Careers in the United Nations
The United Nations (UN) is a global organisation that strives to achieve peace and amicable relations across nations by encouraging countries to work together harmoniously.
Established in 1945 and with 193 member countries, the organisation offers many job opportunities worldwide at all levels of seniority and experience.
Types of roles
Roles at the UN are split into five different staff categories. These categories determine the level that an individual joins.
Professional and Higher categories: individuals at this level generally have a higher or post-graduate degree with previous work experience. These roles are internationally recruited.
General Service and related categories: roles within this category are recruited from the local area and cover customer service or administration or service-related positions. These roles are typically support-based roles that are operational or technical. Examples of roles include conference management or technology administration-based roles.
National Professional Officers: These are professional-level roles requiring a first-level degree. Positions within this category can include medical, human rights, political affairs, and legal or child protection officers. Individuals are recruited from their local country and need to be nationals of that country to take up a position.
Field service: field service roles are recruited internationally. The role focuses on undertaking field missions in different countries with locations varying throughout an individual's career. Administration positions supporting field-related roles, such as logistics or technical-related ones, also fall under this category.
Senior appointments: roles within this category encompass the highest positions available within the organisation, such as deputy secretary general or secretary general of the UN.
The UN also offers roles at the internship level, a young professionals programme for those looking to start their career with the UN, voluntary and temporary roles.
How to get a job in the United Nations
The UN runs a robust recruitment process that assesses many skills and competencies. The process includes:
- Online Application
- Aptitude tests
- Substantive test (applicable for selected roles)
- Competency-based/substantive interview
Understanding the recruitment process, the skills you have, and how these relate to the role you are applying for are essential to securing a position with the UN.
United Nations Application Process Stages
The recruitment process for positions within the UN is dependent on the role applied for.
In all cases, the first part of the UN application process is to search for your preferred role. Roles are advertised by location, duty station, and experience level.
Once a suitable role has been identified, you must register on the dedicated UN recruitment portal and create a candidate profile with your basic contact details.
All applications for positions are made via your candidate profile account. All candidates must complete the application form attached to the role they wish to apply for.
It is worth noting that the UN does not accept CVs as applications for any of its positions.
Before applying for a role with the UN, individuals must review their skills and education level to ensure they meet the requirements stipulated for the position.
It is advisable to conduct a full self-assessment of your skills, competencies, and attributes to determine whether you have the necessary experience and competencies needed for the role, while considering how you have gained these essential skills.
Once a candidate has submitted their application, the application is reviewed to ensure that all of the essential criteria such as level of education, nationality, and basic requirements of the position are met. This stage of the process is carried out by either the UN HR team or relevant hiring departments.
If all criteria are met, candidates proceed to the next stage of the process: general testing and assessment.
Candidates successful at the eligibility screening stage are invited to complete a general test/assessment. This test is administered online with the test level being aligned to the job category a candidate has applied to. This means that the test may vary in terms of duration of the test and type.
Tests take around 2 hours to complete and must be taken within a 48-hour period, with the test being split into different parts. Each part of the test can be taken at different times within the 48-hour period i.e. the whole test does not need to be taken in one sitting.
The UN uses different types of assessments as part of its recruitment process for roles. These can include case studies and written exams.
In all cases, candidates must complete general ability testing that covers numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning, logical reasoning and a situational judgement test.
Situational judgement test
This test assesses candidates' behavioural preferences in work-based situations they are likely to face when in the role.
Questions are presented in the form of scenarios they are likely to encounter in the workplace. Individuals then need to select which of the multiple choice statements best represents the way they would choose to behave or act in the given situation.
Numerical reasoning test
The numerical reasoning test is a test of an individual's ability to use and interpret numerical information, in addition to their ability to work under pressure.
Questions in this part of the assessment are given as tables, graphs, or charts.
Candidates need to use their understanding of basic maths principles such as fractions, ratios, or percentages to calculate which of the given multiple choice answers is correct.
Verbal reasoning test
The verbal reasoning test evaluates individuals' ability to read, understand and interpret written information. Questions are given in the form of short paragraphs of text.
Candidates need to read the text and then determine whether the statement that follows is 'true,' 'false,' or they 'can not say' based on their understanding and interpretation of what they have read.
The logical reasoning assessmentevaluates the candidate's ability to think logically. Questions are presented in the form of shapes, patterns, or sequences.
Candidates need to determine the link, rule, or relationship between the shape, pattern or sequence then select which of the multiple choice answers follows next.
All general assessments/testing are timed assessments. Test takers are informed of the length of the test and the types of test they are required to complete in the test invite, along with any deadlines for completion.
The hiring unit reviews results from the test along with relevant HR professionals. The review determines whether individuals have met the required criteria to progress to the latter stages of the recruitment process.
Individuals successful at the general assessment/testing stage will have their applications reviewed by UN staff within the department they have applied for.
This is to determine whether they demonstrate the required skills and experience needed for the role they have applied for. Successful candidates may be invited to complete a substantive test.
Depending on the role applied for, some candidates may need to complete a substantive test. This is at the discretion of the hiring unit. This assessment is designed to objectively evaluate applicants on their technical skills and knowledge related to the role they have applied for.
The test is an open writing test where candidates directly type their response to the question. The whole test takes between 90 - 180 minutes to complete depending on the role. Each question has a specified time limit for completion.
Competency-based and substantive interview
All candidates successful at the general testing and substantive testing stage are invited to attend a competency-based or substantive interview.
The basis of this assessment is to determine whether candidates demonstrate the skills, experience, and attributes required for the role they have applied for. Interviews may be conducted over the phone, in person, or virtually via video conference. The length of the interview can vary according to the position applied for.
As the interview is competency-based, candidates must provide examples of situations demonstrating the skill or competency being assessed. This enables the interviewer to determine whether individuals have what it takes to deal effectively with the workplace situations that come with the role they have applied for.
Those who have applied for roles within the professional and higher category will be invited to attend a substantive interview. This interview comprises questions that assess their technical knowledge and skills relative to the role applied for.
Review and selection
All candidates who are interviewed for a position will then be ranked according to whether they demonstrate the necessary skills and experience for the position applied for.
Once this has been completed, the rankings are then reviewed by relevant boards and candidates approved - if necessary, by those at the senior level if the role is in the senior appointment category.
Candidates who have been recommended, approved, and selected for the position(s) are then notified that they have been chosen for the position.
Candidates who are in a group where they have been reviewed and approved for a position but not selected for the post (for example, if all vacancies have been filled) will then be placed on a roster and notified when suitable vacancies arise.
Tips To Get Hired
The recruitment process at the UN is designed to be rigorous in assessing candidates on whether they demonstrate the necessary skills, experience, and attributes required for roles. Here are some tips to help you perform at your best throughout the recruitment process.
Find a suitable vacancy
The UN offers various categories of roles at different levels. Determining your skills in relation to what is required for roles is an essential part of the initial self-selection process in helping you find a suitable vacancy.
Pay attention to special requirements
Roles at the UN detail special requirements such as basic education level, skill, or language requirements. When applying, pay attention to all the requirements listed and ensure that you meet these before completing the application form. Ensuring you do so will save you time, meaning you don't apply for a role where you don't meet the essential criteria.
It is vital that you practice the tests you will be asked to complete as part of your recruitment process. Practicing means that you become familiar with the format and the style of questions, ensuring that when you complete the test to the best of your ability rather than spending precious time figuring out what the questions are asking.
How long does the United Nations hiring process take?
The hiring process for roles at the UN varies according to the role itself. All candidates are notified of whether or not they have been successful at each stage of the process at the appropriate time and via their candidate profile account.
How do I pass the United Nations interview?
Interviews at the UN are competency-based. Ensure you know the competencies required for the role and how you have demonstrated these using past experiences and examples. By providing examples from your career and academic history, you demonstrate to the interviewer that you practically have the skills and competencies necessary for the role.
Why is it difficult to get a job with the United Nations?
Securing a role at the United Nations is competitive. The recruitment process is robust in evaluating an individual's skills and attributes against those required for success in each role.
To ensure you perform to the best of your ability, it is essential that you review the job description, ensure you meet the competency, educational, and language requirements and are clear on how you can demonstrate your competencies and attributes as relevant to the role.
How do I pass the interview?
Preparing for the UN interview is essential. This means reviewing the UN website and being clear on the organisations mission, goals and why these resonate with you. Ensure that you are clear on how you meet the essential criteria.
This includes the skills and competencies required, preparing examples from your previous work, and academic experiences on the competencies required. You should also be able to demonstrate your commitment to a career with the UN are all tips to help you pass the interview.