Secrets of UN Competency-based interview: unveiled

Today I would like to share you how my last interview (I was a candidate) was conducted for a P-2 position in a recently announced job post in MONUSCO.

Exactly one week after the deadline of the job position - Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo) - I received an email asking my current phone number, so I could be contacted and interviewed. I replied the email with two numbers from different mobile operators. I always like to have a Plan B (and C, and D) if first attempt fails. I advise you to do so, also. Something may go wrong and it may not be your fault; but if you don't answer a first call you may not be seen as a good candidate. Believe me.
Also, it can give you an idea of how long UN takes to send to the shortlisted candidates the interview (or written test) assessment details. One thing I was surprised, in this case, is that I didn’t need to go through a written test.

They replied with proposed day and time for the interview (in three working days) and I immediately accepted it.

Preparing for your interview is essential

On the schedule day and time (in my watch, five minutes before) they called me via a number of my own country. In fact, they were calling me from Congo, but the U.N. Voice over IP (VoIP) system can make this kind of “forwarding calls”. I was expecting that it would be forwarded via Brindisi-Italy, so here is a good tip to you:

The panel will be calling you from one country and it can show other one in your calls identifier.

The panel identified themselves (three interviewers, one lady) and the round of questions started.

And here it goes a small criticism – according to the Inspira Hiring Handbook the panel should say, in the beginning, which competencies will be evaluated during the competency-based interview. They didn’t. That’s why you should prepare yourself and practice all possible scenarios during an interview.

The interview started in English as I was expecting, because the communication between the panel and me, via email, was always in English.

The first questions were about MONUSCO itself. “Tell us about MONUSCO mandate” – was the first one. The latest mandate of a mission is always available in their official website and I had it printed out. I gave them a five-minute answer with the support of it. An essential point you should pay attention when your answer gets long is to ask for feedback from the panel. An interview is a bi-directional conversation, not a monologue. Therefore making feedback questions such as “was I clear? Are you with me? Did you get my point?” is important.

The second one was “how my experience could be useful to UN”. In this one I made a little longer speech, since the Cover Letter I did to that job position was still fresh in my memory. In my own opinion, I talked more than necessary here.

The next interviewer (the lady) asked three questions:

* What is UN position about gender mainstreaming;
* What are UN future perspectives about gender mainstreaming;
* Tell us about a successful case of planning in your previous jobs;

My feeling is that I made the answer to the second question too short and I didn’t get a good score on it.

Then the last interviewer made me also two questions about planning, but in French. I was expecting other competencies to be evaluated so I needed to get my “what-to-say-about-planning” papers back from the garbage pile.

The UN competency-based interview is a recruitment step in all UN jobs. And, in my opinion, the most important one. Candidates that pass the written exam will be selected according to their results in competency-based interview. A good score in the written test can be meaningless if you fail the interview.

If you pass the interview, your name will be submitted (among others who also passed) to the Central Review Body if you are an external candidate. If you are a rostered candidate, this won't be necessary.

That’s it. I hope this short narrative about my experience as an interviewee may help you no your own preparation.

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Tiyan Alfred's picture

Well put but kindly put down also the answers for example the 'How your experience could be useful to UN'...its a commonly asked Qn in interviews. what are the tips to answering such a question especially when you've not worked in the UN. Thanks.

Dear Tiyan. Each position has different requirements. So in this question you should show examples of your previous experience (even at national level) that can be useful in >>THAT<< UN vacancy. For example, Finance Positions in peacekeeping missions usually involve working with Quick-Impact Projects, therefore you should state that your previous experience as an accountant/finance professional/assistant could help on preparing and executing quick time projects. Interviewers expect you to know about the position and its tasks, and that you understand its role.