The Foreign Service Journal, June 2022

20 JUNE 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Speaking Out is the Journal ’s opinion forum, a place for lively discussion of issues affecting the U.S. Foreign Service and American diplomacy. The views expressed are those of the author; their publication here does not imply endorsement by the American Foreign Service Association. Responses are welcome; send them to make the playing field fairer. If the point was to end the lobbying and jockeying element of bidding, iMatch failed. It was more than evident that posts and bidders quickly figured out how the game was played, and behind-the-scenes machina- tions continued. Prior to interviewing, some posts asked where they were on the appli- cant’s ranking; in other instances, posts eliminated at-grade qualified candidates without explanation. From outside look- ing in, there appeared, in some instances, to be interference to guarantee certain positions to specific OMSs. Because iMatch favors the bidder over the post, you have to be 100 percent on your number-one pick and lock it in a week before matching, even before early handshakes. In my case, some things changed in that week before match day, but my rank list was already locked in, and I could do nothing about it. In traditional bidding, this would not have been an issue, as I could have gotten handshakes from both posts (different bureaus) and then been able to make up my mind. The iMatch system works in your favor if you and the post both register each other as number one. This necessitates finding out where you are on that post’s list, which some posts don’t want to tell you. iMatch forces the bidder to reveal all their cards and pick a number one very early on; but if, as happened to me, your family’s situation changes as you are interviewing with posts, what looked like number one at the start of September may not be that by late October. Also, with this pilot program, some of the posts didn’t fill out the ranking list correctly, and people who should have been matched were not, or were incor- rectly matched. This can hardly make anyone happy with the end result. Some Suggestions and a Question To make iMatch more palatable, I would suggest the following: • Merge Talent Map and iMatch (as it stands currently, bidders have to go to three different sites when bidding: Tal- ent Map, iMatch and Community Lobby Center); • Sync the deadline dates; • Make iMatch controlled access area space–friendly and less onerous to sign up for; and • Allow for changes closer to the deadline. (Why does iMatch need a week to make matches? Isn’t it a com- puter program?) I would be hesitant to advocate the iMatch program in its current form to the broader Foreign Service. As with so many things at the State Department, the fundamental complaint about the bidding process is its lack of transpar- ency; and, sadly, I am not convinced iMatch solves that concern. Ultimately, the question I have is this: What was the problem iMatch was supposed to solve? What was the improvement expected of iMatch over the old bidding method? Only when the objective is clearly articulated can we determine if this change improves bidding, makes it worse, or does nothing at all. Meanwhile, I suggest iMatch remain grounded. n