New Requirement in the Oral Assessment

The State Department announced today that a three to four minute “Ambassador’s Debrief” will be added to the FSOT for each applicant right after the Oral Assessment’s discussion exercise.  The change will come into force March 3.

No great surprise and nothing to lose sleep over.  You will be doing a lot of this in your Foreign Service career, and probably do it now as a student or employee.

In short, immediately after the discussion section, you will be expected to brief two assessors, one of whom will act as ambassador, on the group’s decision and the rationale.  You can take notes during the discussion, but you won’t have access to the notes for your briefing.

I believe that since there’s only a little time to brief — four minutes — you’d be best served by first going over the facts — who, what, where, when.  After the decision, you should handle the “why.”  The rationale.  First, discuss how the group arrived at the decision, highlight the alternative options (a key piece of info for any boss in the Foreign Service), and describe any dissenting views.

A change in the Assessment, especially adding an exercise, is always something to take notice of.  But really you should be able to handle this easily, and it will give still another way for the assessors to see how well you brief, answer questions and think on your feet.

The Foreign Service says that you should practice your “oral briefing skills.”  Duh.  But honestly this is only a minor change.  You’ll sit through the whole discussion session and follow the formula — decision, rationale, dissenting (or interesting views) — and you won’t go wrong.  Give the facts, and when the “ambassador” asks you questions — did you agree with the decision, why the decision doesn’t seem sensible, etc — hit him or her with your opinions.

Consider this an extemporaneous portion of FSOT.

Good luck and crush it.















The Debriefing (a new component added effective March 3, 2014) 

The Ambassador’s debrief simulates a situation frequently experienced by FSOs. Following the conclusion of the group’s discussion, each candidate will have three to four minutes privately to brief two assessors on the results of the group’s deliberations. One of these assessors will play the role of the Ambassador and ask the candidate several follow-up questions, while the second assessor will escort the candidate from the group exercise room to the interview room. Both assessors remain in the room for the duration of the conversation. Since the dynamics of each group will vary, a candidate’s ability to prepare for the debrief will be limited. However, candidates may find it useful to practice oral briefing skills. It will also be critical that candidates fully understand the group’s final decision and the rationale that led to that decision. Although candidates may take notes during the presentation and discussion phases, these notes will not be available during the Ambassador’s debrief.

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