If you pass the FSOT multiple choice and essay sections, you will receive an email asking you to submit a Personal Narrative (PN) in which you answer questions describing the knowledge, skills, and abilities you would bring to the Foreign Service. The firm deadline for submission will be three weeks after the request is sent to you.

The PN offers you the opportunity to highlight not just what you have done, but how you did it and what you learned. You should provide examples from your previous experiences that show you have the skills to be a successful FSO. This is an important part of the application and is read carefully by each member of a Qualifications Evaluation Panel (QEP) made of up trained Foreign Service Officers.

You’ll want to highlight your most salient qualifications in the PNQs.  For example, if you’re a recent graduate with little work experience, you’ll most likely want to focus on your academic and volunteer experience.  If you’ve been in the work force for a number of years you’ll likely focus on your job experiences and their associated responsibilities.  You’ll want to think broadly about your personal, educational and professional experience, including paid and volunteer work experience, educational achievements, training, awards, hobbies, sports and travel.

The 13 Dimensions and 6 Precepts

The panel assesses the PN based on the 13 Dimensions and the Six Precepts that are predictors of success and advancement in the Foreign Service.

These precepts include:

  • Leadership: innovation, decision making, teamwork, openness to dissent, community service and institution building
  • Interpersonal Skills: professional standards, persuasion and negotiation, workplace perceptiveness, adaptability, representational skills
  • Communication Skills: written communication, oral communication, active listening, public outreach, foreign language skill
  • Management Skills: operational effectiveness, performance management and evaluation, management resources, customer service
  • Intellectual Skills: information gathering and analysis, critical thinking, active learning, leadership and management training
  • Substantive Knowledge: Understanding of U.S. history/ government/culture and application in dealing with other cultures. Knowledge and application of career track relevant information.

The PNQ’s consist of 5 essays, with a 1300 character limit for each.  They seek a great deal of information in a limited space so you’ll want to highlight your most salient qualifications.  All information in both the application and the personal narrative is subject to verification and any misrepresentation of fact is grounds for terminating your candidacy.

To help write your PN, focus on your own experience in answering the questions. Use these precepts as a guide to

(1) give positive examples that demonstrate your abilities;

(2) identify learning experiences;

(3) indicate how your learning experience will contribute to success in your chosen Foreign Service career track.

Once your essays have been submitted, your file moves on to the Qualifications Evaluation Panel.

A Note on References

You are not required to give references for your employers but you are required to provide references for the PNQ’s. During the last several rounds of testing, references have been contacted.  It’s critical that you choose the correct references and notify them ahead of time. These references do not need to be superiors but they must be people familiar enough with your work to verify your stories.



  1. Chad says:

    Are these essays required to be formatted any specific way? Are we able to use sources to back up our opinions or is it completely auto-biographical?

  2. Ralph Hensley says:

    What are the “13 Precepts” noted on your webpage? The link is broken. Thanks

  3. Mary says:

    Jonas, hur stort me5ste sjukhuset vara ff6r att det ska ke4nnas lugnt? Barn ff6ds f6verallt i Sverige, och beardskep ff6r att ta hand om dem pe5 be4sta se4tt me5ste finnas f6verallt! Kompetensen att ta hand om barnen, e4ven de5 de e4r sve5rt sjuka, me5ste alltid he5llas levande. Du kommer att ke4nna dig lugn ne4r du har kompetens! Att reducera denna kompetens till det stora sjukhuset e4r farligt. He4r i fje4llve4rlden, pe5 det lilla sjukhuset, har vi le5ng och gedigen erfarenhet av att ta hand om nyff6dda. Be5de fullge5ngna och prematura. Det he4nder att vi fe5r e5ka ut pe5 hemff6rlossningar, dit det kan vara upp till 30 mil. Vi har intuberat i fje4llstugor eller pe5 ve5rdcentraler. Utan god kompetens hos ve5ra neonatologer som e5kt ut, hade dessa barn inte klarat sig. Ve5rt stora sjukhus ligger 40 mil bort, e5t andra he5llet e4n me5nga av ve5ra inve5nare. Det e4r en allme4n missuppfattning att det bara e4r pe5 det stora sjukhuset kompetensen finns. Ff6r att ge ve5ra barn en lika god ve5rd som vid det stora sjukhuset har vi alla pe5 ve5rt lilla sjukhus subspecialiserat oss. Vi fe5r me4ngden och det stora sammanhanget genom att regelbundet slita pe5 det stora sjukhuset. Vi stre4var efter att he5lla kompetensen hf6g och levande.Det e4r ju bara genom att aktivt he5lla kompetensen levande, ett ansvar varje barnle4kare har, som vi fe5r en likve4rdig ve5rd ff6r alla Sveriges barn. Se5ve4l pe5 det lilla som det stora sjukhuset. Det me5ste ke4nnas lugnt och tryggt e4ven pe5 det lilla sjukhuset.Ve4lkommen att testa lill-sjukhuset d6stersund, Jonas!

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