The United Nations is one of the most lucrative organizations to work for. Its employees enjoy several benefits and fantastic pay, which explains why most people keep applying for jobs yearly.
It would be best to be exceptional to get a job owing to this huge demand. Therefore, you should ace your interview and convince the hiring panel that you can offer what matches whatever is required.
Unlike most job interviews, the UN hiring panel relies on competency-based questions, given that this organization incredibly takes pride in the quality of its staff.
Most of the questions that we will cover in this article will, therefore, be behavioral or criterion-based, seeking to uncover some of your past behaviors and experiences under the belief that they will influence your future performance.
Take a look at the following:
1. Tell Us an Experience Where You Exceeded Your Manager’s Expectations
Are you able to meet or even exceed the set targets or goals? The interviewer wants to know just how good you are in your job and whether you can record an excellent performance.
When working for a sales and marketing company, I was in charge of a small sales area and given a target to meet by the end of the month. I rallied my team towards a common goal-to double the set target so that everybody could make a good commission. We worked extra hard, widened our reach, and managed to triple our sales target by the end of the month. My manager and the entire company were pleased, and everyone went home with a fat cheque. I also won the best sales representative of the month.
2. Have You Ever Had Several Demands Being Made Simultaneously? How Do You Normally Handle Such Situations?
This is an operational question that seeks to determine how you handle given aspects of your job. The interviewer is testing your organizational, planning, and prioritization skills. You can draw from an experience where you managed several projects.
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I have been in lots of such situations. Whenever they occur, I put my planning and prioritization skills into practice. I draw a list and prioritize the demands based on urgency and start with the most urgent. I later deal with the ones that can wait, a technique that has always proven to work wonders.
3. Give an Experience Where You Used Your Problem Solving Ability to Resolve a Problem
Are you a good problem solver? The interviewer is putting your problem-solving skills to the test. Here, you need to give an example of a problem that did not stem from your incompetence. It can be a stalemate between two workers, disagreement between several parties, or an inconvenience. Just make sure that it was not your fault.
I once stepped in to resolve a conflict between two workmates as it was negatively impacting our team. I arranged a meeting with both and gave them a chance to explain their sides of the story. I decided to be a mediator, helping them resolve their issues without imposing my solutions. I was impartial and encouraged both to let out whatever they had been holding in. By the end of the meeting, they were friends and even walked back to the office laughing.
4. Could You Please Rate Your Communication Skills and Back Your Answer
The interviewer wants to know just how well you can articulate ideas and pass them on to others. Can you communicate well with other employees without being ambiguous or getting misunderstood? When backing your answer, you should give an experience that supports your rating.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate my communication skills at 9, simply because I have incredibly high expectations that the few times I do not come off as clear as I would like to make me feel like a failure. In some of my former workplaces, my supervisor and co-workers have congratulated me on my clear and excellent communication skills. My team does not also hesitate to let me know if they need clarifications on a given subject.
5. How Do You Normally Encourage Ideas in Your Fellow Staff Members?
The interviewer wants to know if you can engage well with others. Can you encourage creative ideas in your team members if given the job, or will you discourage them? Your answer needs to be concise.
I usually tell my team members to be creative and feel free to present ideas, however off or insignificant they think they are. I believe that every employee should be confident and able to bring forward new and creative ideas. I usually maintain an open-door policy and recognize anyone that shows initiative.
6. We Love to Hire Individuals that Can Offer More than what is in the Job Description. What are Other Functions that You Can Perform?
The interviewer wants to know some of your abilities or expertise outside this job. This will be an added advantage since you may be called upon to switch roles, get a promotion based on these skills, or even step in for another employee, now that you will be working for a multinational organization. Sell yourself and mention something that will make you outstanding.
Apart from being an environmental lawyer, I am a coder. I have had an interest in coding from a young age. I taught myself how to code before pursuing a certification in programming. I can build and modify software easily, which I usually do for fun and not necessarily money.
7. Tell Me about the Last Time You Faced an Ethical Dilemma at Work
This is a competency-based question testing your integrity. The interviewer wants to know whether you can stick to the policies and regulations of the workplace. You should not also compromise on your personal beliefs and virtues when going about your job. Give an experience where you took a stand.
One of my former workmates kept coming to work late without any proper reason and received many warnings. He arrived late even after being given the last warning and asked me to cover up for him. I told him that I could not help him break the organization’s laws. He was later relieved of his duties. I felt terrible, but the knowledge that I did what was right made me feel better afterward.
8. Have You Ever Experienced a Setback in Your Career?
The interviewer wants an experience where you managed to overcome a significant setback in your career. It would be best if you described what happened and how you reacted to the problem. Make sure that you give a real-life experience.
I believe in progress. At one point in my career, I realized that I had stagnated for a long time. I tried applying for different positions in the organization after seven years of no promotion whatsoever. I later discovered that one of the human resource managers had a problem with me due to a past altercation and thwarted any idea of me getting promoted. Even my fellow workmates saw how much I was hurt, and therefore, to avoid further problems, I decided to quit and apply for a job in a different organization. That’s how I got into management.
9. What is Your Experience Working with People from Diverse Organizations?
The United Nations is a multinational organization, and therefore, you should expect to interact with people from different backgrounds and all walks of life.
First, I attended an international school where I schooled with people from different races. I, therefore, had my interaction with people from diverse backgrounds pretty early. After school and college, I interned and was later employed in a foreign organization and became an expatriate. Most of my workmates were from different races.
10. Have You Ever Found it Difficult to Work with a Person from a Different Background? Would you mind telling Us Your Experience?
This is a follow-up question based on the previous one. When answering such a question, please focus on what caused the problem, how you responded, and the outcome of your response.
I once worked on a project where the Chinese contractor did not understand or speak English well. Most of the things we said ended up being misinterpreted. He could not also articulate his thoughts well and ended saying totally different things in English. After a day of trying to understand each other, I suggested using an interpreter, which proved to be successful, even though we had to start all over.
11. How Would Other People Describe Your Communication Skills?
You should be prepared for such direct questions testing on your skills when attending a United Nations interview. Your answer should focus on the positive things people have said about your communication skills or the areas of improvement that they have highlighted.
Most of the people I have worked with are amazed at how well I articulate and communicate my ideas. I have had people asking me to teach them a thing or two about putting messages across. Such responses have convinced me that I am a good communicator.
12. Kindly Tell Us about the Last Time You Were in a Team
This is a competency-based question that seeks to determine whether you can work in team settings. You should highlight the purpose of the team, what you liked or disliked about it, and how you managed to convince the team members to cooperate.
My last workplace set up a team to implement specific technological changes. It consisted of supportive and highly skilled individuals who met all the deadlines and did a perfect job. As the group leader, I rallied the group members towards a common goal to implement these changes successfully.
13. Have You Been In a Situation Where Your Objectives Were Different From That of the Team?
This may be a follow-up question or an independent one. The interviewer wants to know how you would handle a difference in opinions or objectives between you and the team. Your answer should reveal how you reacted, the outcomes, and how you managed to balance your personal and team goals.
When working on a technology implementation project, my objective was to ensure proper and good results regardless of time. However, my team members felt that time was of the essence, even if it meant rushing over the project. I convinced them that rushing to save time made us vulnerable to mistakes that would force us to re-do the job, thus spending even more time. They understood, and the team objectives changed.
14. Have You Ever Had to Explain Something Difficult to Someone without your Background Knowledge?
This is yet another competency-based question testing your communication skills. Can you put across a technical piece of information in layman terms? Mention what you needed to pass, what you considered explaining, and the most challenging aspect.
My former company and a policy that required everyone in the firm, including the support staff, to be educated on the dangers of electricity. I had an audience that could not grasp the scientific concept of electrocution. To get the information across, I gave them an example of a broken circuit. I explained that our bodies being conductors were like the missing piece needed for the electricity to flow. They understood.
15. Have You Ever been in a Situation Where you Had to appear Knowledgeable about your Area of Specialization?
This is a competency-based question testing on professionalism. Your answer should capture why it was essential to appear knowledgeable and how you established credibility.
I attended a meeting of some of the best molecular Biologists in the country. Given their expertise and some of their works, I had to appear knowledgeable. In my speech, I cited several renowned works, some of whose authors were right before us, to give my points the credibility they deserved.
16. Have You Ever Been Asked to Bend the Rules by a Colleague?
The interviewer is testing your integrity. Remember, the United Nations Organization prides itself on its quality of employees, and therefore, you do not stand a chance if you cannot be trusted. You should mention how you managed the situation, the pressure you faced, and the outcome.
A colleague once asked me to use my position to influence the security office to delete a CCTV recording of indecency and gross misconduct in the office. I turned him down politely, telling him that it was against what I believed in. The footage reached the top management, and he got suspended. Even though he was a friend, I felt that my integrity at the workplace was greater than any moment we had shared.
17. Mention a Time When You Couldn’t Finish a Task or Project on Time despite Trying to
The is a competency-based question in which the interviewer assesses how you finish challenging tasks and why you could not meet your deadline at the given instance.
I submitted my dissertation late during my final year of university. I had to do lots of research and got delayed by surveys from researchers in other institutions. However, I informed my course instructor prior and requested more time which he allowed. I managed to get the quality and accuracy I wanted and scored really high.
18. Have You Ever Had to Complete a Project on a Strict Deadline and Still Posted Amazing Results?
The interviewer wants to know if you can deliver fantastic results on a strict deadline. Mention one of your best experiences.
I was given two days to review the business processes and make recommendations. I immediately went into action mode and managed to review all the processes and made recommendations within the time given.
19. Give Us an Experience where Effective Time Management Has Helped You Succeed in Your Work.
The interviewer wants to know if you can manage your time well when working on projects and achieve good results. Mention what you were mandated to do and how you managed time well and got good results.
When working on a project, two team members left midway. I told the manager to let us take up their roles instead of bringing new people on board. We reviewed the work schedules, delegated new responsibilities, and worked overtime. We managed to complete the project on time.
20. Describe a Situation where someone tested your Patience
This competency-based question seeks to discover how patient you are and how much you can tolerate. Mention the situation, what caused it and how you responded.
Teamwork and group settings have, on some occasions, tested my patience. Once a team member failed to deliver even after everyone gave him two more days to work on his part of the project. Being the team leader, I was to blame if we didn’t meet the provided deadline. I had to step in, dropped him from the team, and did the work.
These are some of the common questions in UN interviews that you should expect. Make sure that you have several real-life experiences that you can draw from.