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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.


Apply early. U.N. recruiters tend to frown upon last minute applications. You can also be assured that there will be a lot of applications coming in at the last minute, so yours is likely to get a less thorough review if it’s one of them. Late applications will not be considered at all.

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!

By all means try to find out more information by e-mail or telephone. Things to ask include whether the position is one that an existing lower-level UN employee acting in that position is trying to get permanently. This will give you an indication of what you’re up against. Equally, don’t be surprised if seeking information proves difficult.

Gender is an advantage: Article 8 of the UN Charter indicates, "The United Nations shall place no restrictions on the eligibility of men and women to participate in any capacity and under conditions of equality in its principal and subsidiary organs." However, a rule exists in the UN recruitment policy (ST/AI/2006/3, Section 9.3) that provides an eligibility advantage to women. If you are a female who has been placed on a roster (reserve list of those who did not get selected but were endorsed by the central review body), you will remain there for three years thereby continuing eligibility for appointment during that period. On the contrary, males are removed from the roster after two years.

Unfortunately, the reality is that people who get jobs in the U.N. frequently know people within the organization. Who do you know? Find out how you can get to know some people who might be able to assist. In spite of lip service to the principle, merit selection is not always the key to employment at the United Nations. Additionally, be aware of country quotas and of country biases. These can operate for or against your chances of entry.

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