The Role of the FCO in UK Government




The Committee has asked for additional information on a series of human resources issues related to:

· Recruitment, appointment and promotion;

· Induction of staff;

· historical data since 1945 on staffing levels and the numbers of overseas posts;

· length of postings;

· secondments to other Government Departments; and

· appointments from outside the FCO.

The Committee has suggested it would be happy to see internal staff information on such issues, if this was readily available.

In response to these points, the Committee may find the following attachments of interest:

a) a note explaining FCO competences and attachments setting out in detail specific competences on FCO Band C and Senior Management Structure Band 1 for illustrative purposes;

b) a note on recruitment;

c) a note on promotion;

d) a note on appointments and attachments of internal guidance to staff taken from the FCO internal website;

e) a note on training and attachment showing the FCO induction programme for Band C officers as an illustration;

f) a note on interchange and secondments; and

g) a copy of the internal FCO rules on current length of postings for all posts.

Provision of full and accurate historical data for staffing from 1945 is more challenging. Data on this is not readily accessible, and may not be fully accurate.


The Committee asked for an update on the Directorate of Strategy, Policy Planning and Analysis. The Committee is aware from the FCO’s 2008-9 Annual Report that the Directorate was previously made up of two parts: the Strategy Unit, whose staff were generalist policy advisers, and which prepared strategic and long term policy advice; and Research Analysts, whose members provided expert analysis of different countries and issues, and who worked alongside the relevant geographical or functional directorate of the FCO (although in organisational terms they formed a separate department within the Directorate of Strategy, Policy Planning and Analysis).

In July 2010, this structure was revised. The Strategy Unit became the Policy Unit, still made up of generalist policy advisers, working through the Director for Strategy to the Permanent Under-Secretary. Their work is to strengthen the FCO’s policy work by supporting and sometimes challenging other Directorates; to improve policy skills throughout the Office (working with the Human Resources Directorate); to engage with internal and external experts; and to coordinate the FCO’s contribution to the work of the National Security Council. The Unit is in the process of recruiting staff to a full strength of 18 officers.

Members of Research Analysts, who were already co-located with the Directorate or Department which covered their respective areas of specialism, were fully incorporated into them in July 2010. Each Directorate is therefore now responsible for the management and resourcing of its analysts. There are 46 analysts at the moment. The FCO is currently reviewing the level of analytical capacity which it needs.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

February 2011


oVERALL CONTEXT: FCO COre competences

Attached to this note are stand-alone notes with details on how the FCO recruits, promotes and appoints staff to and within the FCO. What is common to all three notes is the FCO Core Competence framework. At some point in the recruitment, promotion, and appointment processes, candidates will be measured against some or all of the core competences.

This framework sets out the standards the FCO expects of its staff at each grade to be effective within the FCO, both in London and overseas. These competences cover (with variations between the grades):

- Strategic Thinking

- Problem Solving and Judgement

- Leadership

- Communicating and Influencing

- Managing and Developing Staff

- Delivering Results

- Managing External Relationships

- Working with Others

- Learning and Development

These are the skills deemed essential for both Diplomatic Service and Home Civil Service staff in the FCO.

Attached are more detailed indications of what the FCO expects from its staff at C Band (ie Second Secretary) and SMS 1 (ie those at lower levels of Senior Management).



Line management of individuals or a team, encouraging high levels of motivation and performance. Able to flex management style to suit different situations. Coaches and supports staff, tackling performance issues effectively. Values diversity, treating staff with equity and fairness. Embraces different ways of thinking and acting. Encourages everyone to fulfil their potential.

At this level, management responsibility can range from one or two individuals to fairly large teams. The effective use of delegation becomes increasingly important at this level, as does the manager’s role in helping staff to develop. There is also more scope than at Band B for giving overall direction to the work of the team. Band C staff with no formal line management responsibilities should still be able to demonstrate some aspects of this competence eg by offering support, guidance or coaching to new or more junior members of staff.

Indicators of Effective Behaviour

Indicators of Ineffective Behaviour

1.1 Meets with staff at the appropriate times to agree job descriptions and objectives, reviewing progress by providing regular, balanced feedback and identifying /evaluating development.

1.2 Keeps team members informed; provides reasoning underlying decisions; gives clear instructions, checking they are understood.

1.3 Adapts management approach to suit different people, cultures and situations.

1.4 Motivates and develops staff; provides support and advice and more challenging work as appropriate.

1.5 Manages talent: identifies potential, builds on strengths and differences; coaches team members in new skills or where they need development.

1.6 Praises good performance and encourages staff to build on their strengths. Tackles promptly and honestly under performance or inappropriate behaviour.

1.7 Creates an inclusive environment where all staff, including those from under-represented groups, are able to contribute to policy and/or service delivery.

1.8 Sets a positive example; inspires others by enthusiasm, energy and commitment.

1.9 Assesses and reviews results of training and its impact on performance of individuals.

1.10 Avoids addressing difficult issues, including poor performance.

1.11 Does not make time for staff management.

1.12 Takes no responsibility for developing staff.

1.13 Gives only negative feedback or none at all.

1.14 Insensitive to aspirations, pressures and personal concerns of staff.

1.15 Treats people unfairly or allows others to be excluded.

1.16 Unapproachable.

1.17 Unable to flex management style to fit the situation.

1.18 Uncomfortable working with people from

culture/backgrounds different to their own.


Manages own and team’s time effectively, responding flexibly to changing priorities and meeting objectives. Demonstrates the financial and resource management expertise necessary to achieve results. Professional, focused on delivering quickly and effectively. Takes well judged risks within own delegated authority.

At this level, there is likely to be more requirement than at Band B for taking responsibility for the output of the team and more of a requirement to take the initiative to reorganise work to deal with changing priorities, risks and opportunities.

Indicators of Effective Behaviour

Indicators of Ineffective Behaviour

2.1 Seizes opportunities, anticipates & deals with problems, making decisions & achieving objectives.

2.2 Accepts responsibility for quality and accuracy of own and staff’s work; works with/through staff to achieve results.

2.3 Able to prioritise and plan best use of resources.

2.4 Uses project management techniques: sets clear targets, standards and milestones; delegates appropriate tasks with sufficient guidance.

2.5 Systematically monitors progress against plans; identifies risks and acts to deal with obstacles or setbacks.

2.6 Complies with organisational procedures and legal requirements (including Equality Impact Assessments), ensuring systems are defined, documented and reviewed as appropriate. Information is properly recorded and referenced.

2.7 Manages budgets effectively, estimating, profiling, forecasting and monitoring spends and taking action to deal with any over/under-spends.

2.8 Evaluates outcomes against planned objectives.

2.9 Resilient and flexible: maintains ‘can do’ attitude when pressure is on.

2.10 Knows when to harness the leverage of more senior staff or to seek advice of specialists to deliver results.

2.11 Uses rules and procedures as an invalid excuse for non-delivery.

2.12 Commits to delivery regardless of impact on self or team.

2.13 Fails to adjust ways of working in light of changed circumstances.

2.14 Puts off difficult tasks to later.

2.15 Exceeds limits of own authority.

2.16 Risk averse.


This competence relates to the full range of (internal and external) stakeholders including customers and external contacts who impact on or are impacted by the work of your team. It is about how effectively relationships are managed and a systematic and innovative approach to improving the quality of service offered.

Indicators of Effective Behaviour

Indicators of Ineffective Behaviour

3.1 Acts with honesty, integrity and professionalism.

3.2 Identifies full range of internal and external customers/stakeholders, and works with them to agree standards of service, offering alternatives when appropriate.

3.3 Manages expectations by explaining any valid operational limitations at an early stage.

3.4 Identifies key stakeholders with an interest in particular activities, encourages their involvement and keeps them informed of progress.

3.5 Monitors standards of service provided.

3.6 Meets commitments or renegotiates.

3.7 Responds constructively to complaints.

3.8 Uses feedback and information on performance standards to review and improve continuously the quality of service provided.

3.9 Builds and maintains an effective network of relevant contacts and uses them to achieve objectives.

3.10 Has a narrow definition of customer/stakeholder.

3.11 Deals with customers from perspective of own needs rather than the customers.

3.12 Promises something they cannot deliver.

3.13 Does not deliver to agreed deadline/quality/specification.

3.14 Does not seek or act on feedback from customers.

3.15 Focuses on a narrow range of contacts or cultivates those who add little value.


Able to tackle difficult problems/tasks: evidence based approach, gathers information from a wide range of sources and viewpoints, analyses and evaluates it and reaches sound conclusions. Proposes constructive solutions.

This competence underpins most of what individuals do. It applies both to all kinds of analysis and judgement in every type of work.

Indicators of Effective Behaviour

Indicators of Ineffective Behaviour

4.1 Deals proactively with problems, taking responsibility and acting decisively and appropriately to resolve them.

4.2 Gathers information needed to tackle tasks and problems.

4.3 Recognises and picks out priority issues and potential risks and knows when to refer upwards.

4.4 Presents managers with proposed solutions that include risk assessment and management.

4.5 Evaluates diverse needs & perspectives, including views of stakeholders, before taking decisions.

4.6 Seeks advice from experts where appropriate.

4.7 Makes objective, timely recommendations and decisions based on best available evidence & sound analysis.

4.8 Indecisive, particularly under pressure.

4.9 Does not use an appropriate range of information sources. Evidence light.

4.10 Makes decisions without understanding or evaluating necessary information and evidence.

4.11 Spends too much time analysing problems at the expense of finding solutions.

4.12 Flawed judgement because too little time spent on analysis and detail.

4.13 Always recommends precedent without considering other options.

4.14 Refuses to consider or accept solutions which involve any element of risk.

4.15 Lets problems fester.


Takes account of and understands relevant policy objectives of the FCO and wider Government and how their work fits in. Encourages and contributes new ideas, innovation, and experiment to improve delivery of policy and services.

At this level staff are expected to think more widely about their work and how it fits in to the broader aims of the organisation

Indicators of Effective Behaviour

Indicators of Ineffective Behaviour

5.1 Understands policy context of own work and how it fits into FCO and OGDs work and objectives.

5.2 Keeps up to date with both internal and external changes that affect own work.

5.3 Takes account of wider political, social, economic factors and the implications of proposed action.

5.4 Integrates information from a wide range of sources; sees interrelationships, establishes links, patterns and conflicts.

5.5 Able to identify and assess potential threats.

5.6 Considers long and short term implications of proposed actions.

5.7 Creative: introducing opportunities to add value to own or other FCO/OGD work.

5.8 Introduces new thinking to existing debates.

5.9 Loses sight of business objectives.

5.10 Does not consider impact on wider policy agenda.

5.11 Oblivious to risk that an action could have a negative impact on the organisation.

5.12 Fails to take account of external changes which may impact on their work.

5.13 Always approaches issues from the same perspective; finds it hard to consider new angles or fresh approaches.

5.14 Unable to see or assess risk.

5.15 Rejects creative and innovative proposals without assessing viability.


Self-aware: shows consideration for others' needs and motivations, values diversity and inclusion; works effectively and supportively on shared objectives with colleagues and contacts in both the immediate and wider teams to get things done.

This competence is about personal effectiveness and many of the required behaviours will be the same for staff at all levels. The difference lies in the context of these interactions, in the variety and status of contacts and in the degree of potential sensitivity. At this level, the range of relationships is likely to be more diverse than at Band B.

Indicators of Effective Behaviour

Indicators of Ineffective Behaviour

6.1 Treats everyone with fairness and respect regardless of work pressure. Understands and anticipates others’ needs and motivation.

6.2 Self-aware: recognises and manages impact of own behaviour, actions and language on others, respecting different cultures, beliefs and needs.

6.3 Builds co operative and productive working relationships with others regardless of status.

6.4 Capitalises on the benefits of working with a diverse range of people, thinking and working styles.

6.5 Notices when colleagues are under pressure or in difficulty and responds proactively.

6.6 Thinks about how to add value to the team & how others can contribute; contributes to setting and achieving team objectives.

6.7 Includes others in decision-making, keeping interested parties informed.

6.8 Places own priorities ahead of those of the team.

6.9 Does not listen to others viewpoints and contributions.

6.10 Does not recognise the benefits of other thinking or working styles.

6.11 Reacts negatively when challenged; prefers not to challenge others.

6.12 Does not acknowledge others’ ideas or innovations.


Presents a professional image of self, Department/Post and FCO. Conveys information clearly and concisely, adjusting style according to purpose and audience. Able to persuade and challenge.

As in the case of Working with Others, some of the effective behaviours will be common to staff at all levels, with the stepchange coming in the level of contacts and the range and complexity of the interaction.

Indicators of Effective Behaviour

Indicators of Ineffective Behaviour

7.1 Structure and style of communication is appropriate for the situation and context and takes full acount of the needs/perspective of the audience.

7.2 Communication is concise, structured and focussed on key messages, and adds value.

7.3 Complex issues are explained clearly, including under time pressure.

7.4 Listens carefully, checks out understanding and provides information wanted. Open to others’ views and being persuaded.

7.5 Prepared to give unpopular messages and defend own position in face of opposition, when required.

7.6 Well prepared for meetings/negotiations; anticipates problems but also able to respond to the unexpected.

7.7 Persuasive: combines logic and reason with interpersonal sensitivity to persuade others.

7.8 Seeks to create solutions which offer mutual benefits. Focuses attention on those aspects which can be influenced.

7.9 Does not seek to clarify when uncertain about information or instruction.

7.10 Unfocused and no clear structure to communication.

7.11 Does not consider the recipients’ needs.

7.12 Unconvincing in argument and/or when challenged.

7.13 Dominates discussions and excludes others.

7.14 Does not contribute.

7.15 Unable to vary presentation style to suit the situation, sticks to traditional approach.


Open and curious approach to new ideas, drawing on them and on experience to improve performance. Enthusiastic about personal development. Contributes to and supports corporate policies.

At this level, staff should be taking more responsibility for their own long term development, seeking feedback from a wide range of staff and stakeholders and proactive in pursuit of opportunities to develop.

Indicators of Effective Behaviour

Indicators of Ineffective Behaviour

8.1 Open to, seeks out and acts upon feedback

8.2 Acknowledges own mistakes, seeks to apply learning and experience to new roles and situations.

8.3 Demonstrates readiness to learn more and develop performance; takes personal responsibility for own development. Has a Personal Development Plan.

8.4 Reviews work to learn from past experience or mistakes and shares lessons to be learned with the team.

8.5 Responds positively to change initiatives.

8.6 Open to new ways of thinking and working and helps others to adapt.

8.7 Positively challenges outdated conventions and actively contributes ideas and suggestions to improve the way things are done.

8.8 Contributes to corporate activities and the development of FCO good practice.

8.9 Reacts positively to FCO-wide initiatives and encourages others to participate.

8.10 Rejects development opportunities offered by manager.

8.11 Limited Personal Development Plan: attends courses without identifying clear aims and purposes or without putting the learning into practice.

8.12 Lacks self-awareness and curiosity.

8.13 Makes same mistake repeatedly.

8.14 Dismisses new ideas or different perspectives without evaluation.


Gives purpose and direction to own teams. Takes difficult decisions and well judged risks. Inclusive, empowering others to work together to achieve organisational goals. Inspires confidence and trust. Contributes to wider corporate management including change. Acts with honesty, integrity and professionalism.

Effective Behaviour

Behaviour to Change

1.1 Communicates clear and compelling vision, direction and priorities.

1.3 Provides a clear rationale of the need for change; encourages staff to respond openly and objectively; and rewards innovation.

1.4 Takes difficult decisions and measured risks, including on the basis of incomplete information, and is accountable for them.

1.5 Sets out the context for staff; shows how work is relevant and enables others to take decisions.

1.6 Is a role model to team/s: behaves in ways which promotes inclusive behaviour and professionalism, integrity and best practice.

1.7 Is highly credible and visible, and has strong rapport with staff at all levels.

1.8 Resilient and flexible; manages setbacks or resistance.

1.9 Promotes the service offered by own area or FCO showing how it can add value.

1.10 Sets boundaries; balances accessibility with time to think, focus and


1.11 Undermines corporate decisions.

1.12 Looks to others to provide direction.

1.13 Indecisive, takes the easiest option.


1.14 Allows or exhibits behaviour which excludes or discriminates against

staff or groups of staff.

1.15 Says one thing and does another.

1.16 Ignores wider interests when fighting own corner.

1.17 Blames staff when things go wrong.

1.18 Ignores impact of change on staff.

1.19 Avoids giving difficult messages; only says what people want to hear.

1.20 Fails to communicate regularly with staff.

1.21 Creates unnecessary work or duplicates work best done by others.

1.22 Lacks the self belief to lead through difficulty



Promotes high motivation and performance. Encourages team leaders to set objectives, define responsibility and accountability, review progress and provide feedback, support and coaching. At this level the emphasis is as much on setting the context in which team leaders manage their staff as on management of individuals and encouraging everyone to fulfil their potential.

Effective Behaviour and PSG Skills

Behaviour to Change

2.1 Runs Department/Command/Post to IiP standards or better, working with HR experts to achieve organisational goals.

2.2 Agrees clear responsibilities and objectives, involving people in deciding what needs to be done.

2.3 Demonstrates concern for welfare and morale of all staff.

2.4 Adapts management style to different people, cultures and situations.

2.5 Gives frequent honest and constructive feedback and encourages managers to do the same; praises achievement and tackles poor performance or inappropriate behaviour.

2.6 Offers managers the coaching, support and advice they need to produce high performance, judging when to step in; promotes a coaching culture.

2.7 Manages talent: identifies potential; values and makes use of people’s strengths and differences; creates an environment that supports the development of all staff.

2.8 Encourages experimentation and innovation including flexible ways of working and cross-team working.

2.9 Able to deal with emotions and conflicts arising from diversity and inclusion issues.

2.10 Does not delegate challenging or interesting work.

2.11 Uncomfortable working with people from backgrounds different to their own.

2.12 Sits on papers.

2.13 Appraisals are not evidence-based, lack of objective feedback on development.

2.14 Only gives negative feedback; or none at all.

2.15 Gives inappropriate levels of responsibility: too much or too little.

2.16 Is insensitive to the aspirations, pressures and personal concerns of members of the team.

2.17 Demands long hours and rewards input rather than output.


At this level, the emphasis is on project management, delivering through others’ efforts, taking well judged risks and encouraging customer focus.

Decisive and accountable. Drives for high quality and high impact service delivery and effective policy outcomes. Delivers with speed and professionalism. Ensures operations are aligned with customer and stakeholder needs and anticipates future requirements. Consistently looks for new and innovative ways to use resources to maximise outcomes, deal with changing demands and achieve objectives.

Effective Behaviour and PSG Skills

Behaviour to Change

Business Management

3.1 Can oversee the development and delivery of viable business plans and takes responsibility for defining and delivering measurable business benefits. Influences DG/Post/Directorate Business Plan

3.2 Able to interpret a wide range of financial information to make management decisions and approve investment appraisals

3.3 Ensures that processes and systems achieve the highest standards of internal control and meet public sector governance standards (including equality impact assessment, security and fraud issues).

Task Management

3.4 Develops team capability (people and resources) to deliver business plan and organisational strategy.

3.5 Sets stretching targets and standards of accuracy and quality, explains task clearly, focuses staff on delivery. Takes responsibility.

3.6 Ensures work is planned to deliver to
time, budget and agreed standards; assessing and managing project risk; monitors and reviews delivery.

3.7 Makes best use of diverse talents, ICT and resources to deliver results, allowing for contingencies and the need for flexibility.

3.8 Prioritises rigorously as requirements change, reviewing distribution of resources across area of responsibility and reallocating them as necessary, dropping less important tasks.

3.9 Co-ordinates work of several teams, ensuring efforts are complementary.

Stakeholder Management

3.10 Effectively communicates with internal and external customers and service providers.

3.11 Promotes excellence of customer service within Post/Department/Command.

3.12 Makes effective use of HMG/FCO machinery to achieve objectives. Works in partnership with finance, project management and communication experts to achieve organisational goals.

3.13 Lacks understanding and capability in business planning and financial management issues.

3.14 Easily satisfied with poor project management systems and unreliable management information.

3.15 Focuses on the process at the expense of results. Risk averse.

3.16 Makes policy recommendations without realistic consideration of accessibility of resources.

3.17 Team consistently fails to deliver agreed outcomes.

3.18 Policy and services fail on stakeholder management and customer care.

3.19 Fails to act when particular activities no longer add value and resources could be better used elsewhere.


Has a clear sense of direction, strategic priorities and wider political context and brings this perspective and judgement to bear in coordinating operations and resources and delivering on objectives. Rises above the detail and deploys strategic analysis tools appropriately. Understands how diversity can deliver the wider vision and cultural change. Encourages innovation and creativity.

Effective Behaviour and PSG Skills

Behaviour to Change

4.1 Relates work to FCO/ HMG values, Strategic Objectives and wider political context.

4.2 Scans environment to gather relevant information and diverse perspectives; makes connections between the immediate and the big picture. Uses appropriate evidence as a basis for decisions.

4.3 Sees linkages across organisational boundaries, and themes or patterns emerging from data. Raises awareness and interest amongst others about issues which could be of importance in the future.

4.4 Continuously evaluates policy delivery and service delivery against changes in external environment.

4.5 Anticipates longer-term changes, threats and opportunities, identifying, evaluating and managing risk effectively.

4.6 Thinks laterally and/or creatively to identify opportunities to deliver.

4.7 Evaluates options for policy delivery and service delivery against criteria, testing for deliverability and preparing for evaluation.

4.8 Translates strategic analysis and decisions into realistic action plans which deliver concrete outcomes, taking full account of the wider political, social, commercial and economic drivers, customer stakeholder feedback.

4.9 Reviews actions and outcomes against performance criteria and learns lessons.

4.10 Sees elements of policy or service individually rather than as part of a whole.

4.11 Inward focus; unable to adapt policy or services to fit changes in external environment.

4.12 Focuses on intellectual debate at the expense of action.

4.13 Risk averse.

4.14 Narrow approach, closing down innovative options and ideas.

4.15 Concentrates on tactics at the expense of strategy.

4.16 Fails to take account of agreed FCO Strategic Objectives.

4.17 Poor judgement, limited evidence base.

4.18 Strategic plans lack factual substance and realism.


This is about interpersonal effectiveness and a strategic approach to communication and stakeholder engagement. Self confident and self aware; uses a range of approaches to build relationships and contact networks and to communicate with and influence others to get results. Negotiates creatively and effectively to achieve objectives. Projects a professional, inclusive and modern image.

Effective Behaviour and PSG skills

Behaviour to Change

Personal Style

5.1 Recognises impact of own behaviour and personal style on others and appropriately adapts approach to different people, environments, locations and cultures.

5.2 Understands and anticipates the needs and motivations of others; values and incorporates diverse and different perspectives, sharing information and ideas.

5.3 Challenges policy thinking and the opinions of others and responds positively to being challenged.

5.4 Communicates openly, convincingly and with confidence in a range of situations, including negotiating, public speaking, press briefings, speaking off the cuff, explaining business plans and business benefits.

5.5 Written communication is focussed and persuasive, tailored to audience and purpose; and has impact.


5.6 Establishes wide-ranging and diverse contact networks which offer rapid access to information or leverage not readily available elsewhere.

5.7 Systematic engagement approach to stakeholder engagement.

5.8 Influential with contacts at the highest level; seeks out tactical and strategic allies and judges how to work with them to achieve the best practical outcomes.

5.9 Builds productive relationships with people inside (Press Office, Internal Comms, Team, other stakeholders) and outside the organisation, (including foreign interlocutors, business contacts, the media, OGDs and NGOs) maintains and develops these relationships over time.

Communication Process

5.10 Includes strategic communications objectives when designing policies and services. Uses appropriate delivery tools and defines management criteria.

5.11 Understands how to segment customer groups and uses the range of communication channels available.

5.12 Dominates discussion; doesn’t listen, can’t see things from others’ perspective.

5.13 Regards information as a source of power even when working on shared objectives.

5.14 Obscures the message by giving inappropriate levels of detail; too little or too much.

5.15 Diffident or unapproachable; fails to build rapport with others.

5.16 Only engages or succeeds with a narrow range of contacts.

5.17 Unconvincing; lack of depth.

5.18 Stakeholder engagement is sporadic and not focused on delivering outcomes.

5.19 Contacts drawn from a narrow range of interlocutors.

5.20 Reluctant to be tough with contacts when appropriate.



Drawing on own and others’ experience and new ideas to improve performance and results. Proactive approach to own self-development which can be measured by growth in competence and skills. Takes responsibility for own career development. Develops an open and flexible culture, in individuals and across teams, which values professionalism and encourages learning and development.


Effective Behaviour

Behaviour to Change

6.1 Aware of own strengths and weaknesses and the underlying reasons for them.

6.2 Open to, seeks out, thinks about and acts on feedback.

6.3 Reviews own performance, sees where further learning and development is appropriate and takes actions.

6.4 Responds in a positive manner when criticism or problems surface; maintains self-confidence.

6.5 Able to translate learning into improved competence and skills.

6.6 Innovative: cultivates new ways of thinking and builds on the ideas and suggestions of others both inside and outside FCO.

6.7 Ready to challenge established practice and seek improvement.

6.8 Learns from own experience or mistakes and that of others both inside and outside the organisation: applies new learning to own work and shares the lessons learnt with others. Mentors and encourages colleagues of all backgrounds.

6.9 Keeps up to date with available technology.

6.10 Develops and uses foreign language and professional skills as appropriate.

6.11 Lacks curiosity and self awareness; unclear about own strengths and weaknesses.

6.12 Unable to change or address persistent development needs.

6.13 No personal development plan; does not encourage others to make time for development.

6.14 Engages in plenty of development activity but unable to translate into competence/skills improvement.

6.15 Closed to new or different perspectives and unable to objectively evaluate them.

6.16 Inflexible: seeks to maintain status quo; resists change.

6.17 Has no systems in place to enable learning to be identified.

6.18 IT illiterate.

NOTE ON Recruitment FOR FAC

How does the FCO recruit its staff?

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office aims to recruit a talented and diverse workforce that reflects British society. Our recruitment policies are designed to encourage applications from the widest possible range of backgrounds.  All external recruitment into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is based on merit, and all campaigns must be fair and open. 

The FCO recruits generalist, specialist and senior staff subject to workforce planning needs. All external recruitment is conducted by the FCO Recruitment Team, overseen by the Office of the Civil Service Commission. All applicants to the FCO must be British Nationals and are subject to Developed Vetting security clearance before taking up their appointment.

The Recruitment Freeze

The Government announced an immediate freeze on external Civil Service recruitment in May 2010. Cabinet Office released guidance on the freeze, recognising that some exceptions would be required in order to ensure Departments could continue to operate effectively, underlining that the purpose of the measure was to drive efficiencies in staff numbers and paybill and that it was essential that departments avoid false accounting through eg use of contractors.

The allowed exceptions to the freeze were:

- The Civil Service Fast Stream, which the FCO uses to recruit C4 policy entrants.

- Individual business critical appointments

- Key frontline posts

- Outreach/internship schemes to deliver diversity objectives.

In light of the recruitment freeze, downward pressures on budgets and to ensure workforce planning decisions can be monitored by the Board, the FCO have introduced a Cabinet Office-endorsed system for approving (or not) requests for employing permanent, fixed term and temporary staff. Delegated authority from the Foreign Secretary and the PUS for most recruitment requests rests with the Chief Operating Officer. Senior appointments must go to the PUS and Foreign Secretary.

Directorates must submit business cases to DG C&D via HR Directorate. The business cases must outline why it is operationally essential to fill the position, and confirm that all relevant internal and cross-Whitehall options have been tried, that the Directorate has the budget and headcount for this position and that there is a continuing/long term requirement for the role where appropriate. Any new recruitment (ie additional to headcount) must be balanced with cuts elsewhere.

Monthly reports summarising recruitment activity at the FCO and its NDPBs are submitted to Ministers.

Generalist Recruitment

When the FCO recruited in the recent past (ie 2009, pre-freeze) at the delegated grades, we used ‘generalist’ external campaigns, designed to attract and select staff with the potential to operate across the range of policy and service delivery and corporate services jobs in the FCO and build successful careers.

We recruited staff at Band A, Band C and (sometimes) Band D, and ran campaigns in line with workforce planning needs. Workforce planning set our annual recruitment targets and the flexible nature of the campaigns allowed us to adapt to changing priorities, maintaining and refreshing staffing levels and introducing new skills and experience from outside the organisation.

All generalist campaigns assessed candidates across the full range of competences at the relevant Band. Generalist competitions do not require specialised skills or knowledge.

Band A

A recent Band A campaign required applicants to have a minimum number of GCSEs or equivalent to be eligible to apply. The assessment stages were based on the Band A competence framework and included psychometric testing, interviews, fact finding exercises, and written exercises.

Band C

Band C recruitment is conducted through the Cabinet Office Fast Stream programme. Applicants must achieve a 2-2 degree qualification to be eligible to apply. The Fast stream process tests applicants via psychometric tests, an E-tray exercise and assessment centre, measuring candidate potential against the range of Fast Stream Competences:

Drive for results

Learning and improving

Decision making

Constructive thinking

Building productive relationships

Communicating with impact

The FCO supplement this with Final Selection Boards which test applicants’ ability to communicate and influence, work with others and manage and develop staff.

Band D

The FCO conducts campaigns at Band D subject to Workforce Planning requirements, the last of which was in 2008. That campaign encouraged applicants from diverse backgrounds outside of the public sector, with a focus on commercial skills and foreign languages.


Specialists are recruited on the basis of operational need for roles which require specific skills and experience. Campaigns are tailored to the precise needs of the specialism and candidates are measured against the particular specialist skills and experience needed for the role along with relevant competences. Recent examples include recruitment campaigns for Economists, Legal Advisers and Overseas Security Managers.

Recruitment to Senior Appointments

Senior Appointments are classified as SMS 2 and above and are overseen by the Office of the Civil Service Commission, led by the FCO Head of Recruitment. Recent Senior Appointments include Chief Information Officer and Finance Director.

Further information

The FCO external website provides further information for potential candidates.


How does the FCO promote its staff?

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office uses Assessment & Development Centres (ADCs) as the mechanism to promote staff. They were introduced in 1999 for promotion to the Senior Management Structure (SMS). We now run them at the promotion points from Band B - C, Band C - D as well as Band D – SMS. Our global network means there is particular importance in having a uniform promotion system with clear benchmarks across the FCO, which is why promotion is not delegated to line managers in the way it is in some other organisations.

We use ADCs as a strategic tool to:

· Deliver better leaders across the range of competences that an effective FCO officer must have: eg analytical ability and judgement, networking skills, impact and influence (with foreign governments, external contacts and within Whitehall), management ability, delivering results

· Develop talent at every level

· Ensure fairness and equality

· Encourage a culture of learning and self development

ADCs are effective at predicting potential at the next Band because they use the competence framework for the higher level as the benchmark, as opposed to appraisals, which only measure performance in the current Band. There is also no requirement to have undertaken a number of different job roles before applying to attend an ADC. The ADC assesses candidates irrespective of background and experience. For this reason an officer can apply with just two years’ experience in their current grade, provided they have support from a senior manager. This helps the FCO identify and bring on talented staff quickly. All officers with five years experience in their current grade are eligible to apply for an ADC.

As well as passing those candidates with the skills to operate effectively at the next level, ADCs also provide an intense and tailored development opportunity for all candidates. The investment in development helps those who are successful to know their strengths and development needs on take up of a new role. It also gives valuable feedback to those not successful that will enable them to do their current job better and develop their potential if applicable for later promotion.

Eligibility criteria

All candidates must have served at least 2 years in their current grade to be eligible to apply for an ADC place. Those with 2-5 years require a strong supporting letter from a senior manager giving clear evidence against the competences of their readiness to sit an ADC. Candidates also need a minimum performance rating of ‘Effective’ in their most recent appraisal. Access to the ADC tends to be prioritised by an officer’s end of tour date on the premise that all eligible officers should be able to apply for their next job on promotion.

Promotion for successful candidates becomes substantive upon taking up a job at the higher Band. Candidates who are unsuccessful can re-sit the ADC, but there are minimum periods they must wait before doing so ranging from 1-3 years following their previous attempt. This is to enable them to address the development areas highlighted at their previous ADC. Following a third successive unsuccessful attempt at a full ADC, candidates must complete a specialist programme of 3-way coaching (involving their line manager and an experienced coach) of approximately 9 months duration, before re-applying.

What happens at an ADC?

At all levels, the ADC consists of a series of written exercises and interactive exercises (with role-players). As candidates perform the written exercises they may be interrupted to undertake their interactive exercises. The exercises are set within typical work related situations liable to be encountered by staff in London or overseas.

These exercises test candidates against core competences such as Problem Solving and Judgement (testing analytical ability and judgement of officers), Managing External Relationships (such as Whitehall partners or foreign governments) or Communicating and Influencing (persuasiveness on paper and in person) – all of which are vital skills for Diplomats.

The Role of Assessors

Throughout the ADC, assessors will mark candidates’ written work and observe and mark performances in the interactive exercises. Assessors mark candidates on their ability to deliver against certain performance indicators in those competences of the higher Band that relate to the exercise. These are tested several times. A quality controller benchmarks and checks everything assessors mark. The assessor teams are made up of trained FCO staff and external development professionals.

Each candidate has a lead FCO assessor who reviews the body of evidence acquired on their candidate at the end of the ADC. This assessor, in discussion with all other assessors, forges consensus on the overall performance of the candidate. This discussion also helps the development professionals to focus on candidates’ development needs and the feedback they will provide.

The assessors produce feedback reports containing a breakdown of performance by competence, plus developmental advice based on the key themes emerging from the ADC. The following day, candidates meet with their lead assessors and one of the external development professionals for feedback interviews.

The Feedback Interview


Having had their performances and behaviour scrutinised and analysed by five/six assessors, including two professional development professionals, the final report and feedback interview provide candidates with arguably the clearest insight into their strengths/weaknesses they have ever received. This coupled with targeted developmental advice, makes it an extremely valuable tool both to the candidate and the FCO at large, if the candidate heeds the advice given.

Ensuring Fair Treatment/Encouraging Diversity


All promotion decisions are taken purely on merit. If a candidate reaches the required standard they are promoted.

We make sure all candidates are treated fairly at ADCs and take steps to ensure we support diversity. ADC exercise designs are diversity-proofed to minimise adverse impact against different groups. Disabled candidates have an opportunity prior to the ADC to agree reasonable adjustments with a disability adviser which we put in place. The disability adviser can also attend an ADC at which a disabled candidate is present in order to monitor progress and brief assessors where necessary. Our assessors are a mix of trained FCO staff, drawn from across the FCO, and external development professionals. We try to ensure we have as diverse a pool of FCO assessors as possible.

None of the ADCs show statistically significant differences in performance between candidates on grounds of gender, ethnicity or disability.

Are ADCs delivering the staff we need?


The ADCs are delivering the right staff in the right numbers to meet the FCO’s overall strategic workforce needs. Pass rates are monitored and - whereas the standard that candidates need to meet in order to pass an ADC always remains the same - we can reduce or increase the number of ADCs we run to ensure we achieve our workforce targets.

Over time ADCs have played a key role in improving the quality of leaders and managers throughout the FCO. Many of the FCO’s senior staff positions are Heads of Mission jobs in isolated, often dangerous places. ADCs are excellent at assessing candidates’ leadership abilities in a way that appraisals often miss. Without taking anything for granted, we believe the investment in development for both successful and unsuccessful candidates has paid dividends. While there is always room for improvement, the 2009 government-wide staff survey showed the FCO scoring highly in leadership and management – higher than most other departments in Whitehall. For example, on questions such as ‘I feel the FCO/Post as a whole is well managed’ and ‘I feel that change is managed well in the FCO/Post’, the FCO outstripped the civil service by 18% and 21% respectively.


How does the FCO decide on appointments within the Department?

The overwhelming majority of FCO internal appointments at home and overseas are filled by competence based interview. A small number are decided by Boards eg jobs for SMS Payband 2/3 staff and first jobs for new entrants.

Filling jobs by interview gives both hiring managers and applicants the opportunity to make informed choices. It helps managers get the best candidate for the job and gives staff more responsibility for managing their careers.

Vacancies are advertised twice weekly on FCONet. The responsibility for advertising jobs and managing the interview and appointment process rests with the hiring manager for the job. Jobs must be advertised for a minimum of 10 working days before the bidding deadline; candidates must have five working days to prepare for an interview.

Central HR provide support and advice where necessary and are committed to ensuring that the process is being properly administered, including by carrying out spot checks. They apply strict eligibility criteria to ensure that applications are accepted only from those officers who are eligible to bid.

Officers apply direct to the hiring manager, submitting a bidding form, a CV and two years worth of appraisals. The hiring manager will convene an interview panel and if necessary carry out a pre-sift of the applications.

The interview panel usually consists of three members, including one independent member. At least one of the panel should be a trained interviewer. The interview will focus on the skills, competences and experience the officer would bring to the job, and their motivation for applying.

Having an independent member helps ensure fair and objective decisions. HR and the trade unions may observe interviews and staff can appeal if they believe they have not been treated fairly. HR carries out spot checks of decisions.

Once the panel have made their decision, and the successful candidate has accepted the job, the hiring manager will give feedback to the unsuccessful candidates.

Most jobs in the delegated (ie not senior management) grades are filled internally. In some circumstances there is a strong business case for inviting external applicants for example if the job requires particular specialist skills and knowledge not readily available in the FCO; or if the initial recruitment process fails to produce a suitable internal candidate. Please see separate note on interchange and external recruitment.

As a rule, senior management jobs in the UK and at posts overseas are open to members of all government departments to apply on interchange terms. Jobs at SMS Paybands 2 and 3 are considered by the No 1 Board (senior appointments Board) and may be made by Board appointment or interview.

Heads of Mission jobs

Recommendations for Head of Mission jobs are made in the same way as other positions in the relevant grade. All Governorships of Overseas Territories are in addition put to the No 1 Board. Recommendations are then put to the Foreign Secretary and for the most senior jobs the Prime Minister for ratification.

Tour lengths and frequency of postings

Jobs at home usually last two or three years but may be extended to five. Overseas postings vary in length, depending on the individual Post; the majority are three or four years but the more difficult or dangerous postings will be less.

Frequency of postings varies according to the grade of the officer. Traditionally, Diplomatic Service staff might have expected two consecutive postings overseas followed by a tour at home. While the changing shape of the FCO has implications for postings patterns, particularly at more junior levels, the FCO will remain a strong global organisation and there will still be opportunities for staff to spend a significant part of their careers overseas.


Appointment System: Frequently Asked Questions

This document will be updated on a regular basis.  If you have a question and it is not answered here, please send it to HRD – Interview System Enquiries .  

Hiring manager FAQs
Applicant FAQs

Hiring manager FAQs  

What are my responsibilities as a Hiring Manager?

As hiring manager, you will be responsible for the following:

Deciding when vacancies are advertised on FCONet

Sending job specs to the relevant team to be advertised on FCONet

Deciding when the bidding deadline and interview window will be held (please note: to ensure we stay in line with our agreements with the TUS, certain restrictions apply. These are set out in Do I have to stick to any timetable? )

Convening an interview panel and make any necessary administrative arrangements

Providing feedback to all candidates once the interviews are over

Notifying ESD and HR when an appointment has been made so that the necessary clearances and paperwork can be issued

  HR are committed to ensuring that the interview process, sifting candidate and providing feedback is being properly administered by Hiring Managers and will carry out spot checks to review decisions. Hiring Managers must therefore ensure that they follow the process rigorously and keep paperwork which may be required by the Appointments Team.

  HR Appointments Managers may contact Hiring Managers asking them to forward the interview panel's notes, paperwork and the feedback sent to candidates. You should keep applicants’ paperwork securely for six months before you destroy it. When shredding paperwork you should also ensure that you delete any electronic copies of job applications and supporting paperwork. Paper copies of appraisals, assessments and ADC reports should be returned to any candidates who ask for them once the appointment process is complete.

How far in advance should I advertise a job?

Overseas jobs should ideally be advertised at least a year in advance but you also need to allow time for training. Speaker slots need to be advertised further in advance to allow sufficient time for the successful applicant to join a scheduled language course. At home, jobs should normally be advertised about three months in advance.

Do I have to stick to any timetable ?

While no central timetable exists, certain timeframes, agreed with the TUS, must stay in place whenever a position is being advertised. Jobs must be advertised for a minimum of 10 working days before the bidding deadline. Candidates must have five working days to prepare for an interview, and managers must leave 24 hours for any interviewees to appeal against the conduct of an interview before announcing the results of the interview.

Are there any thresholds which apply beyond which a job would have to be advertised?

As a guide, major change will usually amount to a change of 50% or more of the job content. Line Managers may consider re-advertising the job.

If a decision is taken to upgrade an A1 position to A2 the current incumbent may continue in the role until their end of tour. This will be on Temporary Progression unless they hold a progressions ticket,  when it will be substantive.

How/when will I know who has applied for my vacancy?

Applicants will send their applications directly to you, copied to HR. HR will send you a flysheet (list of applicants) for cross-reference purposes as soon as possible after your deadline. You may sift the applications before you receive the flysheet, but you should not invite anyone to interview until you have confirmation from HR that they are eligible.

Who decides eligibility?

Central HR will still be responsible for checking the eligibility of applicants and will do this before sending you the flysheet. HR’s decisions on eligibility are final and you must not interview anyone whose name does not appear on the flysheet.

What if the job goes unfilled/attracts no applications?  

  You will need to decide whether to re-advertise. The job spec may need to be reviewed and other ways of attracting applicants may need to be considered.

No-one is bidding for jobs in my team. What should I do?

  Look closely at what you are saying in the job spec you have advertised. Some areas and roles have more instant appeal than others but all jobs have their positives. Is your job spec clear; does the job title make sense to someone who isn’t already in the team? Does the job spec spell out what the successful bidder can expect in terms of development? If the job is not a particularly "sexy" one, what are the other advantages? Are the hours regular? Are there opportunities for training and corporate activities?

  Pay particular attention to whether the job can offer an opportunity for flexible working. Not everybody wants a high profile job with unpredictable demands - some staff want a much more routine job that they can fit to their own circumstances.

I have never interviewed before. Where can I find guidance?

FCONet gives comprehensive guidance on the selection process in general and on preparing for and conducting interviews. You should use the training available (either live training on the Selection Interview Skills for Managers course or the Selection Panel interview skills e-learning package).

How do I find independent panel members to help with interviews?

There is a list of  trained interviewers who are able to assist with interview panels on FCONet.

I know one (or more) of the applicants. How do I ensure that I make a fair decision?

The FCO is not a large organisation and it is inevitable that panel members and candidates will be known to each other in a good number of instances. The panel you assemble for the sift and the interview will have an independent member and this helps to ensure fair and objective decisions. Any panel member who knows one or more of the applicants well should declare this to the other panel members so that there is no ambiguity. All selection decisions (at the sift stage and at interview) must be made on the basis of the evidence. Remember that it is in your own interests to have the best possible person for the job in your team; judge your candidates against the competences required for the job based on the evidence you have seen in their applications and at interview.

All the applicants for my job can demonstrate the key competences, but some have done similar jobs before and others have no experience. How do I decide between them?

  Selection decisions should be based mainly on the competences, though other skills and experience may be factors, particularly at higher grades. Overall, you should weigh up each candidate’s potential to perform well in the job once they have started – none of us should be expected to be instantly expert in any job. The flip-side to experience is development; where a candidate does not have experience of your particular area of work it may be better to offer them the job – not only will they learn another skill or area of expertise, but your field will gain another expert. Remember that you cannot turn someone down for a job because they do not have relevant experience if you have not listed this as essential in the job specification.

There are no trained interviewers at my post/ I am at a small post in a distant time zone. How do I assemble an interview panel?

  Remember that the panel you assemble can be a virtual one – you can interview by phone or by videoconferencing, thereby allowing you to draw on panel members from London or from other posts. You might also time your interviews for a period when you or others will be in the UK or visiting a larger post (or an RTC) or to arrange for your home department to run the process on your behalf.

Who can be counted as an independent panel member?

A colleague who is outside the management chain of the position applied for is an independent panel member. This may be someone from a different section at post or in the department, or somebody from a completely different part of the FCO. There is a list on FCONet of staff who are trained interviewers and who have volunteered to act as independent panel members. Staff from PAGs who have been appropriately trained (including diversity training) can also be used as panel members. You should not use external panel members (i.e. non FCO/PAG such as members of the business community or representatives of other missions) without checking with HR whether this is acceptable.

An unsuccessful applicant has appealed against the decision of the interview panel. What should I do?

  A full explanation of the panel’s decision and the reasons behind it usually helps. You should offer as much information as possible (without breaching other candidates’ confidentiality). If the applicant still wishes to appeal please ask him/her to contact the Appointments Team in HRD.

I have an unexpected vacancy in my team which needs to be filled urgently. What should I do?

  You can advertise the vacancy as quickly as you choose. Look at the full guidance and begin the process, starting with consulting on the job spec as soon as you can. Remember that while you can choose your deadline and timeline to a large extent, you must allow certain set periods at different stages of the process (see above). The Corporate Pool and the TD system still exist to help with short term demands.

How much feedback should I give unsuccessful applicants?

The most important thing about feedback is that it explains why a candidate has not been successful at the sift or interview stage. Feedback should be based mostly on the key competences for the job, referring to other factors as necessary. At the sift stage this may be briefer than after interview, when you will be able to offer a fuller breakdown of how an interviewee performed. Remember that you are commenting on a candidate’s potential to do a particular job and their merits relative to the competition. You are not expected to offer developmental advice each time. Instead, you should make clear why you selected one candidate over another.

How do I treat applications where non-FCO appraisal evidence is submitted?

 Staff on loan or secondment are encouraged where possible to be appraised using FCO forms. However, the applicant has only been able to submit non-FCO evidence as part of their application, you are obliged to give this the same consideration as you would an FCO form.  In fact, it is in your own interest to do so. The FCO Board is clear that secondments add real value to the FCO; the additional and varied skills and experience which staff returning from outside organisations can offer should not be overlooked by hiring managers.

How do I treat applications from job share partners?

  You should treat applications from job share partners as one job application. Both job sharers do need to be credible in their own right - not necessarily the best candidates individually, but with complementary strengths which make the best fit overall. If you decide to interview job share candidates, you should interview separately initially, then together to establish how the job share partnership would work and to demonstrate how their strengths would complement one another.


Applicant  FAQs

I am an A1 and my job has been re-graded to A2- what does this mean?

If your job is re-graded to A2 you may remain in the role, until your original end of tour.  If you do not hold a progression ticket you will be on temporary progression and will revert to A1 grade at your end of tour, no extensions will be granted. If you hold a progression ticket you will be on substantive progression.   

Who can I talk to about jobs I am interested in applying for?

Your current line manager is a good source of advice in general - what to look for and where you might want to go. Once you have seen a job that you think might interest you, you should contact the hiring manager and/or the current incumbent to find out more – for instance to see whether the job really is what you’re looking for and if you have what the hiring manager is looking for, or to clarify any details of the job spec.

Are all jobs advertised and decided by interview? 

The only jobs not advertised are those which will be decided by Boards such as those for Overseas Security Managers, SMS Payband 2/3 staff and the first jobs for new entrants. All other jobs are advertised and decided by interview.

Can I apply for a number of jobs? 

Yes. We would strongly advise officers approaching their end of tours to bid widely, frequently and realistically in order to secure their next job. This is particularly relevant for officers overseas who wish to remain overseas. If you fail to pick up another overseas job before your end of tour, your next tour will be at home.

Do I have to submit a ‘new’, separate application form for each job?

This is up to you. You can either submit one application form to cover a number of applications or complete new forms for each job. It is generally in your own interest to complete a new form for each job, tailoring your skills and competences to the job specification.

Do I need to copy my application to HR?

Yes. Central HR are responsible for conducting eligibility checks on applicants so all applications must be copied to them.

Are there any thresholds which apply beyond which my job would have to be advertised?

As a guide, major change will usually amount to a change of 50% or more of the job content. Line Managers may consider re-advertising the job.

What stops hiring managers from choosing someone they know for their jobs?

There’s a risk that managers will pick people they know or discriminate against certain candidates. The biggest protection against this is that under well-run interview systems almost all line managers go simply for the best candidate, irrespective of whether they know them or their age, gender, ethnicity etc. But we guard against cronyism and/or discrimination by having a clear set of rules for how the process must be run (including the need for an independent interviewer on any panel), by maintaining HR oversight of the process, and by giving HR and the unions the right to observe any interview they want.

HR are committed to ensuring that the interview process, is being properly administered by Line Managers and carry out spot checks to review decisions. HR Appointments Managers may contact Hiring Managers asking them to forward the interview panel's notes, paperwork and the feedback sent to candidates. Paperwork should normally be held securely by Hiring Managers for six months before being destroyed. If you would like your paperwork to be returned to you after the interview you should ask the Hiring Manager to send it. You can also ask the Hiring Manager to delete any electronic copies of your paperwork.

Who makes sure that interviews are conducted properly?

HR have the right to observe any interview or supply a panel member or chair from HRD. The TUS also have the right to ask to observe an interview and you should accommodate them if possible. You have some responsibility too. You should raise with the interview panel Chair (or ultimately HR) anything that does not seem right. You should check guidance and know where you stand. If you have questions or doubts, ask. HR is available to answer queries and provide advice.

Can I appeal?

If you are not happy with the way in which the interview was conducted (e.g. you did not have enough preparation time) you should tell the Hiring Manager as soon as possible and certainly within 24 hours of the interview (before the decision is announced). If you are not happy with the panel’s decision you should take this up with the Chair (normally the Hiring Manager), who should be able to explain the decision in more detail. If you are still not satisfied you should contact the Appointments Team in HRD.

What if I do not have any FCO appraisal evidence?

Staff on loan or secondment are encouraged where possible to be appraised using FCO forms. However, if you do need to submit non-FCO evidence as part of your application, hiring managers are obliged to give this the same consideration as they would an FCO form.  The FCO Board is clear that secondments add real value to the FCO; the additional and varied skills and experience which staff returning from outside organisations can offer should  not be overlooked by hiring managers.

Why do I have to comply with eligibility criteria?

The eligibility criteria are there as a tool to help HR deliver robust recruitment processes. It ensures that everyone has a fair and equal chance to apply for overseas jobs, that we can meet the demand for filling jobs at home (which by far outstrips the demand to fill jobs overseas) and stops hiring managers being put under pressure to release staff from jobs early. Eligibility criteria are applied consistently across the board.  We may very occasionally flex the eligibility criteria for a job that is particularly difficult to fill. Such jobs will be clearly identified on FCONet job pages.

How quickly do I have to accept or reject a job I have been offered?

A hiring manager has to allow you at least 24 hours to consider an offer. You can request longer than that – e.g. if you have another application in process or another interview in the following days – but the hiring manager does not have to agree. She/he may want to move quickly to approach their second choice candidate if you are not ready to commit to the job.

Whose responsibility is it to let the hiring manager know if I withdraw?

Yours. If you accept a job, you must contact the hiring managers of other jobs you’ve bid for and let them know that you are withdrawing. You should also let HR know.

What happens if I’m unsuccessful? 

If you are unsuccessful, you should look to start applying for jobs again at the next available opportunity. All applicants should receive competence-based feedback on all their applications and interviews. If your end of tour date has passed and you have been replaced, you have not had an extension agreed, and you have no leave to take you must register for the Corporate Pool.

How do I apply for a joint posting?

The succession plans drawn up by posts will make it easier to see where and when joint posting opportunities are coming up, but if you are interested in particular places, it would be worth talking to posts early on about what you are looking for. When jobs are advertised, talk to the hiring manager or the DHM about other opportunities and remember to state on your application form that you are applying for a joint posting. 

How do I apply as a Job Share?

Make it clear on your application that you are applying as one part of a job share. You and your job share partner will need to be credible applicants in your own right - not necessarily the best candidates individually, but with complementary strengths which make both of you the best fit overall. If invited for interview, you should expect to be interviewed separately initially to establish your own competence and then together to demonstrate how the job share partnership would work and demonstrate how you would complement one anothers strengths.

How do I know that a hiring manager will take account of special factors (e.g. education, spouse employment) which impact on my bids?

It is your responsibility to make any special factors clear on the bidding form and the guidance makes it clear that it is every hiring manager’s responsibility to ensure they have considered this in their decision making if appropriate. It is important to remember that special factors are only taken into consideration where candidates are otherwise equally matched. They do not mean that a less qualified candidate should be appointed over someone who is clearly more suitable for the job.

What are the tour patterns for overseas postings?

The rules have not changed. The ideal career pattern should still be two overseas tours followed by a home tour (i.e. at least one job for three years or two jobs for two years), but there are no guarantees that staff will gain a second consecutive job overseas. Anyone who has not picked up another overseas job before the end of their first overseas tour must do a home tour before bidding overseas again.

I keep applying but can’t pick up a job. What should I do?

You should carefully consider the feedback you are getting and proactively look to address the reasons for your lack of success. For example, are you fully exploring the roles you are applying for and putting together a good application? Are you applying widely and realistically? Do you need some training to address a developmental issue? You might find a session with a coach is beneficial in helping you work through some of these points. We also recommend that all staff do the Interviewee Skills e-learning package. You should also take advantage of any opportunities that arise to practise your interview skills.

Can I apply for jobs on Temporary Promotion (TP)?

Where jobs are advertised on routine timing (i.e. jobs advertised for the first time) only staff who are already substantive in the grade or have a promotion ticket (for jobs at home) can apply. Where a job is trawled, staff in Band B (for jobs at Band C) can apply to take up the job on temporary promotion provided that they are not already on, or have been, on temporary promotion. The guidance for hiring managers makes clear that staff should only exceptionally be appointed on temporary promotion where there are also bidders in the grade or with promotion tickets. If hiring managers wish to appoint someone on TP where there are bidders in the grade or with promotion tickets, they must send all papers relating to the interview to Appointments Team for approval before they can appoint the candidate on TP. Temporary promotion is not possible into Bands B, D or the SMS. Please see TP guidance. 

Why do I have to do a home tour on promotion?

We are making sure that all newly promoted staff have done at least one home tour in the grade before they can apply for an ADC by obliging them to do it as soon as they are promoted.  We are doing this because firstly, we have an operational need to fill jobs in London and secondly, because work in London at each Band is a key part of each officer's development. Anyone who was overseas before 31 Jan 2010 or who had been appointed to jobs overseas before that point without having done a home tour would not be disadvantaged by the new policy.  

Can I apply for jobs in a grade lower than my own?

Applications from staff in the delegated grades down bidding for jobs may be accepted with the express agreement of HRD. Cases will be considered on a case by case basis. Agreement will based on compelling personal circumstances and the number of credible applicants at the grade.  Staff will not be able apply for jobs more than one grade below their substantive grade. Staff considering applying for jobs in a lower grade are advised to discuss the financial implications of such a move with Home Allowances and Pay Services Unit before doing so.    

I want to leave my job before my end of tour date. What should I do?

You can apply for a job which starts shortly before your end of tour date (or for which the training starts shortly before your end of tour date) if your line manager is prepared to release you. Some short tours incur financial penalties – you should consult the pre-postings team about the implications if you are considering leaving an overseas job early. HRD are unlikely to agree that you are eligible to apply for another job if you have not completed a substantial part of your current job.

I have accepted a job but I’ve changed my mind. What should I do?

Once you have accepted a job you owe an obligation to the hiring manager to follow this through. If there are exceptional circumstances (e.g. welfare considerations) which justify your withdrawal you should ask the hiring manager to consider them, in conjunction with HR. Staff who withdraw from an overseas job once they have accepted it will normally be "grounded" for a full home tour (i.e. one job of at least three years or two of two years) before being eligible to apply overseas again.

I applied for a job but now I’ve seen another one advertised which I prefer. What should I do?

There are difficult choices to make. You need to consider the timings of when decisions will be made on the jobs you are interested in. If the newly advertised job is much more attractive to you, you might want to withdraw your existing application. Or you might want to apply for the newly advertised job as a fallback in case your current application is not successful. Your line manager can help you consider the options. You cannot withdraw from a job you have already accepted (or recently started) to apply for another one.

I have accepted a job but it has been cut/my visa has been refused. What should I do?

Posts and departments should always consider future staffing requirements before advertising jobs but in a flexible organisation we need to accept that changes will happen. And there are factors such as visas over which the FCO has no control. If your job is cut, or there is another reason why you can no longer go to an overseas posting, there is no way of guaranteeing you another position – you will need to apply again and all appointments are made against the competition. But you should use the special factors box on the application form to let future hiring managers know that your job has been cut or localised or that you have been refused a visa.

I’m on PIP/sick absence monitoring. Can I apply for jobs?

Staff on PIP are not allowed to apply for new positions; it is important that the PIP process is completed before a change of job and line management can be considered. If you are subject to sickness absence monitoring, you will not be allowed to apply for a move overseas until the monitoring period has been satisfactorily completed. You may still apply for jobs at home while on Stage 1 Sick Absence.

How do I know which jobs are coming up so that I can decide what to apply for? 

Directorates now publish their home job forecasts on their FCONet pages. Long-term forecasts for overseas jobs at each band are on HR's Job Opportunities page on FCONet. These are based on information supplied by posts and are updated quarterly. If you are interested in a particular job/post which is not listed please consult the post/incumbent to find out when it will be advertised.

Who can I talk to about my career?

Your line manager is your first port of call, but there are other sources of advice, such as other managers in your department, FCONet (the section on Managing Your Career is particularly relevant), the mentoring scheme and coaching.

How often are jobs advertised?

Managers can choose when to advertise jobs so there are no set timetables. Jobs are published on FCONet by HR on Mondays and Thursdays. If publishing times are changed (e.g. because of public holidays) this will be announced in the weekly bulletin.

I have been out of the office on interchange/secondment/SUPL/ MATL. How do I get a job?

You will need to access to the job pages.  Staff on SUPL etc will need to email the FCONet Accounts mailbox with details of why you, or the person you are sponsoring, need access to FCONet. Further information and advice can be found on FCONet. If you do not have a job to return to you must register for the Corporate Pool. 

What happens if I am returning to the FCO from a career break?

Staff returning from a career break will have a period of six months after their reinstatement offer is made in which to apply for and secure a position.


Last Updated: 17 January 2011


FAQs for Hiring Managers

Advice for Hiring Managers

Who is the hiring manager?
Advertising vacancies
SMS Hiring Guidance
Re-advertising vacancies
Receiving applications
Special factors
Extension Requests
Handling requests and application forms
Encouraging people to bid for hard-to fill vacancies

Working in micromissions


Checklist for Hiring Managers

Who is the hiring manager?  
This will usually be the line manager for the position being advertised. If the line manager will be absent when applications are to be received or considered, another suitably senior officer may be nominated as the hiring manager. Alternatively, Post/Department may choose to nominate another senior officer, such as the DHM, deputy or counter-signing officer, to undertake this role for individual jobs or for all positions in their Post/Department. Line managers overseas may consider appointing a hiring manager in the UK to make interviews easier.

Advertising Vacancies

Overseas jobs must be advertised a year in advance, longer if language training is required, and home jobs 3 months in advance.      

Hiring managers are responsible for ensuring vacancies are advertised on FCONet on time and for deciding the exact timing for advertising and filling a job. The checklist for hiring managers will help with the timing for each stage of the process.  Hiring managers should print a copy and keep it to hand during the appointment process. They should complete a job specification form, agreed with relevant stakeholders as necessary and cleared with DHM/Deputy. Remember to review and record the level of language needed for speaker slots. The job spec, which must include a position management code, should then be forwarded to the relevant Appointments Team address (HRD - BTA, HRD - BTB, HRD - BTC, HRD - BTD, HRD-BTSMS1), with an advertising jobs proforma.

The hiring manager must check whether the position to be advertised falls into the frequent traveller category. It is the responsibility of hiring managers to indicate this clearly in the job specification. The hiring manager should also make it clear, when he/she submits the job specification to HRD, if the position involves frequent travel. The Appointments Team can then ensure that this is reflected in the advertisement on FCONet.

Jobs with 50% or more commercial content are also advertised in UKTI. Hiring managers should consult UKTI when drawing up the job specs for UKTI positions and UKTI should be represented on the sift/interview panel. When submitting jobs spec for advertising, these should also be copied to Daren Hoadley.

For guidance on advertising multi-hatted positions with entry clearance content, please refer to guidance  

RMUs are key stakeholders for management positions and must be consulted on management job specifications before they are advertised. Hiring managers should also consult the RMU on the level of involvement they would like in the selection process.  

All management jobs overseas also need to be cleared by the Corporate Services Programme (CSP) before they can be advertised. The Appointments Team refers all overseas management job specifications to the CSP for clearance prior to publication. CSP will work to process all requests as quickly as possible. This may mean a slight delay in publication and your proposed recruitment timetable. If this causes you any difficulties please contact CSP at

Hiring managers should note that a job which has been advertised can only be withdrawn in exceptional circumstances and only with agreement from HR.

Top ten tips for writing a job specification

Recommendation for encouraging people to bid for 'hard to fill' vacancies

SMS Hiring Guidance  
See SMS hiring guidance for advertising and filling SMS vacancies.

When submitting a job for advertising, hiring managers must provide the timetable for the process. The overall timetable is for the hiring manager to decide, leaving enough time to complete all the stages and in line with other commitments. However, the bidding deadline must be a minimum of ten working days after the job will be published and you must allow at least five days’ preparation time between inviting candidates to interview and the interviews themselves. You should also build in five working days after the bidding deadline for HR to complete eligibility checks. If you'd like to combine this period with sift and candidate preparation time that is possible, but it may mean that you invite to interview someone who later turns out to be ineligible. The checklist for hiring managers will help with the timing for each stage of the process.  Hiring managers should print a copy and keep it to hand during the appointment process.

Wherever possible, home positions should be advertised three months before the incumbent's end of tour date. Overseas positions should be advertised at least one year in advance.  Speaker slots need to be advertised further in advance to allow sufficient time for the successful bidder to join a scheduled language course.

New vacancies will be advertised by band on FCONet twice a week. The deadline for submitting job specs and advertising jobs proformas is close of play on Friday for Monday publication and close of play on Wednesday for Thursday publication.

See "Advertising on Interchange" for details of the timetable for jobs advertised on interchange.

Susan le Jeune, HR Director, issued a message to all staff on temporary promotion on 15 July 2009. This explains the timetable for phasing out temporary promotion.  Jobs may no longer be trawled at Band D and Band B (unless they are in Iraq,  Afghanistan, Yemen or Pakistan). There will be no more trawls for Band C jobs from 1 July 2011.

Re-advertising  vacancies
All jobs at home and overseas (other than jobs in Afghanistan and Iraq) should be advertised to staff in the grade or (for home jobs) those with a promotion ticket  who are due to move. If an overseas job receives no applications, or there are no suitable applicants, the hiring manager should let the Appointments Team know if the job should be re-advertised. For home jobs that remain unfilled after the first advert, you must contact the Corporate Pool Manager for availability of staff for a substantive placement directly from the Pool.  You will receive CVs of credible officers for you to look at.  If the Corporate Pool manager confirms that there are no staff available for placement from the Pool you should let the Appointments Team know if the job needs to be re-advertised. If a new job spec is necessary the hiring manager will need to submit a new version - the Appointments Team cannot make amendments. The hiring manager should also consider whether the job should be re-advertised internally or if there is a case for opening it to interchange. All overseas jobs will be open to FCO Home Civil Service staff after the first advert.  The hiring manager must submit a new  advertising jobs proforma letting the Appointments Team know the new deadlines and timings.

Advertising on interchange  
Jobs may be advertised on interchange if they have already been unsuccessfully advertised internally at least once (or twice for B3 jobs because of the relatively high ratio of B3 staff to jobs).  More detail on this process is on FCONet.

Where jobs are being advertised on interchange as well, it is very important that hiring managers ensure both Interchange and Secondments Team and the relevant Appointments Team are sent the job spec in good time. Lead times for advertising on other departments’ websites may be considerably longer than those for FCONet, so the hiring manager should consult the Interchange and Secondments Team to agree a timescale; both internal and external processes should be run to the interchange timetable.

Receiving applications  
Staff who are applying for jobs will send their paperwork electronically direct to the hiring managers, copied to the relevant Appointments Team address (HRD - Band A Applications, HRD - Band B Applications, HRD - Band C Applications, HRD - Band D Applications) and any stakeholders listed (e.g. UKTI). This means that on or before the deadline for applications, the hiring manager will receive e-mails from all the applicants, containing their application form and their supporting paperwork. Hiring managers must confirm receipt of applications direct to applicants within 24 hours. Applicants are required to submit their most recent 24 months of appraisal evidence, or, if they have been in a job more than 24 months, they may submit their most recent appraisals from their current job plus the most recent appraisal from their previous job. Hiring managers should be aware that absences (e.g. for MATL) may mean that the most recent appraisals are several years old. These appraisals should be given the same consideration as more recent appraisals. Applicants must also submit reports from ADCs/FAB tests or fitted assessments taken in the previous 5 years, regardless of the grade of the job they are applying for. Staff may prefer not to submit  the whole report but they must submit the section that shows competence ratings.

If there are gaps in the paperwork, the hiring manager must take this up direct with the applicant. If the applicant cannot provide a resonable explanation for any gaps, the hiring manager should ask the applicant who their line manager was for that period and speak with them about the reason for the gap, and the applicant's performance. Hiring managers are not obliged to consider incomplete applications. If an applicant intentionally does not provide the correct amount of evidence and cannot provide a reasonable explanation for their actions, this may be considered a disciplinary offence under the misconduct procedure and advice on next steps must be sought from the FCO's Conduct Adviser (8008 1455).

Please note that the application form is designed to keep the candidate's statement short and the free text box should not be expanded.

Hiring managers should set up a personal folder in Outlook into which they can move applications as they arrive; this will avoid using up their Firecrest e-mail storage limit.

Applicants who are unable to apply electronically should send paper copies to the hiring manager and Appointments Team by the normal deadline (or let them know that copies are being sent/faxed and why they cannot be sent electronically).

Hiring managers have discretion to decide whether to accept applications up to 48 hours after the deadline.  If they agree to this for one applicant they must also agree to it for others.

Candidates applying for positions which are more than 5% consular side copy their papers to Consular Directorate. Those applying for jobs which are 50% or more commercial will copy their papers to UKTI. This means stakeholders will have copies of the paperwork when the hiring manager consults them about applicants.

The Appointments Team in HR will carry out spot checks on applicants’ eligibility to bid and send the hiring manager a complete list of eligible bidders once this has been done.  Hiring managers should note that it can take up to five working days to compile this list.  For speaker slots, HRD-Language Policy and Standards Team will provide hiring managers with details of language aptitude and testing requirements.

Using non-FCO appraisal evidence

Staff on loan or secondment are encouraged where possible to be appraised using FCO forms. However, they may need to submit non-FCO evidence as part of their bid. It is your responsibility as a hiring manager to give this the same consideration as you would an FCO form.  In fact, it is in your interest to do so. The FCO Board is  clear that secondments add real value to the FCO; the additional and varied skills and experience which staff returning from outside organisations can offer should be not be overlooked.

The FCO is an equal opportunities employer and hiring managers should welcome applications from all suitably qualified people regardless of gender, marital status, race, disability, age or sexual orientation. When completing job specs, care should be taken to avoid any suggestion that these factors have any bearing on the selection. In respect of the recent age discrimination legislation, it is important to avoid stereotypical language such as "energetic", "experienced", "lively" or "mature".  

The FCO operates the "Two Ticks" system whereby disabled candidates who meet the minimum criteria for a job will in most circumstances be invited for interview.  Candidates wishing to be considered under this system will indicate this on their application form.   When the Appointments Team receive a "two ticks" application they will put the hiring manager in touch with the FCO’s Disability Adviser to discuss interview arrangements.

Interview sift  
The hiring manager must convene a sift panel following the receipt of all the applications. The sift panel decides which applications should go forward to the interview stage by weighing up what each applicant has to offer against all the criteria in the job spec.The sift panel then agrees a short-list of candidates to interview. The hiring manager issues feedback for the candidates not selected for interview. The hiring manager must send feedback to those not selected for interview as soon as possible.  This need not be detailed, but should be competence based.  A hiring manager who has received a large number of applications (more than 15) may tell unsuccessful applicants that detailed feedback will not be sent because of the volume of applications, but it generally saves time (in correspondence and appeals) to give applicants as much feedback as possible at every stage of the process.

Selection decisions must not be based on experience alone. Some development in a job is to be expected - and is part and parcel of a line manager's role. This is particularly true at the lower bands where previous experience should rarely be a pre-requisite.  Line managers need to balance the value of existing experience with the relevant competences, potential for development, and enthusiasm for the job.Hiring managers must have strong justification for appointing an applicant to a position on temporary promotion where there are also credible bidders in the grade or with promotion tickets.

An officer already in the grade or with a promotion ticket who meets the acceptable standard should be awarded the job over somebody looking to move on temporary promotion (TP).  If hiring managers wish to appoint someone on TP where there are bidders in the grade or with promotion tickets, they must send all papers relating to the interview to Appointments Team  for approval before they can appoint the candidate on TP.

For more detailed information on interviewing please check the Advice for Interviewers. For all Heads of Mission positions, the Hiring Manager should consult the Directorate and ideally include someone from the Directorate on the panel.

The hiring manager convenes an interview panel and makes the administrative arrangements for the interview. Once the interview panel has made their final decision the hiring manager offers the top choice candidate the job and informs the remaining candidates of the results (Head of Mission selections must be ratified through the Appointments Team). The hiring manager must issue competence-based feedback to all candidates, based on the notes from the selection panel. 

 It is good practice to interview even when there is only one applicant. Hiring managers may decide that they would like to ask interview candidates to make a short presentation on a topic relevant to the new job.  Candidates should be informed of this and given the topic and any limits on time and format (e.g. availability of flipcharts/powerpoint) when they are invited to interview.  The panel must agree which competences the presentation is testing and must mark it against these competences. The hiring manager must ensure that applicants are not disadvantaged by the format in which they are interviewed  - it would be much more difficult for an applicant to give a convincing presentation by telephone than face-to-face or by video conference.

Hiring managers must provide feedback to unsuccessful candidates direct, including when the job remains unfilled. It is important that this feedback explains clearly why the candidate has not been selected and does so in a way which makes clear that the rankings were made in accordance with HR guidance, FCO competences, and the FCO's diversity policies.

Feedback comments must be based primarily on the key competences for the job, though other factors, such as previous experience, technical qualifications, special factors etc might play a part. Feedback must relate to the job specification as advertised.  It is not, for example, acceptable to say a candidate is unsuccessful purely on the grounds of having no previous experience, if previous experience was not listed as essential on the job spec.

Comments considered unfair or discriminatory could result in an appeal and ultimately in a grievance or employment tribunal proceedings in which hiring managers can be held to account personally.

Special factors  
It is the responsibility of bidders to bring to the attention of hiring managers any special factors which they would like taken into account  (e.g. bidding for joint postings, previous postings being cut, previous service in Iraq or Afghanistan). Hiring managers should bear these in mind when ranking candidates and should look particularly carefully at applicantions which include special factors. Special factors come into play after the interview if candidates are equal in other respects, in which case the special factors decide who is offered the job. Special factors do not mean that a less suitable bidder should be placed ahead of clearly stronger competition. Hiring managers must make clear in their feedback how consideration of special factors has affected the selection. Where staff are bidding for joint postings, hiring managers' responses should be co-ordinated.

Hiring managers should also take account of wider "corporate" factors – e.g. re-using language skills, ensuring that staff in Bands A and B (in particular) are exposed to a range of different jobs, giving careful consideration to staff whose previous jobs have been cut or localised.  

Confirming an Appointment
All appointments must be agreed by Estates and Security Directorate (ESD). Once an interview panel has decided who their first choice candidate is, the hiring manager should notify ESD using the proforma

ESD will begin the clearance process as quickly as they can and where possible will respond within 24 hours.  If ESD have not given their agreement by the time the hiring manager wishes to offer the job, the offer must be made "subject to ESD clearance". 

If ESD do not agree, the appointment cannot be made and the hiring manager should then offer the job to their second choice subject to the same clearance requirements.  ESD objections to appointments are extremely rare but their decision is final. Once ESD clearance is given and the candidate has accepted the job, the hiring manager should forward the ESD clearance e-mail and the applicant's acceptance e-mail to the Appointments Team requesting a letter of appointment.

The Appointments Team will spot check appointment decisions for each of the delegated grades on a weekly basis.  Hiring managers must retain all paperwork relating to appointments (see Handling appraisals and application forms [link] below) for six months.

Ratifying Head of Mission Appointments  
For Head of Mission appointments there is one additional step that needs to be taken - ratification.

As well as ensuring ESD clearance is obtained, the hiring manager must also send a brief summary of the interviews and the panel’s decision on the recommended appointment to the relevant Appointments Manager. They will then clear the appointment with the Assistant Director HR who will request, through the PUS, ratification from the Foreign Secretary for the Head of Mission appointment. 

Appointment Managers for:
Band D appointments: Julia Shand
SMS appointments: Maggie Docherty/Sarah Douse (HRD - SMS1 Sarah and Maggie on the GAL)

Extension Requests  
DHMs overseas (or Heads of Mission for the DHM position) have discretion to agree an extension of up to 1 year for any staff in their post. Departments may agree extensions for home jobs taking the tour length up to a maximum of 5 years. Extensions for UKTI posts must also be agreed by the UKTI International desk and UKTI HR. The Appointments Team and relevant HR Manager must be notified of all extensions so that Prism data and the long term forecasts can be updated. Please copy all extensions to the relevant Appointments Team address (HRD - BTA, HRD - BTB, HRD - BTC, HRD - BTD) and your HR Manager(s). 

Extensions should be agreed on the basis of genuine operational need, or because of compelling personal reasons. In all cases, there is a balance to be found between the wishes of staff, post's requirements and the overall fairness of opportunity to staff (extensions without good reason can disadvantage other colleagues looking to bid for overseas jobs).  As a guideline, HR have not supported extensions based on continuity alone, unless it is required for a particular reason; e.g. a State Visit or EU Presidency.   Where there are concerns about clustering of leaving dates for staff with similar responsibilities, a full 12 month extension is not always necessary - smaller adjustments may be equally effective.  Extension requests have been treated sympathetically where an officer's departure date would come in a child's GCSE or A-level year, but continuity of education for primary school or younger children is not a compelling reason for an extension.  These examples are not exhaustive and HR would be happy to advise further.

Staff on temporary promotion or progression may not extend beyond their original end of tour date unless their letter of appointment included an optional extra year.

Handling  appraisals and application forms
Staff appraisals are sensitive documents and access to them should be restricted accordingly. Hiring managers should ensure they are seen only by those who have a real need to see them, that they are handled with discretion and that they are stored and later destroyed in accordance with their sensitivity.  Paperwork relating to appointments must be kept by the hiring manager for 6 months in case they are needed for an appeal or an HR spot check Printed copies of appraisals etc must be returned to individual members of staff who request them and hiring managers must ensure that they delete electronic copies of applications at the request of applicants or after six months.

Recommendations  for encouraging people to bid for 'hard to fill' vacancies


Create good jobs. Most of our staff want to do important and rewarding work that makes a difference. It is much easier to attract staff to this sort of job. 

Ensure good line and post management. People want to work for good managers and leaders. Word gets around very quickly on the good and the bad. 

Demonstrate the career benefits of working in the most important places. 

More flexibility

Create cross-postings within the same post/country/region to boost job variety and skills/experience in the team. 

Liaise with other posts and create linked postings - e.g. 1 year in Baghdad + 2 in Washington covering Iraq issues. 

Link a difficult overseas post with time in the relevant home dept, during or after the tour. 

Adjust tour lengths (longer or shorter) to improve demand for the job; and be flexible on short-tours/extensions where possible.

Flexi-grade jobs to attract more applicants and/or joint posters and/or those with hard language skills. 

Offer flexible working opportunities where possible: part-time, remote, home-working, job share etc. 

Create an attractive family package for very difficult posts - e.g. family can stay in Kuwait if an officer is in Iraq. 

 Financial rewards

Ensure allowances (Hardship allowance etc) are set at the right rate to attract the right people.

Give substantial bonuses for strong performance in difficult circumstances, via the develop bonus scheme and SMS appraisal system.  

Partner/spouse employment

Advertise spouse/partner employment opportunities - and look to increase them where possible, without undermining the principle that post jobs should go to the best qualified.


Ensure that staff can take the leave to which they are entitled. HOMs should set a good example by taking leave themselves, offering TOIL and encouraging R&R breaks during quieter periods.

Career development

Show how time in important posts improves promotion prospects.

Ensure that staff in hard-to-fill posts get good development opportunities while there [coaching/mentoring; training opportunites; a mock ADC, etc]

Talent-spot good staff nearing the end of a tour in a key/difficult place and encourage them to bid for jobs.  


Last Updated: 17 January 2011


Am I eligible to bid?

Staff can bid for all jobs advertised in their substantive Band so long as they meet the eligibility criteria and can meet the timing of jobs advertised, including any pre-posting training required and accrued leave, without short-touring from their current job.

Staff on PIP/sick absence monitoring are not eligible to bid for jobs overseas until the PIP/sick absence monitoring period has successfully passed and all other eligibility criteria has been met.  You may still apply for jobs at home while on Stage 1 Sick Absence.


You should expect to serve your full tour in both home and overseas jobs. Premature withdrawal from an overseas job may result in penalties and options for future jobs may be restricted (e.g. staff may be grounded and required to complete a full tour at home before being eligible to bid for overseas jobs). Short-touring from a home job will not normally be allowed, even if the line manager agrees. See FCO Guidance Volume 1 Chapter 5 


Specialists should contact the Appointments Team about their eligibility to apply for non-specialist roles.


You are required to use all accumulated leave before beginning a substantive posting. It is an operational requirement that officers account for accrued leave when considering bidding for future postings. If you fail to use your accrued leave as specified in FCO Guidance Volume 5 Chapters 7 & 8 before beginning duty in a substantive posting, you will be expected to forfeit the balance of unused accrued leave.

You are not eligible to continue bidding for an overseas posting whilst you are on end of tour leave except where you are bidding for a posting to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Yemen (when you will be permitted to continue bidding until your EOT leave expires). If you are on EOT leave after completing a posting in Iraq/Afghanistan, you may apply for another overseas job if you are eligible.    

UK Trade & Investment 

Normal FCO eligibility applies to all FCO staff applying for UKTI positions at home or overseas. UKTI staff can apply for all commercial jobs overseas where the commercial content is 50% or more.


Normal FCO eligibility criteria do not apply for UKBA positions but staff must be able to meet timing of jobs without short-touring from their current one.

Inward Interchange

Staff on inward interchange or secondment are not eligible to bid for positions (home or overseas) unless jobs are advertised as interchange opportunities.

Postings to Iraq/Afghanistan/Pakistan and Yemen Band A-D

Unless a hiring manager specifically requests for a job to be advertised on the routine agenda, all staff except those staff in the Corporate Pool who are not eligible (see separate guidance), in the grade (including Home Civil Servants) can apply for jobs in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen even if they have not completed a substantive home tour (1x3 or 2x2 years). Those with a progression/promotion ticket are also eligible. Band B staff can apply on temporary promotion (TP) for Band C jobs until TP at Band C is no longer available (however, staff will not be eligible if they are already on TP). For Band B and D jobs, staff are eligible to apply on TP if a job is advertised more than once. This will be made clear on the advert. The guidance for hiring managers makes clear that staff should only exceptionally be appointed on temporary promotion where there are also bidders in the grade or with promotion tickets. Please note that hiring managers who wish to appoint someone on TP where there are bidders in the grade or with promotion tickets, must send all papers relating to the interview to Appointments Team for approval before they can appoint the candidate on TP.

For all jobs in Lashkar Gah at grades Band A-D, staff may apply on TP (unless they are already on TP).

For all Band D jobs in Iraq where Arabic is a requirement, staff who speak Arabic to the required level may apply on TP (unless they are already on TP). 


What jobs can I apply for on promotion? 

When does my promotion become substantive? 


When can I apply for jobs? 

Can I apply for home or overseas jobs? 

Note - Staff who have not picked up another overseas posting before they leave post are expected to complete a home tour before bidding for an overseas again. 

Can I extend in my current job? 

My job overseas has been cut, what happens next? 

Note – a full home tour is a minimum of 3 years served in one or more home jobs or 2x2 year jobs.


Specialists should contact the Appointments Team about their eligibility to apply for non-specialist roles.

Can HCS/Specialist staff apply for jobs overseas? 

What does 100% relevant skills/experience mean for HCS staff? 

Corporate Pool

Staff in the Corporate Pool may bid for jobs overseas within their first 6 months in the Pool (provided that you have not just returned from overseas and that all other eligibility criteria, such as completing a home tour, are met). Staff in the Corporate Pool returning from Afghanistan or Iraq may bid for overseas jobs for up to 6 months after their end of tour leave. Concessions may also be made for staff who have had their visas refused or whose jobs overseas have been cut.

Time spent in the Corporate Pool does not count towards a home tour unless specifically agreed by HRD.

Staff working out of the Corporate Pool who have not yet been selected for a substantive job must continue bidding widely and realistically, including for jobs at home. Failure to do so may affect officers’ eligibility for overseas bids.

What jobs can I apply for from the Corporate Pool? 

Staff Returning from MATL/SUPL/Career Breaks

Returning from MATL/SUPL/Career Break? 


 FCO Services Employees

Can I apply for FCO jobs?

 Last Updated: 17 January 2011

How do I apply?

Jobs are advertised on FCONet by band on Mondays and Thursdays.  You can subscribe to the page for your band by clicking on "add link" at the top right hand side of the relevant page.  You will then be alerted when the page is updated.  You should also check the relevant post and directorate pages on FCONet for more information.

You should send your application, together with supporting paperwork, direct to the hiring manager for each job you are applying for. You must also copy your application to the relevant HRD - Band Applications address (HRD - Band A Applications, HRD - Band B Applications, HRD - Band C Applications, HRD - Band D Applications), to your current line manager and to any stakeholders listed in the job specification.

In addition to the bidding form and CV, you should submit your most recent 24 months of appraisal evidence (i.e. two full appraisals, or however many abridged appraisals, minutes etc to make up two years' worth of evidence), or, if you have been in the job more than 24 months you may submit your most recent appraisals from your current job plus the most recent appraisal from your previous job with your applications. If you have sat a FAB/ADC in the last 5 years, your FAB/ADC reports must also be submitted to the hiring manager in support of your bids. This applies whether or not you are bidding at the higher band. Staff may prefer not to submit the whole report but they must submit the section that shows competence ratings. This also applies if you have received a fitted assessment in the last 5 years. You will need to submit a language form if you are applying for a speaker slot and a fitness declaration form for positions in Afghanistan and Iraq. If you intentionally do not provide the correct amount of evidence and cannot provide a reasonable explanation for your actions, this may be considered a disciplinary offence under the misconduct procedure.

Bids should be made on the electronic bidding form available on FCONet (under forms). The same form is used for jobs at home and overseas. An electronic CV should be provided for each form submitted. The new bidding form is shorter as bids will be made for single jobs and the free text boxes should not be expanded.

In exceptional circumstances only, bids can be submitted by fax.  

When do I start bidding?

It is your responsibility to establish whether or not you are eligible to bid.  You should check the timing of the jobs advertised on FCONet – please remember to factor in any necessary pre-posting training into your calculations.  You should also read the eligibility guidance on FCONet.

You should start applying for home jobs around three months before you are due to move, and for overseas jobs about a year in advance.

Unless there is a serious operational need, you will not be allowed to short-tour from an overseas posting in order to meet the timing of another job

How do I decide what to bid for?

The Job Specification provides a breakdown of the duties and responsibilities and other useful information relating to the job being advertised. The following information is included:

Start date for the job

Tour length

Training requirements

Security clearance level (this is DV for all overseas jobs)

Specific specialised knowledge required

Key competences required for the job

Hardship status (if overseas position)

Language requirements (if overseas position)

It is important that you read the Job Specification carefully, to ensure that you fully appreciate what the job would entail, and to check that you would be eligible to apply. For example:

Duties and responsibilities.  Looking at the duties and responsibilities breakdown (and the comment box from the line manager) will help you decide whether you are likely to (a) be interested in the job; and (b) be a credible candidate for the job. You and your line manager should discuss whether this would be a realistic bid for you, whether it would be helpful developmentally and if it would make the most of the experience you have already gained.

Key Competences.  The key competences listed on the Job Specification are those competences that the Department/Post concerned consider useful/essential. Before bidding for a job, you should consider with your line manager if you have experience and evidence of these key competences.

Specialised knowledge required.  Occasionally a job requires previous skills/experience. If that is the case, details will be provided in this section. For example, some commercial jobs require previous overseas commercial experience. If you do not have the relevant experience, you are less likely to beat the competition.

Other essential pre-bidding preparation

It is your responsibility to ensure that the posts for which you are bidding are suitable both for you and those accompanying you. It is therefore essential that you do as much investigation as possible before you submit your bids. Here are a few examples of the things you could do:

Contact the present incumbent and others in the Dept/Post

The Job Specification should give you a good idea of what the job will entail, but it is unlikely to give you full information about the Post/Department overall.  E-mailing/calling the present incumbent will allow you to ask more questions both about the job and about the Post/Department. You could also e-mail the Deputy Head of Mission, or the line manager of the job holder.

Internet searches
The Internet can be an excellent tool in your pre-bidding investigations.

For overseas: Post Reports/Post Fact Sheets

Reading the Post Report and the Post Fact Sheet is essential pre-bidding preparation. These two documents will provide a huge amount of information about the post, the country, the education and recreation facilities available, and provide information on the spouse/partner employment opportunities that might be available.

Joint Postings

Hiring managers should do their utmost to facilitate joint postings. The two-year job forecasts should provide a useful tool for joint posting partnerships in planning their bids.

Hiring managers consider joint postings against the following criteria:

Where operationally possible hiring managers should advertise jobs in the same Post which are coming vacant at the same time closely together.  This will not, however, always prove possible. Couples might therefore have to decide whose career or bid takes precedence in relation to a particular posting (the "lead officer") . Where jobs are being advertised on the same round of boards, couples may declare that they are bidding on an "all or nothing" basis.  All bids for joint postings should be flagged up in the "special factors" box on the bidding form.

If a lead officer accepts a position, they will be expected to take up the posting whether or not their partner is successful.

Both partners must be credible in their own right - they must both be able to do the jobs for which they bid.

An officer bidding for a joint posting must be at least as credible as other candidates for the job. 

Officers bidding for a joint posting should bid as widely as they possibly can. The likelihood of employment for a spouse/partner varies from Post to Post (the size of the Post, hardship rating etc). For details, check the Post Fact Sheet for more information.

Officers requiring Reasonable Adjustments

If you require Reasonable Adjustments you should consult the Disability Pages on FCONet for the latest guidance.

The FCO operates the "Two Ticks" Guaranteed Interview Scheme. If you consider you have a disability under the terms of the Equality Act 2010, and you meet the minimum requirements for the job you will be offered an interview. You do not need to give details of a disability on your bidding form.

Officers with disabilities will be selected for jobs on the same basis as officers who do not have disabilities. Reasonable Adjustments for disabled officers will not have an impact on this process other than in exceptional circumstances such as where staff security or health and safety may be at risk. In the small number of cases where proposed adjustments need to be considered under the Reasonable Adjustment Policy this will only happen once an individual has been selected for a post.  This is to ensure that we do not impose any additional hurdles on officers with disabilities during the application and selection process, and that appointments are made on merit.

When must bids be submitted?
Bids must be submitted by the closing date indicated on FCONet. It will be up to the hiring manager for the job to decide whether or not to accept late bids up to 48 hours after the deadline, but applications cannot be accepted after that. If a hiring manager decides to extend the deadline he/she must ensure that this is the same for all applicants.

Can I withdraw my bids?
You can withdraw at any stage before you have accepted an offer by informing the hiring manager and the relevant section of the Appointments Team. 

What happens to my paperwork?
Hiring managers must keep all paperwork relating to appointments securely for six months after the appointment, then destroy it.  You may request the return of personal documents (e.g. appraisals, ADC reports) after the interview.

How do I apply for an extension?
Your DHM has discretion to grant extensions of up to one year overseas; extensions at home can be agreed by departments taking tour lengths up to a maximum of 5 years. HR agreement is not required, but the Appointments Team and your HR Manager(s) must be notified of all extensions agreed.  Extensions beyond one year overseas or five years at home must still be agreed by HR.  Where tour lengths overseas include an optional year, these must also be by mutual agreement, and HR must be informed, but they do not count as extensions.

Prism Self-Service is not yet active. Staff will be informed when they are expected to submit bids through PRISM.

Last Updated: 17 December 2010

Terms and Conditions

Please read and ensure you understand before signing the Internal Vacancy Application Form .


The FCO operates the "Two Ticks" Guaranteed Interview Scheme. If you consider that you have a disability under the terms of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, and you meet the minimum requirements for the job, you will in most circumstances be guaranteed an interview.

Staff with disabilities are encouraged to submit a Job Match Request Form to the disability advisers for advice on selecting jobs to apply for.

All Candidates

Data Protection Act 1998: the FCO will process any personal details you provide on this form for the purpose of staff administration. Your personal information will be held in secure conditions. Access will be restricted to those who need it in connection with dealing with your application.

By signing this application form, you are declaring that you:

Give consent for the use of your data in the ways described above.

Have read the guidance on submitting a bid available on FCONet, and are bidding in accordance with the guidelines detailed there.

(For overseas positions) Have confirmed that the Post is suitable for you/your partner/your family – including medical and educational needs.

(For officers intending to be accompanied by children overseas): I confirm that I have read the post reports for the posts for which I am bidding, and that consulted the FCO Healthline Healix website, and am aware of the paediatric facilities available at post. Where a post is classed as 'informed choice' I am also signing to demonstrate that I am aware of this guidance and that this is my informed decision. 

Confirm that the information you have given on your bidding from is, to the best of your knowledge, true and complete. You are aware that giving any information, which you know to be false, or withholding relevant information, may lead to your application being rejected or disciplinary action, which could lead to dismissal.

By signing this application form, you are declaring that you are not:

In your probation period.

Under Performance Improvement Procedures (including Preliminary Remedial Action).

Restricted by conditions imposed by HR, including misconduct proceedings.

Subject to monitoring under sick absence procedures.

Line Managers

You are signing this bidding form on the understanding that:

The information given in the form is true to the best of your knowledge and belief.

(Where applicable) You agree to the early departure of the officer from their current position.

 Last Updated: 14 May 2010


What training is required and recommended to staff joining the Diplomatic Service?

All staff are given induction training when they join the Diplomatic Service. They learn to be diplomats through a combination of on-the-job tutoring and practice in a range of jobs and formal training.

All staff joining the Diplomatic Service are given induction training to help them understand their role in the FCO, and the FCO’s role within government and the international community. They are made aware of the Civil Service Code, which defines the values and standards of behaviour expected. They are required to undertake courses on: security, conduct, information management, diversity at work, health and safety and finance.

New policy entrants have additional briefings, for example on Parliamentary issues, and are required to attend an international policy skills course covering international policy; analysis and use of evidence; negotiating and influencing. They also take a Modern Language Aptitude Test which has been designed to provide a measure of an individual’s ability to learn a foreign language. Hiring Managers use the score as a factor in their decision on who should be recruited for a particular speaker position in an overseas post. Officers selected for language speaker slots undertake intensive full time language training (usually a combination of training in London and some immersion) in advance of being posted overseas.

New policy entrants do two jobs in their first two years in the Diplomatic Service. These are carefully selected to ensure that they get experience of both policy and either a corporate or operational delivery role. For each role, a detailed job description sets out what skills and knowledge a new entrant is expected to develop while in the role. It also explains what training would be appropriate, for example, a new entrant working in EU directorate might undertake EU training, while a new entrant working in Counter-terrorism Department would take a course on counter-terrorism

Within six weeks of taking on a role, new entrants are expected to produce a personal development plan in consultation with their line manager. This sets out what skills and knowledge they are expected gain in that specific job, as well as identifying areas for development to help them perform effectively across the competence framework at their grade. The plan sets out development activity – formal training and on-the-job-learning and practice – to undertake within their first year. It takes account of the new entrants’ existing experience and abilities. We believe this targeted approach to training and development has greater impact on the individual and therefore provides greater value for money.


- Band C Induction Training Programme 2010

Band C Induction Programme


Welcome to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO)

Week 1: FCO Induction

Monday 01 November

0915 - 1000 Welcome to the FCO


1000 - 1015 Mutual Expectations

1015 - 1115 Conduct

1115 - 1130 <Break>

1130 - 1145 Your First Job

1145 - 1215 Our Corporate Structure

1215 – 1315 <Lunch>

1315 - 1445                    Introduction to the FCO: Home & Overseas


1445 - 1500                      <Break>


1500 - 1530                       News Review


1530 - 1615                        Diversity Briefing


1615-1700                         Review

Revisit today’s aims

Questions, Evaluation and Close

Tuesday 02 November

0915 – 1015 Familiarisation tour of KCS

1015 – 1100 Communicating Effectively in the FCO

1100 – 1115 FCO Trade Unions & Break

1115 – 1145 Language Training and the MLAT

1145 – 1215 Your Performance

1230 – 1330 Spare

1330 – 1400 <Lunch>

1400 – 1500 Coaching

1500 – 1530 Parliamentary Relations Team

1630 - 1700                       Review

Questions, Evaluation and Close

Wednesday 03 November

0915 – 1700 Introduction to Performance Management

Thursday 04 November


0915 – 1700 Management Essentials

Friday 05 November

0900 – 1300 Join Teams

*0900 – 1030 MLAT

1300 – 1500 Parliamentary Relations Team

1500 – 1630 Private Office

Week 2: FCO Induction

Monday 8 November

0915 - 1015 Recent C4 New Entrants Interactive session

1015 - 1130 Learning & Development

1130 – 1145 <Break>

1215 - 1245 Health & Welfare

1245 – 1345 <Lunch>

1345 – 1415 Probation & Promotion

1415 - 1445 Your next Job and Beyond

1445 -1500                         <Break>


1500- 1 530 Fast Stream Finance Option


1530 -1630                         Review

*1530 – 1630 Separate option for European & Economist Fast Streamers

*1600 – 1730 MLAT

Tuesday 09 November

0930 – 1630 Home Security Course

Wednesday 10 November

0900 – 1300 Information Technology & Information Management

1400 – 1500 Introduction to International Policy Skills

1500 – 1700 UK Trade & Investment

Thursday 11 November

Join Teams

After joining your d epartment:

Mandatory Courses & Events

Monday 6 December – Friday 10 December

International Policy Skills course (see next page for details)

Meet the PUS

E-learning packages that must be completed after joining your departments

1 Month

- Protecting Information

- Diversity at work

3 Months

- Health and Safety Awareness

- Finance in the FCO

Course title

International Policy Skills for Policy Officers

For band

Open to Band B & C officers and LE equivalents doing  policy jobs


Problem solving and judgement, Managing external relations, Taking a wider perspective, Strategic awareness, Communicating and influencing


International Policy, Analysis and Use of Evidence, Negotiating and Influencing

Delivery method



5 days


The course aims to help staff use the international policy framework and develop tools related to the four skills which underpin the framework. These are: International Policy; Analysis and Use of Evidence; Influencing; and Negotiating.  

The course is delivered in two very distinct modules.  The first three-day module delivered by the National School of Government will focus on international policy and analysis and use of evidence; and how these can be used throughout the IPF. The second two-day module run by Centre for Political and Diplomatic Students will look at the skills of influencing and negotiating and how they apply across the IPF.  The two modules provide a range of tools and learning experiences to help everyone get a better understanding of how to use the IPF in their jobs whether in the UK or overseas.


You will receive pre-course reading with your joining instructions.  Please ensure you provide an up-to-date email address to which we can send the course information.

Questions from FAC

How do secondments into and out of the FCO take place?

Interchange and Secondments

The FCO describes the inward and outward loan of staff between Government Departments or accredited Non Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs) as interchange. Typically FCO positions which require specialist skills or knowledge not generally available within the FCO are filled via interchange.

Inward loans bring fresh talent and ideas to the FCO. It allows us to deploy staff into specialist positions with the appropriate skills and expertise to deliver. And outward loans enable existing staff to develop fresh skills and expertise which they then bring back to the FCO.

The FCO has approximately 5000 UK based staff in London and Overseas. Currently 315 jobs are filled by inward interchange and 157 officers are on outward interchange.

We also encourage FCO staff to undertake secondments to the private sector to develop commercial awareness and refresh the skills available within the FCO. There is currently around 20 staff on secondment to the private sector.

Interchange opportunities are advertised across all Government Departments, although sometimes adverts are targeted at Departments whose staff have the specific expertise to fill the vacant position (e.g. MoJ for legal roles; MOD for defence issues etc). All SMS (SCS) positions are advertised on interchange in the first instance. Interchange is also sometimes used when positions prove hard to fill.

Interchange positions are typically advertised on the Civil Service website ( As with internal appointments, most positions are filled through a competence based interview process. Candidates usually apply for positions commensurate with their current grade, although exceptions can sometimes be made to allow for temporary promotion.

Officers loaned to the FCO undertake a specific job for a specific length of time.  Staff on loan to the FCO cannot extend in the same role beyond five years.  Unlike FCO officers, officers on loan cannot be moved into other jobs within the FCO.

Terms and Conditions

Staff on inward loan move on to FCO Terms and Conditions (T&Cs) of service and transfer to the FCO pay roll, although typically they remain subject to the disciplinary procedures of their parent department. The process is reversed for FCO staff on outward interchange; i.e. they transfer to the host department’s T&Cs.

In exceptional circumstances staff may stay on their existing terms for practical reasons e.g. if pension schemes are incompati ble; the loan is for less than six months.

Terms and Conditions for interchange vary between departments, but the substance is broadly similar. Terms and Conditions for home and overseas jobs also vary slightly; the differences largely cover the practical implications of working overseas e.g. travel arrangements; allowances; leave etc.

Staff going on secondment to the private sector remain on FCO Terms and Conditions. They remain on the FCO payroll and the host organisation reimburses the salary costs.

Staff on inward interchange can apply to transfer permanently to the FCO after successfully completing an FCO assessment and development centre

Staff from our Partners Across Government (PAGs) who are posted to work overseas in an FCO mission remain on their existing T&Cs (unless they are recruited to fill an FCO position through interchange). The PAGs which post staff overseas to FCO missions have in place Service Level Agreements outlining expectations on both sides.

The recent Strategic Defence and Security Review, agreed by the Prime Minister and senior Cabinet Ministers, says that the FCO will "improve co-ordination of all UK work overseas under the leadership of the Ambassador or the High Commissioner representing the UK Government as a whole." The local Head of Mission or another FCO member of staff may directly manage non-FCO staff but this will depend on individual circumstances and is certainly not a pre-requisite to PAG staff sharing the FCO platform overseas.

External recruitment

How is it decided which FCO positions are opened to competition from outside the FCO (i.e. other departments) and/or from outside the civil service?  

As set out in the note on recruitment, decisions to recruit externally through open competition are – under the current government-wide recruitment freeze – only allowed under certain circumstances: ie if the position is business critical, provided that options such as internal recruitment and inward loan from elsewhere in the Civil Service have been tried first, and that the recruitment has been approved by a Director General.

A very small number of staff (currently four) are seconded from outside the civil service to work in the FCO in specific roles for example as Research Analysts.

Have any Heads of Mission posts been taken by appointees from outside the FCO (including other government departments) apart from political appointees

There has been no external recruitment for Ambassadorial posts through open competition in the last two years.  In 2010 one officer on inward loan (from DFID) was appointed Head of Mission (Montserrat).

Have any changes been made to plans or procedures regarding appointments from outside the FCO since the change of Government?

On 21st November 2010 the FCO advertised publically for the post of British Consul General – New York and Director General Trade and Investment – USA. We are midway through the recruitment process for this role. This is an SMS 2 position and is the only senior position at post that has been opened up to external competition since the change of Government.

The FCO works towards three foreign policy priorities:

Safeguard Britain’s national security by countering terrorism and weapons proliferation and working to reduce conflict;

Build Britain’s prosperity by increasing exports and investment, opening markets, ensuring access to resources, and promoting sustainable global growth;

Support British nationals around the world through modern and efficient consular services.

Commercial Diplomacy is a key activity in building Britain’s prosperity. The Foreign Secretary identified this senior Trade and Investment position as one to be opened up to external competition in order to attract a field of applicants with significant commercial experience.

The position of Chief Executive at UKTI is also currently being advertised through external competition.

25 January 2011

Tour Lengths

Six Month Posting

All staff: six months with the option to apply for a second six months



Lashkar Gah

 One year postings

Heads of Mission and Hard Language speakers: minimum two years with the option to apply for a third year

All other staff: minimum one year with the option to apply for a second and third year









 Two year postings

Heads of Mission and Hard Language speakers: minimum three years

All other staff: minimum two years with the option to apply for a third year

** The tour length for Bands A and B in Grand Turk is minimum two years with the option of a third year.





Grand Turk**




St Helena

Al Khobar









Banja Luka





Tristan da Cunha








Phnom Penh



Port Moresby 


 Three year postings 

C4s and above: minimum three years with the option to apply for a fourth year

Bands A and B: three years. Extensions for a fourth year only granted in exceptional personal or operational circumstances




Addis Ababa










Grand Cayman



Grand Turk -
C4 and above only


Bandar Seri Begawan

Guatemala City

New Delhi






Rio de Janerio



St Petersburg


Hi Chi Minh City

Sao Paulo




















Kuwait City





Dar es Salaam




C4s and above: minimum three years with the option to apply for a fourth year

Islamabad - C4s and above: minimum 2 years with the option to apply for a third.

Bands A and B: minimum two years with the option to apply for a third year




 Four year postings

C4s and above: four years

Bands A and B: three years. Extensions for a fourth year only granted in exceptional personal or operational circumstances

Abu Dhabi


Port Louis



Port of Spain


Holy See



Hong Kong















Kuala Lumpur



La Paz

St Johns



San Francisco



San Jose






Santa Domingo


Los Angeles












Mexico City





Buenos Aires


Tel Aviv




Cape Town
















New York***















Panama city








The Hague

** = at UKRep (Brussels) - Bands A and B: three years, Band C: minimum two years with the option to apply for a third and fourth year, Band D and SMS: minimum three years with the option to apply for a fourth

*** = at UKMis (New York) - Bands A and B: three years, C4s and above: minimum three years with the option to apply for a fourth.


Last Updated: 25 November 2010