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Selection Process

Oral Assessment

Applicants who pass the Foreign Service Written Examination will be invited to a day-long Oral Assessment, which includes a writing exercise and a structured examination conducted by a panel of Foreign Service assessors. Examination questions and exercises involve hypothetical and problem-solving situations as well as interaction with other candidates. Passing the oral assessment allows the candidate to progress to the subsequent stages of candidacy described below. The Oral Assessment is given in Washington, D.C., and at other selected sites around the United States. Travel to an assessment site is at the candidate's expense.

Background Investigation

Applicants who are successful in the Oral Assessment will be asked to submit forms required for a security clearance and suitability determination for appointment to the Foreign Service. The clearance process considers such factors as registration for the Selective Service, failure to repay a U.S. Government-guaranteed student loan, past problems with credit or bankruptcy, failure to meet tax obligations, unsatisfactory employment records, violations of the law, drug or alcohol abuse, criminal record, or a less than honorable discharge from the armed forces.  Investigations, which may take several months, include current and previous contacts, supervisors, and co-workers. Candidates who are found unsuitable for the Foreign Service as a result of the background investigation or who cannot be granted a security clearance are ineligible for appointment. These investigations are conducted by the Department of State in cooperation with other federal, state and local agencies.

Final Review

As the last step in the selection process, the candidate is evaluated by a Final Review Panel consisting of two examiners who did not participate in the Oral Assessment or personal interview with  the candidate. This panel determines the candidate's overall suitability for the Foreign Service.

The panel carefully reviews the entire file, especially the background investigation report, which will include information across the entire spectrum of a candidate's adult life, demonstrating, inter alia, his or her level of maturity and suitability and social and personal behavior, including serious problems. Using the complete record, which includes file material and a record of performance at the Assessment Center, the panel will determine whether the candidate is unsuitable, in which case the candidacy will be terminated, or whether the candidacy should be placed on the register of candidates found qualified for employment as Foreign Service Officers. In either event, the panel notifies the candidate of its decision by letter.

Medical Clearance

Each candidate who receives a conditional offer of employment must pass a thorough medical examination.  The candidate is given instructions for the examining physician(s) which outline the precise requirements and a voucher which authorizes  the Department of State payment for the exam. While a medical clearance for full overseas duty is an essential qualification for prospective Foreign Service employees, the Department of State no longer considers the medical condition of eligible family members for pre-employment purposes.  However, the Department still requires medical clearances for family members before they can travel overseas to accompany an employee on assignment at U.S. government expense. Family members, who, for medical reasons, are unable to accompany an employee on an overseas assignment, are eligible for a separate maintencace allowance.  In cases where medical problems lead to denial of medical clearance for the candidate or an eligible family member, at the candidate's request the Employment Review Committee will determine whether the medical disqualification should be waived. The Committee is also responsible for determining whether accommodation can be provided for disabled candidates who have been successful in the assessment process.

Placement on a List of Eligible Hires

The names of candidates who are successful at the Oral Assessment are placed on a rank-order list of eligible candidates based on the scores they received.  Then, as openings become available, conditional offers of employment are made to candidates beginning at the top of the list. Placement on the list of eligible candidates does not necessarily mean that a job offer will be made--hiring is dependent on the needs of the Foreign Service.

Pre-Employment Drug Screening

Pre-employment drug screening is required for all Foreign Service appointees.


The Department of State is committed to equal opportunity and fair and equitable treatment for all without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, sexual orientation, disabling condition, political affiliation, marital status, or prior statutory, constitutionally protected activity.

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