What CV/resume is the best when applying for the Foreign Service? Which universities are considered best? Which languages? Which extracurriculars? Which BA and MA?
A: I agree with former FSO John Burgess, but as someone who has helped those prepare themselves for the interview process rather than a former FSO, I can be a little more direct.
As a representative for your country overseas it helps to have a background that your host country will find impressive. The work is not necessarily glamorous (usually very not glam), but you will have access to leaders, many of whom are impressed with status symbols in terms of education and former work experience (think brand names).
To prepare yourself for the process, consider what State is missing or wishes they had more of. MBAs have been in short supply in the past, so there was an uptick in MBA hires at one point. It can make for an interesting MBA personal statement. Demonstrating fluency in multiple languages is helpful if only because the job of training you in a new language becomes a bit easier, but isn’t a distinguishing factor. Specialized training can also make you a more appealing candidate.
FSOs are on the ground to do real work. They aren’t just attending state dinners and summits. Being well spoken is a must. What additional skills do you bring to the table? Have you honed negotiation skills as a business consultant or sales person? Can you handle complex logistical challenges because you’ve run multiple concurrent projects? Have you demonstrated the ability to quell mass movements (might fall under negotiation)? Do you have specialized technical knowledge – agricultural to zoological (okay, I really wanted a Z word)? An area of useful expertise is very helpful.
Word of caution: As an FSO the job is not about you. It’s about the country you represent. Some students are attracted to the field because it seems to include travel and glamour…. It can indeed include those things, but it isn’t quite what you expect for the first few years.