Here are some helpful insider tips from a Masters in International Relations (MIR) alum!


By Kirit Patel (MIR Alum, Class of 2012)

I first became aware of the United Nations Young Professionals Programme following an email from the MIR program management. My application felt almost speculative at the time, but almost a year on and I am on the employment roster awaiting a placement.

I wanted to share my experience, as well some hints and tips that I picked up along the way. Let’s begin with choosing the job family; it may sound obvious, but the screening process in the initial stages focuses heavily on ‘relevance’. Keep this in mind throughout your application, and always try to relate your experiences to the competencies sought for your job family. Since being placed on the roster, I have been provided with some advisory documents from the UN which detail how to apply for each position, the questions mirror some of those on the YPP screening application so I have reproduced the relevant advice below.

Description of duties

“This section (maximum 2000 characters) is where you highlight your current and previous job responsibilities. Whenever possible, use the language of the UN competencies and describe your duties with careful attention to the vacancy for which you are applying. Be specific! Use action verbs; your current job should be described in present tense; all others in past tense.”

Summary of achievements

“This section (maximum 3700 characters) asks you to provide specific examples where you made an impact in your current and previous positions. Be sure to provide context, specific actions and the results you achieved. Using the C-A-R statement model context-action-result), be specific in describing the impact you have made”

With luck, you may be convoked to the written part of the examination, which usually takes place in December. This is split between a General section, which tests drafting skills and knowledge of the UN, and a specific paper which tests substantive knowledge in your chosen job family. Whilst the specific paper forms the vast majority of the marks, I cannot stress enough to practice and revise for the general paper, as the marking is eliminatory (i.e failure to pass the general paper means the specialised paper is not marked). Whilst I spent much time going over the UN-relevant reading list of the International World Order Elective, it is important not to forget to revise trivial answers such as the name as the Deputy Secretary General and the most recent nation to join the organisation, after all, much of the general paper is multiple-choice!

For the specialised paper, I can only advise you look at the past papers and revise to the best of your ability. The questions were a mix of bachelor and master level questions and there is a lot of time pressure.  I was informed not to bring anything but a pen, but it became apparent on the day we needed calculators for the economics paper. This certainly made a few questions tricky and I wish I had known beforehand!

I have recently been contacted regarding the quarterly YPP recruitment rounds in which I have to rank a number of posts in order of preference. These includes posts in Switzerland, Ethiopia, Niger, Rwanda and Zambia. I hope to post again with an update of how life on roster is going and news of any placement. In the meantime, if you have any questions for me or about the process, please get in contact in the comments below.


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Laurie Gayle September 5, 2013 - 12:03 pm

Hugely helpful! Really appreciate the information re: the initial application. Fingers crossed :)

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Aissatou August 13, 2014 - 6:49 pm

Hi, thank you so much for this post.

I am currently applying for the UN YPP human rights position this yea, I’ve applied back in 2012 for the social affairs and was denied. Beside these tips is there anything I should be aware of when it comes to reapplying? I have a bachelor’s in political science and have been working in the banking sector ever since which is about three years. How can I elevate my application in getting to the examination round? Thank you so much for your time and anticipated helpm

Yours Truly,

Aissatou Kaba

Amiita August 14, 2014 - 3:19 am

Hello Kirit,
Thank you for the helpful tip!
I came across your article as I was searching through ways to apply to UN and which academic course to take as my next step. I am deeply interested in the field of human rights and labour in an international context, and wanting to work at the UN.

I saw that in the application eligibility for YPP or JPOs you will require a academic background from the specific field, but I am interested in the MIR as well. Did you feel that international relations was sufficient? Also, would you know whether a MBA will be as useful?
It would be deeply appreciated for your support at your convenience! :)

Kirit September 15, 2014 - 3:46 pm

Hi Aissatou. Good luck! If there are a lot of applications from your country, they may filter out those who do not have a masters. Making your application as relevant to the job family as possible is the key to passing screening.

Hi Amita. Yes, IR was relevant for me – I chose to write my thesis on a topic relevant to the UN which helped in the interviews and the exam. An MBA could be useful, though it seems many of my colleagues chose to study for an Masters in Public Administration, though many do it after they have already worked at the UN for some time.

Hope that helps!


Dhairya Desai May 2, 2015 - 8:16 am

Hello Kirit,
Thank you very much for this post.
I will applying in the UN YPP by this year. Till the date they do not have posted the posts and the participating country. But they have notification that they will post it by May-2015.
I have done my bachelors in Economics and Is it necessary to do masters if I want to secure my seat for exam ?
How do I find old papers of previous examinations as I don’t know the syllabus for the examination. They write on their site that read the old newspapers and your university books but I think if I have the papers then it will be easier for me to find the relative topics.
It would be deeply appreciated for your support at your convenience.
Thank you,

Alexandra May 18, 2015 - 6:46 pm

Hi Dhairya! I also plan like to take part in the exam (Administration job family) this year if my country is listed. Waiting anxiously now :) And for the materials – check the YPUN website (ypun.org) – they have exactly what you asked for.

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Dhairya Desai May 22, 2015 - 7:46 pm

Hi Alexandra,
Thank you very much for your kind information. You are right, this is really what I actually want ! :)
Its amazing. All the information regarding YPP one can get just by a click.
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Thank you once again.
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