State Dept Seeks Organizational Shrink to Assist in Foreign Service Selection Procedures

— Domani Spero
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On September 12, the State Department published a solicitation via FedBiz.gov seeking “a certified industrial and organizational psychologist to provide advice, assistance and support for Foreign Service selection procedures.” 

Extracted from the FedBiz documents:

The Foreign Service Act of 1980 tasks the U.S. Department of State (the Department), and the Board of Examiners (BEX) specifically, with the responsibility for the evaluation and selection of candidates for the Foreign Service. The Bureau of Human Resources, Office of Recruitment, Examination and Employment, Board of Examiners (HR/REE/BEX) oversees these examinations, including the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT), Qualifications Evaluation Panel (QEP), Foreign Service Oral Assessment (FSOA), and selection procedures for Foreign Service generalists, specialists and limited non-career appointments. HR/REE/BEX is seeking a certified industrial and organizational psychologist to provide necessary advice and assistance in support of the Foreign Service Selection Process.

The contractor will assist the Department in ensuring that all examinations for Foreign Service generalists, specialists and limited non career appointments have been professionally validated and constitute a reliable means of identifying those applicants who show the greatest possibility of success in the Foreign Service. The successful contractor will provide consultative and analytical services as requested including formulating program alternatives and operational support for successful implementation of any revisions to testing and hiring procedures.

 

According to the solicitation, the organizational shrink, formally known as the contractor here shall perform the following work, as assigned by the Department:

1. Assist in evaluating the extent to which the generalist, specialist and limited non-career appointment hiring programs are effective in meeting the needs of the Foreign Service.

2. Work with the contractor who develops and administers the FSOT to review test components, as directed by HR/REE/BEX, including redesign of sections where requested; review and advise HR/REE/BEX on any revisions to the FSOT prior to their inclusion in the Department’s hiring process.

3. Attend, as the Department’s expert contractor, meetings of the Board of Examiners for the Foreign Service, established pursuant to Section 211 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980, as amended. At the request of HR/REE/BEX, attend meetings with the Director General that involve discussion of Foreign Service selection procedures.

4. Provide advice on the procedures and training involved in the generalist, specialist and limited non-career appointment Qualifications Evaluation Panel (QEP), and assess the validity of QEP results.

5. Provide advice on the content validation of the Foreign Service Oral Assessment process (FSOA) and prepare FSOA validation reports for use by the Bureau of Human Resources.

6. Work with subject matter experts to create, review and revise all Foreign Service Selection Process assessments (QEPs, interviews, cases, competency tests, etc.). Provide programming and administrative support for online competency assessments.

7. Compile, manage, and report on assessment data. Validate assessments by conducting studies to ensure compliance with legal and professional testing guidelines. Analyze assessment data for statistical quality, adverse impact, and other purposes (e.g., answering questions from management).

8. Create feedback reports for assessors and management. Conduct special studies on the assessments (e.g., passing rates, comparing equivalence, faking, etc.) as requested. To include documenting all validation evidence, analyses, and special studies in technical reports.

9. Monitor all aspects of the implementation of the assessments and make continuous improvements.

10. Provide advice on alternate methods of entry to the FSOA (other than the FSOT) and assess the validity of these programs.

11. Evaluate on a recurring basis the Department’s recruiting and testing procedures, and advise HR/REE on how best to meet its hiring objectives and ensure the validity of any changes made to the examination processes.

12. Develop an online practice FSOT that potential candidates can use to assess their chances of passing the FSOT. Provide support to HR/REE for the Department’s recruiting mobile application.

13. Provide advice on the Department’s specialist hiring program, including possible examination alternatives; to include remote testing. Review and revise specialist and limited non-career appointment vacancy announcements and questionnaires used for initial screening of applicants.

14. Provide the Department with professional expertise in litigation should there be legal challenges to the FSOT, Oral Assessment,specialist examinations, or selection processes, including through production of requested documentation and service as an expert witness.

15. Provide professional advice and consultation to other HR offices within the Department as requested by HR/REE.

16. Define the mission-critical competencies required of entry-level Foreign Service Officers. Use this information to update the 2007 Job Analysis of Foreign Service Officer Positions

17. Conduct organizational or workforce surveys. To include a survey of generalists and specialists who have participated in the Oral Assessment; Entry-level Officers; and other candidate groups as designated by BEX.

Additionally the contractor should be an expert in psychometrics, the statistical science of psychological measures that are used to comprise knowledge tests and shall be conversant with:

  • The Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (1978) . These guidelines were established by federal agencies in charge of enforcing employment anti-discrimination laws. Among those agencies are the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance, and the Department of Justice.
  • The Principles for the Validation and Use of Personnel Selection Procedures , published by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964 {Public Law 88-352 (78 Stat. 241)} prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

 

The State Department expects the following deliverables:

  • Based on its observations, the Contractor shall prepare a comprehensive report on generalist and specialist hiring programs, including the FSOT, Foreign Service Oral Assessment and specialist hiring programs, in addition to test-specific reports. The contractor may be required to brief HR/REE/BEX on the findings contained in the report to the Contract Officer’s Representative (COR).
  • The Contractor shall develop and provide in person (not recorded) an up-to-date Oral Assessment training program for assessors in order to ensure consistency among those conducting the oral assessment. Training shall address at a minimum the following elements: orientation to the concept of assessment centers and their role in pre-hire screening, background on the Foreign Service Oral Assessment process, and any revisions made since the last training session.
  • The Contractor shall provide training to BEX on each of the testing exercises that make up the FSOA (see www.careers.state.gov) and shall provide detailed guidance on scoring methodologies and anchors. The contractor shall ensure that the training is consistent with professional and legal standards or guidance.
  • The Contractor shall conduct a job analysis of the five Foreign Service Officer career tracks to determine what knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics FSOs need to perform their jobs effectively. Based on this analysis, the contractor will update the current blue prints being used by the Department.
  • The contractor shall compile evidence on the validity of the FSOA, and prepare a report summarizing such evidence, including a complete analysis of the demographics of those participating in the FSOA.
  • The contractor shall develop, monitor, provide, and maintain a comprehensive training program for the panel members involved in the generalists qualifications/evaluation/assessment (QEP).
  • As necessary, assist the Department, including its legal counsel, in legal matters pertaining to the FSOT, QEP and Oral Assessment, or other selection procedures established for the Foreign Service generalists and specialists.
  • The contractor will be required to compile a library of materials created pursuant to the contract on the content validation for all FSOTs administered during the contract period. Title to the library of materials compiled by the Contractor for which the Contractor is entitled to be reimbursed under this contract shall pass to and vest in the Government.

A couple of thoughts — this organizational psychologist has the potential to impact the hiring process of the State Department. Two, we are not sure if this is one of the results of the EEOC class action, but the requirement that this contractor provide the Department “with professional expertise in litigation should there be legal challenges to the FSOT, Oral Assessment,specialist examinations, or selection processes” seems to indicate that an expected challenge/s may be in the works.

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