Introducing Spotlight jobs

I have been introducing “Spotlight jobs” over the past days. These jobs are highlighted on the main UN Job List homepage in a special section and also appear in bold when you browse for listing.

The point of these Spotlight jobs is to give UN organisations a chance to highlight vacancies where internal talent is missing, where special expertise, skills and other hard-to-find job characteristics are at play.

If you see a spotlight job – please have a close look: Are you the right candidate? Please consider to apply! Also, if you know anybody in your network who would be the perfect candidate, please forward the job! Thanks very much!

If you work for a UN organisation and would like to get access to the portal to highlight some of your vacancies as Spotlight jobs, please leave a comment below. I will get back to you via email. Spotlight jobs regularly achieve about 20% to 50% higher applications than regular jobs.

UN Job List Forum – Many great discussions!

I was just trying out how a forum for the UN Job List would be received and must say that I’m pretty happy with the response so  far!

The most interesting topics that were discussed recently are:

And many more! I encourage you to join the conversation. Please share your knowledge if you have something to contribute. In particular I’m trying to setup a conversation about the key duty stations in the UN. There are always many questions on where to find housing etc. and I hope that the combined wisdom of all of us can help here. Join the conversation on duty stations here. Thanks a lot!

Here is how you sign-up for the UN Job List forum

I am receiving a lot of questions on this website and I love it! What I have seen lately is that users start to answer other users. So I would like to add a forum to this site.

For the time being, I’m starting slow, nice and easy by opening the forum to a few beta testers / beta users first.

If you would like to be amongst the first to user the UN Job List forum …

You will receive an email with instructions on how to set a password for the site.

Watch out for fake UN Democracy Fund vacancies

Before we start, just a quick reminder: I’m NOT the UN and I’m NOT speaking on behalf of them. I make it a point of the UN Job List, NOT to actually host any job advertisement but to ALWAYS link back to the ORIGINAL vacancy announcement. I advise you to be very suspicious of any job advertisement that does not link back to a reputable and verifiable source.

So, please watch out for fake job advertisements when you apply for UN Jobs. I know that a lot of you want to be part of the UN System, but be suspicious and careful if you get advertisements if you can’t verify the source. Currently there seems to be a wave of fake UN Democracy Fund (UNDEF) vacancies. This is a warning I saw:

Fake vacancy announcements have been repeatedly circulated in the name of the UN Democracy Fund, UNDEF, via non-UN websites and email imitating UN email addresses. In some cases, correspondence falsely signed in the name of real UNDEF officials has ensued, asking would-be applicants to part with copies of personal documents and even money.

As part of the UN Secretariat, UNDEF posts job vacancies only at and, in the cases of temporary vacancy announcements, on the UN Secretariat intranet site iSeek. Please disregard any emails, or non-UN websites, purporting to announce UNDEF job vacancies, and pass on this warning to anyone you think may be affected.

I have written about fake vacancies in the past, so have a look here on how to avoid being scammed.

If it sounds too good to be true… Beware the scammers

This world is a great place with a lot of people who are trying to help out. Many people try to improve things for their friends, families and even complete strangers. However, there are also a few people out there trying to take advantage of you. And I want to make sure you’re not a victim of these kinds of people. So if you receive and email allegedly coming from the UN and it sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.

I have written about fraudulent job offer emails that have been going around for some time here. But since there seems to be a new wave of attempted scams I wanted to briefly touch on this topic again. So if you receive an email like the below – disregard and delete it. It is a fraudulent email and not from a UN organisation. But don’t take my word for it, read the fraud warnings on the UN site here:

Now let’s have a look at the scam email. The emails tarts as follows:


Your Ref: SNT/ATM/822

Dear Esteemed Beneficiary,

Inline with the United Nations millennium development goal to
eradicate poverty and hunger by the year 2015 i am directed to
inform you that your payment verification and confirmations is
completed, Therefore we are happy to inform you that
arrangements have been concluded to effect your payment as soon
as possible in our bid for transparency.

Already here all alarm bells should ring: From typos to contradictions in the logic of the argument to the “too good to be true” part all classic elements of a scam are present. The mail goes on as follows:

You have been granted the sum of $500,000.00 USD in the United
Nation Development Program UNDP world Aid/support promo, for your
Personal, community and education development and do note that at
least 40% (Percent) of these total fund must be use for such purpose.

The United Nations collects all the email addresses of persons that are active online among the millions that subscribed to the Internet and only five persons every Year are selected as our Beneficiaries through electronic balloting System without the winner applying.

On that note we congratulate you for being one of the beneficiaries.

This is the part where the “too good to be true” part unfolds in it’s entirety. The UN never conducts lotteries, the UN never reaches out to random people and the UN most certainly does not award half a million USD for personal development just like this. In fact, for anyone who ever worked with or for the UN and knows what kind of approval processes behind even the smallest payments for clear and justified development purposes is this section is so far from reality it makes for a good joke.

To file for your claim, you are requested to contact the events Manager/Claims Department,
send your winning Identification Numbers and the following information.

These are your identification numbers:


Yours faithfully,
Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator

This is the end of the scam email and of course no scam is complete without asking for personal information and private details so this part is expected in any such email.

How to find out if an email is a scam or not:

Before engaging with a sender of an email, ask yourself:

  • Is this email too good to be true? If it seems like it is too good to be true, most often it is.
  • Did you enter into contact with the sender first? If not, why does the person contact you? And no, there is no random contacting of people – the UN’s resources are scarce, they are only used in clearly defined programmes and so they don’t reach out to random people just like that;
  • Is the sender who s/he claims to be? Google the name, research the organisation that is allegedly behind the email. Make sure you verify independently(!) that the sender is legitimate. Don’t just ask in the same email “are you who you say you are?” since any scammer would of course gladly tell you whatever you want to hear. If you don’t find anything on the name, call the switchboard of the organisation and ask if this is a legitimate email.
  • Is the cause in the email legitimate? The UN’s resources are scarce and the UN is under tight scrutiny from member states, the media and the general public. The UN will not engage in random acts that don’t fit into a predefined, coordinated and agreed programme that is designed with extensive consultation of those affected and involved in the project.

With all this, keep in mind that I’m not talking on behalf of the UN. So this post is purely my take on the situation. Again, make sure you read the UN’s fraud warning and think before you act. 

What’s up with job starting dates?

I received the following question via Twitter (follow me at and ask your questions there) and here is my take:

Question: Why do hiring managers post the start date of a job within a month and then you hear nothing from them?


Honestly, you would need to ask the individual hiring agency directly but here is my take:

To get started there are two possible reasons why you don’t hear from an agency. First, you may simple not be getting an invite to an interview. Most agencies don’t tell you that you have not made it. So expect to only hear from an agency if they are actually offering you an interview.

Secondly, there may be a delay between the advertisement and the interview and then there maybe delays at a later stage, too. So here is the overview how the overall hiring process typically looks like:

I have written a bit more about the overall time lines it takes for all these steps to complete here: -the-process/

Typically the hiring manager is very keen on filling a vacancy as soon as possible. After all the hiring manager has a true interest in getting the work done and the sooner a vacancy is filled the earlier the colleague can start working and take workload off the team.

However, as you can see there are a number of steps that happen between the two red circles of advertisement and finally the written test / the interview. And while the hiring manager is keen on moving through these steps as quickly as possible, there are some pitfalls along the way. For instance it may be a problem to find enough colleagues to help with the long listing since there are often times many hundred applicants and every applications has to be reviewed very carefully. The same may apply to the short list, too. Also, depending on the internal organizational setup of the organization you apply to, these lists will need to be approved by supervisors which may take some time, too.

And even if you scored a test or an interview, there is more room for delays: Typically a report has to be written, signed off, the overall process will need to be reviewed and approved, offer letters need to be drafted, conditions negotiated and letter of appointments need to be signed. Any of these steps can take a moment or two.

Coming back to your question on the starting date: The starting date often times is an indication of a business need from the hiring manager. An indication that as of the starting date the tasks as outlined in the job description need to be worked on. However, the hiring manager may not succeed in getting someone for this starting date for the reasons outlined above and in any case most of the time the starting date is up for negotiation. So I would treat the starting date as a rough indication of when the work ideally should start. I would not treat it as hard indicator for the end of the hiring process, there are just too many factors beyond the control of the hiring manager that impact on the completion of the process.


UN recruitment – what steps take how long in the process?

When you are considering a career in the UN make sure you bring some patience for the process because applying will take you effort and time. But before we start, let’s clarify, that this post is neither trying to criticise nor defend the UN’s recruitment policies but merely outlining some of the elements of the process.  Also, understand that I’m not representing the UN in any way and the information provided below is merely information from my experience running the UN Job List.

To begin with, let’s be clear that there is not just one organization being the UN but rather a family of different organizations forming the UN. Consequently, there is also not only one recruitment experience, so things can vary from organization to organization and even within organizations based on duty station or department.


What are the key factors that influence the time it takes for recruitment for an applicant?

  1. Advertisement period: To be fair to applicants and to achieve a wide circulation of vacancies most job adverts come with a closing date. This closing date depends on the nature of the recruitment, the different agencies etc. An overview over the differences in advertisement periods can be found on here. Time frame: 2 weeks to many months as announced in the vacancy
  2. Long listing: A typical next step in the process is to take all applicants and sort out the candidates that are not fulfilling the requirements. This is the step where the formal requirements for a job are checked. This may include the years of experience, the educational requirements, checking for relevant work experience etc. Depending on the post advertised, this can be a very long and tedious job since there are cases with hundreds and even thousands of applicants and some of the checks will take some time. In some instances long listing is done by a panel of staff to ensure fairness. This may add additional time to the process as it takes time to coordinate the panel members’ schedules. Time frame: form a few days to several weeks depending on number of applicants and job requirements
  3. Short listing: After the long listing the list of applicants is still very long. In the short listing the challenge is to ensure that the most suitable candidates are invited for a written test. This means that the long list is gone through in more detail and applicants are compared against each other in terms of their qualification and experience. In most cases short listing is done by a panel of staff to ensure fairness. This may add additional time to the process as it takes time to coordinate the panel members’ schedules. Time frame: typically anywhere between one week to many weeks
  4. Written Test: To not rely on interviews only in some cases applicants are required to pass a written test. Designing, administering, correcting and scoring the test can be a task taking several weeks if the job is complex and applicants are scattered around the world. Time frame: a few days to several weeks
  5. Interview: This point is relatively straight forward in terms of what needs to happen. One key challenge is to get all the right people, i.e. all applicants, all panel members into the same time zone and make sure they are reachable i.e. not traveling, being in a location with connectivity etc. Depending on the complexity of the job, several rounds of interviews can be conducted. Time frame: from a day to several weeks
  6. Post interview processing:In this period, some UN internal process steps have to be completed. Firstly, a decision for a recommended candidate based on test results and interviews has to be made, secondly the documentation has to be completed, thirdly there is typically in independent review of the application process in the UN to make sure that the process was transparent and fair and lastly the offer has to be produced and signed. Time frame: from one week to several months depending on the post
  7. Contacting the preferred candidate: What happens next is that the preferred candidate is offered the job. Sometimes by that time the preferred candidate is not available any longer and the second (or even third) in line is contacted if these candidates are found to be fit for the job. It can happen that none of the candidates is fit for the job at which point in time the process starts all over from the beginning. You can identify these cases if you see a vacancy saying “re-advertised”. There is no need to re-apply for re-advertised posts if you already applied for that job in the first round. Time frame: a few hours to several weeks

The above outlines what happens in cases when we are talking about a standard recruitment. The process may be quite different for programmes like the Young Professional Programme (YPP) in the UN or the Junior Professional Programme (JPO) and may be very different for very high level posts. If you want to make sure you understand the process that would apply to your application, check with the organization which advertises your job.


A few considerations to keep in mind during this process:

  • Unless you are short listed and invited for an interview you are not likely to hear anything from the UN. I don’t know the details of why this is the case but it is wide-spread practice so it’s best to anticipate not getting a regret letter if you consider applying.
  • Even if you had an interview, you may not be hearing anything for quite a while after your interview: The reason is simply that aside from internal process review time and the contract administration time regret letters are only sent when the recommended candidate signed the contract. This is to avoid sending a regret letter to the second candidate and then offering a contract in the case of the first candidate not being available for the job.
  • Processes can take a while if things need to be coordinated internationally. Trying to get experts for an interview panel from New York, Geneva and Nairobi to have time to interview an applicant from New Zealand can be quite complicated, especially since most people involved have a regular job and are not dedicated recruiters.
  • The above outlines the regular case. If there are any challenges in the process (e.g. a short listed candidate can’t be reached to get the interview date confirmed etc.) additional delays may be incurred.

The bottom line is: If you apply for a job in the UN do some research on the recruitment time of your organization. When applying, be patient it can take a little while. Also, once you are done with your application, keep applying to relevant other vacancies and don’t be discouraged if it does not work out on the first try. Good luck!

Update: I closed the comments. To discuss this topic – please join the FORUM and ask your question over there.

Contract Types and Job Grades in the UN System

This post is an update to an older post on UN Contract Types that I did before the UN implemented the contractual reform so with the contractual reform almost completed it is time for an update. As usual, please note my disclaimer: I can’t speak for the UN and if you would like to know the details about a contract, please contact the organization you are interested in directly. Also, if there is something you feel is incorrect, please drop me a comment and I will update this post.

Contract Types
The contractual reform in the UN system cut back on many different contract types. But the UN still knows different contract types and the distinction between staff contracts and non-staff contracts still exists. So let’s start with the Staff Contracts:

Continuous Appointment (CA)
As far as I know Continuous Appointment (CA) contracts are not implemented in all UN organisations yet. The contract is running continuously.

Fixed Term Appointment (FTA)
The most common “regular” staff contract are the Fixed Term Appointments (FTA). These are the jobs that you will find in a lot of places in the system. The duration of Fixed Term Appointment (FTA) contracts is usually a year or two. Even though FTAs do not carry any expectation for renewal there is no limit and/or break in service in case the organization decides to extent an FTA.

Temporary Appointment (TA)
Temporary staff contracts for up to a year minus one day of duration are Temporary Appointment contracts. This contract type may be closest to what used to be  “Assignment for limited durations (ALD)” or “Temporary Fixed Term (TFT)” but is strictly limited in terms of duration (both ALDs and TFTs don’t exist any longer). Temporary Appointments carry a “break in service” blackout period to prevent a series of TA contracts.

Non-staff and Consultant Contracts
In the non-staff or consultant category things get complicated. First of all there is a very wide variety of contracts available. These contracts are typically called “Consultant Contract”, “Special Service Agreement (SSA)”, “Individual Contractor (IC)” or “Individual Contractor Agreement (ICA)”. The conditions for these contracts can be quite different from organization to organization. Also more and more organizations see these non-staff contracts not as HR contracts but administer these under the organizations procurement rules. Typically these contracts carry very few employee benefits. Consultant contracts are either time-bound or per deliverable and often short-term. Many organizations do have break in service rules to prevent continuous employment on non-staff contracts but all of the non-staff contracts carry benefits since allow for more flexibility than staff contracts.

Contract Levels
Within all these contracts different job grades (sometimes also called levels) exist. The International Civil Service Commission defined grades from ICS-1 to ICS-14 (let’s end at ICS-14 for simplicity reasons). And within these levels there are two big categories. The first is the General Services category up to ICS-7 and then the Professional category usually starting at ICS-8. General Services Jobs often times don’t require a Master’s degree whereas jobs in the Professional grades often require a Master’s degree (UPDATE: Also see comment below).
General Service jobs are national jobs which means that these jobs are usually reserved for nationals of the country the jobs are located in. Professional category jobs can be international and national. National jobs are often times called “National Officer” (NO). If you are on a national contract you can expect to stay in the country and you will not be required to move. If you are on an international contract you can be re-assigned to any other place in this world, a fact that is sometimes forgotten about and that can lead to conflict if an organization actually tries to re-assign internationals.

In terms of what job grade to apply to within your area of expertise I would strongly recommend reading the job vacancy very carefully. Please make sure that you satisfy all the requirements and assume that there are thorough checks. So if you are required to speak French for a job and you don’t speak French it’s not a good idea to apply. The same thing can be said for years of experience. If a job requires 7 years of experience, there is usually no way around that requirement. To give you an idea of what you should aspire to, let’s look at the example of International Professional jobs. These jobs are often following a logic where a P1 (ICS-8) does not require much of expertise experience (but these jobs practically don’t exist any longer), P2 (ICS-9) require 2 to 3 years of experience, P3 (ICS-10) 5 years, P4 (ICS-11) 7 years and so on. How years of experience are counted may vary, too. Some organizations say that you need to have the years of expertise after your master’s other organizations require relevant expertise which also can be before your master’s but needs to be relevant to your job.

For an overview over what the level and the contract type equivalents roughly are please check out the UN Job List Search page (scroll down). To estimate what your Salary could look like you can use the UNDP Salary Calculator.

UPDATE 30-Sep-17: Do you have any question on this? Discuss that in the FORUM

How to better find the UN job you are looking for

Lately, I received a lot of e-mails and comments about how to better find jobs on the UN Job List. Firstly, thanks everyone for sending me your feedback! I’m reading all of your mails and comments and I enjoy your feedback. If you have ideas, please let me know.

How to better find vacancies
When searching for jobs it is important to understand the UN Job List. As you know the UN Job List takes vacancies straight for the UN original vacancy page of that organization. So the UN Job List shows, whatever the organization displays. Now some of the organizations do publish their duty station and some don’t. Some do publish the grade of the vacancy and some don’t. In short the tips and tricks outlined here are still valid.

Please note that this also affects the listing by duty station. E.g. you will not find the IAEA in the Vienna listing even though the IAEA is of course on the UN Job List since the robot can’t currently extract the duty station from the IAEA job site.

Another question I often receive is the question about WFP. Especially now since WFP is launching massive outreach efforts many people seem to be interested in WFP and I would love to publish WFP vacancies but this organization pursues a roaster approach so they don’t publish vacancies and thus I can’t add them to the list.

All of what I outline above is the latest status – if you work for any of the organizations and would like to change the way your organization is listed on the UN Job List, please just leave me a comment below. I would love to talk to you and improve the UN Job List.

Don’t fall for UN vacancy scams

To many people the UN system is a very attractive employer and it may seem difficult to get a job in the system. At the same time the UN system can be confusing with all the different organizations and contract types. All these factors combined seem to be a fertile breeding ground for scammers who promise you a prestigious job in exchange for a ‘training fee’, a ‘visa processing fee’ or any other fee that they can think of.

The whole issue is not new and warnings are published on the main UN site, but the nuisance seems to come in waves and lately I have heard more of it. Therefor  I wanted to give my personal opinion about the issue and briefly summarize what one should and should not do in order not to fall into the hands of scammers.

N.B.: The UN Job List is not affiliated with the UN and I can’t speak on their behalf. So read the UN’s warning about the scams and follow what they say here.

Let’s clarify a few basic things to start with: All UN vacancies have to be advertised on an official UN website, so be very careful if you find a vacancy somewhere else. This is the reason the UN Job List deliberately links to official UN websites only. What you can’t find on a UN organisation’s website or ReliefWeb, treat with extreme caution. Don’t trust websites that list vacancies on their own website only and which don’t tell you the official website as source of it.

Do not send money
The UN does not charge any fees and is not ever asking you for money upfront. The UN will never ask you to provide money to organize a visa application, application processing fee, training or anything similar to that. The whole application and recruitment process is entirely for free. So don’t ever pay anything for visa processing.

Do not give out your bank information
The UN does not seek any information about your bank accounts. The only time you will need to provide banking information is way after the interviewing process. In many cases first payments are only paid upon arrival to the duty station, so you will most likely be able to work in your job for a few days before you even have to provide this information.

Make sure the vacancy is genuine

To find out if a vacancy is fake or not, try to follow these steps:

1) Is the vacancy from an official source?

This is easy when you find the vacancy on an official website or ReliefWeb. Also the vacancies on the UN Job List are safe (remember to check they link to official websites only). Watch out for fake UN organisations. If in doubt check if the organization is part of the UN system chart.

My take: If the vacancy is coming from an official UN website or ReliefWeb it is genuine.

2) Is the organization a known UN organization?

If you find the vacancy somewhere else (e.g. your schools notice board), this part can be more tricky.

a) For starters, check if the organization/office/initiative that claims to be issuing the vacancy at hand exists at all. The UN system is quite big and it features a myriad of different organizations, funds, programmes and projects. So a first start is to check if the organization that claims to be the source of the vacancy exists in the UN organizational chart. Make sure you check the wording of the name in particular. While this is not a guarantee, yet it brings you a step closer to figuring out what is going on.

b) If you find the organization which is claimed to be the source of your vacancy, check if the specific vacancy is known to the organization and if the vacancy is on their official vacancy page. It is important to check if the specific vacancy is valid since everyone can just copy any existing vacancy, change the e-mail address and send it out.

My take: If the organization which is claimed to issue the vacancy exists and you find the vacancy on their website you should be ok.

3) Is the vacancy from a legitimate project / country office / other UN initiative?

If you don’t find the source that claims to be the origin of the vacancy, check if it could be a subsection of a known organization. To give you an example: some of the UNDP country offices advertise some consultancies locally so that they appear on a country office website rather than the main UNDP website. If you are in doubt about the legitimacy of the office that claims to be the source of your vacancy, make sure that the country office exists and that the vacancy really is from that particular office.

To check if the office is genuine, make sure you find the reference on the main organisations site. To stay with the UNDP example, make sure that you find a link from the to the country office site and not just from the country office site back to UNDP. The later link is easily created by any scammer. But the other way is harder: no scammer will be linked to from the official site.

My take: If you don’t have the vacancy from a reputable source and it is hard to verify that the organization that is claimed to issue the vacancy exists and is really the source of the particular vacancy you have at hand – don’t pursue the matter. Or at least, be very cautious.

I hope the whole story doesn’t sound too bleak after all these warnings. Considering the many thousand vacancies and applications that go well every year, I personally don’t think that the business of the vacancy scammers is a predominant issue when it comes to the UN. If you stick to the official vacancy pages only, there is nothing you should be afraid of. Then, make sure that you follow the precautionary steps listed on the UN job site and just don’t ever send your personal data and/or money. And lastly, don’t take my word for it; I’m giving you some ideas of what I think makes sense. But remember, I don’t speak for the UN so check their pages for further information.

Some Questions

When working on this post, I got some questions that I quickly want to summarize in a mini FAQ:

This vacancy has the UN logo on it. How can it be fake?

You can easily fake anything these days. It is no challenge to find a UN logo on the web and to come up with some good sounding text. Remember these people want your money so they are willing to invest a little effort into papers that look official.

They sent me all the official (or officially looking) forms – how did they get them?

Many of the forms are openly and freely available on the Internet. Collecting a few of them and sending them to you is no challenge for the scammer.

I found the vacancy on my university’s job site. How can it be fake?

Most job boards publish job vacancies without checking the origin of the vacancy. So some scammers could slip through. Be a good citizen and alert the notice board administrator so that not more people fall for the scam.

One last word: Please don’t report scams to me. Remember I’m not speaking on behalf of the UN. But follow the steps outlined in the UN warning about vacancy scams. If you have any correction, idea or comment on this post, please let me know below.

Good luck with your UN job search.

Update 1 (17-Aug-09)

The UN published a new Fraud Alert page:

Update 2 (30-Jan-11)

Be especially careful with (unsolicited) e-mails. The UN never sends vacancies in an e-mail without reference to a UN website where you can verify that the vacancy is genuine. To be clear, nobody from the UN will contact you personally and ask you to apply. And if a vacancy is “sent to you by a friend” the original vacancy still needs to be on a credible UN website.

A last word of common sense warning: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.