70-20-10 model of learning and development has been widely accepted by organizations and learning institutions.

For your convenience, a comprehensive guide is available.

Executive Onboarding

Executive onboarding refers to the acquiring, accommodating, assimilating and accelerating of new executives into the organizational culture and business. Onboarding is not “orientation” but is a longer, more involved and deliberate approach of a fast track to meaningful, productive work and strong employee relationships tailored specifically to the needs of the executives. Executive onboarding should be strategic, so that it not only prevents executive derailment, but expedites the executive’s contribution to optimize strategic achievement.

A 2017 study of Governmentwide executive onboarding programs as experienced by new executives highlights the need for:

  1. agencies to provide onboarding executives with critical information to facilitate an efficient and effective assimilation into the organization;
  2. supervisors to act as key facilitators of the onboarding process; and
  3. executive coaching to ease the transition process for new executives.

Agency onboarding programs should address three types of new executives:

  • those from outside the agency, but still within the Government;
  • executives from outside the Federal Government; and
  • executives promoted from within the agency.

Various agencies have piloted executive onboarding programs and have shared information, planning documents, and more. You can find these documents as well as templates and examples of these requirements on OPM’s Executive Onboarding Wiki page.

For questions and/or assistance in executive onboarding planning and implementation, please email

SES Situational Mentoring

Federal agencies are required by law (5 U.S.C. 3396) to establish programs to assist senior executives in their continuing development. One tool that OPM has created to assist agencies in this regard is the SES Situational Mentoring program. This program provides executives the opportunity, through mentors, to obtain valuable ideas and guidance on high-impact issues, problems, challenges or opportunities. The contact with the mentor can be via email, telephone, over lunch, etc. This Governmentwide program provides Federal executives with timely advice and support from experienced executive mentors across Government through a new Situational Mentoring portal. For more information on enrolling executive mentees and mentors into the program, please email

Mobility Assignments

OPM encourages executives to pursue broadening developmental opportunities (see Executive Order on Strengthening the Senior Executive Service) to include rotational assignments.

A rotation is defined as, “…a development process, involving movement to another position, that broadens the executive’s knowledge, skill and experience in order to improve talent development, mission delivery and collaboration.” A rotation must last 120 consecutive days and provide experience outside the scope of an executive’s current role.

Examples of rotations may include, but are not limited, to the following:

  • Executive reassignment;
  • Executive transfer;
  • Developmental assignment internal to the agency, for example to another subcomponent, functional area, or location (e.g., acting in another executive position, field executive rotating to HQ or vice versa);
  • Detail or developmental assignment external to the agency (e.g., Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) program; temporary assignment/detail to another Federal agency or private sector where permitted by law);
  • An assignment that includes full-time, extended service on a multi-agency or joint task force or project team that may provide employees with sufficient interagency experience to qualify as a rotation; or
  • Sabbatical.

The requirements (specific to the EO) that define, support, and promote executive rotations are as follows:

  • Agencies with 20 or more SES positions shall develop and submit to OPM a 2-year plan to increase their number of SES on rotations;
  • Rotations must be for a minimum period of 120 days;
  • Annual Governmentwide goal, beginning in FY 2017, of 15% of SES members on rotations (no agency-specific goal); and
  • Annual reporting to OPM on SES rotations.

Fifteen Percent (15%) Governmentwide Rotation Goal

The EO set an annual Governmentwide goal of 15 percent of executives on rotations lasting a minimum of 120 days. Since there are no agency-specific goals, it is expected that some agencies may rotate more than 15 percent annually while others will rotate less. The frequency of SES rotations in any specific agency will depend on agency and individual needs. Not every executive in an agency is required to rotate. Agencies should make strategic decisions on rotations based on mission and organizational needs (see below for information on the annual Talent Management and Succession Planning Process).

Annual Leadership Talent Management and Succession Planning Process

Federal agencies are legally required to develop a comprehensive management succession program, per 5 CFR 412.201. Additionally, EO 13741 includes a phased implementation requirement of an annual talent management and succession planning process.

Talent management and succession planning are essential to effective human capital management – ensuring organizations take a planned, deliberate, and holistic approach to the cycles of selection, development, and engagement of their workforce. OPM’s Guidance on Establishing an Annual Leadership Talent Management and Succession Planning Process and supplemental infographic help agencies implement and enhance an annual leadership talent management and succession planning (TM&SP) process.

The process consists of five main stages: (1) determine future executive resources needs; (2) evaluate current talent state; (3) align talent to agency needs; (4) finalize executive development plans; and (5) implement and update plans.

The guidance and additional resources are located on OPM's Leadership Talent Management & Succession Planning Wiki page. Agencies are encouraged to continue sharing resources and templates that align with this guidance.

Intergovernmental Personnel Act Temporary Assignments

Career SES appointees are eligible for temporary assignments to or from State, local, and Indian tribal governments, institutions of higher education, and other eligible organizations, under provisions of the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) of 1970 and title VI of the Civil Service Reform Act, in accordance with requirements in 5 U.S.C. 3373 and 5 CFR part 334.

See the OPM Intergovernmental Personnel Act page for more information on this program.


Agency heads may grant sabbaticals for up to 11 months to SES career appointees for full-time study or uncompensated work experience which will contribute to their development and effectiveness (5 U.S.C. 3396(c); 5 CFR 412.401(b)). Sabbaticals can broaden professional skills and provide an opportunity for personal growth. Sabbatical activities can include—

  • teaching, study (independent or structured), research, or some combination of these at a college or university;
  • non-institutional study or research (independent or guided);
  • periods of relevant and developmental work experience in the private sector; with non- profit organizations, or with State or local governments; and
  • activities or projects not covered above (e.g., bench research, invention, design, development, trouble-shooting or problem-solving assignments, or writing).

Eligibility. Career appointees must have completed seven years of service in SES positions or equivalent civil service positions (i.e., classified above GS-15 and having responsibilities consistent with SES functions described in 5 U.S.C. 3132(a)(2)), and at least two of the seven years specifically must have been in the SES. The appointee cannot be eligible for voluntary (optional) retirement at the time the sabbatical begins. A sabbatical may not be granted to the same individual more than once in a 10-year period.

Conditions. Agencies must assure that sabbaticals do not violate conflict-of-interest regulations. A sabbatical is a prolonged period of time away from work with all the benefits and is not a part-time activity. An agency’s designated ethics official should advise on procedures appropriate to the agency’s needs.

The SES member must sign an agreement to continue in the civil service for a period of two consecutive years following the sabbatical. The agency head may waive this requirement for “good and sufficient reasons” (e.g., disability retirement, reduction in force, or other involuntary separation).

Employment Provisions. While on sabbatical, the executive—

  • continues to occupy their SES position of record and to receive SES pay;
  • continues to earn leave and is charged for any leave taken;
  • may receive such travel expenses (including per diem) as the head of the agency determines to be essential for the sabbatical study or experience (in some cases, agencies have arranged to have the host organizations pay or share in travel and certain other expenses); and
  • remains subject to the SES performance appraisal system and must receive a performance rating in accordance with the requirements of that system. He or she should be evaluated against appropriate standards, including standards addressing activities involved in the sabbatical. Appropriate pay adjustments and performance awards may be given in accordance with agency’s SES pay policy.

Documentation and Program Review. No later than the beginning of each sabbatical, agencies should submit the following information to OPM:

  • name of the SES member;
  • a general description of planned activities, developmental benefits, and expected contributions to the Government; and
  • the approximate dates of the sabbatical.

Agencies should monitor their sabbatical programs, including the nature of participants’ activities during their sabbaticals, to determine if developmental objectives have been met.

Records documenting the decision process in granting a sabbatical must be maintained for two years from the date the sabbatical is approved by the agency.

Submit the SES sabbatical documentation by letter to:

Senior Executive Services and Performance Management

ATTN: Work-Life & Leadership/Executive Development

U.S. Office of Personnel Management

1900 E Street NW, Room 7412

Washington, DC 20415

Work-Life Programs

A work-life program is the business practice of creating a flexible, supportive environment to engage employees and maximize organizational performance. Key work-life programs offered to Federal employees include workplace flexibilities, such as dependent care, telework, worksite health and wellness, and Employee Assistance Programs. When implemented well, these programs can demonstrate significant benefits for agencies and employees.

OPM’s Work-Life Toolkit for Managers is a useful reference that provides executives with the information they need to deal with work-life issues in the workplace.

Development of Future Executives

Each agency is required to have an integrated training program, which supports the of the agency’s mission (Federal Workforce Flexibility Act of 2004) by building the agency’s leadership capacity. The training program is to include supervisors, managers, and executives on a range of management issues to improve employee performance and productivity.

  • Agencies must also establish systematic and comprehensive management succession plans for supervisory, managerial, and executive positions (5 CFR 412.202) to ensure the smooth transition in leadership of agency programs.

To highlight the importance of a broader approach to supervisory development, OPM developed the Federal Supervisory and Managerial Training Frameworks which outline the full scope of mandatory and recommended training for aspiring leaders.

The frameworks also include the requirements outlined in 5 CFR 412.202, which indicate that all leaders should be trained on managerial actions, options, and strategies that they may use:

  • relating to employees with unacceptable performance;
  • mentoring employees and improving employee performance and productivity; and
  • conducting employee performance appraisals.


OPM encourages agencies to provide coaching services as a supplement to leadership development efforts, particularly for new SES during their first year. Coaching is a practical, goal-focused form of one-on-one learning where the participant works with an internal or external coach who helps establish and monitor progress toward goals.

Agencies and executives can access internal federal coaching services through the Federal Coaching Network, which emerged in early 2013 under the partnership between OPM and the Chief Learning Officer’s Council. The network has an overarching goal of building and sharing coaching services across Government at no cost, and in April 2014 began training a cadre of Internal Federal Coaches. These Internal Federal Coaches, along with other trained coaches in the Federal Government, are listed in an online inventory housed on This Database of Internal Coaches is accessible to points of contact within each agency, which can use this resource to share coaching services across agencies.

For more information about coaching or the Federal Coaching Network, please send an email to

Learn more about Coaching Services offered by OPM’s Center for Leadership Development.

OPM Approved SES Candidate Development Programs (SESCDPs)

Statute: 5 U.S.C. 3396

Regulation: 5 CFR Part 412

The SES Candidate Development Program (SESCDP) is a means that agencies can use to manage their succession planning needs. An SESCDP provides aspiring senior executive leaders with Governmentwide leadership challenges, interactions with senior employees outside their department and/or agency, interagency training experience, executive level development assignments, and mentoring. The combination of these experiences should enhance their executive competencies and increase their understanding of government programs and issues beyond their individual agency and profession. Graduates of an OPM-approved SESCDP who are selected through civil service-wide competition and are certified by OPM’s Qualifications Review Board (QRB) may receive an initial career SES appointment without further competition. Certified graduates typically tend to be those who entered their SESCDP with experiences normally obtained at the GS-15 level. OPM encourages agencies’ Executive Resources (ER) staff to make SESCDP graduates aware of support resources available, and more information on these tools can be found in the OPM Support For QRB-Certified SESCDP Graduates section of this chapter. Agencies must have a written policy describing their program. Requirements for agency candidate development programs are in 5 CFR part 412, which requires all agencies to submit their program’s written policy to OPM for approval before announcing subsequent programs.

OPM Approval of SES Candidate Development Programs (SESCDPs)

As indicated in revised 5 CFR 412, agencies must obtain OPM approval before they conduct an SESCDP. Agencies must seek re-approval every five years.

Mail requests for OPM approval to:

U.S. Office of Personnel Management
Senior Executive Services and Performance Management
1900 E Street NW, Room 7412
Washington, DC 20415

Email requests for OPM approval to:

Developing SESCDP Policies for OPM Approval

OPM has developed an outline to assist agencies as they develop their SESCDP and operations document. The outline below includes program requirements, as stated in 5 CFR 412.302, which must be included to obtain OPM approval. Some of the components are described in more detail in the next sections of this chapter.

A.   Program Overview – This section describes how your program’s objectives contribute to the agency’s workforce goals. The information in this section includes—

  • Description of the program;
  • Statement of the program’s purpose, goals and objectives;
  • Description of how the program supports the agency’s strategic plan;
  • Description of how the program conforms to relevant statutory and regulatory authorities related to staffing and SESCDPs;
  • Description of how the program’s success will be measured;
  • Description of methods to be used to ensure program graduates are considered when executive vacancies occur and the ways in which the agency will facilitate placement of program graduates into the SES; and
  • Description of how the program ties into the agency’s succession plan, how the program is linked to projected SES vacancies within the agency, and how the program will help the agency achieve its succession and workforce diversity goals.

B.   Program Administration and Oversight – This section describes how an agency will organize and run the program. This section includes the program scope and the roles and responsibilities of team members. The information in this section includes—

  • Defined program scope– duration (including procedures for documenting the dates each candidate starts and finishes the program); target audience (e.g., all qualified individuals or only civil service employees); and organizational level responsible for program oversight (e.g., agency level, component level, or multi- level);
  • Description of the program-related roles and responsibilities of the following, as appropriate: Agency Head, ERB, SES Mentors, Human Resources Office, SESCDP Program Office, Developmental Assignment Supervisors, and SES Candidates; and
  • How the agency will—
    • Handle external selections for the purposes of placement and payment of program expenses; and
    • Periodically evaluate the program and incorporate the evaluation results into planning for future programs (please see OPM’s Training Evaluation Field Guide for information on evaluating your programs); 

5 CFR 410.202 requires all agencies to evaluate their training programs annually, to include SESCDPs, “…to determine how well such plans and programs contribute to mission accomplishment and meet organizational performance goals.” There are several methods agencies can use to evaluate training programs. One common method is Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Evaluation. The four levels are reaction, learning, behavior, and results. OPM has created the Training Evaluation Field Guide to help agencies evaluate their training programs. The OPM presentation on Evaluating the Effectiveness of SESCDP also contains helpful information, sample outcomes, metrics and a dashboard to further assist agencies in evaluating their CDPs at the results level. This presentation is available on OPM’s Training and Development wiki (see the SES Candidate Development Program page) and includes guidance on how to:

  • Plan, budget, and manage the overall program;
  • Document the specifics of the candidate selection process;
  • Ensure proper merit staffing procedures are followed in recruiting and selecting program participants;
  • Determine candidates’ development requirements and approve each candidate’s individual development plan;
  • Document the completion of all program requirements;
  • Monitor candidate performance (particularly in developmental assignments) and completion of all program requirements, as well as removing candidates who do not make adequate progress; and
  • Submit for QRB review only those graduates the ERB determines possess the executive qualifications for career appointment to the SES.

C.   Program Announcement – This section should describe all necessary vacancy announcement components. The information in this section must include—

  • Scope of the announcement – Identify if the announcement will be limited to recruitment from qualified individuals within the civil service, or be open to all groups of qualified individuals;
  • Length of time announcement will remain open. The announcement must be open on USAJOBS for at least 14 calendar days including the day of publication (5 CFR 317.501(b)(2)); and
  • Minimum recruitment sources must include an announcement on USAJOBS and reflect efforts to solicit applications from women, minorities, and persons with disabilities to help create and maintain a diverse SES workforce.

OPM encourages agencies to have their draft program announcements reviewed by OPM. Please send them to, or the current OPM SESCDP program manager, for review. In addition, please refer to the SESCDP announcement template on OPM’s SES Candidate Development Program Wiki page for additional guidance.

D.   Candidate Evaluation and Selection – This section must describe the selection process and all relevant assessment criteria needed to evaluate the candidates. The information in this section must include—

  • Information applicants must submit as part of the application process and the qualification requirements against which candidates will be evaluated (e.g., the five executive core qualifications and fundamental competencies);
  • Note: SESCDP participants will serve in a position no higher than GS-15, therefore an agency may require one year of specialized experience, including supervision, at the GS-14 or equivalent level, based upon job.
  • The basis for determining how well candidates meet the required qualifications (e.g., demonstrated experience, executive potential, competencies, and training);
  • Description of the mechanism(s) to be used to evaluate the candidates (e.g., review of applications, structured interviews, and assessment centers):
    • All eligible candidates must be rated and ranked on the same basis (5 CFR 317.501(c)(1)). Veteran’s preference should be applied when necessary (i.e., to non-status candidates) in accordance with 5 CFR 412.302(d)(1).
    • Note: Supervisor evaluations and other recommendations on candidates may not be used in the rating and ranking process.
  • Description on how Veterans’ preference will be applied during the selection process; and
  • Documentation outlining the methodology used by the ERB to evaluate the qualifications of each candidate:
    • Preliminary qualifications screening, rating and ranking of candidates, which may be delegated by the ERB;
    • Provision of written recommendations on each candidate by the ERB to the appointing authority;
    • Identification of the appointing authority and an outline of his/her options for acting on the ERB's recommendations;
    • Description of how the merit staffing records will be maintained (i.e., for at least 2 years after the appointing authority approves the selections); and
    • Description of agency procedures for handling inquiries regarding the staffing process.

E.   Program Curriculum – This section should describe the training program components including formal training, developmental assignments, assessment, mentoring and an executive development plan. The information in this section should include—

  • Description of the process to be used to assess each candidate's individual executive development needs (e.g., 360 degree assessment and assessment center report);
  • Description of how each candidate will develop the required executive development plan addressing developmental needs, which covers the entire period of the program. The development plan should include the following required components of an SESCDP:
    • Documentation that candidates receive a minimum of 80 hours of formal, interagency training addressing the executive core qualifications. A description includes how the agency intends to address the “wide mix” requirement for interagency training;
    • Explanation of the kinds of developmental activities (e.g., projects and details) candidates will be expected to complete in general, and specifically the four-month (120-day) executive level assignment(s) outside the candidate’s position of record. (It is required that at least one assignment be for a minimum of 90 consecutive days.) The minimum time interval for the executive level assignment(s) must be stated; and
    • Explanation of the agency's mentoring program and how the candidate will be matched with a current SES member mentor. A description also includes how often they will meet and any instructions both the mentor and protégé are provided; and
  • Description of any required standard courses, seminars, activities, etc.

F.   Program Completion and Candidate Certification – This section should describe criteria and documentation needed for candidates to complete the program and receive QRB certification. The information in this section should include—

  • Agency procedures for monitoring candidate progress throughout the program including:
    • Procedures for documenting candidate’s in-program performance and progress;
    • Procedures for documenting successful completion of the program;
    • Procedures for a pause in the program (i.e., medical emergency); and
    • Procedures for discontinuing a candidate’s participation in the program; and
  • Description of the agency’s procedures for requesting Qualifications Review Board (QRB) certification including a requirement that certification should be completed in a timely fashion upon completion of the program. It is recommended all candidates’ QRB packages be sent to OPM for QRB certification within 90 days of a candidate's successful completion of the program.

Organizational Oversight Level of SES Candidate Development Programs

The organizational level at which OPM approval is granted becomes the organizational level responsible for assuring that all programs conducted by the covered components are consistent with the OPM-approved SESCDP plan. This includes reviewing the documentation for proposed SESCDP graduates, certifying compliance with program requirements, and successful completion of the individual’s executive development plan as approved by the agency Executive Resources Board (ERB). Departments and agencies may establish a single program on a department or agency-wide basis, establish several programs at component levels, or pursue any combination of these options. However, a bureau or organization within a department may not independently propose a program to OPM without the approval of the department headquarters. The organizational oversight level of a candidate development program is entirely at the agency’s discretion.

Department/Agency-level approval. Departments/agencies may choose to obtain OPM approval of a single program at the department/agency level that covers all department/agency components. In this case, the department/agency is responsible for assuring that programs conducted meet the requirements of the department/agency approved plan. This includes reviewing the documentation and obtaining ERB certification of compliance with the plan and successful completion of the program.

Component-level approval. Departments/agencies may choose to allow major components to develop their own programs and individually seek OPM approval of their programs. In this case, each component is responsible for compliance with the plan and ERB certification.

Multiple-level approval. Departments/agencies may pursue a combination of these options. For example, they may permit major components to develop separate programs, while the department develops a program to cover those components that have not developed individual programs. In this case, the components may seek approval for their separate programs, while the department seeks approval for the remaining components.

Conducting Candidate Development Program in Partnership with Other Agencies

Agencies may conduct a program in partnership with other agencies (see 5 CFR 412.301(b)). The benefits of partnering with other agencies include sharing costs and other resources of a CDP, as well as sharing developmental assignments across agencies.

For example, two agencies partner to conduct a CDP. Each agency selects 10 candidates. The two agencies mutually decided to share the costs by having one agency pay for the development and administration of the assessment portion of the program and another agency pay for the candidate orientation and interagency training.

If agencies decide to partner to conduct an SESCDP, the partnership must be documented in the program overview submitted to OPM for approval. Agencies must describe in their policy overview document each agency’s roles and responsibilities.

Agencies may announce a program using a joint or separate USAJOBS vacancy announcement. If separate, the vacancy announcements must be consistent. Agencies may jointly rate and rank candidates. Each agency’s ERB is responsible for identifying its best qualified candidates for the program.

Recruiting for Candidate Development Programs

The merit staffing procedures described in Chapter 2 also apply to entry into an SES candidate development program.

Area of Consideration. Recruitment for SESCDPs is from all groups of qualified individuals within or outside the civil service. Graduates of programs, who were excepted from the recruiting area under the previous regulations (prior to December 2009) and who have been certified by a QRB must compete for entry to the SES. However, they do not have to obtain a second QRB certification before appointment.

Non-status appointment requirements. Candidates from outside Government and/or employees serving on other than career or career-type appointments (e.g., term and temporary) are considered “non-status.” Agencies must consider non-status civil service employees when announcing their program to all qualified individuals within the civil service. These candidates must be appointed using the Schedule B authority, see 5 CFR 213.3202(j). The appointment may not exceed or be extended beyond three years.

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

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.

Use of Recommendations in Selection Process

Some agencies request an “executive letter of reference” during the application process. Solicitation of recommendations from supervisors for use in the rating and ranking process is not allowed. An ERB can take an executive letter of reference into account after candidates have been rated and ranked and the best qualified list has been determined. An appointing authority might also consider such recommendations when making selections from among candidates on the Best Qualified list.

Memorandum of Understanding

If an agency sponsors an SESCDP and selects candidates from outside the agency, 5 CFR 412.302(d)(3) requires that the sponsoring agency develop a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the candidate’s home agency. The MOU would indicate the candidate can participate in the program even if leadership changes occur within the candidate’s home agency. The MOU should be signed by an official at a higher-level than the candidate’s first line supervisor (preferably, the Chief Human Capital Officer). A copy of the MOU must be submitted to OPM.

Terms of the MOU must be consistent with applicable provisions of 5 U.S.C. Chapter 41. Items that could be included in the MOU are:

  • Candidate’s Name;
  • Home Agency;
  • SESCDP Sponsoring Agency;
  • Program Duration;
  • Components of the program to be completed; and
  • A provision that establishes which of the two agencies pays for what program-related costs (e.g., for training, details, travel, etc.).

Either agency may decline or discontinue a candidate’s participation if such terms cannot be negotiated or fulfilled.

Formal Training Experience

Candidates are required to complete at least 80 hours of formal training throughout the duration of the program. The formal training must address the ECQs and their application to SES positions, and it is recommended the training target competency gaps identified during the initial assessment phase of the program. Candidates’ training must include interaction with a wide mix of senior managers and executives outside the candidate’s department or agency to foster a broader perspective. A “wide mix” of senior managers and executives can also include state, local, foreign governments, and private and non-profit sector personnel. The requirement for 80 hours of formal training does not have to be met through one 80-hour course; it can be met through a series of courses. However, the formal training should target specific ECQs identified during the initial assessment for each candidate.

“Grandfathering” Recently Attended Training

To some extent, candidates do have the option to count training they have recently attended towards the 80-hour interagency requirement provided that training included the necessary interaction with senior employees from outside the candidate’s department or agency. For this purpose, “interagency” and “multi-sector” participation is credited and includes state, local, and foreign governments as well as private sector and non-profit organizations.

  • A maximum of 40 hours of recent training can be counted towards the 80-hour requirement. Types of training include:
    • Classroom training;
    • Training targeted to meet one or more ECQs the candidate is trying to develop;
    • Online/web-based training – it is unlikely a candidate would utilize web-based training to meet the 80-hour training requirement because the candidate needs to show how interaction with other senior employees met the requirement for substantive interaction with other senior executives; or
    • Graduate level courses in a degree program accredited by the U.S. Department of Education. Based on American Council for Education guidelines, 40 hours of instruction are equivalent to about three graduate semester hours.
  • The nature of the training must be interagency and/or multi-sector. This should be verified through review of sufficient supporting information, such as:
    • Syllabus of the training;
    • List of speakers; and
    • Description of the types of participants including the participant’s agency or organization; and the nature of interaction during the training.
  • The candidate must show evidence of course completion and the training must address one of the ECQs the candidate identified at the beginning of the program as needing development. Agencies must verify the candidate’s completion of the training and ensure the training addressed the ECQs.
  • The training must have been completed within a one-year period prior to selection. However, the training could have begun any time before the one-year period prior to selection.

The focus of the entire program should be on closing competency gaps identified at the beginning of the program. If after all the requirements are met and the candidate’s competency gap(s) are not all addressed, the agency will need to provide training or other developmental opportunities (e.g., developmental assignments) to the candidate prior to QRB certification. Ultimately, the agency must provide the appropriate developmental strategies to enable candidates to address their competency gap(s) to meet the Criterion B qualifications.

Developmental Assignments

One of the requirements listed in 5 CFR 412.302(c)(3) is a developmental assignment totaling at least four months of full-time service outside the candidate’s position of record. One assignment must be at least 90 continuous days in a position other than, and substantially different from, the candidate’s position of record. The purpose of the assignment is to broaden the candidate’s experience and/or increase the knowledge of the overall function of the agency, so the candidate is prepared for a variety of SES positions. The assignment(s) must include executive-level responsibilities and differ from the candidate’s current and past assignments. The assignment(s) should challenge the candidate with respect to leadership competencies and the ECQs.

Developmental assignments do not need to be restricted to the candidate’s home or sponsoring agency, the Executive Branch, or even the Federal Government, so long as the assignment(s) can be accomplished in compliance with applicable law and Federal and agency-specific ethics regulations.

Candidates are held accountable for organizational and/or agency results achieved during the assignment. If an assignment is in a non-Federal organization, the agency’s ERB must provide for adequate documentation of the individual’s actions and accomplishments and must determine the assignment will contribute to the development of the candidate’s executive qualifications.

In line with the National Strategy for the Development of National Security Professionals, agencies should place particular emphasis on developmental assignments for SESCDP candidates who are designated as National Security Professionals (NSP) under EO 13434, May 17, 2007. A developmental assignment is almost essential if the SESCDP candidate is currently in an NSP position or would like to develop NSP competencies. See OPM’s CHCO memorandum on “Recommended National Security Professional Qualification for NSP SES,” dated November 26, 2008, for more information.

An SESCDP developmental assignment listing has been developed to aid SESCDP candidates to find developmental assignments. Agencies submit developmental assignment opportunities to OPM by emailing for review and approval. Once these developmental assignment opportunities are approved, they will be sent to SESCDP coordinators. Agencies should use this listing as a tool to offer opportunities for all SESCDP candidates and encourage their candidates to utilize this website when searching for developmental assignment opportunities.

SES Mentors for SESCDP Candidates

All SESCDP candidates are required to have an SES mentor. The SES mentor should have the knowledge and capacity to advise the candidate, consistent with the goals of the agency SESCDP. The SES mentor must be approved by the agency ERB. Candidates have the option of finding their own mentors, or agencies can facilitate the selection of mentors and candidates through the following options:

Develop a list of ERB-approved SES mentors. Candidates can indicate their top choices. The program coordinator matches the candidates with one of their choices, if possible. Alternatively, match mentors and candidates using an automated tool. Candidates complete a profile online and indicate their top choices. The tool would assist the program coordinator in matching the candidate with a mentor.

Candidates and mentors are jointly responsible for developing a productive relationship during the program. However, agencies are responsible for establishing methods to assess these relationships, and facilitate or make appropriate changes, if necessary.

More information about SESCDP Mentor Requirements and the SESCDP Candidate Evaluation Form can be found on the OPM Training and Development Policy Wiki.

Documentation for a QRB Certification. Prior to submitting requests to OPM for a QRB certification of graduates’ executive qualifications, the mentor must provide a completed Mentor Evaluation.

OPM Re-Approval of SES Candidate Development Programs (SESCDPs)

As indicated in 5 CFR 412, agencies must submit for re-approval an updated or new program overview every five years from the approval date of their original plan to continue operating an SESCDP. This approval helps to ensure the SESCDP’s continued and current alignment with the agency’s succession plan. Agencies should follow OPM’s guidance for developing SESCDP policies and complete a thorough analysis of their program evaluation efforts. Additionally, agencies should submit their SESCDP’s program evaluation results including:

  • Description of cohort(s) characteristics (e.g., candidate demographic data, program completion rate, QRB-certification rate, SES placement rate, etc.);
  • Description of candidate satisfaction with program components (e.g., interagency training, developmental assignment, mentoring relationship, etc.);
  • Description of evaluation methods used to collect data (e.g., candidate surveys, focus groups, etc.);
  • Description of the program impact on the agency’s succession plan, SES vacancies within the agency, and workforce diversity goals; and
  • Description of evaluation conclusions and recommendations including strengths of the program, recommendations for improvement, and other implications of the findings (e.g., policy implications, curriculum revisions, etc.).

Mail requests for OPM re-approval to:

U.S. Office of Personnel Management
Senior Executive Services and Performance Management
1900 E Street NW, Room 7412
Washington, DC 20415

Email requests for OPM re-approval to:

Qualifications Review Board Certification

QRB Action

The criteria for QRB Criterion B certification are the same as criterion A cases – possession of the Executive Core Qualifications. The QRB reviews each candidate’s mentor assessment, EDP, and training and developmental experiences based on the documentation provided to ensure the information provides the basis for certification of the individual’s executive qualifications as required by 5 U.S.C. 3393. If the agency has an OPM-approved CDP and the candidate has completed the program requirements in 5 CFR 412.302(c), the QRB will determine if the candidate possesses the executive qualifications required for initial career appointment to the SES.

If a candidate is not initially approved by the QRB, the agency has the option to revise the package and clarify any areas identified by the QRB panel. If a candidate is disapproved a second time, then the agency must address any competency gaps identified by the QRB panel before submitting the candidate for approval a third time.

Appointment of SESCDP Graduates Into the SES

SESCDP graduates, who competed at least civil service-wide, are eligible for an initial career appointment without further competition to any SES position for which they meet professional/technical qualification requirements. An agency may noncompetitively appoint any certified SESCDP graduate, regardless of whether they currently work in that agency. Positions filled noncompetitively do not need to be posted on USAJOBS or otherwise advertised. However, QRB certification does not guarantee placement in the SES.

The few SESCDP candidates who were selected through agency-wide competition under the previous 5 CFR 412 rule, not civil service-wide competition, must compete for their first SES career appointment even if they are certified by the QRB.

Certified graduates can also compete for any vacancy and be selected and remain certified by the QRB.

OPM Support For QRB-Certified SESCDP Graduates

CDP-Opps Listserv

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has launched a new Senior Executive Service (SES) Candidate Development Program (CDP) Opportunities listserv (CDP-Opps) ( to help all agencies recruit for SES vacancies as well as to help place current QRB-certified Candidate Development Program (CDP) 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.

Qualifications Review Board (QRB)-certified SES CDP 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 SES 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; and
  • List of required application materials, such as:
    • Current Resume;
    • Technical Qualifications Statements (if necessary);
    • OPM-issued SES Certificate; and
    • Any other required items;
  • Application Submission Deadline; and
  • 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; and
  • 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 SES CDP graduates can register for the CDP-Opps 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 CDP 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 email

CDP Registry

The SES Candidate Development Program (CDP) Graduate Registry is a searchable database that contains profiles of Qualifications Review Board (QRB)-certified CDP Graduates that are ready to be appointed to the Senior Executive Service (SES). QRB-certified CDP graduates are available to be non-competitively appointed to SES vacancies, saving weeks or months when compared to traditional hiring timeframes using USAJOBS.

The goals of the CDP Registry are to increase the placement rate of QRB-certified CDP graduates and to fill SES vacancies more rapidly.

While many agencies also utilize the CDP-Opps listserv to announce SES vacancies, the CDP Registry allows SES Hiring Managers to search for QRB-certified CDP graduates based on search criteria. QRB-certified CDP graduates are encouraged to send in their resume and profile form to; and many have done so.

The CDP Registry is hosted at, offering SES Hiring Managers across government real-time access to a secure database of CDP Graduates. Points of Contact have been identified at each Agency to perform searches for their Agency in the CDP Registry. The goal is for SES Hiring Managers to better recognize the existing talent that makes up the leadership bench and convert many to SES positions.

For more information on the CDP Registry, please email

CDP LinkedIn Group

The SES Candidate Development Program (CDP) participants also have access to a LinkedIn group specifically for use while in a CDP. This group acts as a place for aspiring SES in a CDP to receive information on Developmental Assignments, share professional articles related to executive and leadership development, and build their network as they make steps toward finding a spot in the Senior Executive Service. Participants can gain access to this private LinkedIn group by selecting “Ask to Join.”

OPM Executive Development Programs

OPM maintains an online catalogue of Federal Leadership Development Programs (FedLDP). This is a searchable electronic library of programs offered by Federal departments and agencies to foster the development of leadership skills in their agencies.

OPM’s Center for Leadership Development (CLD) in OPM’s Human Resources Solutions Division provides professional and leadership development through a rigorous career-long continuum of offerings that support advancement within the civil service to achieve our Nation’s missions and goals. CLD programs are delivered governmentwide and worldwide through virtual, blended eLearning, and residential or in-person settings. CLD operates training facilities in Washington DC (Eastern Management Development Center), Charlottesville, VA (Federal Executive Institute), and Denver, CO (Western Management Development Center).

For overall information about CLD programs please email:

For additional information see OPM’s Overview for CLD and the CLD Schedule at a Glance which shows CLD Open-enrollment programs.

Information about CLD programs tailored to individuals in the Senior Executive Service and for those aspiring to the SES, may be found on OPM.GOV at the following links: 

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