Friday, November 10, 2017

Reader Question on the Oral Assessment

Dear Vigg: "I have failed two attempts to get in the DOS as a IMS.  I have made it all they way to OA [the Oral Assessment] but keep falling just short of the cutoff... I wanted to know if you could give me some really detailed pointers on the Memo and face to face interview sessions..."

Honestly, I can't. It's not (just) because we sign a non-disclosure about the content of those tests... but also because they've undoubtedly changed since I took the oral in 2013... Similarly, different people do it every year. They look for what THEY think makes the best FS officer. One of my friends in Chennai spent some time on the interviewing board and he said his big push was to pick people that would handle living overseas well. Someone else may want to focus on people with technical excellence or people who enjoy diplomacy/public outreach. I'll give you some generic pointers for those sections though.

a) The writing exercise in the oral is most likely looking for two things. They know everyone can turn in good writing given unlimited time and resources (you already passed the essay portion of the application), but they want to see how well people write given a time limit and left to their own devices. I can't help you with the content, but you should focus on clear sentences, good grammar, and good paragraph structure. You can always debate how someone prioritizes tasks and/or the solutions they offer, but if there are grammar or spelling errors, it's an indisputable red flag.


b) For the face-to-face interview... I can just tell you what I did. I'm a pretty self confident person, I went in thinking "I am a great candidate, because I can do this job well." In the face-to-face, I focused on telling them why I felt that way and what my motivations were for joining. Normally in interviews you want to talk as little as possible (because the interviewer will fill in the spaces and generally people love to talk about themselves). That's not the case here. You're there selling yourself. Explain to them why you want this job and why you're a good fit. 

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