UN Job List Intro Part1: How to go about hunting a job in the UN System

Since I’m running the not-for-profit UN Job List, a website that’s dedicated to making it easy for good people to find their spot in the UN system by listing all UN vacancies in one convenient place, I do get a lot of questions on how to land a career in the UN.

Over the coming days and weeks I will try to outline a few of the tips I usually provide to people. But before I jump into the subject, I would like to remind you that I’m not speaking on behalf of the UN and can’t help you with any individual requests.

So how to go about landing that job in the UN? On the UN Job List in the learning section (http://unjoblist.org/learn) I outlined the following big steps

1)      Learn what the UN system is about (this post)

2)      Learn how contracts work in the UN system (part 2)

3)      Finding that job you need to apply to (part 3)

4)      FAQ on job hunting strategies (coming soon)

5)      How to apply and what to expect in the process (coming soon)


For now, I will try to give some hints for the first element "UN System". Most of you will know that the UN is a whole system of organizations which covers a very wide array of topics, mandates and areas of work. To get an impression what the UN system looks like, have a look at the UN System organizational chart: http://www.un.org/en/aboutun/structure/pdfs/un_system_chart_colour_...


Some of the bodies on this chart are probably well known (UNICEF anyone?) and others like the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourist Organization - http://www.unwto.org/) are maybe not very present in most people’s mind. From a job hunting perspective the most tricky element is of course to find out which of these organizations are hiring. Not all of these organizations are big in terms of hiring and not all the big hiring organizations are well known. The prime example for this is UNOPS which is very big in terms of jobs (just have a look at http://unjoblist.org/lists/organisation/unops/1/) but is, as a service provider to the UN system, not as well known to the outside world as for instance UNICEF.

So if you want to know which organizations are big in terms of jobs, have a look at the statistics on the UN Job List Analytics page http://unjoblist.org/analytics. The page shows which organization has been publishing how many vacancies over the past days, the current year and even past years going back all the way to 2008. Once you have an idea about which organizations are most interesting to you, make sure you start learning more about these organizations to get a feel for what they are like. Most organizations make this task easy by having a lot of information readily available on their websites and many even engage in discussions with stakeholders on Twitter and Facebook.

Another great way to start learning about the UN system is a book called “The UN today / Basic facts about the UN” http://www.un.org/aboutun/untoday/ which outlines the inner workings of the UN in great detail.


With these basics in place it’s time for the next step. In the next post I’ll talk about UN contract types and what the different levels mean.


If you have a generic questions, please let me know in the comments below or ask me on Twitter @unjoblist_news (but please keep in mind that I don’t have any jobs myself and that I’m NOT the UN – thanks!)




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Tags: Job, List, UN, hunting, job


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Comment by Zambaga Rufai Abdul-Razak on September 19, 2014 at 10:56am

Thanks for this information.

Comment by Maheshwar Prasad Sen on April 21, 2014 at 8:12am

Hello Sebastian,

Thanks for giving an insight on the subject. I have been following the vacancies of various organisations like UNOPS etc for last 8 years but sorry to say, never got even a hint that how they are selecting, or finally how the selection was conducted? Some of the organisations were courteous to inform that I didn't make it to the shortlisted candidates list. pl throw some on it.


Comment by Wesam Amer on January 25, 2014 at 1:47pm

thanks for this post. It is very helpful!

Comment by SADIQ ADEBISI on June 11, 2013 at 7:28am

this a good way to start with the UN.thanks


Comment by Sadeque Hussain on October 24, 2012 at 1:24pm

Thank you. It seems so simple. However I must request to the UN staff/members of this PCDN to share their experiences and help its numerous members.

Comment by ROSE NOO on August 19, 2011 at 4:34am

thank  for these insight a lot of times we desire to work for organizations but hardly do we spare time to get to know what the organization is all about. personally i have the quest primarily because its complexity in terms of operations, two the diverse nature of the staff just help you grow and have an  open mind and lastly i believe the challenges are as huge as opportunities to learn. once again i like this .


Comment by Sebastian Rottmair (UN Job List) on August 11, 2011 at 8:43am

Thanks for your comments! I can't really say anything about your individual questions (sorry) but your comments are food for thought and I will try to address them in the upcoming posts...

Comment by Fnot Gebre on August 11, 2011 at 8:36am
Thank you for posting this excellent resource. Looking forward to the additional articles.
Comment by Hentsa Haddush on August 11, 2011 at 3:06am

good I am working in the Federal ministry of health Ethiopia what area of UN is Appropriate for me? my profession is master of public health.


Comment by Abdul Rauf Iqbal on August 11, 2011 at 12:31am

Thanks a lot Sebastian Rottmair for posting such a valuable information. You are right that many of us don't have the correct information. The same is case with me. I am applying for UN jobs since last 2 years but still not got any response. At the moment, I am working with a public sector research organization in Pakistan in which I am responsible for research, publications, monitoring of Interns and day to day administration. Now please let me know in which area of the UN, I have got the expertise??    

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