Foreign Service Application Timeline

The application process for joining the foreign service has been over a year in the making, beginning with the extensive written application. The process has since been changed to simplify the initial application, moving the essays to a new phase implemented after the candidate passes the written examination. The following is my timeline of progression through the process. Your mileage may vary.


07-08-2008 Completed Application for Foreign Service and Schedule Written Test (selected Political cone)
11-05-2008 Took the Written Test (FSOT)
12-08-2008 Received Email Results of FSOT (57.75+67.67+61.68=187.1)
02-17-2009 Received Email Results of Qualifications Evaluation Panel (pass)
03-09-2009 Scheduled Oral Assessment Date (online)
04-28-2009 Oral Assessment in Washington, DC, Annex 44 (pass, 5.7)
05-07-2009 Faxed Complete Medical Clearance Forms after completing all tests
05-15-2009 Security Clearance File Opened (target completion date: 07-14-2009)
06-02-2009 Received Medical Clearance
06-08-2009 Three-hour Meeting with Diplomatic Security Investigator
07-10-2009 Field Investigation Completed; Security File Referred to Adjudication
08-11-2009 Security Clearance Granted; File Referred to HR
08-13-2009 Final Suitability Review Panel approved candidacy. #30 of 80 on the Political cone register.
08-31-2009 Offer received and accepted.
10-26-2009 A-100 Orientation started.

14 thoughts on “Foreign Service Application Timeline

  1. Aloha!

    Congratulations on your journey so far. As a 52 year old lawyer, father of three and internationalist, any tips as I head to the OA on November 20th?


  2. I’ve been following your blog with interest as I await my own clearance (in adjudication for the past three weeks). It’s good to hear of your experiences, some of which I hope I’ll share in the coming months as my own process kicks off.

    Just wanted to say that your “About me” message is one of the nicest I’ve seen on the web. You lead a charmed life!

    Good luck in DC. Keep updating your blog! We “prospectives” are reading it and dreaming our own little dreams as we do!

  3. Thanks for the timetable. I’m still at the early stages–just submitted my PN questionnaire. Sounds like things have gone your way your whole life–God smiled on you man–Im sure that shone through at your interviews—nice and easy–most of us arent that fortunate. I’m sure up in perfectland, you don’t have a clue–but I still have to try, right? You probably look like a male model too—might as well have everything.

    1. Wow, Bill. Pefectville? I have no doubt been very fortunate. I don’t attribute it, however, to any deity or birthright. Instead, it has been a lot of hard work and a lot of luck. There have been more than a few stumbles, struggles, and failures along the way.

      I don’t dwell on the pitfalls, however, and I don’t underestimate how much timing and good fortune play a part in success (as Malcolm Gladwell makes clear in Outliers). If it makes you feel any better, I’m about as far from a male model as you can get. My wife finds me attractive which is all I care about in that area. As my son told me once, smart and funny go a long way (and that helps make up for short and follicle-challenged).

      Best of luck with your candidacy. Focus on those factors under your control and ignore the rest.

  4. Holy poop! You got on the register and then 2 weeks later you got an offer?! Is that normal?

    I’m currently in Moscow in the DAO and am considering retiring from the military to try and pass the FSO test. My timeline looks like this:

    Oct/Nov 2010 Take FSOT
    Summer 2012 Retire from military

    Pretty much that’s all I got. Whatcha think? (I’ve got the clearance and the med clearance…if that changes the timeline.)

    Like your blog…will continue to read it.


  5. Best of luck with the transition, Mike. There were several former military in my class and I believe that’s a trend for some time. As for the timing, there are a lot of factors that can add delays, but having an updated top secret security clearance takes care of a lot of them. You’ll have to first determine which cone to designate on your application. Consular and management are the two in highest demand and thus require the lowest oral assessment scores to receive an offer (in the last two years, passing the OA in CON or MGT gets you a spot in the next class). Political and Public Diplomacy tend to be the ones that require the highest scores (typically, you’ll need a 5.7 to feel comfortable but some in the 5.4-5.5 have been called during this hiring surge).

    You will also get bonus points for your military service. If you speak Russian and can pass the telephone test, you’re in quickly if you pass the OA. 5.3 minimum pass + 0.17 military + 0.4 Russian = 5.87.

    Bottom line is to decide which cone and jump into the process. I took my FSOT the day after election day and was sitting in A-100 eleven months later. Don’t worry about applying too early. It will allow you time to retake if you don’t pass one of the steps and if you sail through each step, they will defer your offer. Without the security and medical delays, you could be through the process in 6 months.

    1. Thanks Daniel. You’ll also be receiving an email from me on my state account. I’ll put “IronMike” in the subj line.

      Now, with the cones in mind…I’m not the best tester (did fine in the practice grammar test but the ‘job knowledge’ one…well, that’ll take some studying!). Public Diplomacy came up on top when I did the online 50-question “find your cone.” But I also saw that there are 1.5 candidates for every one mngt or cons job, while there are 3 candidates for every PD job…I really want to stick to my guns and pick PD, but what’s your opinion? I know everyone can do any job (and all new FSOs do a CONS job in their first or second posting)…

  6. Wow! Your timeline is a shot in the arm! I appreciate reading the specifics you lay out on test thresholds.
    I just took the June test and will hear soon whether I can proceed to the next gate. Wish me luck.
    We seem to have a lot in common (except for the wife and kids) I’m also a former prosecutor/trial lawyer and … I’ve shot my share of sports as a journalist!
    Thanks for the great blog!

      1. Hi Daniel:
        I passed the FSWE and am now working on my Personal Narratives. I don’t know my test scores yet.
        May I ask what cone you chose?
        I enthusiastically chose the Consular Cone. It would be a perfect fit for my interests and experience.
        I am totally enjoying reading your blog!

  7. Hopefully formatting works, but here’s my timeline so far if people find this page like I did trying to estimate the process length.

    4/27/2009 Completed Application for Foreign
    Service and Scheduled Written Test
    (Management cone)
    6/6/2009 Took the Written Test (FSOT)
    7/1/2009 Received Email Results of FSOT
    7/24/2009 Took phone test for Mandarin
    7/31/2009 Emailed and passed phone test
    9/14/2009 Received Email Results of QEP
    10/1/2009 Scheduled Oral Assessment Date
    2/18/2010 Oral Assessment in DC, (pass, 5.5)
    3/9/2010 Faxed Medical Clearance Forms
    3/30/2010 Received Medical Clearance
    ? Security Clearance File Opened
    (target completion date: not told,
    didn’t know to ask)
    4/6/2010 Three-hour Meeting with Security
    4/20/2010 Started Med Tests for Family
    7/12/2010 Last Medical Clearance received
    (Wife+2 kids)
    7/9/2010 Security Clearance Granted; File
    Referred to HR (Found out 7/22
    after reading and
    found out I could call to ask)
    8/9/2010 After 3 weeks trying to contact HR
    finally found out I was on the
    register (#18 of 89 in Management)
    Paused status until April when
    Graduate. Wrote to accept
    Mandarin points, should move up
    register with a 5.9 now.
    hope Feb ’11 Offer received and accepted.
    hope April ’11 A-100 Orientation started.

    Few other notes about myself for perspective. Moved out of state to school Aug ’09, then again for internship May ’10, then to new apt Aug ’10. I have tried to drag it out somewhat to fit my graduation schedule better, Spring 2011

    Agree with comment about calling for a response, never had messages or emails returned. Keep calling until you get through. Best of luck to everyone and hopefully this helps.

  8. Hi there: I passed the Feb 2011 exam with dreadful scores on the Biog section–I did well enough on the Job Knowledge and English to make up for it, but just barely. Any ideas what leads to a poor score on my own biographical knowledge? I was as honest as possible. Any suggestions for my PNQ as they appear to be seeking similar information? I was a lawyer with the federal courts for years, not working as a lawyer for the past five years (which is perhaps why my biographical score was low?). I presently live in Canada as a visitor. Thank you for any suggestions you may make. Enjoy your next tours, they both sound exciting.

  9. Hey Daniel!

    We miss you over here in Ottawa. I take the written on Monday; so I was just re-reading your words of wisdom and suggestions. I’m a bit nervous, but hopefully I’ll pull it off. Any idea whether it’s structure and grammar they grade more for on the essay or content? I’m scared I won’t have any knowledge on the question options, and that would just–well–suck. Hope Lahore’s treating you well. I don’t think I’ve had a good laugh listening to the applicants since you left!!! All the best.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s