Wednesday, December 22, 2010

2011 PMF In-Person Assessment: Open Thread

[Also posted here]

Now that the 2011 Presidential Management Fellows semifinalists have been chosen and the PMF Program Office has posted the list, it's time to think about the next hurdle, the in-person assessment. 1530 people (congratulations to you!) will convoke in four cities around the country between mid-January and late-February for a day-long assessment that includes an individual presentation, a group exercise, and a proctored writing exercise.

This post, and the comment thread, can be used to share assessment preparation tips as well as general tips on navigating the cities in question, so hotel recommendations, flight options, eateries, and in-city transit means are up for discussion. If you would kindly indicate at the beginning of any city-specific information comments which city you are talking about, that would be helpful for people scanning through the comments.

A note on assessment tips: Let's do our best to preserve the integrity of the assessment process, at least during the assessment window. If, after the assessment window closes, you wish to share your experience in more detail for future applicants, I heartily invite you to do so. Remember that while this assessment window is open, you are effectively competing with one another; plan your strategy accordingly, especially if people start sharing detailed experiences. This, in fact, is the one major drawback I see to conducting this style of assessment: information provided by early testers may have an impact on the results of later testers. Note that this thread can also serve as a place to discuss the merits and drawbacks of an in-person assessment.

Please share with us your plans for the assessment: time and location you've selected, preparation tips or guides you think might be helpful, and thoughts on the process so far.

244 comments:

  1. I posted this on another thread; perhaps, it belong in this one.

    For those of you with Vet Preference... First, thanks for your service. Do you gals and guys know whether it is applied to the in-person assessment? If so, how? Curious to learn how it might impact some of us.

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  2. That's a good question. I don't remember seeing any official guidance on it (perhaps someone can find it on the PMF site?) In the past, given that there was only the one assessment, the preference counted as extra points (5 or 10) added to the assessment score. If there is a similar scoring mechanism for the in-person assessment, then it may be applicable there as well.

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  3. The only think I've read is that Vet Preference is applied at every level of the selection process. Can someone verify that and how it manifests in the semifinalist round?

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  4. It is applied in different ways at different points. First, schools must nominate preference-eligible veterans, regardless of the competitive process. Second, last year, and every year in which there was only one assessment, the preference was applied as a point bonus on the assessment. And third, thereafter, preference-eligible veterans in the finalist list rise to the top of the list of applicants to posted positions (i.e, those in the PPS) and provided written justification if they are not selected (usually not qualified). For this reason, a number of agencies decline to list positions on the PPS and instead reach out directly to veterans.

    In this new format, you can expect that the preference would apply in the same manner, such as a point bonus on each of the assessment rounds. The other conditions still should apply. Since I have not seen any basic scoring details for the in-person assessment, I am only speculating.

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  5. Wow. A 5-10 point addition to a base score might place any vets at this stage far in front of the rest of us.

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  6. Want to see something trippy? On a whim, I decided to check out what archive.org (you know, the home of the Wayback Machine) had on record. The program was called the Presidential Management Interns (PMI) program when it began in 1977, and the first site seems to have appeared in 1994: http://web.archive.org/web/19991114060142/http://www.pmi.opm.gov/

    Sadly (and a bit comically), the original PMI site actually looks BETTER than the site relaunched in 2004 as the PMF site. Go figure.

    Anyway there's lots of historical information readily available, since most of it was published before the government became addicted to the crack that is PDF. Check it out! I plan to do a historical walkthrough of the program when I get the time.

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  7. I don't think the preference continues to get reapplied. Rather, the assessment results are reconsidered during the ranking of semi-finalists, so the original advantage will continue to be an advantage in the next round of cuts. But if it is just that points were added during the assessment phase, it won't make much of a difference now because we all must have scored in the same range to have made the cut. My thoughts are just from reading policies and blogs. :)

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  8. I have read the preference is reapplied at every stage. It certainly benefits vets once they become finalists. I'm just thinking that IF we are being scored relative to the other participants in our session, and those participants have vet preference, then otherwise high performers might not advance. I realize this is pure speculation.

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  9. I found the PDF that answers all the Veteran questions. Pages 21-24:

    http://www.pmf.gov/media/970/agencyguide.pdf

    Looks like the preference is reapplied at every stage.

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  10. Anonymous @ 4:02 PM: Thanks for the link. You'll notice the document was last updated Feb 2009. They will undoubtedly update it for this new process.

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  11. Anybody know why we only have 2 weeks notice for our assessment date? This seems like a really bad idea since many of us have to fly in..

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  12. Anonymous @ 8:15 PM: I was curious about this too, particularly since there are people coming in from South Africa, Egypt, Israel, Norway, the UK, France, Switzerland, Spain, ect who will have to make flight and accommodation plans.

    It might be growing pains from the new assessment process? Ideally, the time and place would be given a month ahead of time or there would be a process like that for the Foreign Service Oral Exam.

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  13. I don't think the OPM has found an exact place in Atlanta for the testing to take place as of Christmas Day.

    Could this delay the testing to take place at a later date than the other venues?

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  14. I think its likely that DC will start the earliest and go the longest because half of the participants have to be screened at that site. It doesn't really matter when the other sites start as long as they end before DC. All sites should be started by the second week in February. :)

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  15. Historically, how many "semifinalists" are cut because they don't have the means and/or time to make it to one of the sites for assessment?

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  16. Historically, there have never been more than three steps in the process, so we can only speculate. One assumes that a percentage of applicants failed to become nominees out of sheer attrition, and one further assumes that a percentage of nominees attrited after nomination and before the online assessment (though it wouldn't have been because of the location). Since we don't have these numbers, it's hard to predict how much attrition there will be at this next phase.

    I guess this is a question for the larger group: are you considering dropping out of the process on account of the limited in-person assessment sites? If so, why?

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  17. I would expect a small but still significant number of semi-finalists to drop out before the in person assessment. At my grad school, around 5-10% of the semi-finalists have made it to be a FSO. Also, I'm guessing some of the law students drop out when they receive better paying offers.

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  18. Yeah, somebody posted a document on another blog that the OPM office put out to request office space from agencies in the test cities. I believe it said they were planning for an aggressive 20% attrition rate.

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  19. Hopefully the people who choose to pursue other options will do so before the oral assessment and not after they become finalists.

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  20. Some universities are holding prep sessions and/or info sessions with former PMFs on how to prepare. Is anyone here attending one of these?

    I'm curious, since the new in-person assessment seems similar to the old one, how much of an advantage will students who receive preparation obtain over those who do not?

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  21. My advice for others would be to relax. 1,500 semi finalists means probably 1,200 assessment takers. 500 finalists out of that group which means a little over 40% acceptance.

    If you can talk, work in a group and write coherently (which does preclude a lot of people), I think that you'll be fine.

    I see it as sort of a beefed up interview--they're looking to see you're not anti-social, can present and write. It'll be interesting to see how it goes.

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  22. They actually stated that they were going to pick 750-800 finalists, but that could change based on demand; they choose 884 last year. Take out a percentage of people who won't be doing the assessment and the odds go way up. Percentage-wise, it's much higher than making it to the semi-finals.

    As far as a university prep session goes, my school's career center has said that they are going to have one, but the people in that office have displayed total incompetence in the past, so I am debating whether it is a good idea to attend or not.

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  23. I just got an email from the assessment center. My San Francisco appointment is scheduled for February 10. Looks like we will be getting longer than two-week's notice! It was sent at 12am Pacific.

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  24. San Francisco might be sending out appointments earlier. I haven't received my appointment from Washington, DC yet.

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  25. Yep received my appointment for San Fran. 2nd week of February.

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  26. Yep, I'm February 7. Good luck all.

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  27. Me too. SF for Feb 9.

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  28. Yep, SF on Feb 12!

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  29. Make that the 16th. :)

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  30. Any thoughts on how the written portion is likely to be evaluated? I consider myself an excellent writer but am entirely lost without a spellchecker.

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  31. Its funny that we can consider ourselves "excellent writers" without being confident of our spelling. Unfortunately, I'm in the same boat. I don't even own a paper dictionary - I always use my online one or spell checker. I suggest you invest in one and know that you will need much more time to review your essay than normal because we will definitely be tested on spelling. It will probably take twice as much reviewing as you are used to for you to catch all the typos. Especially the ones easy for our brain to overlook (i.e. there/their, an/an, are/our).

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  32. Heh, if I were looking over essays, I would look for spelling. Grammar too :)

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  33. I also think spelling and grammar will be very important. If I were trying to distinguish amongst well-written essays, spelling and grammar mistakes would be an easy and obvious reason to take off points.

    I have reason to be concerned here. My writing often combines American and British spellings, especially when I'm in a hurry. I assume they'll use a spell check program set to American English that will show the assessors an error if I write 'colour' instead of 'color.' I'll have to double check my work and hope that they won't deduct too much for it.

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  34. Spelling and grammar are obvious points: I wish we had clearer guidance on the other evaluation factors and whether the essays will be assessed by computer or OPM personnel. What are the main criteria? Word number? Clarity? Originality of content?

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  35. A little off topic (I too am interested in any and all thoughts about the in-person assessment) but what are people's feelings/impressions of the new "Pathways" programs and the changes to the PMF Program in general that will result from last Monday's Executive Order? Order link: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/12/27/executive-order-recruiting-and-hiring-students-and-recent-graduates

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  36. I think it is going to make the PMF Program less exclusive, because there will be more programs like it. It sounded like he wants to make more options for younger, educated people to get into government service. PMF should still be unique in the "fast track to management" aspect.

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  37. Hopefully, they can maintain the prestige of having the Presidential moniker attached to PMF. I am worried about the "within the preceding 2 years" line. To me that means you could have already graduated 2 years prior and still be eligible. Maybe?

    I think OPM can maintain the PMF prestige if they keep it qualify you for GS 9-12 level and use this Pathways as maybe GS 5-7 levels which seems appropriate to me. I just want these extra years of school to payoff.

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  38. Does "qualifying advance degree" mean a graduate degree or undergrad degree?

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  39. "Within the preceding 2 years" does mean you can have graduated up to to two years before. It hasn't been established whether someone could apply more than once.
    The new Pathways program isn't that different from the current student programs except that it stops the non-competitive hiring loophole that the FCIP provided to agencies (They could use it for anyone, not just students). The major issue with Pathways is that it has yet to be determined whether graduate students will be eligible.

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  40. Wow, preceding two years! They already have 9,000 applicants. Imagine what that will do. Seems like an oxymoron to me. Freeze pay for government for two years, yet trying to use government to get people jobs. Not sure about that scenario if government is already overspending.

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  41. Speaking of freezing pay, is anyone else concerned that Republican desires to cut spending will end up screwing us out of opportunities?

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  42. No. The federal government, regardless of partisan politics, needs to replenish its aging workforce. Whether or not the GS schedule remains unchanged is a different matter as is the associated pay.

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  43. It really doesn't matter that the GS schedule remained unchanged. With the step system, you can still rise up to a different step. So...instead of a two percent raise, you can petition your boss for a step raise. Then...if you deserve it, a grade raise. The freeze is really nothing compared to what other people are suffering - I wonder how much it actually saves the deficit, if anything.

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  44. I am curious to know how those of you who were selected as semi-finalists are preparing for the up-coming in-person assessment. Does anybody have any tips or strategies? Are your schools holding prep sessions? etc...

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  45. Honestly, I think the lawyers have the greatest advantage... They are prepped at public speaking, debating, and timed essay situations. I think the best thing to do to prepare is to calm down. The people who crash and burn will be those too nervous to perform.

    I'm assuming the the group presentation/fishbowl will be toward the end of the day, because the reason why we have to block off 8 hours is so that everyone has enough time to go through the individual presentations. Also, we should expect long breaks throughout the day, so I would come prepared with some homework or reading to occupy your time.

    Be confident in your ability to excel at the tasks we need to do, because there is almost nothing that can be done to prepare if you haven't been working on the skills they are looking for already. I think any prep work people try to do now will only come off as contrived during the interview. Now is the time to figure out how to put the best you forward instead of trying to learn new skills in a month.

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  46. I just received my testing notice for Jan. 20th in D.C. Thats not even a two week notice! That doesn't quite seem fair considering I'll be coming all the way from Africa, and people are getting a month's notice in the Bay Area.

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  47. I just received mine for Atlanta on the 25th. Just over two week notice. Any other Atlanta people on the board?

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  48. Just got my testing notice too for Jan 19th in DC. Glad to read some of the comments because I initially though - 8 hrs!? - what could they possible want to know for 8 hours? Is the individual presentation based on something given the day of, or should we already have something prepared?

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  49. I got my notice for Jan. 25 in DC. It works out well for me because that is just before my classes start back. @ Anon 12:34 am - It really sucks that they gave you so little time.

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  50. Yup, just got a 20th Jan notice for DC. Excited!

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  51. I just got a Jan 18th notice for DC, which was a 10 day notice. Has anyone tried to change their interview day?

    Also, does anyone know if we will give our individual presentations in front of other applicants or just to the people assessing the applicants?

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  52. just got my Atlanta notice for Jan. 20. Good luck everybody.

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  53. Got my notice - Feb. 8th in DC, a month away. I'm here anyway but it does seem unfair to give people under two weeks to get to the US from abroad. I'm hoping it's growing pains and they'll improve it next year.

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  54. For those testing in DC, did they give us an incorrect address?

    On the hotel's website, the Embassy Suites is at:

    1250 22nd Street NW, Washington, District of Columbia, United States 20037

    http://embassysuites1.hilton.com/en_US/es/hotel/WASDNES-Embassy-Suites-Washington-D-C--District-of-Columbia/index.do

    BUT in the email, it says the location is:

    Embassy Suites Downtown
    1520 22nd Street NW
    Washington, District of Columbia 20037

    Did they give us an incorrect address (1520 instead of 1250) or am I missing something?

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  55. For those testing in DC, did they give us an incorrect address?

    On the hotel's website, the Embassy Suites is at:

    1250 22nd Street NW,
    Washington, District of Columbia,
    United States 20037

    http://embassysuites1.hilton.com/en_US/es/hotel/WASDNES-Embassy-Suites-Washington-D-C--District-of-Columbia/index.do

    BUT in the email, it says the location is:

    Embassy Suites Downtown
    1520 22nd Street NW
    Washington, District of Columbia 20037

    Did they give us an incorrect address (1520 instead of 1250) or am I missing something?

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  56. Oh, FYI - The address they gave us for the Embassy Suites in D.C. in their email was a typo. They said that the address is 1520 22nd when it should actually be 1250 22nd. A wrong address is the last thing any of us need to deal with the morning of the assessment.

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  57. Thanks for the clarification. If you all have assessment center addresses, I would like to publish them as a post. Please share.

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  58. San Francisco Federal Building
    90 Seventh Street
    B-150
    San Francisco, California 94103

    Please note that there are 2 federal buildings in San Francisco. Don't end up at the other one.

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  59. Atlanta Marriott Suites
    35 14th Street NE
    Atlanta, Georgia 30309

    Thanks for the great blog, pmfellow!

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  60. I received my notice for Atlanta on January 25.

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  61. Does anyone have the address for the Chicago assessment center?

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  62. The addresses are posted on the PMF Facebook page.

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  63. Thanks, it looks like they just posted it a little while ago.

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  64. Jan 19th for Atlanta. Got 11 days notice.

    Hoping the speculation above is correct about there only being 1200-1300 semi-finalists that attend due to attrition. If they select 800 that would make the selection rate like 60 or 65%! I think I can handle that.

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  65. do you think it makes a difference which day we go? i just rescheduled for what turned out to be the LAST day of the assessment.. do you think there are any downsides on doing it on the very last day?

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  66. I guess I will pay $700 to get to DC and stay in a hotel for a 60 or 65% chance of being a finalist. I imagine the cost of getting to the interview will turn a lot of people off. I must say I am even on the fence.

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  67. @ Jan 10 3:32 PM

    Where are you coming from? $700 is a lot. I'm going to Atlanta from Tennessee and it will cost me $80 or $90 (granted, I'm carpooling/sharing a hotel room with a friend, but it would only be double that were I going alone).

    I hope they release info on how many people actually end up taking the assessment. It will be interesting to see. Has anyone been selected as a semi-finalist and is not planning taking the assessment? If not, why?

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  68. I am interviewing on the 19th in Atlanta. Hoping that the snow storms stop so that my flights (specifically my connection) are not delayed the night before! Good luck to everyone!!!

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  69. Considering the disparity of people assessing at each location, I'm curious to know as to how they will be grading and selecting the finalists. DC has the greatest percentage of people attending at 56%. Atlanta and SF are equal at 13%, and Chicago has about 17%. I think those of us not going to DC would hate to think that we've been shortchanged strictly based upon our choice of assessment location.

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  70. I do not think they will be shortchanging anyone. Personally, what I gather is they will be combining all scores and grading collectively. The reason for the percentage difference is the percentage of overall people that chose the testing location. Obviously the NorthEast has the most so they have the highest percentage. I feel it is fair to do it this way and then grade collectively.

    Also, look at discount airlines to save a buck, and if you book a hotel the day of or day before you can usually get a cheaper price. The hotel knows it is better to get something for the room rather than nothing.

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  71. I imagine they are going to try hard not to short change anybody, but it is hard to ensure the selection process is fair. I can't imagine that the staff making the selection are going to judge the candidates on the first day the same as the ones on the last. I can't decide which day they would be more likely to go easy on though. Any thoughts?

    About traveling, I feel sorry for the people in the schools from the Colorado, Arizona, and Texas areas since they have to fly to any interview site.

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  72. I have heard that it won't be the same assessors each day, so keep tha in mind.

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  73. I'm flying in from way out of the country. I not only am paying well over $1000, but I will also be super jet-lagged. I hope the judging is at least fair, and all these well-connected Ivy League kids don't get special consideration.

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  74. Per the above comment: Welcome to DC! Where "well-connected ivy-league kids" almost always get special consideration. I think PMF might be the most insulated from this influence, but DC and prized government positions are not.

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  75. I'm not worried so much about the Ivy Leaguers as the DC-area kids. Last year, 13% of the finalists came from American/GWU/Georgetown!

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  76. Any Atlanta testers on the 25th want to meet up on the 23rd or 24th for drinks?

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  77. I would be willing to bet that a similar percentage (around 13%) of all applicants came from those schools. Maybe not quite that high, but it's probably up there. There are a ton of students from the policy grad schools and law schools at American/GWU/Georgetown. GW and Georgetown alone have over 500 law students per class. I would imagine quite a few are applying to this program, especially given the horrendous job market. Then if you factor in the policy schools (and I would imagine most if not all of those students would be applying), then the percentage goes up even more.

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  78. You're right on the money. Those schools have 12.8% of the nominees and 12.2% of the semi-finalists. So much for the new PMF selection process becoming more diverse.

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  79. Good for the GTowns and Ivy Leagues of the world... if they do get special consideration. It's ridiculous that the PMF program should be equally accessible for the likes of an online, Capella University as it is to Yale.

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  80. Speaking from experience as a Ivy Leaguer... I have no qualms about tapping into the many connections I have from the people I know from school. The biggest boost won't come until AFTER I make it through the interview stage. So...I have to make it through the entire process just like everyone else. And, because the process is so anonymous, it puts everyone on as even a playing field as possible. Later though, it will definitely help to have my schools on my resume. Also, I already have talked to people who can hook me up with contacts once I get on that finalist list. That is the step - job searching - where I think the real differences lie. Until then, veterans definitely have the best leg up... and people who get great publicity about the program from their school (like all those schools in DC).

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  81. Hey I'm an Atlanta 25ther. Would love to meet up for a drink on the 24th. Does anyone have any good ideas for places to head to? I'm thinking somewhere downtown close to the assessment center would be best. 7:00 pm seems a good time.

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  82. Though not an Ivy Leaguer, I too will have no problem using the various contacts I have in government, whether they have been gained through professors, friends, fellow church members, etc. I think objectivity in hiring is important, but the reality is that who you know is and probably always will be extremely important. True objectivity is really hard to implement correctly and actually get exactly the people you want to hire. The Foreign Service is a great example.

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  83. Has anyone heard whether we'll be allowed to use notecards during our presentation? The instructions I received stated to bring 2 pencils and a government issued identification, but nothing more.

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  84. They give you scratch paper to take notes on while you prep, and you can use the paper during your presentation.

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  85. FYI, I was able to change my appointment time (in DC) with less than 2 weeks notice. DC on Tuesday.

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  86. Well it was interesting. I felt like pretty much everyone there were good candidates for different reasons. I'm curious to see what happens...

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  87. I agree, a lot of good candidates. Just relax and be yourself.

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  88. Are we still allowed to use a pocket dictionary?

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  89. Does anyone who has taken the assessment in DC know if we are allowed to bring our luggage with us to the testing site (and leave it at the front desk of the hotel)?

    Also, if anyone has taken the assessment in DC yet, are there lunch and other breaks throughout the day?

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  90. Bringing your luggage would be fine and there is tons of downtime throughout the day. You will probably have 2 hours or more for lunch.

    Good Luck!

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  91. Dictionary: yes
    Luggage: yes
    Lunch break: yes

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  92. It must be difficult for the assessors given the high quality of candidates. In my opinion, they couldn't go wrong with whoever they select. Best of luck everyone!! Such an honor to even have moved to the semi-finalist level with all of you :-)

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  93. How are finalists determined? Is it based only on performance during the in-person phase, or something else?

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  94. Finalists determined by using "rubric" method from academia.

    This is a comprehensive, objective score of the combined 3 portions of the in-person assessment.

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  95. I'm so nervous for the in-person assessment. There is no real way of preparing for it, and I feel I will be brain dead after a 10 hour long day. Best of luck to all of us that still have to go through the assessment!

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  96. Anyone have any further idea on what the finalist assessment will be like? People who have already taken it want to throw out some responses?

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  97. Anyone have more details on finalist assessment? People who have taken it? Any feedback would help us out!

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  98. Since we're competing, those of us who have taken it already would be pretty foolish to reveal details. Sorry guys and gals. Just be honored to be a semi-finalist, and give it your best shot. Good luck!

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  99. I haven't take it yet, and I don't think anyone who has should give out any info... They would be out of there minds to give us an advantage with such stiff competition. It sucks that people are asking for more info. Just suck it up, calm the nerves, and come ready to wow the judges by being your confident self.

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  100. I agree with the last post. If you have made it this far you have the skillset now just professionally apply them.

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  101. My advice would be to check out some places beforehand to eat for lunch, as it would be a great way to check out the city with all your downtime.

    Also, if you have rescheduled, make sure to bring a copy of your updated e-mail, not your original admissions notice (luckily the assessment center had free printing).

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  102. Thank you for the tip. I'm staying an extra day to take advantage of the cost of flying out there. I might as well make use of my trip and site see!

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  103. I have taken the in-person assessment and the best advice I could give is to read the preparation guide and to calm down and be yourself.

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  104. wow, some of these gunners are real jerks. if you honestly think providing advice is a bad move to hurt your competitive chances, then you dont have what it takes to cut it in government

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  105. Doea anyone know how the 3 assessment areas (written, individual, and group) are weighted?

    Does anyone know what the correlation of the veteran's preference points are to the scores we are earning on the 3 assessment areas?

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  106. * "Does" anyone know how...

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  107. I wrote the comment about not giving advice, and I don't consider myself a "real jerk." (@ 5:12pm) I actually consider it good etiquette not to ask your competitors for advice/insider-info that might give you an advantage that you otherwise would not have had. I actually would rather make it to the finals by my own merits and not because I begged (for lack of a better word right now) for a hand up... Anyone who can't see that is not confident in their own ability, and probably doesn't think too much about personal integrity.

    Sorry. That comment just seems so ignorant to me.

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  108. We were explicitly instructed to not share information about the process with other applicants. We are not being "real jerks" by following the rules and making the process as fair as possible.

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  109. I feel like I should weigh in here, and perhaps provide some perspective. This program has a ...varied history in terms of perception, especially on the part of those who did not make it through to the next round for whatever reason. Many of the criticisms aimed at the program are entirely valid, but are a result of the wording of the original executive order (you can find it here: http://web.archive.org/web/20000822041548/www.pmi.opm.gov/exorder.htm).

    The relevant text is as follows: "Section 1. There is hereby established the Presidential Management Intern Program, hereafter referred to as the Program, the purpose of which is to attract to Federal service men and women of exceptional management potential who have received special training in planning and managing public programs and policies.

    Section 2. Outstanding individuals who have pursued a course of study oriented toward public management at a graduate-level educational institution and who, at the time of application, have recently received or will shortly receive an appropriate advanced degree, are eligible to apply for participation in the Program."

    So the program was originally intended to attract a very small subset of graduate programs, meaning the potential pools of candidates each year would be fairly homogeneous in terms of academic background, and possibly in terms of race/ethnicity. Once the Executive Order was amended in 2003 to allow more fields to apply, this diversity changed somewhat, but still not greatly. To wit: 2/3 of all applicants to the program come from the fields of public administration, international affairs, and law. I do not have any data on either genders or race/ethnicity (arguably a good thing, but would be interesting to research), but look around when you arrive at your assessments and tell me what levels of diversity you see.

    What I can't readily account for is the perceptions that the program is somehow unfair. Testing and assessment structures factor into the overall fairness, however, and anything that alters the objectivity of those tests and assessments will lead to perceptions of unfairness. In the case of the in-person assessment, since it is spread out over a month of assessments, any disclosure of the assessment procedures or subject matter could provide a time-based assessment bias wherein scores improve over time during that process due to the availability of assessment information that was not available earlier. Elements that would affect this objectivity include presentation subjects, assessment structure and procedures, any knowledge of scoring methods, and things like that. It is not mere prudence to abstain from sharing this sort of information; it is vital to the integrity of the process that all semifinalists be assessed on ground that is as close to equitable as possible.

    I hope all of you feel the same way and are as committed as I am to preserving the integrity of the current assessment process, at least while it's ongoing. Once the last in-person assessment is done, we can merrily present assessment strategies, compare notes on the process, and publicize the good and the bad about the process, but in the mean time I would appreciate it if we could steer clear of such discussions.

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  110. Is there anyone scheduled for the Chicago assessment on Wednesday who is concerned about weather issues/possible cancellation?

    I know the D.C. tests had some bad weather but nothing was canceled.

    What is everyone thinking?

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  111. To be clear on bringing luggage to the DC test site, what did you do with it if you brought it? Check it with bell services at the hotel?

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  112. Hi All, I was supposed to attend the DC in-person assessment today, but had an emergency and couldn't get there. I called to try to reschedule, and someone at the number provided seemed to enter my request into their system. My understanding is that they'll get back to me.

    Has anyone else had any experience rescheduling under similar circumstances, or does anyone happen to know if there will be additional in person assessments in DC in February?

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  113. That comment about people being "jerks" was quite silly. Looking at the PMF process, I lost count how many times they stated it was a "competitive process" to attract the brightest and best suited to government management leadership positions. In the competitions I have been involved in, it has been a good idea to not share information pertaining to the substance of the program. (unless you are a Patriots football fan and think videotaping sidelines is not cheating, geez wonder why they have not won since then)

    I see no problem in logistical sharing like travel and so on, but I do agree with preserving the integrity so that everyone gets the same fair shot.

    Chicago... I heard they are going to have an epic storm this week! Yikes, stay warm!

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  114. Two thoughts.

    First, the OPM has specifically stated that they expect to take 750-800 finalists. Does anyone think that final number taken will be closer to "750" or "800"?

    With approximately 400 less nominations than this year's total ; The OPM took 864 one year ago. Some friends of mine who are upper managers within agencies say that federal service has a higher total of expected retirements within the next one year period.

    Secondly, due to the number of foreign applicants and the fact there are a number of non-American applicants from English speaking nations where dialects and language trends vary; Does anyone think the graders of the essay portion may cut some slack to words that should be hyphenated within the US English language "ex. the boy was twenty-six". The hyphen is standard within US writing. It goes without saying that American spelling be used in the essay but hyphenated standardizations could be called into question.

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  115. A bunch of us brought our luggage with us to the assessment and we were able to keep it with us. At the DC spot there is a "holding area" in the hotel that we were in when we weren't preparing for the presentations or taking part in the writing portion so we kept our bags there. The assessment took closer to 6 hours rather than 8-10 hours but that probably because of the bad weather we were having that day.

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  116. Anyone have any idea when the last assessments are? And when we will be notified?

    I do not think the foreign applicants are foreigners per se, but are Americans studying abroad. Especially since alot of the jobs require citizenship and security clearences.

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  117. When it comes to the number of finalists that will be selected this year, I personally believe that they will top 900 for the first time. Even though the percentage of finalists chosen has not risen in accordance with the 150% increase in total applicants since FY 2008, it has gone up each year nonetheless. FY 2009 saw 5700 applicants and 786 finalists (I don't know the nominees from that year). Last year, there were 8700 applicants, 6884 nominees, and 885 finalists. Since the number of applicants this year only showed a 4.6% increase over last year (9100 vs 8700), we can speculate that there will be a comparable 10% chosen as finalists. That would put the number at just over 900.

    Another thing I wonder about is if the cancellation of the Federal Career Intern Program will motivate agencies to hire PMFs in their place. The Pathways program will take a while to implement and the new finalists will be ready to go in April.

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  118. 1.) Does anyone know how the 3 assessment areas (written, individual, and group) are weighted?

    2.) Does anyone know what the correlation of the veteran's preference points are to the scores we are earning on the 3 assessment areas?

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  119. Guys, just relax. I took the assessment yesterday and there's nothing to stress over. For those asking for more info, we're prohibited from giving it out but to be quite honest it probably wouldn't help that much anyways.

    To the above poster, from my understanding the three groups are weighted equally. They will remind you of the grading criteria before each exercise.

    Also, we ended up getting out before 3PM. Not sure if this is the norm but just FYI so you can plan travel accordingly. Good luck!

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  120. I think you'll be ok, other than the fact that most standards state to actually write "26", not "twenty-six".

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  121. Can anyone else comment on their finishing time? I am considering booking a 7:30 pm departure flight out of Regan? Thanks for the help!

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  122. I was done by around 3:00, but it honestly depends on where you fall on the schedule. I would assume that if the DC site operates the same way it did the day I was there, that you could safely assume to be done by 5 at the latest.

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  123. To the above poster, there were 864 finalists last year.

    A 10% increase in proportion to this year's applicants would put this year's estimated finalist total at 928; along the lines with what you are saying.

    Personally, I think they take between 800-850 when all is said and done.

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  124. Washington, DC

    Dear Anonymous @ 5:40am 2/4/2011, it's fairly easy to get to DCA from the testing location, so 7:30 would be fine provided you get out by 5:30.

    How many finalists become Fellows? It was my understanding that fewer than half of the Finalists become Fellows, but I can't find the precise statistic.

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  125. The current list of finalists for last year has 885 names.

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  126. Are finalists selected based only on their in-person performances? Are veterans given extra points at this stage, too?

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  127. For those who have taken the assessment, did anyone not show up on your day? As far as I know everyone showed up on my day in ATL, but a classmate of mine said like 7 or 8 people didn't show on his day.

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  128. Also wondering if this blistering weather expected in Chicago later this week will create some attendance issues.

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  129. @ Feb 6 8:24: Out of the 10 people assigned for my group, 2 didn't show up. And, FWIW, I was in the very first week of the assessments. Could have been a fluke, but I would bet that a decent amount of people have gotten other post-grad jobs between the initial test in Nov/Dec and now.

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  130. @ Feb 6 8:24 It looked like about 6-8 people didn't show up on my testing day in DC. That would be about 20%.

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  131. 2 people didn't show up on my testing date in Chicago.

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  132. Chicago was pretty relaxed, with some leaving by 2:30. 2 people were no shows and 1 person was late (5 minutes), but was still allowed to take the test.

    Overall-- easy day-- easy to get to, nice lunch spots near by, and a great set of candidates. I, like many on these feeds, questioned the overall process for selection, but based on the candidates on my day, I was impressed. I can honestly say any of them would be qualified. Many with multiple languages, previous Federal experience, etc. Great group of people! And, the tests were very fair.

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  133. I did a quick check on my day; on average there was 1-2 missing from each 10-person group. Highly un-scientific, I know, but there's certainly some attrition going on as expected.

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  134. I agree, after taking my tests I was completely impressed with the selection of candidates. All had very diverse backgrounds, many had some type of foreign experience, and everyone got along really well. OPM obviously got the personality part down. I am excited, all this news of people not showing makes the odds even better.

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  135. Indeed, EXCELLENT candidate pool in Atlanta -- retired Navy officers, abroad studiers, multi-language speakers. Makes for stiff competition, but also flattering just to be in the club... and consoling were a person not to make it to the next stage :-)

    Plus, every single former PMF I've spoken with has been similarly impressive. Those of us who make it have a lot to live up to!

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  136. 1 person out of 20 missed on my day in D.C. The other 19 seemed really qualified though. I would guess that the no-show rate is 5 to 10%, which would be 1350 to 1425 people actually showing up for the assessment. If they select close to 900 finalist again, our chances are real good. I guess we just have to wait until March.

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  137. I just had my assessment in San Francisco yesterday. All of the people in my room showed up, but I'm not sure about the other group. Everyone I met was extremely intelligent and incredibly friendly. I felt like I did well, but I may not be chosen because my fellow semi-finalists all seemed very qualified as well.

    Does anyone know if the 3 parts are weighed equally? Since the writing portion was longer than the other parts I was wondering if it would be worth more. Also, someone in my group mentioned that the results of our online test are also included in our score to determine if we make it as a finalist, is this true? Thanks!

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  138. It's my understanding that finalists are selected based on the online and in-person scores and overall experience/qualifications.

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  139. What materials am I allowed to take into the assessment center (which is a Federal building)? I'm just unsure about security regs.

    Am I allowed to carry in my cellphone? Laptop? Messenger bag with contents? Water? Food?

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  140. We had one person absent from my group. I couldn't tell you how qualified the other candidates were because we didn't get into personal biographies, but they all appeared competent.

    I was under the impression that finalists are picked solely on the oral assessment. The other stuff was just to get us to this point but is not included in the process.

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  141. For those who have already done the in-person: is your individual presentation in front of the other candidates?

    Also, I'm also curious what we can bring in with us?

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  142. To advance to "finalist" status (all three sections of the in-person assessment will be weighted equally), the candidates will be ranked according to the in-person assessment scores, with veterans preference appropriately applied, and the top however many students they decided will become finalists. The online assessment and previous experiences are irrelevant, at least in this step of the process.

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  143. I don't think this is correct.

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  144. From page one of the assessment prep guide: "The proctored Assessment Center puts semi-finalists through a day-long assessment which consists of three components: individual presentation, group exercise, and a writing exercise. Your performance is observed by a three-person panel. Finalists will be identified based on their performance at the Assessment Center."

    This doesn't explicitly say the on-line assessment scores aren't included, but the last phrase seems to indicate only the Assessment Center scores are used (w/ vets preference of course).

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  145. The results from the online assessment are definitely factored into becoming a finalist! No sweat.

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  146. @ Feb 12, 12:49PM

    What's the source of your knowledge?

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  147. I believe that it is most logical to think that everyone is on equal footing going into the oral assessment? (Minus the people with Vets preference which gives them a boost?)

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  148. I think that's right, Vets have a leg up in all phases theoretically.

    As for the assessment, I took one of the early ones and agree with the posters who say that there is nothing to worry about. All of the information is in the packet and I can't imagine anyone not having the skill set required to do well getting this far. All of the skills tested are ones you have likely done a million times in grad/undergrad/work.

    The key here is that everyone who made it this far is remarkable. In some ways I think it's like the Olympics. You may not "medal" in this event; however, you have certainly achieved something to be proud of regardless of the outcome. Good luck to all!

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  149. I'm up for my assessment on Thursday in SF and am getting a bit nervous. Thankfully I've been working full time for 5 years and, in the last few weeks, have practiced my interview skills trying to obtain a promotion at my current job. Good luck to everyone out there, here's to not tripping over my own shoes in the way into the interview!

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  150. FWIW...Federal Service IS anticipating a considerably increased number of retirements for FY '11 as opposed to FY '10 and the OPM's analysts know this, there is the cancellation of the Federal Intern Career Program, and there were 400+ more nominations this year than last.

    Whether these three above factors alone lead to an increase in last year's finalist total of 885 is yet to be seen; Though there are other factors and structrual challenges involved it is valuable information. A finalist total approaching 900 means one's chances of landing finalist status have never been better.

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  151. That is all well and good, but there's also the budget cuts the House is proposing. OPM is conveniently waiting until after the March 4 CR deadline to announce the number of finalists.

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  152. @Anonymous 1:49 PM: That seems a bit doubtful. While the CR will undoubtedly have an impact on the disposition of finalists, it's a bit of a stretch to suggest that the schedule was determined solely on the basis of the CR. The selection process, with or without the in-person assessment, has been conducted on a very similar schedule for a long time. Whether that was originally determined by past continuing resolutions or not, I don't know. But the deal is, expect some results in March, and a PMF job fair in late March or early April. Also, keep in mind the mountain of work the PMF Program Office is going to undertake once this in-person assessment is over. It will take some time to compile scores and determine the finalist list.

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  153. I had my in person assessment in SF and thought many of the finalist seemed real casual (No suits, etc...). The west coast is usually more laid back, but I was a little surprised. I talked to friends who had their assessments in D.C. and they said that everyone was extremely professional.

    I know that the OPM is supposed to rate us according to a set of objective standards, but I imagine that it is very hard not to compare one candidate to the other ones on the same day. Do you think there is any advantage to going to one testing site as opposed to another?

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  154. No suits? Has that been the norm for others, or just unique to SF?

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  155. I was in DC. Everyone there but me wore the "uniform" Blue suit for the men black suit/skirt setup for the women. I was the only one who was male not in blue.

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  156. I was in SF and everyone was very professionally presented. You would be an idiot to show up in smething other than business attire. I personally like the black Herringbone, traditional & classy. :)

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  157. If I had known that you didn't need to dress professionally, I wouldn't have worn a suit either.

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  158. Technically it shouldn't matter what you wear to the in-person assessment, within some range, as long as your appearance doesn't detract from your presentation. The assessors aren't there to judge your fashion sense, but we all know that appearance does have some impact. I guess if there's still any question, you might just want to show up in a suit of some sort.

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  159. Think of this as one of the biggest, longest job interviews of your life. You "technically" shouldn't be judged by what you wear but it's impossible for someone to not pay attention to that. What you wear gives someone a general sense of your seriousness and can affect their perception of how professional your presentation is. Don't be "that person" who doesn't show up dressed for success. Suits are standard in the business world and should be worn for any job interview (at least at this level....I will say I didn't wear one when I was in high school and interviewed a clerk at my local grocery store).

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  160. Heck, I wore a suit to an interview for a summer job working for the concessionaire (Not for NPS) in Yosemite National Park! I was the only one there in one. They were only hiring janitors that day, (that is what they do, they dont really look at background) and they told me straight up that because I wore a suit they were giving me a better job, even though they really wanted to hire janitors. I ended up with the coveted (because you have your days off) night cashiering job, purely on the basis of the suit.

    What you wear matters. Even if they aren't ostensibly looking at that, their idea of who you are and how they grade you (they are human after all) will be impacted.

    BTW Everyone at my assessment in SF was dressed very professionally.

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  161. I am very surprised there are people who have shown up in something other than business attire. It may not technically be required and maybe the judges aren't technically supposed to judge you based on attired, but by this point (coming out of a Master's or higher degree) people should realize that dress affects job interviews. If I were an assessor, I would have a hard time taking a poorly dressed person seriously, especially when everyone else is in business attire.

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  162. It's over! What were peoples' impressions? For me, the thing that stood out is how the three assessors wrote full-speed non-stop during the individual and group activities. Like, even before we started to speak. What were they writing?

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  163. I know, what were they writing? I think they must have been reading into things like whether we sat or stood to speak, or...... I really don't know.

    What did you guys think about the writing assignment. It was certainly an easy prompt, but what type of "motivation" do you think they are looking for? I tried to talk about my past work experience and why I would be a good fit for a federal position, but I came up a bit short on the motivation.

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  164. It isn't technically over...the final day for make-up assessments is February 25th. I strongly feel that we should keep all impressions of the assessment to our selves until February 26th.

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  165. I don't think it's over just yet. February 24 is the last day. Until then, lips sealed! Though, I concur with your point. I mean, what is the deal?

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  166. The website says it's not over until the 25th.

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  167. Concur that testing isn't over yet. Feb 19 at 3:58 should be deleted.

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  168. ^ There are always some in the crowd. Oh well. Anyway, it was definitely not what I was expecting. I just hope the wait for our results speeds by.

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  169. Just my connection, or is the PMF site down?

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  170. No it definitely appears to be down. Maybe they are changing something.

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  171. Please remove the information laden comments!

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  172. which comments did you have in mind?

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  173. Especially February 19, 2011 3:58 PM

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  174. Feb 19 @ 7:56am and Feb 19 @ 3:58pm both contain information that could be valuable to candidates. I share the other commenters' views that they should be deleted.

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  175. Ok I think I took care of them. They will be released after the 25th

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  176. Thank you! This site has been a great resource! Really appreciate your help!

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  177. The process needs to be fair to all candidates. Thank you for removing those comments!

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  178. Somehow, I'm not surprised that some people didn't wear suits to the assessment. I noticed that in my grad school there was a big increase in the number of kids who had just graduated from college and who stayed in school simply to avoid the job market. Many of them had zero work experience and their parents were still paying their rent, tuition, car expenses, etc. With this lack of maturity and life experience in abundance, it is not shocking that some candidates would blow off wearing a suit to an important in-person assessment.

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  179. Hey everyone,

    I've heard a lot of rumors about how many PMFs will be selected this year, and it seemed like all my group talked about during the day of the test. That said, we can only really guess. I was wondering if anyone had heard from their career services department what they expected. I'm assuming they might have inside knowledge that students do not.

    Basically, I'm trying to distract my brain by thinking about how this all might work out, while not thinking about waiting for that email sometime in mid-March!

    Good luck to everyone!

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  180. Wow, a lot of people check this site really often. Out of the ~1500 people who will take the assessment (a few percent will not take it, for whatever reason), I think about 1000 people will be become finalists. That's 2 of every 3 semi-finalists. Then again, assuming that all veterans receive enough VP to become finalists regardless of how poorly (or well) they do, I'd say chances are closer to about 50% for people who aren't veterans.

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  181. Has anyone else found that pmf.gov has been down for the last couple of days? Or is just my browser?

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  182. The site has been down for a couple days. Quite the timing.

    Also, 1000 people seems very high to me. I agree with the other commenter, it would be best if we touched base with our career service people to see if there's some inside info. Otherwise we're just guessing.

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  183. I noticed there were a few semi-finalists from online universities (Strayer, University of Phoenix). This seems pretty crazy to me, especially as some people in my program got rejected despite impressive backgrounds and degrees from top schools.

    I hope I get this, but man the process seems crazy. Although, I'm guessing that your actual resume will matter once you're a finalist and you're trying to get the more sought-after jobs.

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  184. February 21, 2011 10:34 AM, going by your analysis that 1000 will be selected out of 1500, but our chances of selection are more around 50% because of the vets, would mean that you think there are around 500 vets in the semi-final round. That seems like a lot.

    Does anyone know what the percentage of semi-finalist who are vets? I am guessing it is more around 10%....but just guessing.

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  185. And remember, the majority of vets will only qualify for the 5 point preference. That doesn't seem like much. Of course, if the max point total of the in-person assessment is 15 (1-5 possible, with 5 points max for each of the three components), then the 5 points is significant. However, if the components are worth more, then not so much, obviously.

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  186. 500 veteran semi-finalists is way too many. I'm thinking it was more in the 160-180 range.

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  187. @ February 21, 2011 5:14 PM I agree with you, vets only qualify for 5 points which doesn't seem enough to push them over.

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  188. According to the 2000 Census, Veterans made up about 12.7% of the population, but Veterans only made up 3.4% of college students in 2008. So to say there are 500 Veterans in the mix is absurd. 500 probably didn't even apply.

    Too bad the PMF website is down, because you can go look at past Finalists and see there Veteran preference listed. That would give us a more accurate indicator of what to expect.

    From memory it did not seem like too many were past finalists. I would estimate around 5-10% were veterans.

    To preemptively put this out there, I am a veteran and I sincerely appreciate that there has not been a single negative comment about veteran preference. I am a veteran myself, but I have worked hard to get to this point and I appreciate the support I have received. With veterans making up a disproportionate percentage of the homeless I hope the positive support continues.

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  189. And keep in mind that vet status isn't a point boost guarantee -- certain conditions must be met.

    I, for example, served on active duty for two and 1/2 years and in the guard for 6, much of which was "on orders" (temporary active duty). However, most of that was during relative peace, or not for x consecutive days, and so I therefore don't qualify for either the 5 or 10 point bonus.

    So don't assume that non vets are at a serious disadvantage, or that all vets who make it had a significant leg up.

    And to echo the above poster, thanks to all for not bashing the vets' pref. Though some had it easy (like me), some sacrificed a LOT -- may they get every advantage possible in this, and elsewhere in life.

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  190. PMF.gov is back up and, by my count, last year there were 108 finalists with Vet pref. That is 12% of the total 884 finalists. I'm guessing, based on what others have said, that 5% of semi-finalists have not been showing up to the assessment center so the 1530 semi-finalists has dwindled to 1450. If we get 900 finalists this year and 12% are Vet Pref, then there are 792 spots let for the rest of us. That makes 55% chance of becoming a finalist for non-Vets.

    Only problem is, I don't know whether to feel like those are good odds or bad odds.

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  191. The 55% chance of becoming a finalist seems much better than is usually the case. These days, it seems like there are at least a few hundred applicants for every open position.

    I recently applied to and interviewed with an intel agency. The guy said he read 7,000 pages of resumes (assuming 10 pages per applicant then 700 applicants, but there were probably more applicants) and had to choose 16 people to interview. And there weren't even any spots open yet! This was just to get a hiring list for the next year when spots come open within a particular division.

    Of course if you consider that there were 9,000 initial applicants and the fact that not all finalists get jobs (60% or so of finalists?), then the overall odds aren't that great. Even if 600 people get jobs the overall selection rate would be 6.6%.

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  192. I think 5% of semi-finalists skipping the assessment is on the low end. If you figure that there were 73 total days of assessing at the four locations with an average of 1 person missing per group, then it works out to be closer to 10%. It's probably even more with all the horrible weather the country has been having and certain candidates having to fly from out of the country; those who couldn't reschedule; and those who didn't want to participate in the first place.

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  193. The biggest issue the OPM dropped the ball here on the oral assessment is the 10-12 day notice. It is obvious these folks do not travel on airplanes that often, because the prices on most airlines jump dramatically if booking within a 2 week window. For the people living overseas, I can't imagine how much out of an increase that meant.

    I live 380 miles from Atlanta proper and had to make a connecting flight to get to the busiest airport in the world (Delta also has once-hourly service from my airport) I'm sure these cities were strategically chosen because of their solid accessibility to airlines; but they are all HUB cities with dramatically increased costs if only making round trip plans to and from them especially within 2 weeks!!! Who are these bone headed analysts??

    Next, what about that whole span of the country from SF-Chicago with zero assessing centers in-between?

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  194. I think all the SF people got their notices at the end of December for assessments that didn't begin until Feb 7. How does that work?

    Seeing how Denver is supposedly the second largest concentration of government employees in the country, it is surprising that they didn't schedule anything there.

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  195. I thought it was ridiculous that there was no help for our travel expenses either. Especially for those of us flying across the country and having to get a hotel.

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  196. "If you figure that there were 73 total days of assessing at the four locations with an average of 1 person missing per group, then it works out to be closer to 10%."

    In other words: if on average 1 person is missing from a group of 10, it is 10%.

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