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Recruitment process

The recruitment process in the United Nations System varies depending on the job category and on the specific vacancy you are applying for. Normally it consists of three stages:

Stage 1: Application

As of today, the United Nations is accepting applications for all job categories (staff, consultants, volunteers, interns) online. The main centralised website to search and apply for vacancies is Inspira, which is the UN’s electronic application processing system. You are strongly recommended to review the official guide “How to get started with Inspira” before proceeding with your job applications.

The very first step to submit an application is to create a profile in Inspira and search for those vacancies which are the best fit for you. When logged in to Inspira, you will be able to see job openings in various duty stations, job areas, and categories, and use filters them to match your background and interests. To view details of a job opening, simply click on the job title and you’ll be taken to a job description page. This page will list the job responsibilities associated with the position, and the necessary educational qualifications, work experience and language skills required to carry out the role.

When you decide to apply to the vacancy, you will be asked to fill all information about your background in the Personal History Profile (PHP) form in Inspira. PHP is a complex form: it consists of 8 sections and initially takes about 2-3 hours to complete. However, once you file your information in the PHP form, you will be able to use it for your future applications as well, so there will be no need to fill in this information again from the very beginning.

The PHP sections are as follows:

  1. Screening and Fitness Questions
  2. Education
  3. Work Experience
  4. Languages
  5. Skills & Training
  6. Cover Letter
  7. References
  8. Last Questions

We bring your attention to the fact that many potentially successful applicants do not pass the screening stage because they inadvertently communicate incomplete or imprecise information to the system. The first round of screening is fully automated and in case you accidentally “tick the wrong box” in one of the eligibility sections, your application will be disqualified by Inspira. We, therefore, recommend you to be extra careful and make sure that your background is presented in line with the vacancy requirements, and, moreover, you demonstrate that you are a strong candidate for the present position through your cover letter and the description of your duties and achievements at previous workplaces. Candidates who pass the first (eligibility) screening round are then reviewed and screened by the hiring officer during the second screening round. Successful applicants are invited to the next stage, which may be a written assessment or an interview.

Given the high competition at the screening stages for UN vacancies, we offer you our assistance in revising your PHP form and providing detailed feedback on your PHP (including the cover letter), and suggestions on how to enhance the presentation of your background, increasing your chances to be invited for the next stage. Our credibility is proven by the number of successful applicants who entrusted us with the application review. Have a look at our UN YPP Application Assistance and our UN Internship Application Assistance services for more details. We also offer an individual application review service for any vacancy at the UN system, please contact us at info@ypun.org to request more information on this.

Stage 2: Written Assessment

For many UN vacancies, the second stage of the recruitment process is a written assessment. The format and the content of a written assessment depend on the job category you apply for.

Written assessments include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Candidates applying to the United Nations Young Professionals Programme (UN YPP) are required to take an online written examination testing their knowledge of a subject matter of their specific job area;
  • Candidates who are applying to the General Service level staff positions should take the Global General Service Test (GGST) which is a computer-based invigilated/proctored test, which assesses Verbal Reasoning, Numerical Reasoning and Situational Judgment competencies of applicants;
  • Candidates who are applying for mid- or senior Professional level staff positions normally take case-based written assessments testing their professional expertise and competencies required for the job.

Successful candidates are invited to the next recruitment stage which is an interview.

Stage 3: Interview

Short-listed candidates are interviewed directly by the representatives of the hiring United Nations departments. The interviews can be telephonic, video or in-person, and may also be held in various formats. Normally, when a written assessment of your knowledge and skills took place as a part of the recruitment process, your interview will be held in a competency-based format. In case you’ve skipped a written assessment and were invited to the interview straight away, you will be asked both knowledge-based and competency-based questions.

The term “competency” refers to a combination of skills, attributes, and behaviors that are directly related to successful performance on the job. Competency-based interviews (also called “behavioral interviews” or “criterion based interviews”) are based on the concept that candidates’ past behavior and experience is the best indicator of future performance. In other words, your answers to these questions tell a story about you: your talents, skills, abilities, knowledge and actual experience in handling a variety of situations.

At the United Nations, these interviews are designed to test your compliance with the core UN values and competencies:

  • Three core UN values –  Integrity, Professionalism, Respect for Diversity;
  • Eight core UN competencies – Communication, Teamwork, Planning & Organizing, Accountability, Creativity, Client Orientation, Commitment to Continuous Learning, Technological Awareness;
  • Six managerial UN competencies – Leadership, Vision, Empowering Others, Building Trust, Managing Performance, Judgement/Decision-making.

The specific competencies required for a particular vacancy vary a lot based on the job category, level, position and areas of responsibilities. They are listed in the “Competencies” section of a UN job opening, where you will find an outline of desired professional behavior to be tested at the competency-based interview.

Most frequently tested competencies for young professionals are Professionalism, Communication, Teamwork, Planning & Organizing. Possible questions are as follows:

  • Professionalism: Give an example of when it has been important for you to appear knowledgeable about your area of specialty.
  • Communication: Tell us about a time when it was important to involve someone in a conversation.
  • Teamwork: Describe a time when you have accepted joint responsibility for your team’s limitations.
  • Planning & Organizing: When have you considered strategic issues when developing goals?

These questions are not easy to tackle. You need to provide an answer using an example from your recent professional engagement and make sure it matches all positive indicators the UN competency standards require. You are also likely to face many follow-up questions from the interview board asking about all little details of the case you described and testing if there any negative competency indicators may be spotted in your actions.

The key to preparing for a competency-based interview is practice. You are strongly recommended to think of possible questions in advance and draft your answers to these questions. Having mock interviews before the actual one will help you to get feedback on your performance and plan improvements in your answers to impress the UN committee and increase your chances of landing the job. We, therefore, offer all candidates our UN Competency Based Interview Assistance providing you personalised services to prepare for an interview at the United Nations.