Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Entry Level/Untenured Officer Bid List Is Out

Well, it has been out for four days now, or to be more exact, 113 hours and 49 minutes from when Alan heard the email arrive in the middle of the night. The instructions arrived on August 19th, so we knew the bid list would be out in a few days. Last Friday morning at 4:30AM, Alan tapped on my shoulder and said "the bid list just arrived." It felt like being woken for Christmas morning, and I promptly rolled back over to sleep. After another tap, "it's here," I finally jumped up to take a look.

The bidding experience for our next assignment is very different than the first in A-100. There are over 450 jobs on the list with many more factors to consider. The most constraining factor is timing. You have to have a certain number of bids that fit the available time between when you leave post and when the next job starts, with that available time used for home leave, language training and functional training. If you have gaps of open time or not enough time to do all the required home leave and training, then a job is not valid for your list. So you may not be eligible for many of those dream jobs on the list.

Also, the people currently posted to high hardship and danger posts get first dibs at jobs. Luckily, Kolkata is a 25% hardship and a 5% historically-difficult-to-staff post, so we will be assigned in the first of two rounds. Those at posts with less hardship will have a much more limited list to choose from.

The last four days have been full of strategy, research and refining lists. We were able to quickly narrow the list down based on: language training, working at an embassy (versus a consulate) and a possible rotation out of consular for a broader understanding of the foreign service. This brought the list down to about 90 jobs. We then evaluated which of those jobs had the correct timing, and then did research on those locations by looking at the posts' intranet websites, Post Info to Go on the OBC website (intranet only) and Tales from a Small Planet's Real Post Reports.

Before we got the list, we had been discussing our next post choices for a while, throwing out scenarios to understand what would be a good fit. But now that we have the actual list in hand, our choices will be nowhere near what we had discussed before. There are a lot of great jobs on the list and it looks like we will have at least 20 that we will be happy with. The hard part is the waiting. We have until September 8th to turn in our choices and do not know the date when we will learn our actual assignment. The excitement and anxiety is on the rise again and this will happen every two to three years!


Alison said...

What does the hardship % need to be in order to qualify for the first round of bidding? Looking at the list now, is there anything you wish you'd known when you were bidding in A-100?

Thanks, and good luck with your list!

Natalie Buda Smith said...


For this year's untenured bid list you need a combination of at least 30% differential, which can come from hardship, danger and hard-to-fill, to be in the first round. This percentage may change in future years.

I am happy that we decided to go to a high differential post on the first tour, since we have a larger selection to choose from this round. But it all depends on your A-100 list and personal situation. There is a lot to consider in A-100!

Good luck!

Alison said...

Thanks for the response! One more question, if you don't mind. Is the "hard to fill" designation the same thing as "service need differential" or do they have some other way of quantifying it for bidding purposes?

Natalie Buda Smith said...


Great question. I wish there was a simple answer.

A Hard-to-Fill job may qualify for the Service Need Differential if it is in a Historically-Difficult-to-Staff post. This differential is a percentage increase of pay when you commit to serving three years, when only two years are required. Currently it is 15%, which can be a big boost for three years.

For untenured officers, the first two tours are only 2 years each, so you cannot volunteer to extend to get the Service Need Differential at a Historically-Difficult-to-Staff post. But you do get an extra 5% bidding advantage this year, if your job is designated as Hard-to-Fill.

My understanding of the differences between Hard-to-Fill, Most-Difficult-to-Staff, and Historically-Difficult-to-Staff are:

Hard-to-Fill – when less than two officers in grade and at cone bid on a specific job at post

Most-Difficult-to-Staff – when more than half of the jobs available at a post where Hard-to-Fill

Historically-Difficult-to-Staff – when a post has been Most-Difficult-to-Staff for the 3 out of the last 4 years

There are also other bidding advantages for Historically-Difficult-to-Staff posts but mostly after tenure. Whew!

Alison said...

Holy cow.

It sounds like you don't know when you're actually bidding in A-100 whether the job will turn out to be Hard to Fill, so I'll just file all this info away for future reference. :)

Natalie Buda Smith said...

Yes, excellent for future reference.

Most likely if it is Historically-Difficult-to-Staff (HDS), it will be Hard-to-Fill. There is usually a list of posts that have the HDS designation that you can look at. I bet the OBC has the list on file if you don't have access to the intranet.

The first tour bid seems comparatively straight-forward now, although it didn’t seem like it at the time. This is because we learned so much about the different posts then and since then. After hearing about all the complexities of bidding as a tenured officer, I am really trying to enjoy this one!