United Nations UN Job Interview Competency Questions, Answers and Top Advice (2024 Update)

Go to Blog Home | By: Andrew Reed | Updated: 6 April, 2024 | Category: Careers, Interview Advice

UN interview questions

Have you got a job interview coming up at the UN and want to know the questions they might ask? Perhaps, you are considering a career at the UN and want to know what to expect?

A career at the UN is not just a job; it’s a mission to create a better world. The combination of impactful work, diverse and inclusive culture, professional development, and the sense of fulfillment it brings makes the UN an attractive employer for those motivated by purpose and global service.

It is a great career choice with lot of opportunities for exciting work, development and promotion.

Why choose a career at the UN / Why do you want to work at the UN?

One of the most common UN interview questions you may be asked is:

Why choose a career at the UN? Or Why do you want to work at the UN?

You must have a brilliant answer ready not just for your interview but to assess your own motivation. You must be clear about why you have applied, what reasons, some maybe very personal just to you and others wider.

Let’s face it the United Nations (UN) is one of the most respected employers in the world. Choosing a career at UN offers a unique opportunity to contribute to global efforts addressing some of the most pressing challenges of our time, including peace and security, human rights, and sustainable development.

6 Compelling Reasons for Your Interview Answer

You Can Make a Difference in the World: Working at the UN means being at the forefront of international efforts to improve the lives of people around the world. Whether you’re involved in peacekeeping missions, humanitarian aid, or promoting sustainable development, your work directly contributes to the betterment of global society.

Diverse and Inclusive Environment: The UN is committed to diversity and inclusion, offering a multicultural work environment where employees from different backgrounds, cultures, and nations come together. This diversity fosters a rich exchange of ideas, perspectives, and experiences, enriching your professional and personal growth.

Global Opportunities: The UN operates in over 193 Member States, providing unparalleled opportunities to work across the globe. Whether you’re interested in field missions in conflict zones or contributing to policy development in New York or Geneva, the UN offers a wide range of settings and challenges.

International Collaboration and Networking: Working at the UN provides opportunities to collaborate with governments, non-governmental organizations, civil society, and private sector partners. This extensive network allows you to build professional relationships, gain insights into various sectors, and work collectively towards common goals.

Real and Personal Sense of Fulfilment: Perhaps the most compelling reason to work at the UN is the personal fulfilment that comes from knowing your work contributes to a greater good. Despite the challenges and complexities of working in an international organization, many UN employees find deep satisfaction in making a tangible difference in the world.

How to get a job at the UN – the recruitment process

The United Nations (UN) recruitment process is pretty standard and is designed to be thorough and competitive. They will aim to select the best candidates who are committed to the core values and mission of the UN. The process can vary depending on the level and type of position but generally follows these key steps:

Job Application: Submit your application through the UN’s online recruitment system before the deadline. This typically includes your personal history profile (PHP), a CV, and a cover letter.

Screening and Shortlisting: Applications are screened based on eligibility criteria, such as education, work experience, and language skills. For some positions, particularly at entry levels, you may need to take online assessments or tests focusing on job-related skills and competencies.

Job Interview: Interviews can be conducted via telephone, video call, or in person and may involve competency-based questions to evaluate your suitability for the position.

Review and Reference Checks: The UN conducts reference checks to verify the information provided by the candidates and to gain insights into their performance and suitability for the position.

Decision and Offer: The good news you will have been waiting for. If all has gone well, and you are the successful candidate, you will be advised you have the role. Upon acceptance, a start date is agreed upon, and you can look forward to your career in the UN.

Your Job Interview at the UN – what to expect

Most formal interviews will be in one of the following two formats. Your interview invite will detail which and what to expect.

  • Virtual or In-Person: Depending on the role, location, and current global circumstances, interviews may be conducted in-person, via telephone, or through video conferencing platforms.
  • Panel Interviews: Typically, interviews are conducted by a panel comprising members from the hiring department and sometimes HR. This approach helps ensure a fair and diverse assessment process.

Common UN Interview questions

Preparing for a UN interview involves anticipating the kinds of questions that might be asked. While the specific questions will vary depending on the role and department, here are ten common interview questions that can help you prepare for a range of positions at the United Nations:

Why do you want to work at the United Nations?

This question seeks to understand your motivation and how your background aligns with the UN’s mission and values. See above for reasons to work at the UN. Of course, yours may be personal so talk through them in detail outlining why you are a suitable for a role at the UN

How do your skills and experiences make you a suitable candidate for this position here at the UN?

Focus on specific competencies and experiences that match the job description.

Can you give an example of a challenging project you managed and how you ensured its success?

Use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to structure your answer, highlighting relevant skills and outcomes. See more below regarding UN Competency Based Interview questions and sample answers.

Describe a situation where you worked in a team with people from different cultural backgrounds. How did you ensure effective collaboration?

This question assesses your intercultural competence and teamwork skills and is related to the UN Competency Respect for Diversity.

How do you handle working under pressure and meeting tight deadlines?

Planning and Organising is a core competency at the UN and this questions is asking you to provide an example that shows your time management strategies and resilience.

Can you discuss a time when you had to deal with a conflict within your team? How did you resolve it?

This question evaluates your conflict resolution and interpersonal skills.

What do you believe are the biggest challenges facing the United Nations today?

This tests your understanding of current global issues and the UN’s role in addressing them.

Describe an instance where you had to adapt to significant changes in your work environment. How did you manage the transition?

This question looks for adaptability and change management skills.

In your view, what are the key factors in successfully managing projects in a multicultural and international environment?

Highlight your project management skills, emphasizing the importance of cultural sensitivity and effective communication.

Why do you think you are the best candidate for this job, and how do you envision contributing to our team?

Summarise your key qualifications and articulate your vision for adding value to the team and the UN’s mission.

In addition to these questions, be prepared to answer technical questions related to your field, as well as competency based interview questions that delve into your past experiences to predict how you might perform in future situations. Demonstrating knowledge of the UN’s operations, core values, and current priorities will also strengthen your responses.

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UN Competency Based Interview Questions About Core Values

You should expect questions exploring the UN core values.

The United Nations (UN) is founded on core values that guide its actions and behaviors, ensuring that its workforce operates under a shared set of ethical standards and principles. These core values are crucial for maintaining the integrity and effectiveness of the organization across its diverse range of activities and missions worldwide.

The core values of the United Nations include:

Integrity: Integrity is at the heart of the UN’s work. It implies honesty, ethical behavior, and accountability in all actions. UN staff members are expected to uphold the highest standards of professional conduct, demonstrating honesty and responsibility in their work and personal conduct.

Professionalism: Professionalism encompasses a deep commitment to the UN’s mission, competence in performing duties, and an unbiased, objective approach to work. Staff members should demonstrate competence in their respective fields, and show dedication, efficiency, and commitment to achieving the UN’s goals.

Respect for Diversity: The UN operates globally and serves populations from various cultural, religious, and ethnic backgrounds. Respect for diversity involves understanding, appreciating, and valuing these differences. It also includes working effectively in a diverse environment, showing respect for all colleagues, and integrating diverse perspectives into decision-making processes.

Sample Core Values UN Interview Questions

  • Tell me about a time you were faced with a professional or ethical dilemma at work. What actions did you take to resolve the dilemma?
  • You suspect that one of your colleagues has acted in an unprofessional manner. What do you do?
  • How do you show integrity and professionalism in your daily work?
  • Describe a time when you successfully challenged someone whose views you knew were incorrect. Tell me what happened and how you convinced them to accept your opinion.
  • Give us an example of a time when you had a conflict of interest.
  • Describe a time when you made a mistake in your work. What did you do and what was the outcome?
  • Talk through a time when you had to work outside of normal procedures in order to complete your work.

Sample Competency Based Answer for UN Core Value of Professionalism

When answering these competency based questions, always use the STAR or IPAR formulas. Here is a sample answer related to the competency of professionalism.


In my previous role as a Team Leader, I successfully saved a high profile project which was at risk of failure due to unforeseen technical difficulties and which resulted in a bonus from the client.


The client was understandably upset and tensions within the team were high, with the deadline fast approaching. My primary task was to manage the situation with utmost professionalism. This involved reassuring the client, maintaining team morale, and finding a viable solution to meet the deadline without compromising the quality of our work.


  • I immediately scheduled a meeting with the client to provide a transparent overview of the situation.
  • I expressed our commitment to quality and our understanding of the project’s importance to their business.
  • I proposed a revised plan that included realistic timelines and introduced additional resources to ensure we met the new deadline.
  • I organised daily briefings with my team to monitor progress, address any issues promptly, and maintain open communication.
  • To keep morale high, I highlighted individual contributions and ensured the team had access to the resources and support needed to overcome the technical challenges.


The project was completed to the client’s satisfaction, within the revised timeframe. The client appreciated our transparency and professionalism throughout the process, which not only salvaged but strengthened our relationship and resulted in them paying us a bonus. Internally, the experience fostered a stronger sense of unity and resilience within the team. This experience taught me the importance of professionalism in navigating challenges, the value of open communication, and the impact of leadership in maintaining team morale and client trust under pressure.

UN Core Competency Interview Questions

You should also expect question relating to some of the UN Core Competencies. These are as follow:

  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Planning and Organizing
  • Accountability
  • Creativity
  • Client Orientation
  • Technological Awareness
  • Commitment to Continuous Learning

Typical UN Core Competency questions can include:

  • Describe for us an important decision you made recently, one which required you to use your creative thinking skills.
  • Describe a time when you have taken personal responsibility for a task or project. What was involved and what was the outcome?
  • You suspect that one of your colleagues is committing fraudulent activity. What would you do?
  • Can you describe a time when you have been proactive in finding a solution to a problem encountered by your customers.
  • Describe a time when you overcame a weakness in relation to your IT skills.
  • Describe a time when you successfully challenged someone whose views you knew were incorrect. Tell me what happened and how you convinced them to accept your opinion.

Sample Competency Answer to UN Interview Question about Commitment to Continuous Learning


At my previous position as a supervisor, I identified a gap in our team’s expertise concerning marketing data analytics and I organised and completed a successful training course both for myself and my colleagues. With these enhanced skills, I delivered a 30% increase in customer engagement.


Given the rapidly evolving marketing landscape, I recognized that strengthening our analytics capabilities was crucial for maintaining our competitive edge. My goal was to enhance my understanding of data analytics to improve our marketing efforts. I aimed to not only upgrade my skills but also to share this knowledge with my team, fostering a culture of continuous learning and adaptation.


  • I completed an analysis of our current skills matrix and assessed additional skill requirements both for myself and the team.
  • I identified the correct training courses and modules required.
  • I carried out research into the various providers, reputation and cost of the courses.
  • I choose a reputable online course on data analytics, I enrolled myself and I dedicating evenings and weekends to study.
  • The course covered various aspects, including data collection, processing, analysis, and interpretation.
  • I applied these concepts in real-time by initiating a pilot project that used data analytics to refine our marketing strategy for a new product launch.
  • Concurrently, I organised weekly learning sessions for my team, where we discussed key learnings, brainstormed how to apply them in our projects, and shared insights and challenges.


The pilot project was a success, leading to a 30% increase in customer engagement for the new product compared to previous launches. My team became more proficient in using data analytics tools, which improved our overall marketing strategies’ effectiveness. I was very pleased both in the new skills that I was able to bring and I was recognised by the company’s senior management for my innovative approach and results.

UN Managerial Competency Interview Questions

For candidates applying for senior professional and general services roles plus management posts, you will most certainly be asked questions related to the UN Managerial Competencies. These are as follows:

  • Leadership
  • Empowering Others
  • Building Trust
  • Managing Performance
  • Judgement/Decision-making

Typical UN Managerial Competency Interview Questions can include:

Here are some competency based questions which explore UN managerial competencies. How would you answer them?

  • Give an example of when you have shared a vision with others in a work environment.
  • Tell us about a time when you showed enthusiasm for a goal or objective. What did you learn from the experience?
  • Describe a time when you showed exceptional leadership skills and inspired outstanding performance.
  • Give me an example of a time when you managed poor performance in your team. What did you do?
  • Tell us about a time when you enabled a team member to confide in you. What was the outcome?
  • Describe a time when you successfully empowered your team and gave them freedom to carry out a task or project.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to work on a team with someone you did not get along with.

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About the Author |
Experienced interview coach with Anson Reed and co-author of the bestselling interview guide Top Answers to 121 Job Interview Questions. With over 20 years experience of recruiting and leading large teams Andrew is well placed to know just what is required to secure a job offer.