The Foreign Service Journal, June 2022

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JUNE 2022 19 SPEAKING OUT iMatch: Ready for Takeoff? BY UBAH KHAS I MUDD I N Ubah Khasimuddin serves as the office management specialist (OMS) for the political section in New Delhi. New Delhi is her third tour; previous assignments included Regional Security Office OMS in Sarajevo and Rover OMS in Jakarta. She has been in the Foreign Service since 2012. Her husband, Ahsan, is a consular limited noncareer appointee in New Delhi. The couple and their two children will depart this summer for Singapore, where she will be the OMS in the political/economic section. A s an office management specialist (OMS), I was mandated to participate in the pilot iMatch program in the summer of 2021. iMatch is an algorithm-based program to match bidder and bureau preferences. It is mod- eled after the National Resident Match- ing Program that is used for American medical students when applying for medical residency. iMatch is touted as more objective and fairer than existing bidding systems and is being evaluated for possible adoption as the new bidding tool for State. When the 2021 bid season opened, OMSs were instructed to follow our regular bidding procedures but also register for iMatch at the same time. Traditionally, bidding for an OMS job is exactly like that for the other specialties in the Foreign Service. The specialist goes into Talent Map, the user-friendly adminis- trative armof the bidding operation, where the job descriptions, points of contact and numbers of bidders for the position are logged. He or she uses the Community Lobby Center (CLC) to gather recommen- dations from supervisors, co-workers and subordinates. These recommendations are available for viewing by posts/bureaus whenmaking selections on candidates. In addition, the bidder still has to send out email letters of interest to potential posts and do phone/video interviews. Typically, each open OMS position gets roughly five to seven bids, with the low end being one bid and the high end, for very select nonhardship posts, being 35. OMS bidding is not as politi- cally loaded with preferential treatment as generalist bidding. The kind of senior management and bureau interference commonly spoken about in connection with generalist bidding is not seen at any equivalent level by OMSs. A Clumsy Process While iMatch had some of the same information as Talent Map, it didn’t really serve any specialized purpose other than ranking one’s choices. In addition, iMatch was not easily usable in controlled access area spaces because you had to scan a QR code from your mobile phone to register and get a six-digit authenticator code from the same mobile phone every time you wanted to log on to the system. Further, you needed job position numbers from Talent Map to make your rank list in iMatch, because iMatch didn’t have them readily available. Also, per- haps because this was a pilot program, no one at post could assist if there were any technical issues. Finally, the two systems (Talent Map and iMatch) had different dates for taskers to be completed, which added another layer of labor to keep track of various deadlines, thus making the exercise that much more onerous. For example, bid- ding season opened on Sept. 1, but OMSs couldn’t get into iMatch until Sept. 20. Qualitative Problems Because the OMS job is very front-fac- ing (i.e., heavy on customer service), there should be an emphasis on personality and informal references when making hiring decisions. Yet iMatch attempts to stamp these factors out. Although this might make sense on grounds of fairness for generalists, where subject matter expertise should be more valuable than who you know, it leaves OMSs at a disadvantage. Many hiring managers don’t know our job so they can’t really gauge our effectiveness beyond standard depart- ment criteria. Further, I’m not sure how beneficial this stock yardstick is for the receiving office; one can learn how to do a travel voucher in E2 (the web-based travel management system), but a dif- ficult temperament is hard to accommo- date once enmeshed. In the end, I am not sure how valuable iMatch was, despite its claims of trying to If the point was to end the lobbying and jockeying element of bidding, iMatch failed.