I am greatly relieved to report that my personal narratives (short essays) somehow made it past the Qualifications Evaluation Panel(QEP) and I am moving on to the next step in the process of becoming a US Diplomat, the Oral Assessment (OA).
Needless to say, I am very excited to have made it this far but I also know that unless I make it all the way, none of it really matters. Now I have to figure out how to prepare for the OA.
The OA, in case you were wondering, is an interview on steroids. It’s an all-day affair that starts at 7 a.m. and may last up until 6 p.m. It includes a group exercise, a structured interview, a case management exercise and an exit interview. More information on each of these components of the OA as well as sample questions/scenarios can be found here.
At the end of the OA, you know if you have passed or not and if you are one of the few that pass, you get to go home with a conditional offer of employment. It’s conditional because you still have to get medical and security clearances and pass the final suitability review. If you pass the final suitability review, you get to hang out on the hiring register, where everyone is arranged according to their scores from the OA. That’s the list of candidates from which the department makes the hiring calls. There are actually five different registers - one for each of the five career tracks in the Foreign Service (Consular, Economic, Management, Political and Public Diplomacy). You pick your track at the very beginning of the process, when you register to take the written test (FSOT). I picked Management.
If you know a foreign language or are a veteran, you can get extra points, which would improve your position on the register. The higher you are on the register, the more likely you are to get called. But again, there are no guarantees you will get called because you can be on the register for a maximum of 18 months. New people are constantly being added to the register and their scores may be higher than yours, in which case you will get bumped down in your position on the register. If you don’t get called within 18 months, your name simply drops off the register. Which means, too bad for you because if you are still interested in becoming a diplomat, you have to go all the way back and retake the FSOT and all the steps thereafter. Yeah, let’s hope I won’t have to do that but this will be my first time taking the OA and I know more than a handful of excellent Foreign Service Officers, who did not pass the OA on their fist attempt and had to start from scratch (sometimes multiple times).
So that’s where I am right now. I have scheduled my OA - it’s on January 27. Wish me luck and if you have any advice on how to prepare for the OA, I am all ears.