The United Nations Young Professionals Program (UN YPP) selection cycle includes an Oral Examination Stage and only candidates who were successful in the Written Examination are invited to face it.
The Oral Examination of the UN YPP consists of a competency-based interview in which each candidate is interviewed by a panel consisting of three members of the Specialized Examination Board.
It aims to test your consistency with values and competencies of the United Nations based on your past performance and experience.
In this short article, we’ll give you an overview of the United Nations YPP Interview as well as some tips on how to succeed at it.
APPLICATIONS FOR THE UN YPP 2023-24 ARE OPEN UNTIL JUNE 29! GET THE BEST PREPARATION NOW:
To help you feel more secure and greatly improve your performance during the interview stage, OpenIGO Network has developed a mock interview, as per the United Nations YPP model, with a specialized professional who has extensive experience. Our high-qualified team of coaches and Human Resources specialists are ready and waiting for you to schedule your UN YPP Mock Interview.
Click here to find out more about it:
In addition, we have developed a comprehensive manual (PDF E-Book) to help you better understand the UN Young Professionals Programme itself and the stages of the selection process, allowing you to perform successfully in each of them. In our E-Book, you will find over 20 pages of instructions and tips on how to prepare for the UN YPP Interview!
This article is only a small sample from the extensive content present in the Interview Chapter of our E-Book. Access:
The United Nations YPP Competency-Based Interview
Interviews are an interpersonal research method used to obtain more in-depth information from someone, using questions and answers (conversation), and observing non-verbal elements such as attitude, behavior, and appearance, among others. This method is used by recruiters worldwide to help evaluate a candidate for prospective employment at a company and can be conducted using various approaches and platforms. For the UN YPP, interviews are usually held via Skype or over the phone. All candidates shall be interviewed through the same method, so if one interview is conducted by phone, all the others will follow the same procedure. As for the approach, the one adopted by the United Nations is called “Competency-Based Interviewing”, which will be explained further down. Understanding this stage of the selection process in depth and the logic behind it will help you to prepare in advance for the interview and to know what to expect from it, highly increasing your chances of success.
Competency Based Interviewing (CBI), sometimes referred to as “behavioral” or “situational” interviewing is an assessment method widely used by international organizations. It aims to identify candidates’ values and competencies through their personal story and experience. In other words, Competency-Based Interviews are based on an applicant’s past performance and the competencies displayed to perform previous jobs and solving problems. The main idea here is that if you have displayed a certain set of competencies before, it is very likely that you will perform accordingly in the future, therefore, your past experience is a very reliable source and, to a great extent, a predictor of how you might perform in the future.
The CBI is commonly used in the selection process of organizations that already know what competencies they are looking for in their candidates. Therefore, the questions posed during the interview aim to discover whether the interviewee possesses the competencies pre-selected by the organization. With that in mind, answers in the UN YPP interview should be tailored to the desired job opening’s required competencies and values.
|The United Nations interview mainly seeks to evaluate:
1. The candidate’s competencies;
2. The candidate’s cultural fit with the organization;
3. The candidate’s past behaviors and achievements.
UN YPP Competency-Based Interviews are usually structured around questions of the following types:
- Introductory questions
- Competency assessment questions
Note that, in the past, candidates used to be asked technical questions during the interview stage, regarding, more specifically, their exam area of choice. For some years now, the technical, or substantive, aspect of the job is covered though the written examination process and these questions have no longer been asked.
An introductory question, also known as a “rapport-building question”, is considered an “ice-breaker” in the interview process, and is usually asked at the very beginning of the conversation. An introductory question asks candidates to tell the interviewers a little bit more about themselves, or to explain things such as why they have applied to the UN YPP and what their main motivation is concerning the program.
Since these are usually the first questions asked, it is also your chance to make a good first impression on the recruiter and set a positive tone to your interview as a whole.
The most common introductory questions are ones such as “What is your most significant strength?”, “Tell us a little bit more about yourself”, “What do you feel are your biggest achievements?”, and “Why did you decide to apply for the UN YPP?”, to name just a few.
Competency assessment questions are directed towards the interviewee’s past, focusing on past situations and allowing specific competencies to be revealed. Usually, these questions look like this:
- Tell us about a situation when you went above and beyond your manager’s expectations.
- Describe a situation in which you tried to explain your reasoning to a group but it was not understood. How did you deal with this situation?
- Give me an example of a time someone came to you to resolve a complicated situation.
- Tell me about a project which you finalized, even though many thought that you were not capable of doing so.
More sample questions are provided by our e-Book! Access:
In order to answer this kind of question, you will have to prepare a set of personal and real-life stories about your previous work experiences and accomplishments. It is very important that you tailor your answers around the competencies listed in the UN YPP job opening you have applied for (which are usually: Professionalism, Teamwork, Planning & Organizing) and that you gather personal stories that illustrate each specific competency required.
Do you want do find out more about “competencies”, what they mean and what would be suitable stories to illustrate them? You can find all of that information on our UN YPP Manual! Access:
During the interview, some “fact-finding questions” or “probing questions” might also be asked after the candidate has given their answers, in order to make sure of the existence of a specific, expected competency. Interviewers then use these questions to clarify and/or confirm certain details about the situations and behaviors described by the candidates in their storytelling. This way, more assertive evaluations can be made. Probing questions can look like “Tell me more”, “What happened next?”, “So what were your specific responsibilities on the team?”, or “Can you give me an example?”.
Preparing for the Competency-Based Interview
In order to prepare for the UN YPP interview, it is crucial that your first understand what the recruiters will be looking for in your answers during the conversation.
Since the questions asked in Competency-Based Interviews are directed towards the interviewee’s past aiming to identify a specific set of skills and competencies, you should be prepared to tell stories in a way that allows these competencies to be revealed. Therefore, remember to include these in your speech:
- Describe the situation – Context
- The resultant action – Action
- Final result achieved (whether it was positive or negative) – Result
- What you learned from it – Learning
This method is also known as the “CAR(L)” principle and it is a very common strategy used to answer competency-based questions. Every candidate should try to incorporate these aspects in their answers as efficiently as possible. When telling a story, make sure that you are describing the situation clearly and have chosen an example that adequately answers the interviewer’s question. Identify the actions you took to solve the issue, problem, or situation, and conclude by highlighting the lessons learned, the impact your action had on other people, and how the story ended. The CAR(L) principle is only one from the myriad of techniques created to structure responses to CBI questions. Another one, very common, is the STAR technique, which develops the answer through a very similar line of reasoning:
- S (Situation): The candidate should describe the situation experienced. The description should contain details, so that the interviewer understands the context of the situation, the candidate’s position during the event, and which other people were involved, if any.
- T (Task): The task that the candidate was responsible for or was tasked with carrying out in this situation should be explained. This point must be extremely clear to the interviewer because it will be their guide to evaluating the next points to be included in the answer (Action).
- A (Action): Here the interviewee will talk about the action that they took to solve the problem or about the task which arose in this situation. The action should be clearly explained, and the description should focus on how the candidate acted: what they did; what they thought, and how they conducted the process. Even if a group of people were involved, the candidate should highlight their own participation.
- R (Result): Lastly, the interviewee should include the results achieved at the end, whether negative or positive. These could be: what they learned, the impact the result had on the organization, and/or the activity’s ramifications. If possible, quantify the results.
Also, it is expected that you keep the focus of the answers on yourself so that it is easier for the interviewer to identify precisely what you did in the situation and what your personal contribution was. For this reason, give preference to “I” and avoid “we”. Share information that you feel is appropriate and relevant for the interview context, but keep to the point and be as specific as possible.
Planning for questions is another valuable strategy when preparing for the UN YPP interview. One way of doing it is by assembling a list of possible questions based on the competencies described on the UN YPP job opening you have applied for. After that, you can start selecting suitable stories from your personal and professional life and training the answers. To help you with this task, lists of questions which are related to the competencies sought by the United Nations YPP are provided by our e-Book.
UN YPP interviews are usually conducted via Skype or carried out by telephone. If in your year, candidates are being interviewed through the phone, remember to smile even then – it will lend your voice a pleasant quality! If interviews are being conducted via Skype: dress appropriately and maintain eye contact with your interviewer when listening and answering to questions. Here are some of the tips for long-distance interviews that you cand find more detailed in our UN YPP Manual:
- Be ready in advance
- Maintain visual contact
- Make notes
- Pay attention to body language
- Be careful with written messages
- Be prepared for technical problems
- Pay attention to any delays
- Show that you are present
- Consider it a face-to-face interview!
To help you succeed in the selection process of the United Nations Young Professionals Program, OpenIGO offers a series of products, including a UN YPP Mock Interview! We are an extensive network composed of former young professionals, professors and researchers from the best universities in the world, international civil servants and Human Resources specialists devoted to helping from young to more experienced professionals develop their international career.
Access the following link to know more about our UN YPP products:
OpenIGO overall services are extremely well-rated by those who bought them! These are some of the testimonials we’ve had for our products: