The sad story of UNITED NATIONS’s staff recruitment procedures. What you need to know when you apply for a UN position.

What I am going to say probably does not only refer to the United Nations, but many other large corporations both private and public. I am just giving an example of the United Nations because I have personal knowledge of it.

How are United Nations staff recruited?

A large (bureaucratic) organization of course has plenty of Human Resources Manuals. Everything is nicely laid down as to be ‘fully transparent’.    Ah yea, would be nice.

I am just being brief here and come straight to the point.

There is a difference between a permanent recruitment (one year contract) and a short-term recruitment, for up to 3 months for instance.

For a permanent recruitment a vacancy notice needs to be published. Interviews need to be carried out with at least three applicants.

A short term recruitment can be authorized by the local Chief of Mission.

Ah, and here lies the problem.

In many if not most of the cases the local Chief of Mission will now recruit the person of his choice on a short term contract. Nothing will stop him to bring in his personal friends (or his wife’s personal friends, as I have seen). To grant that person a permanent contract now the position needs to be advertised. And interviews have to take place. Consequently many persons will apply for a position that actually has already been taken.   I would estimate that between 80 to 90 percent of all vacancies in the United Nations system are already taken and all applicants are just wasting their time.

I personally have been interviewed for a position of an internal transfer. A person was transferred from the Head Office to the field and I was interviewed for 45 minutes when in fact the decision to transfer the person was already taken. Just for the paper-trail-record.

Ones when I was myself Chief of Mission and did exactly what I described above (no, I had not recruited any of my friends, but I had recruited someone in a hurry and later needed to regularize his contract) one colleague from another mission told me that he would be interested but would like to know if it was a genuine vacancy or not (knowing ‘the system’). I honestly told him that someone was already holding this position. He then complained to the Head Office and I was strongly told off not to be so crazy honest.

Anyway, dear friends. You have no choice. Keep applying !!!

3 replies

  1. What does that mean? You need NETWORKING! You have to catch the job before it is advertised! If you read all ten parts of ‘glimpses into the life of a global nomad’ you will see that most of the jobs I got was before they were advertised.

  2. This is interesting information. As someone with an ambition to work in the UN one day for experience towards my political ambitions in Ghana. I am beginning to think twice if the UN should be apart of my plans.

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