Page 17 - Foreign Service Journal - May 2013

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MAY 2013
Even a short interview would help
reveal each ofcer’s ability to live up
to Senior Foreign Service precepts.
principal ofcers, the Foreign Service
Institute covers 34 leadership themes
organized in broad categories: execut-
ing, infuencing, relationship building
and strategic thinking.
Of these, “infuencing” is argu-
ably the most fundamental to the art
of diplomacy. Yet the specifc skill,
often described as the ability to “woo,”
is never identifed as a strength pos-
sessed by course participants. Tat may
be because this vague yet powerful
aptitude can surely only be assessed
in action (as in an interview), not in
Other global organizations follow
well-developed best practices in select-
ing their top executives. At Fortune 500
companies, it is common for at least
one of the promotion decision-makers
to personally know the candidate and
have frsthand experience with her or
his performance.
Corporate leadership experts includ-
ing McKinsey & Company, author of
the State Department’s “War for Talent”
report, note that an executive’s future
potential must be based on personality,
ft within the organization and listen-
ing skills. Te department should be
benchmarking itself on these kinds of
thorough vetting processes.
Implementing a threshold inter-
view need not be costly or difcult. Te
Career Development Program already
includes several requirements an ofcer
must meet before opening her or his
window. Once promoted to FS-1, of-
cers have years before they are consid-
ered for the senior threshold, during
which time they would certainly serve
in Washington or be there for consulta-
With this in mind, the Bureau of
Human Resources should establish
a roster of senior ofcers assigned to
Washington who have volunteered to
serve as “threshold interviewers.” One
can envision a system under which an
FS-1 ofcer contacts HR two months in
advance to schedule the interview with
an ad hoc committee of three senior
interviewers. A simple format could be
established, with perhaps a menu of 20
questions interviewers could choose
Te 30-minute interview would
be video-recorded and added to the
ofcer’s performance fle. In addition
to reading the fle, senior promotion
panels would watch the videos and take
them into account in ranking candi-
Time for a Change
For all these reasons, I believe the
time has come to update the threshold
review process. Not only would more
mistakes be avoided, but several candi-
dates stuck at the FS-1 level would no
doubt fnd their live performance tips
the scales and gets them into the Senior
Foreign Service.
Above all, a simple 30-minute
interview would improve promotion
panels’ ability to choose who should
cross the SFS threshold and lead the
State Department in the future.