Frequently Asked Questions


1. Q. Who can apply?

A. Canadian citizens who have completed a university degree or will have done so by September 30, 2012. The department is looking for people from diverse backgrounds with sound judgement and excellent problem-solving, interpersonal and communications skills.

2. Q. Do I need to be bilingual to apply?

A. Foreign Service Officers and Management Consular Officers** who do not meet the required CCC level of proficiency in their second official language will be provided with official language training at the department’s expense. For those selected candidates who do not meet the second language requirements, up to 52 weeks of second language training will be provided at the department’s expense in the National Capital Region. These candidates will only be hired as indeterminate Foreign Service Officers or Management Consular Officers upon successful completion of the language training.

** The classification for the Management Consular Officer position is currently under review for possible conversion to FS-01 group and level. The information above will only apply should the conversion occur.

The language profiles for Policy Officer and Commerce Officer positions can vary. For those classified English or French Essential, it is not necessary to be bilingual to be hired. For positions classified French and English Imperative, candidates must meet second language requirements prior to being hired. For Non-Imperative positions, candidates have a defined period of time to reach the required level of competency in the second official language. The department provides training in these circumstances.

Please consult the website for an overview/definition of language requirements.

3a. Q. How do I know my application has been successfully completed and accepted?

A. You must apply on-line through the the Post-Secondary Recruitment campaign on the Public Service Commission’s website. You will receive a message indicating the status of your application upon logout. If any information is incomplete, you will be advised that you must complete all requirements by the closing date. Unfortunately, due to the complexity of the recruiting process, we cannot accept applications beyond the deadline. There will be no exceptions.

3b. Q. When and where will the exams be held?

A. The exams typically take place in mid to late November at test centres across Canada, and at embassies and consulates abroad. You will be notified through the contact information you provide on your application.

4. Q. If I am accepted and I do not live in the National Capital Region, are my moving expenses paid by the Department?

A. Participants will be provided with financial assistance for relocation from a Canadian city to the National Capital Region. This funding can be used to assist in defraying the costs related to the move. Please note that the funds are limited to a maximum of $5,000. Upon arrival in Ottawa, each participant must complete a travel expense claim to account for their expenses. Once the travel claim has been received and audited by the department, it will reimburse the participant.

If expenses exceed the limit, the department will reimburse the maximum amount indicated. Any costs beyond that will be at the participant’s expense. The participant may opt to use the funds to assist with paying for the transportation to the new location (one-way), the shipping of household and personal effects, temporary accommodation and meal allowances during the moving of goods.

This assistance assumes that the participant will be employed in the public service of Canada for at least two years. Participants who terminate employment voluntarily before completing a two-year period must agree to reimburse part of any amount of relocation assistance that may have been given. The sum to be reimbursed would be proportional to the difference between the two-year period and the time elapsed when employment was voluntarily terminated.

Those who are already Public Servants are dealt with on a case-by-case. Public Servants may come to language training on assignment or secondment and are eligible for relocation under the National Joint Council (NJC) Integrated Relocation Directive.


5. Q. I want to apply to Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada. What must I do?

A. You must complete your application within the Post-Secondary Recruitment Campaign of the Public Service Commission (PSC) by the stated deadline. Only after you complete your application will you be invited to write the online Public Service Entrance Exam (PSEE). Candidates who pass the PSEE will be invited to write three standardized exams. More details about these exams are provided in Question 6.

The tests are not specific to the Foreign Service or Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada; they are used across the Canadian federal government as part of its recruiting process.

For information on testing, including when and where thetests will be administered in your region, please see the test information on the PSC Recruitment website, or contact the PSC office in your region or the career placement office of your university.

Each test site can accommodate a limited number of applicants. If you are invited to write an exam, you must register beforehand. Applicants who have not registered for a particular test or test site will not be admitted.

Tests can also be written at a select number of our offices abroad. If you have applied in Canada or overseas, and will be overseas at the time of the tests, you must select where you would like to be tested at the time of your application.

6. Q. What is involved in the testing process?

A. Candidates who wish to apply for a career at Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada will be invited to write the Public Service Entrance Exam (PSEE). The PSEE is an unsupervised test that is completed online from any location where candidates have access to a computer and an internet connection. It is suggested that candidates complete the test in a quiet location away from disturbances.

Candidates who pass the PSEE must write each of the following tests:

  • The Situational Judgement Test (SJT)318
    The Situational Judgment Test (SJT) 318 assesses whether you have the required judgment to solve problems in work-related situations. The SJT presents you with challenging hypothetical situations that one might encounter at work, and that involve working with others as part of a team, interacting with others, and dealing with workplace dilemmas. In response to each situation, you are presented with five possible actions that one might take in dealing with the problem described. You must select the one response alternative that is the most effective, and the one response alternative that is the least effective in dealing with the problem described.
  • The Graduate Recruitment Test (GRT)
    The Graduate Recruitment Test (GRT) assesses your general cognitive ability, i.e. your ability to use reasoning skills to solve problems.
  • A Written Communication Proficiency Test
    assesses your ability to communicate in writing.

Please arrive at the test site at least 30 minutes before the start time. Latecomers will not be permitted to enter the testing room nor will they be rescheduled. It is your responsibility to be aware of the test date and time.

You must bring the following items to the testing session:

  • Your PSRS Applicant Number (for example: S987654)
  • Photo identification with signature (for example: Driver’s Licence)

7. Q. I wrote the standardized exams last year before the Public Service Entrance Exam (PSEE) was introduced. Do I have to write the exams again?

A. In this year’s campaign, all candidates who applied must complete the Public Service Entrance Exam, regardless of any previous test results. Only candidates who pass the PSEE will be invited to write the three standardized exams. Scores obtained in 2001 and after, for these standardized exams, will remain valid. You may rewrite a test if you wish to try to improve your performance. However, your most recent score automatically becomes your valid score.

The cut-off scores for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada will be determined at later date. It will depend on the number of candidates applying and the overall scores obtained.

Please note that test results obtained before 2001 will not be accepted. To verify if you have a valid test result, please view your “My jobs profile” within the Public Service Resourcing System at the following link: Jobs Open to the Public.

More information on the testing process.

8. Q. Are the tests the same no matter what career I am seeking?

A. No. The fall Post-Secondary Recruitment Campaign establishes which tests will be used for assessment purposes. These usually include the Situational Judgement Test, the Graduate Recruitment Test, and the Written Proficiency Communication Test. For the 2011 recruitment campaign we are using these exams to recruit Foreign Service Officers, Management Consular Officers, Policy Officers and Commerce Officers. In future campaigns this may change based on our hiring needs.

Recruitment drives for other groups, including administrative assistants, finance officers, human resources officers and information technology officers may use other exams to assess competencies prior to interviews.

9. Q. Why is a proficiency in Arabic, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin (Chinese), Portuguese, Russian or Spanish valued?

A. Such proficiencies are particularly important in fulfilling our mandate. These languages can be difficult to learn and require expensive and labour-intensive training. Working ability in any other foreign language is also potentially valuable for the department and may increase career possibilities for successful candidates once they are hired.

10. Q. What is meant by a working ability in Arabic, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin (Chinese), Portuguese, Russian or Spanish?

A. Individuals indicating a working ability in these languages may be tested by the Department as part of the hiring process. For more information on what is meant by “working ability” in a foreign language, please visit the following website:

Training and Career Development

11. Q. What is ab initio status?

A. New recruits entering the Foreign Service Development Program (FSDP) or Management Consular Officer Training Program (MCTP) ** whose proficiency in either of Canada's official languages is not sufficient will receive official language training on ab initio status for a maximum of 52 weeks. During this period, participants will not be employees of the federal government but will receive a stipend of 80 percent of the starting salary for the training period. If they cannot achieve the required proficiency in the 52 weeks allotted, they will not receive an offer of employment into the FSDP or the MCTP.

** The classification for the Management Consular Officer position is currently under review for possible conversion to FS-01 group and level. The information above will only apply should the conversion occur.

12. Q. What is the Foreign Service Development Program (FSDP)?

A. The FSDP is a structured three-year developmental program during which participants receive extensive in-class and on-the-job training in Ottawa. During these three years, participants will receive approximately 26 days of training, with the majority spread out over the first year. The Canadian Foreign Service Institute is responsible for the development, delivery and evaluation of the formal training component of the FSDP.

For the on-the-job component, every effort will be made to match the background, strengths and interests of individual participants with prevailing operational needs when assignments are allocated.

Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada uses a competency-based approach to learning and assessment for the FSDP, which means participants must master certain competencies over the course of the program. FSDP participants remain on probation for the duration of the program, with performance reviews at regular intervals.

In order to be promoted to the full working level (i.e. FS-02); FSDP officers must pass an assessment of the competencies required of fully qualified Foreign Service officers, including judgement, adaptability and flexibility, and networking.

13. Q. What is the Management Consular Training Program (MCTP)?

A. Recruitment into the Management Consular Stream (MCO) entails a two-year Training Program (MCTP). The first component of the MCTP is a ten month Developmental Assignment in the International Platform Branch and in the Corporate Finance and Operations Branch that includes a four-week temporary duty assignment at a mission abroad. The second component of the MCTP is another second ten month Developmental Assignment in the Consular, Security and Emergency Management Branch. Training classes are held three to five days per month throughout the entire program with a two month specialized pre-posting block at the end of the program.

14. Q. How quickly can I go abroad on posting? How much of my career will I spend abroad?

A. The answer varies according to the area of specialization.

Once hired, Foreign Service Officers (FS) typically spend three years in Ottawa on training and on assignment at Headquarters before their first posting abroad. In unusual circumstances, officers with scarce skill sets (such as particular language competencies) and/or a great deal of flexibility about their prospective destination may be able to go abroad as soon as one year after beginning their training at Headquarters.

Management and Consular Officers (MCO) typically spend two years in Ottawa on training and on assignment at Headquarters before their first posting abroad. During the first year, MCOs typically serve on temporary duty at a Canadian mission abroad as part of their on-the-job training.

Over the course of a career, the proportion of an employee’s time spent overseas will vary by stream, skill set and flexibility. However, both Foreign Service Officers and Management Consular Officers must accept “rotationality” as a condition of their employment. Rotationality means officers are required to serve at any location in Canada or elsewhere as determined by the department. Employees may bid on their preferred postings through a competitive assignments process, while indicating any personal considerations as to location and timing of the posting.

Although Policy Officers and Commerce Officers are not expected to spend a portion of their career abroad, they are entitled to apply and be considered for all postings in relationship to their specific skills and abilities. There are currently many non-rotational officers serving in rotational positions abroad.

Policy Officers and Commerce Officers must accept “mobility” as a condition of employment. Mobility means officers are required to move periodically between positions at headquarters.

15. Q. What is the career path for a Policy Officer (EC-04) and a Commerce Officer (CO-01)?

A. ES-03s and CO-01s may be considered for deployment to other positions at the same level in the department when such positions become available. It is also possible to move between Foreign Service Officer, Policy Officer and Commerce Officer positions through appointment processes, assignments, acting assignments or appointments, and deployment.

Policy Officers and Commerce Officers progress from EC-04 and CO-01 to positions at higher levels through appointment processes. These processes take place throughout the department when positions at higher levels become available.

Policy Officers and Commerce Officers begin taking on formal management responsibilities both at Headquarters in Ottawa and abroad when they occupy EC-07, EC-08 or CO-03 positions, or FS-03 positions. From there, the career path leads to the management (EX) level.

There are also specialist positions at these levels which do not require management responsibilities. Officers in these positions provide high-level expert advice to management on specialized topics.

For Policy Officers and Commerce Officers, initial training is based on the specific requirements of the position for which you are hired. Ongoing training is also provided according to annual individual learning plans, which are developed to improve your general skills. Specialized knowledge training is also provided to enable you not only to meet the requirements of your current position but to support your career development.