Competency based interview united nations

The United Nations are a huge global employer who have adopted competency based interviews for many of their roles. What’s is great about the UN is that they give you a high level overview of what each competency means to them – as well as the competencies required for the role – which takes a look of the guess work out. They also offer some general guidance on how to prepare for a competency based interview.

As with my how to prepare advice they advocate ‘preparing a wide range of brief real life stories’ to support you during the interview. As they give you the list of competencies that they are looking for I suggest you start out by developing one story per competency.

To develop your story or example I suggest you review each competency description and highlight the key attributes that they are looking for. You then need to build on your example, rehearsing it with someone else is really helpful as you can gain feedback and iterate through the answer improving them over time. Ask the person to focus on looking out for your contribution in the example, identifying unexplored avenues that you may brush over or take as a given and match each theme within the competency description.

Remember while the interview is all about you and what you have achieved it is also about how you achieved the result. A team work example must draw out your positive behaviours in working as a team member to deliver a result.

Exploring the UN team work competency

There can’t be many organising that value team work and collaboration as highly as the United Nations.


A team work example should tell a story of collaboration inline with the goals of the organisation, this could also be departmental goals that have been distilled from the high level company objectives. It’s important to demonstrate the linkage between goals at team level and organisation. If your a leader this may well be your job to help others understand how what they are doing fits in with organisational goals.

Valuing the ideas that others bring to the table is important, but firstly how did you ensure that everyone’s ideas is heard ? what if some people do not engage (perhaps they are shy, feel culturally different or work hours differently to the rest of the team in remote offices), how did you develop ways of understanding what they have to offer and give them a channel to be part of the team.

One way to look at new ideas is to think of them as fragile, they need to be treated with care. A seedling can grow into a strong tree but at the beginning it’s easy destroyed. Ideas are the same, don’t crush one person team contribution as not valuable. It might not become the answer but value everybody’s perspective and ideas and you may learn something. This isn’t just for managers supporting others a great team player attribute.

For an organisation like the UN to succeed they know that team success is of more benefit than an individual. You may want to highlight a time when you have put the success of a team or department ahead of your own. This may have gone against what you believe or is against your personal best interest. Perhaps bringing in another salesman on a deal that you would have preferred to keep yourself to increase the overall deal to the company or going with a new process that improves the departments efficiency but makes your role more challenging.

Sharing success is a big part of any successful team culture. Rather than recognise individual high performers you recognise the teams performance even if not all team members contributed equally in your eyes. With success also comes failure, individuals of course have to be performance managed but as a fellow team member you need to demonstrate acceptance of any short comings of the team. Ideally you will take failure as a great opportunity to improve and limit the chances of failure occurring in the future. Response to failure us a great example to develop and often used to examine a candidates competency.

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