Greetings – as a PMF alum that spent some time actually working for the PMF program office, I think it might be helpful to outline the steps necessary to land an appointment as a PMF.
First, you must be nominated by your graduate school – fish around for your school’s nomination process … this is a relatively low hurdle and is basically a form to be filled by your school’s dean or department chair. Some schools, however, have fairly rigorous nomination standards.
Then, once you are among the 10,000 or so nominees that meet the general qualifications (scheduled to graduate from an accredited grad school during the application year, American citizen, etc), you’ll have to take the online assessment. This assessment is not an aptitude or skills test, rather it measures your relative strengths in terms of competencies (things like public service motivation, problem-solving, writing and comprehension, etc). These are situational judgement type exams that explore how you would react to certain situations and aren’t really the types of exams you can study for. The PMF website (pmf.gov) provides a bit more insight.
This winnows the applicant pool down to about 1200 – this is not based on a pass/fail quotient – rather a relative ranking against others that take the assessment. These folks then will be subject to a structured interview, of which 700-800 folks will qualify as “finalists”. Finalists are then eligible for direct hire by agencies that are looking for staff and are willing to fill positions according to the guidelines of the PMF program (e.g. they commit to a developmental regimine for these hires; they agree to a prescribed promotion schedule …).
These hires occur through a typical competitive interview process with individual agencies … the good news is that you are only competing with other finalists, rather than the general public. Typically, about 400-500 PMFs are hired each year.
So, in the end, about 4-5% of folks that apply actually recieve appointments. It is a rigorous and competitive process; but for those that survive the gauntlet, they are recognized as high potentials within their agencies and are typically placed on an aggressive development path in preparation for senior leadership.
It is safe not to set expectations that you will become a finalist – rather it is just another iron in the fire as you search for career opportunities.
Hope this helps.