Interested in working with the UN or other international organizations (IOs), but wondering how to strengthen your application? Competition is stiff with applicants from across the globe competing for some very attractive positions. So what can you do to get your application into the hands of a hiring manager and ace that interview? Just last month we had the opportunity to meet with HR officials from several UN agencies who shared their insight into the hiring process along with the following application tips.
Target your applications to jobs you really want.
Applying to UN positions can be time consuming so be selective and dedicate more time and effort applying to the jobs you really qualify for. These organizations typically receive hundreds of applications for each vacancy and do an initial screen out of applicants who do not meet the basic qualifications including language, education, and years of experience. Apply to positions you’re truly interested in and thoroughly complete your online application profile. You may not have the opportunity to provide a separate resume or other supporting documents so take full advantage of the space provided to give the most comprehensive picture of your skills and experiences. Don’t sell yourself short.
Emphasize teamwork in addition to individual achievements.
While it’s important to highlight individual on-the job successes, remember to balance your applications, and interviews for that matter, with concrete examples of teamwork and collaboration. The organizational culture of the UN is more we than I and you’ll be a stronger applicant if you can demonstrate success while working in a team.
Focus on concrete skills and experiences versus aspirations.
While working at the UN may be your dream job and a means to further universal principles, spend less time expounding on aspirations and visions, and more time on concrete examples of how you can complete the day-to-day requirements of the position.
Language, language, language!
There are six official UN languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish), and the most competitive applicants speak more than one language proficiently. Start brushing up on those language skills and, when completing your online application profile, be sure not to underestimate your abilities. Hiring managers don’t expect every applicant to be proficient in several languages, but a demonstrated interest in and commitment to learning languages is an advantage.
Get out into the field.
Every single HR official we spoke with emphasized gaining field experience. IOs want employees who have lived and worked in a foreign environment and possess the cross-cultural skills to succeed in a multi-cultural setting. Be sure to include all overseas experience on your application, including study abroad programs. Additionally, consider applying to positions in field locations rather than at Headquarters -- there’s often less competition for these jobs and you’ll gain the field experience needed to be a more competitive applicant in the future.
Consider short-term contracts, consultancies, and internships.
Applying as an external applicant, with no hands-on experience with the UN, can be a disadvantage. Get your foot in the door by considering short-term and consultant opportunities. Hiring processes for such positions tend to be less cumbersome and time consuming, and the on-the-ground experience may give you just the exposure you need to gain familiarity with the culture and structure of the organization, build your network, and get your name and expertise known. Additionally, current and recent students may want to consider internship opportunities.
About the Authors: Christina Breuer serves as a Multilateral Outreach Officer in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, and Douglas Sun serves as a Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. Mission to the UN in Geneva.
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