Monday, October 30, 2017

Bidding Wars: The Last Handshake

Need I say more?
Actually, yes! Yes, I do need to say more. First thing this morning I accepted my automated handshake offer from the EUR bidding software. However, much to my surprise, a few hours later I received another handshake offer! This is not ideal (for post or for me). The offer was from a heavily bid post that hadn't responded to any of my lobbying since my initial e-mail on September 21st. I had assumed I was not in the running.

Given the fact that I didn't receive a BLC last week, I would guess that I was not their first choice. However... it is plausible that no one else took the position and they are now scrambling down their list to find someone. In a related situation, we received an e-mail from a post in a similar situation last Friday. It was a heavily bid on post, but... 10 bidders is meaningless if it's #2 on all of their lists (and they all get their #1 choices.) In my case, it's sad, because the offer is from a post I would have said was my dream post four years ago... but even if I did want to go there over Reykjavik (which I don't, for various reasons), I've already committed to Iceland. I'd rather gently decline a surprise handshake than go back on my word.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Bidding Wars: The Assignments Awaken

Well, call me a Bureau's Leading Candidate (BLC). I received an (automated) e-mail today telling me that I was the number one candidate for the position I bid on in Reykjavik. As it turns out, I knew it was coming, but it's still nice to officially get my "air kiss." How did I know? Well, I'm the only eligible bidder, of course. Besides that, the Regional Information Management Officer (RIMO) contacted me last week to tell me I was the leading bidder...
'Air kisses' are sent out to give the bureaus a chance to react to people's changing (or previously undecided) decisions about posts. If I received two BLC e-mails this week, I would (as a decent person) contact the one I wasn't going to take, to give them the chance to snatch up their second choice, before that person commits elsewhere. In my case, perhaps betraying my faith in myself being the only bidder the system, I sent a note to Ho Chi Minh City (my other top choice) to let them know that I had heard back from Reykjavik and need to withdraw myself from their consideration. This was a simple courtesy to help ensure they get their best candidate that's not me available.
Enough about me, here is the slightly abridged text from the e-mail... about me.
This is an
automated message. Please do not reply to this message.
from EUR and IO/EX! We are pleased to inform you that you are the
bureau’s top candidate for the following position:
Position Title: Information Management Spec

Post: Reykjavik, Iceland
Grade: FP-04
TED: 6/1/2018
Bureaus can
offer handshakes on 10/30/2017 to bidders for at-grade assignments or
one-grade stretches for those serving at a 15% or higher post, bidding on a 30%
or higher post, and/or with bidding privileges (formerly MSI) from the current
year's FS Selection Boards. Bureaus can issue handshakes to fair share
bidders and one-grade stretch (either up- or down-stretch) bidders for domestic
and low differential positions on 2/12/2018.
message is informational and solely intended to assist you in your planning as
the bidding cycle comes to a close. You need not reply. If you have
any comments or questions, please contact the EUR and IO FS Assignments Team.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Bidding Wars: Return of the Jubilation

I keep thinking I should be stressed out about this bidding process... and it is stressful. However, I have to believe that it'll all just work out. Maybe I'm super self confident, maybe I'm overly optimistic, or maybe it's because my fourth choice still has fewer bidders than positions open. Who knows. Either way, I had what will likely be my last interview today. This puts me on the short list for the top (and only) 4 posts I'm bidding on. That's a pretty good feeling.

One of the common interview questions is, of course, "where do we rank on your list." People often debate whether they should lie (tell every post they’re your favorite) or how to obfuscate their answer. I refuse to lie about this and I want to be as transparent as possible. I've told pretty much everyone where I'm bidding and the order. However... my preference order is a bit nebulous. My top two posts (Reykjavik and Ho Chi Min City) are both places I would go in a heartbeat. As I see it, it has less to do with which I'd prefer and more to do with who is willing (or able) to commit to me first. This will put me in for an awkward position if I'm offered both (at the same time) and am forced to choose. Otherwise, I'll take whichever comes up and consider myself lucky; they're both great posts and I'll have successfully navigated my first open bidding cycle!

Regardless, with some good interviews (and lucky intersections between who I know and who the people at the posts I'm bidding know), I am feeling fairly confident that I'm going somewhere I want to go. It's impossible to know until we get that official handshake (or the unofficial air kiss), but I'm not sweating a little more waiting. It seems like waiting is the name of the foreign service game.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Bidding Wars: The Bureau Strikes Back

A quick follow up on my last post. Short lists aren't the final word in bidding. Far from it. Posts make their list of candidates to forward on to the bureaus (around October 13th, this year). The bureaus then take those lists from all their posts and deconflict the candidates. They're looking to make sure that 6 posts don't all have the same person as their first choice. This allows them to make sure more handshakes can go out to legitimate candidates at the same time. A week later (around the 23rd), once bidding is closed, the bureaus will meet each other and do some secret/magic/shadowy 'horse-trading' to attempt to work out multiple bids across bureaus. Again, no one wants to offer a handshake to someone and then get declined, because they've lost valuable time to offer that handshake to their second choice. As with everywhere, some employees are preferred for some positions, and no one wants to get left scraping the bottom of the barrel to fill a vacancy. Of course, some of this resolves itself. In my first tour bidding, 13 of the 23 bidders got their first choice on Flag Day. With bidding priorities being that wildly different... there is a chance for everyone to be happy. In reality, some posts just don't have the mass appeal that others do.

Similarly, everyone hears stories about bureaus essentially ignoring post’s list and pushing their preferred candidate. They can do this because all IMS positions are actually held by the bureaus, rather than by the individual posts. This means that although post has a major stake in who they get, they're a non-voting member in the decision making. Some of my friends are particularly wary of this, but I tend to think it's mostly rumor and hearsay. Maybe it happens, maybe it just happened once, but either way it can’t be common. The people serving in the bureau would be torpedoing their reputation with the post in question. Similarly, the candidate would be walking into a unpleasant workplace having essentially overridden their choice to force the assignment. It's really not ideal for anyone. HOWEVER, it is an excellent scapegoat. "Oh, we wanted you, but the bureau..." or "I was totally their first choice, but the bureau..." It is such a convenient alibi that I could see it becoming a common rumor.