The White House is watching with interest to see how many top-paid career bureaucrats volunteer for potentially hazardous duty under the new Senior Executive Service.

SES members will not be shot at, forced to climb dangerous mountains or parachute behind enemy lines. But Grade 16, 17 and 18 personnel who enlist in the new elite management cadre will be taking more risks with their careers, in return for the chance at better assignments, quicker promotions and big bonuses if they do well.

Most of the supergraders are located in the metropolitan Washington area. Early next year they will be asked if they want to come into the SES. Those who refuse will stay as they are. But, in effect, they will be locking themselves into their present grade and pay level, since future glories are intended mainly for SES members.

Beginning next year anybody promoted to the supergrade ranks will automatically become part of SES, which is the capstone of the president's civil service reorganization plan. Within 5 to 10 years, almost everybody in the government's top grades will be in the SES, subject to more control - in terms of pay , where they work and what they do - than the present career service.

Carter administration officials have worked hard trying to persuade some skeptical bureaucrats - survivors of both LBJ and Nixon-style politics - that the SES will not be used to make career government officials captives of the party in power. They anticipate a good, voluntary turnout of incumbent supergraders will elect to go into the SES.

With the next couple of months White House officials and career managers who are already believers will be put to work trying to sell the all-volunteer SES concept to the last batch of people who will have the option of volunteering or staying on the outside of the new civil service.

George Kroloff, one of Washington's top public relations experts, has taken over as president of Ruder & Finn Inc. here. Kroloff was special assistant to three postmasters general, served as public-community affairs director for The Washington Post and held the top job on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff as special assistant to John Sparkman (D-Ala.).

Union Elections: Word from the vote-counting at the National Association of Letter Carriers has it that president J. Joseph Vacca and most other national officers may be heading for defeat. The anti-incumbent backlash is worrying leaders of the American Postal Workers Union. Their mail ballot counting begins shortly. One of the challengers reportedly was so confident that he began house-hunting in the Washington suburbs before the mail ballots went out to members.

Supervisors' Test: The Prince George's postal union local of APWU has come up with this tongue-in-cheek (it says) multiple choice quiz to check for supervisory potential. A few items from it:

"1. When you were born, the doctor noticed something a little strange about you:

"(a) You had a birthmark on your left knee!

"(b) You demanded an explanation!

"(c) You were wearing a leisure suit!

"2. As a small child, your favorite game was:

"(a) Cowboys and Indians

"(b) Chasing Cars!

"(c) Firing your playmates for insubordination!

"3. In high school, you distinguished yourself by:

"(a) Always being on the honor roll!

"(b) Beating up short people.

"(c) Requesting that time clocks be installed in all classrooms!

"4. Your first love was:

"(a) Sweet, beautiful and sexy!

"(b) A miracle of modern technology!

"(c) Not pleased when you wrote him/her up for improper footwear!

"5. The way you see it, most people are:

"(a) Basically good!

"(b) Playing loud music in your building at 3 a.m.!

"(c) Spending too much time in the bathroom!"

If your answer to most questions was "c" the union says you have management potential.

Federal Women's Week: Department of Energy is inviting feds (men and woman) from all over to take part in its Oct. 16-20 observance of FWW. Jill Leonhardt is coordinator. Call her at 376-4524.