How to make career in the UN? – UNjobfinder will be your guide!

United nations headquarters in new york city, view from roosevelt island

The UN receives a million applications per year. Year after year students rate United Nations as their dream employer. Our resource section is for all of you who dream about a career in the United Nations, World Bank Group, European Union, International- and Non Governmental Organizations.  

It might be hard to believe, but the number of professional blog writers in the area of UN, EU, IGO, NGO career, can easily be counted. You are not alone dreaming about an international career and you are not alone having it difficult to find professional guidance. From now on you can stop googling; 
this blog will fill that empty space. UNjobfinder’s blog is all about international career. We will share career tips, give advice when you apply and bring clarity to how recruitment works in the UN, EU, IGO’s, NGO’s etc. 
BUT, when reading this blog it is important that you remember that UNjobfinder is an independent group 
without any affiliation with neither the United Nations nor any other of the 180 organizations that 
we gather vacancies from. All viewpoints, formulations and recommendations presented in this blog are UNjobfinders own. We cannot take responsibility for any potential errors that may occur in these blog messages, but welcomes your feedback. Remember to always make sure that you make your own research and interpretation of staff rules and policies that have impact on your career. 
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This first article is a follow up on our newsletter with information about the 2014 United Nations Young Professional Programme (UNYPP)

It is only a few weeks left until your application must be submitted to the UNYPP and we have gathered some tips that can make your application stand out in the crowed. We wrote about the YPP in our most recent newsletter, if you haven’t joined our news list yet please do so here. However for those of you who haven’t yet please click here to read it in whole.  You will learn about what countries are invited 2014, what the minimum requirements are and how the secretariat come up with the list of countries to invite. 
In this article we we will look at how you can make your application more strategic now when we're getting closer to final application day.

First of all make sure that:
  1. Your country is invited to the exam (if not invited don’t bother to apply, your application will be auto-screened)
  2. You meet all minimum requirements stated  (if you don’t meet the minimum requirements don’t bother to apply, your application will be auto-screened) and 
  3. You have expertise in one of the job families of 2014 (see list below):
  • Political Affairs, P-2 – Multiple duty stations, apply by 13/08/2014
  • Human Rights, P-2 - Multiple duty stations, apply by 26/08/2014
  • Information System and Technology, P-2, Multiple duty stations, apply by 13/08/2014
  • Radio Production, P-2, Multiple duty stations, apply by 20/08/2014
  • Photography, P-2, Multiple duty stations, apply by 26/08/2014
  • Economic Affairs, P-2, Multiple duty stations, apply by 20/08/2014 
Only the 40 best applicants per country in a given job family are allowed to take the exam. For some smaller countries this might mean less competition. And for some of the participating countries, it might be sufficient to just meet the minimum requirements to be invited to take the exam. However, for those of you who see a loop whole here, it might be good to know though that even if a country doesn't reach their 40 applicants threshold in a given job family, the Secretariat would never invite any applicants to take the exam that doesn't meet the above list of minimum requirements (it is against the UN Staff rules). Every applicant must meet the minimum requirements to be invited irrespective of the number of applicants from one particular country.
Although, there are some countries with small populations in the invitation list for most countries, an applicant would need something more in the application to stand out. 
We have compiled a Q&A below. Some of the areas are out of your control; however most of the items can help your application be more strategic.
Are there job families that are less competitive within the UN?
If you are only looking at a career with a UN organization, it might be strategic to consider job families that are least competitive. In the past the Politics or Human Rights tracks has been very competitive, however it has generally been easier to come through to the exam or be recruited to a job via the Administrations track (Human Resources, Finance, and Procurement). 
I have more than one nationality, can that help me in any way?
If both nationalities are invited to the exam, you should definitely make use of your multiple nationalities and use them strategically. Basically, you should apply with the nationality that you as an individual would benefit from most. It is good to know though, that the UN eventually determines your official nationality, and they might decide to assign you another nationality than the one you applied with. However, irrespective of their later decision it is wise to think about what nationality to choose. Mainly two things can guide you what nationality to use. For several years the UN has had challenges to find multilingual, highly educated women from crisis countries (i.e. Afghanistan, Sudan, South-Sudan, DRC etc). So in case you are a women that can identify yourself with this description you are encouraged to select the crisis country of yours as your nationality when applying. The second thing is to look at size, and mainly population size. One specific country (Norway) seems to have a constant under-representation in the Secretariat, so if you are Norwegian or have multiple nationalities out of which one is Norwegian. To select Norway as your nationality might be your golden ticket to the exam.
I guess quite many applicants from my country will meet all minimum requirements. What is making an application stand out?
If we start in general application screening terms. An application will be evaluated based on the following four pillars: 1) Education, 2) Experience, 3) Languages, and 4) Other skills.  So basically these are the four pillars where you can seek to strengthen your application.
It is maybe to state the obvious, but if two different applicants where to be compared only on the basis of their degrees and one of the applicants had a first level degree and the other a PhD, the PhD would count higher. The YPP requires no professional experience, however if someone having some really relevant experience was to be compared with someone having no experience, the experienced applicant would win. For languages the same applies, if one applicant has both French and English; that combination would count higher than one other applicant having English only. When it comes to languages it is not just to have many languages, you must have the right languages and the more UN working languages you have (Arabic, English, French, Chinese, French, Russian, and Spanish) the better equipped you are. Other skills that could contribute to strengthen you application is for example volunteer jobs, internships etc. 
How do I prepare for the exam?
We're planning to give you some more details on how you can prepare for the exam in a blog closer to the exam period in December. But for now, we recommend the following: The exam consists of two different papers; 1) the general paper (same irrespective of job family) and the specialized paper (where your subject matter expertise will be assessed). The duration of the examination is normally 4.5 hours. To prepare for the exam it is recommended to read global newspaper, journals and magazines. It is advised to go back to your university literature and refresh yourself on important and basic theories within the job family you have applied for. You can also find sample questions on the YPP web page.
Is there any best practice filling out the application?
We recommend that you to fill out the employment section of the Inspira application using a achievements oriented CV structure. There are a few theories that are recommended within the UN – CAR(L) and CAR(I) – They stand for (C)ontext, (A)ction, (R)esults, (L)earning or (I)mpact. These techniques are most frequently recommended at the interview preparation stage. You are asked to structure your response this way. However, if you already in your application structure the employment section this way you will save a lot of time when preparing yourself for the interview and furthermore it is a very good way to reach to the heart of the screener. 
We will write a whole blog post about these theories in a later blog post, however for now we encourage you to look at the UNDP/JPOSC’s website, they have a good page covering different stages of the application process from CV writing to interview preparation.
What is the YPP application timeframe?
You will submit your applications during august, different job families have different closing dates, but all jobs close between 13 August and 26 August.  If you application is successful you will be invited to take the exam planned for December 2014. If you successfully pass the written exam, you will be invited to an interview. These will likely take place in March or April 2015. If you are also successful after the interview assessment you will be notified about the outcome around the summer 2015. Please note that these are only tentative dates.
The picture at the top shows the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, view from Roosevelt Island" by Neptuul - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution