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Quotas at the UN and in Multilateral organisations, how does it affect your job application?

Author photo

by Henrik Rydén
COO and Co-founder of Impactpool

When applying for a job at the UN or any multilateral organization, Quota is one ingredient that can't be neglected.

Quota plays a central role in multilateral organizations to ensure diversity among their member states. The organizations applying quotas strictest have a clear number (or span) on how many individuals of a certain nationality can serve in the organization at the same time. And there are no exceptions made from those numbers.

From a professional recruitment perspective, when the quota is applied too strictly it creates challenges. Especially in the recruitment of senior leaders or senior experts. With a too strict quota, the recruitment goal is no longer to hire the best possible candidate, instead, the goal is to hire the best possible eligible candidate, which can be a huge difference.

I have seen many cases where the quota requirement has lowered the quality of the selected candidates.

As many multilateral organizations have the world as their recruitment source, for lower-level career positions the volume of candidates normally compensates for the limitations of the quota and hence does not impact quality that much.

Quality challenges start instead at the senior and senior expert level, where the souring pool may be more limited.

Hence, how your country is represented at a multilateral organization will significantly affect your chances to land the job you apply for. When preparing and applying for a job at a multilateral it is imperative to both know about the quota system and about the representation of your own country.

Are quotas applied to all types of contracts at the UN?

Quotas are only applied to so-called staff contracts. The so-called non-staff contracts are excluded from the quotas. So if you are looking for consultancies, volunteer assignments, internships, or short-term contracts you can continue applying for any job in any multilateral without having to worry about the quota.

There are also a few staff contract categories excluded from the quota calculation, and I will reveal and elaborate more on these contract types further down in the article.

In this article, we give you a quick overview of the quota calculation process and we provide information on where you best check your country's representation.

Knowledge about quota will make your application focus more strategic and you will better target your job search to organizations where you have a real chance. 

Photo Lara Torvi. The UN Secretariat applies quota strictly. If your nationality is over-represented, focus on UN Funds and Programmes, they apply quota more relaxed. 

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