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How to Get Jobs with the United Nations

Getting a job with the UN

Whether you want to prevent environmental degradation, assist impoverished areas to develop their economies, help stop civil wars, or advance progressive causes like social justice and capital redistribution, the United Nations may have the ideal job for you. What’s more, the U.N. is a huge employer and offers opportunities for advancement and career variety comparable to those found in large private companies. Think you’ve got what it takes to work in this truly global organization? Competition for most positions is fierce, but with a lot of preparation and a little luck, you may land your dream job with the U.N.

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.

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.


Be very, very careful in putting together your application. Check for spelling errors, gaps in information, sloppy grammar, etc. Remember that every little slip-up is an excuse to eliminate your application, and recruiters will likely be inundated with applications. Get a friend to read over your PHP to offer suggestions and help catch any errors you may have overlooked. This is a tough process, tougher than many jobs you might be thinking of applying for, precisely because the whole world wants this job!


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, internship, volunteering 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.

For more information about working at the UN and other IOs, check out International Organizations current vacancies, and follow UN jobs in Egypt on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Google+ for more job tips and postings about vacancy announcements.