Friday, August 12, 2022

Informational Interview Green Flags

Since I previously wrote about my informational interview red flags as I go through the bidding process (i.e., process of applying for my next job), I thought I'd also talk about some of the "green flags" on a more positive note. Green flags are those signals to me that a job would be a good fit or that the post will meet my and my family's goals and needs. In no particular order, here are some of the green flags I've experienced during my time bidding in the Foreign Service so far:

  • When there appears to be diversity among the leadership and the staff. I'm always pleasantly surprised to hear people detail an office's structure and reveal that there's relatively even representation between men and women, for example. If the leadership of a post has diversity, such as racially diverse representation in Country Team (i.e., the senior-most staff at an Embassy), that's even more impressive given the fact that diversity drops off with each increasing rank in the Foreign Service.
  • When they're excited to explain the portfolio or priority issues to you and do so clearly and concisely. You can really tell when someone is excited about their work, and I like to see that passion especially from an incumbent. That means the job is enjoyable for them. It also means that they're generous and adept enough to share information about it with others who aren't experts but who are interested without being condescending or rambling.
  • When there are robust employee support organizations and associations. This matters more to me for large posts than small posts (because small posts may not have the human capital to spare), but I love to hear when embassies have an active Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Council and glifaa (i.e., LGBTQI+ association) representative and U.S. Embassy Association (i.e., a group devoted to the U.S. Embassy community) and more. That tells me people there care about building up each other and the institution and not just doing the minimum required work to scrape by each day.
  • When they mention a few honest cons and not just the pros about where I'm bidding. I find someone who is willing to admit the unglamorous parts of a job or life at a post much more credible. I give more weight to the positive things they say because they're willing to tell me about some of the negative things, too.
  • When they mention work/life balance as an important part of the culture at post. Most decisionmakers know how difficult it is for someone applying to the job to ask about work/life balance. Many hiring managers will consider people who ask such a question as lazy or unserious or entitled, so it's difficult to obtain information about it even if having that information is crucial to finding out whether you want to bid or highly rank or accept a job. As a result, I appreciate it when they bring it up so I as the candidate don't have to - it shows me they're thinking about how to attract the best candidates and that it's a priority for them. I've also heard some horror stories (and experienced instances myself) when non-urgent tasks are treated like emergencies, demanding 24/7 attention and interfering with every aspect of life outside of work. (I strongly disagree with that approach. In my opinion, it gives nowhere for a team to ramp up to in the case of an actual crisis. The best examples of leadership on this issue I've seen are bosses who assign off-hours duty if needed, mandate compensation for overtime work, push back on unnecessary assignments, and refuse to respond to routine email after hours or let their subordinates do so. Given our work culture, though, that's extremely rare. I hope someday it's much more common.)
  • When the incumbent and hiring managers are responsive. A quick and thoughtful pattern of responses indicate to me that the office is well-organized and takes recruitment for the position seriously. If they put that kind of attention and time management to hiring, I think it's more likely that they'll put the same effort into setting me up for success on the job through mentoring, onboarding, and collaborating as a team.

These are just a few of the things that stand out to me as green flags for bidding. They may not apply to everyone, but I've been known to warm up to a post, solidify my desire to bid on a job, or move the position higher up on my own ranked list based on these green flags. I hope everyone bidding this year has lots of great opportunities on their list with plenty of their own encouraging green flags. Good luck!

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