By Nancy Segal, Solutions for the Workplace, LLC

2014 saw many agencies announce Candidate Development Programs (CDPs)—the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the U.S. Secret Service (USSS), the Bureau of the Mint, and the Social Security Administration (SSA), were among the agencies that did so. CDPs are an excellent opportunity for those interested in considering future SES opportunities.

Agencies use CDPs as a succession planning tool to identify and prepare aspiring senior leaders by developing competencies in each of the Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs)—leading change, leading people, results driven, business acumen, and building coalitions. While completion of a CDP does not guarantee selection into the SES (nor is it required), graduates of CDPs may have their ECQs certified by an Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Qualification Review Board (QRB) may be selected for a SES position without further completion.

While many agencies require experience at the grade 15 or equivalent for participation in a CDP, some agencies allow those with grade 14 or equivalent experience to participate. CDP opportunities are posted on USAJOBS and are required to be posted for a minimum of 14 days. Agencies may tailor their CDP programs to meet their individual needs, however, they should promote the goal of a “corporate SES,”—the development of a diverse group of career executives who are committed to leading within their own agencies and throughout government.

All CDPs last a minimum of 12 months and include the following components:
• an Individual Development Plan (IDP), based on individual needs and competencies;
• at least 80 hours of formal training that addresses the ECQs and includes individuals from outside the candidate’s agency;
• at least 4 months of developmental assignments outside the candidate’s position of record; and
• an SES mentor.

Those interested in learning about CDP opportunities may sign-up on USAJOBS:
1. Login to your USAJOBS.gov account
2. Go to My Account/Saved Searches/Create New Search
3. Enter Candidate Development Program in the Title Search field
4. Select the appropriate Yes or No response under the Applicant Eligibility field
5. Enter a name for your saved search in the Name Your Saved Search field
6. Select how often you want to receive email notifications (i.e., daily or weekly)

It should also be noted that some agencies and organizations offer executive potential programs that do not result in ECQ certification by a QRB. Successful completion of these programs does not allow for non-competitive selection into SES positions but these programs often provide similar opportunities for training and developmental assignments.


Nancy Segal is a federal career and job search expert. Following her own senior-level federal HR career, she founded Solutions for the Workplace LLC to provide HR management perspective to astute applicants to U.S. government positions. Nancy is also one of our premier management and career development trainers for our online webinars.

If you have any questions for Nancy concerning your federal career or the federal job search process you can email her at fedcareer@fedweek.com.