The In-Person Assessment

If you pass the online assessment, as a semi-finalist you will be invited to the in-person assessment. The assessment has a few different elements, including group, individual, and writing sections. In the past, the in-person assessment has happened at locations across the United States, but Washington, DC is now the sole location. Details on the venue will be shared with semi-finalists in early 2015.

Semi-finalists will be invited to register for the assessment via email. You must schedule your in-person assessment and registration is on a first come, first serve basis.

Below is the typical format of the day. Each section will be timed and proctored, and the assessment overall should take about 4 hours. Each part of the assessment will be structured around issues that are critical to the Federal Government today:

  • a Group Exercise that simulates a day in the life of a PMF
  • a Behavioral Interview that allows you to demonstrate the core competencies of a PMF
  • a Written Exercise that will be collected via a laptop provided at the in-person assessment and scored the same day by the assessors.

Pro Tip - STEM In-Person AssessmentThe key for the in-person assessment is to stay calm and collected during the interview. The interview should take you about one hour. The panel of interviewers will be composed of two or three federal agency representatives. Be prepared to answer questions that will demonstrate:

  • your abilities to solve complex problems
  • your flexibility in the workplace
  • your motivations for applying to the PMF program
  • your interpersonal and oral communications skills

This is your time to shine as a potential PMF candidate. You have already made it this far, and you are getting closer to your PMF appointment. Bev Godwin, PMF Class of 1982, with more than 30 years of public sector leadership, recommended:

“When you go to the group interview, you don’t want try to outshine everyone else and put people down to shine. You want to show how you collaborate with people…even if someone says something really stupid, which they might in the interview, even saying something like ‘well, that’s an interesting point, have you looked at it from this view?’ [is a good approach]. So you’re diplomatic, collaborative and building off what other people say…”

In-Person Assessment Advice from PMFs and Career Advisors

Here are a few other nuggets of wisdom from people who’ve preceded you:

Bartelli - Pic“I worked on the interview preparation tool STAR: where you structure your responses to behavioral questions around the Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Ensuring all my answers had a linear arc improved the quality of my in-person performance. Practice your ability to work in groups and to answer behavioral questions without rambling.”
– Jeffrey Bartelli, PMF Finalist, Class of 2013

Take a deep breath and relax before going into the assessment. Be well rested and speak concisely. Respect your fellow applicants and allow them to speak during the assessment.”
– PMF Finalist, Class of 1999

Webb - PicBe a team player during the group presentation–that part is about how you handle and resolve team issues more than it is about your speech topic.”
– Jeni Webb, PMF Class of 2011, Department of Housing and Urban Development


Don’t try to compete with those around you. Treat it as you would the work environment and act accordingly. If you have a group assessment engage as you would if these were your colleagues.” – Career Advisor

Westfall - PicBe well groomed and clean and neat. Prepare by reading op-eds in major newspapers on a variety of topics. Remember to make eye contact, engage others, answer clearly and articulately and be on point. Demonstrate that you are a leader but also a team player.”
– Bridget Shea Westfall, PMF Class of 2005


Make friends with your cohort of competitors that are taking the assessment with you — everyone is highly qualified — no need to be mean about it. Don’t feel bad if the assessors don’t look up or appear to be curt. They are scribbling furiously to take down their impressions, but I think they have received special instructions on how they are and are/not supposed to interact with the interviewees.” – PMF Finalist, Class of 2011

Golden - PicSome interviewers were friendly, some were stone-faced. You need to be ready to perform at your best even if you’re not being given the normal body language or facial cues that might otherwise provide you with positive reinforcement.”
– Tamara Golden, Career Consultant, University of California, San Diego


Do not be swayed by the other applicants. Everyone has their own idea of how the process works, what they are looking for, or what they have heard through the grapevine.” 
– PMF Finalist, Class of 2011

All I can say is that it is very, very easy. No preparation needed, other than your graduate school experience. No personal information will be used, other than your applicant ID. Do not bring anything like a mobile phone; there is no locker. There is a common area where you can put your hat, coat, umbrella. You can put your phone there, if you like. That’s all I can say. All the best. May all get selected.” – PathtoPMF Discussion Participant

Congratulations: You’ve Been Named a Finalist!

If you pass the in-person assessment and are selected as a Finalist, you will be invited to participate in the Job Fair. Notification of your Finalist status is typically sent via email in the spring of 2014. Below is a bit more statistical information about the types of people who were selected as Finalists for the 2013 PMF class.

ONE QUICK NOTE BEFORE YOU PERUSE THE CHARTS BELOW: Even if you see that your school, your degree or your target agency is under-represented in the data below, do not be discouraged. Apply anyway and give it your all! The PMF application process is designed to reward merit, so you have just as solid a chance of success as anyone else.

PMF Stats Charts


Once you have been named a Finalist, you now have to get hired into a PMF position, pass a background investigation, and go through the agency’s on-boarding process. It can take several months to pass a Federal background investigation for a security clearance.

Agency PMF Program Coordinators strongly suggested that candidates view the Project Positions System (PPS) for available positions for PMF finalists. The PPS is a way for agencies to advertise available PMF appointments and is only for current PMF finalists. Check frequently as new positions are posted and change often throughout the year.

Want more tips about the entire PMF Process? Download the full version of the guide here!

The guide shares advice with applicants based on interviews with current and past PMFs, career advisors, and federal agency program coordinators.

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