By continuing to browse this site, you agree to our use of cookies. Read our privacy policy

Transcript episode 9 Jens Behrendt OSCE

Author photo

by Impactpool

Intro quote: “So questions are not questions. Questions are actually answers. So people should be aware that asking smart and well-informed questions, without pretending you know already everything about the organization, that is a way to earn some additional brownie points.”

UNjobfinder: Hi there and welcome to the ninth episode of the UNjobfinder Career Podcast by INTALMA. My name is Magnus Bucht and, for those of you listening to this podcast for the first time, this is a show for people who are interested in a career within the international development sector working for international organizations such as the United Nations, European Union, development banks, intergovernmental or nongovernmental organizations. We’re talking to people who are having a remarkable career in this field, trying to get their stories about how they once entered, choices that they have made, challenges that they have faced and, not least, to hear what kind of advice they can share with us. Today, we’re going to talk to Jens Behrendt who, at the time of the interview, was the Deputy Human Resources Director at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, OSCE. What you will find in this interview is that it’s really packed with food for thought independent on where you are in your career. Whether you’re a new graduate or already a senior manager, I’m sure that you will find Jens’ reflections, stories and advice really worth listening to. He is a person who, since the start of his career, has been going back and forth into international organizations, which also has given him some outside perspective on how these organizations work. As you will hear, he is a strong believer in multilateralism and what international organizations do and deliver. And, at the same time, he is also quite critical. Jens will also share personal stories such as when he was taken hostage at an early point in his career. So I hope you will enjoy this conversation and, without further ado, we’ll get right into the interview.

UNjobfinder: Today I’m very excited to have Jens Behrendt as our guest here at UNjobfinder Career Podcast. Jens, welcome and wonderful to have you with us!

Jens Behrendt: Thanks for the invitation. Very pleased about this.

UNjobfinder: Great. Jens is the Deputy Director for Human Resources at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, OSCE. You’ve had a career where you’ve previously been working for the Center for International Peace Operations as their head of HR. You’ve always kept a close link to the academic world. And you’ve also been working for a number of years for the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP. So Jens, with that short summary, which I hope was correct, please tell us a bit more about who you are.

Jens Behrendt: Thanks a lot. Yes, well it is correct. And one of the striking things that I experienced when I joined the OSCE was everybody told me you have a UNDP background, the OSCE is not a development organization, we’re security, we’re political, we’re the real guys. And I said I don’t quite understand because, in terms of methodology, you work with projects, you do capacity building in our participating states, be it in Kosovo or Tajikistan or in Ukraine. We do training, we advise governments on law making, legislation, all these things that other international organizations included in the UN system also do. So there are a lot of similarities but there’s of course this whole identity about being different which is quite striking when you join because you have to get used to this kind of micro-universe of a different multilateral organization. So it was a bit of a learning experience here but the UN experience was extremely valid and applicable and relevant for my work here with the OSCE. And a lot especially in human resources management, the way we recruit and the way we contract people, the way we measure performance is very similar too because what we see is there’s kind of a mainstream within multilateral organizations to do those things and there’s some established practices. So, in a way, moving from one organization to another is not that difficult. And a lot of my colleagues have done this.

UNjobfinder: So, tell us, when you were working for example with UNDP, where were you located? Have you been moving around in the world?

Jens Behrendt: Well, I joined as a JPO, a Junior Professional Officer, in 1994, in a place called UN Volunteers or the UN Volunteer Programme at that time headquartered in Geneva, which was a fantastic thing and it’s still a fantastic program and it’s a success story within the UN, no doubt about that. But I had the advantage of having worked in Africa before. I had two years of post-degree experience and I was a project coordinator in Ghana. I was familiar with the microcredit and microenterprise programs. And this is why I joined UNV. And it was a great experience because it’s a fairly small headquarters with about 150 staff. So even as a junior officer, you get a lot of responsibilities early on for the budget, for people, for steering projects, for fund raising, all these things. So you’re involved in every aspect of program management very early on and with fairly little supervision because everybody is needed. So that was a wonderful experience and a very intense learning period. And that also gave me the opportunity to move within the UNV program. We moved to Bonn as the first UN entity to join Germany as a host country to set up the UN center in Bonn. And then, I became the area manager for South East Asia and, after six years at headquarters, I did the next move and I moved to Jakarta to join the UNDP country office to set up a program for local governance. So it was wonderful to also leave headquarters and go back to the field. Always I think it’s very useful and it’s some advice to everyone to work in the UN now that there’s a whole discussion about mobility and people have to move around and they have to accept this. It’s not only that it’s an issue of fairness within the organization that people move around, that don’t get stuck in Geneva or New York all their career, but also in terms of establishing your own street credibility as a professional. And you capitalize on that and you benefit from that for the rest of your career if you’ve done different things in the field and headquarters. And you also learn a very important lesson which is that there’s not one UNDP or, just to take as an example of a field based decentralized organization because they’re like 150 because each country office is very different and headquarters in New York or the UNV headquarters in Bonn is very far away like sometimes a different planet and you have to manage your own program, you have to find your own solutions in the place where you are. And, despite modern technology and all that, you still have to be an independent professional in your own duty station.

UNjobfinder: Absolutely. That’s really interesting. And we can see some similarities. We had a previous discussion with Julia Watt from ITU who also started as a JPO. And I did that as well in my career. And we’ve also written a good article I would say about the UNV, which is also an excellent entry point into this sector. Thank you for sharing that. As we can hear, you’ve had a very interesting career so far and we’ll get more into that soon. Tell us what was it that made you wanted to step into this sector and what was the first entry point? You said that you were working in Ghana. Was it before you even joined UNV? What made you drawn to this sector?

Jens Behrendt: When I studied political science, before I was very much interested in political theories and sociology and all that and, as for many people, what happened is that I met one person who kind of pulled me into this whole international world. And it was about East Asia and China. And she made a huge difference to my professional life. And I told her later on when I bumped into her at the university that you don’t even know your impact on me. In hindsight, I must say you left a mark on my life in terms of getting fascinated about international relations. And this is where I focused my studies on. Then I moved on to the German Development Institute for a 9 month training program in development management. And I spent a couple of months in Pakistan on the Afghan border to do research. And then I got a job offer from one of the German NGOs, a large political foundation, to join their country office in Ghana, which was in the early 90s, soon after their first free and fair elections, and it was a lot of things to do and it was a fantastic experience. And, as I said in my previous answer about being remote from headquarters, that was a time when there was no internet, there was no e-mail, there was not even a fax machine working sometimes. Sending a letter took like three weeks. We got a reply back after another two weeks. In the meantime, we had to find a solution. So we were much on our own and it was fun. It was great. And I think we still delivered some quality work without getting 200 e-mails a day.

UNjobfinder: No, exactly. I’m sure you did. Jens, listening to you, we can hear that you have lots of stories that you can share with us. But could you give us maybe one example of the kind of experience that you would like to share with us, a story that you were proud of or that has been really rewarding for you?

Jens Behrendt: I actually went back to Ghana five years ago, in 2010, for another occasion, for a conference. And I visited my old project. In the early 90s, we established what we called a business advisory center for small entrepreneurs, car mechanics to get some training and funding and support and all these things. And it still exists. It’s still around. So in terms of sustainability as a catch word, we have tried even in the 90s to make them self-sustaining in terms of also getting income from people paying for a service which was almost a taboo at that time. You can’t have poor people paying for something. Well, we actually did it and of course customized to what people could do. And it paid off in a way that it still functions and it still provides the services to the local business people. So obviously, we’ve done a few good things and it’s appreciated. And also, of course, thanks to the more stable environment in that country, of course the political climate was such that it allowed for some project to be sustainable. Unfortunately, in many other countries it was not the case. So, of course, one thing is to celebrate some success but also be aware of the failures that you go through. And sometimes, it’s not within your own control. Also, one thing is another kind of lesson which I learned from this, we also believe that we should have like a real credit and loan system attached to the business center so that people get credit. And then we looked around and said, what is the experience with providing technical service and financial services? And we did take a decision to say no, money is not what we could do well, and it would undermine the other things we do. So we took a deliberate decision not to go into the retail banking. So sometimes you also have to just keep your hands off things because you may do more damage than good. And I think some of the development agencies have some difficulty to say well there are five other organizations doing that already, why do we have to be the sixth one? We’re really not good technically. If we don’t have the expertise in the long run, let’s not do it. Which is not always easy to defend, but I think it did something good.

UNjobfinder: Because I guess not only if you start up a new expertise but, in a way, you can also create some competition between actors.

Jens Behrendt: On the other hand, and this is an experience I had in Indonesia, again, I had the privilege of joining at a very exciting time after Suharto was ousted from his office as a president and a lot of things happened in the country. There was this whole idea of let’s strengthen the cities and the municipalities, let’s create a new political culture. And UNDP was to be at the forefront of international support. But, however, there were also other organizations including the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, and some bilateral donors. And everybody wanted to do the same thing. So these poor counterparts, they had lots of delegations every week and money was thrown at them almost. And then UNDP had the idea of well let’s coordinate everything we do with everything else happening in this area and with all the other donors. Which made us be kind of almost paralyzed. We have to wait for the World Bank until they have managed their program and they can’t stop with the implementation. So, in the end, we did nothing because we were waiting to be part of a larger effort which didn’t occur. So sometimes coordination is a nice thing but it’s just not realistic. And we made a painful experience in terms of well we were inactive for months and months because obviously the rest was not waiting for UNDP to be coordinating this. So the world is moving on and we should have done it as UNDP, just do our own thing sometimes, carve out our own niche and do it well.

UNjobfinder: Well, we all learn by experience, right? Great, Jens. Thanks for sharing that. Going from those experiences that you’ve had that have been rewarding for you, what would you say have been maybe the greatest challenges, the things that really have kept you awake at night? When we had the discussion here before we started the podcast, you were mentioning some of the challenges that you’ve faced. But maybe that’s not what has been the greatest challenge. So tell us something about the types of questions or issues that have been keeping you awake at night.

Jens Behrendt: Well, different things. Of course, now since I’m working for the OSCE, which is a large security organization, of course we have teams and people and colleagues on the ground, in areas which are high risk and hostile, including Ukraine, but not only Ukraine. And before, working for UN volunteers, we had of course large contingents of volunteers in South Sudan and Darfur and in Timor at times when there was warfare and also, of course, the UN became a target unlike many decades before. Now, Blue Helmets and civilians were not kind of untouchables anymore. And that of course sometimes you were wondering will I wake up the next day with somebody who suffered from an attack or casualties, which we actually had sadly enough. So that’s one thing that also leaves kind of a psychological impact on you, this constant concern about people working for you but in a place where you can only help so much. And they exposed themselves to a risk. They do that consciously. And, of course, we try to help them with everything we can to minimize that risk, but they have to be aware, and this is when you join such an emergency operation also as a humanitarian aid worker, you have to be aware, you take some risk, it’s calculated risk, but sometimes things are not under your control. I was taken hostage at one stage in northern Ghana in 1994 for only half a day, but it was very critical, and I was quite close to be shot, and it was kind of a coincidence with many unfortunate things happening at the same time. Nobody was to blame for that, but it just happened, and it just reminds you that sometimes you’re walking a thin line. But it did not change my commitment or determination to work for international organizations. Certainly, one source of concern is the security for yourself or for colleagues. Of course, another thing is this is more like the home-made, the domestic scene in international organizations, which is not specific to them because it can happen in any large bureaucracy, which is office politics. Sometimes, it’s politics with a capital P. International organizations are very hierarchical. Sometimes, I jokingly refer to them as futile societies. I think it has changed a lot because there’s a whole new generation of managers with a different approach and more inclusive, participatory approaches and a better understanding of team dynamics and team building. However, still sometimes it’s hard to work the system and sometimes you’re stuck in the bureaucracy and sometimes you don’t get good things through because your director has previously said that this is not something that he/she supports. So you get stuck for reasons that you don’t see as rational because they’re different principles, different forces at work. And, of course, if you become a rebel in your own organization, probably it doesn’t help much in terms of your own career but also in terms of things you want to advance. So the question is how to find this kind of balance between your loyalty but also your own red lines in terms of what do you want to accept, what are you fighting for, what do you really want to put your energy behind and what are the things that you can’t win. And sometimes this can be frustrating or tiring as well. But, as I said, this is not unique to international organizations but, of course, it’s more complex in international organizations because you have people from very different cultures with very different ideas of loyalty, of seniority, of top down decision making and those things. So you shouldn’t be naive when you join that because you need to know that this can happen and it’s not always personal, it’s part of the system.

UNjobfinder: Excellent, Jens. One of the things that I wanted to ask you is also obviously you have been able to work your way in this system. So what kind of personal traits do you have that have made your career so successful? Maybe is that what you’re actually saying here, don’t be naive, make sure that you find that balance between loyalty and what is worth fighting for and find a way of actually accomplishing things even though you are working in a political environment with, of course, bureaucracy and hierarchy. What are your strengths that have helped you in those areas or is there anything else? Because that would also be valuable for our listeners to hear.

Jens Behrendt: Well, there are a number of elements. First of all, of course, very fundamentally, it’s whether I believe or not in multilateralism. And I’m a true believer in internationalism and its institutional expression with the many international organizations which exist. Sometimes, they have an image problem because, in the news, in the international media or the national media, they appear as lame ducks sometimes, endless conferences, long negotiations without results. But, in the end, this is what it is. And if there were a better solution to that, then we’d probably have it. Sometimes it’s cumbersome, it’s long-winded and you have just to be on the ball all the time. We’ve seen it with kind of the peace negotiations or cease fire negotiations in Ukraine. Of course, that had a direct impact on my work here since my team and I were setting up the Ukraine mission of now almost 900 people on the ground working for the OSCE. So, of course, we were dependent on what do our negotiators and the governments reach and achieve in Minsk and other places. And it’s complex and such things have become more complex because there are more players involved, players who do not accept certain rules and etiquette of diplomacy. So it has even become more complicated but there’s no shortcuts to that. And that is something that we need to accept and still be optimistic, which is the second kind of key factor. And a third one is, in terms of career and what helps you, I think it helps you to project yourself as a reliable and constructive and also consistent professional. It doesn’t help you much to join an organization and be a fantastic guy in the first six months and do  wonderful things and you walk on water but then your energy goes down and you lose interest. I think you also need to be able to sustain your energy, to manage yourself well, but then keep up your productivity over a longer period of time. And if you have consistent and reliable, especially managers, they want reliable staff, they want staff who think in terms of solutions, which sounds very pedestrian, but this is what it is in the long run, and not just for a couple of months, but it takes 2-5 years as long as you perhaps do a job. You still need to be able to keep up your level and quality over a certain period of time. And that exactly I think establishes your brand as a professional. And that means that, of course, you need to be able to also motivate yourself. And, of course, this is what resilience means even if you have setbacks, you’re frustrated because your proposal was turned down. Just accept it. Sometimes, you have to live with that and you go on and do the next thing. And what is absolutely key in this is that you’re surrounded by people that you have a good rapport with. As a key ingredient in career, you have to be able to be on good terms with people, to establish a network. If you’re thrown into a field operation, be it humanitarian or others, you have to be able to establish kind of a reliable relationship within even a few days. You’re not made for that. It’s not the right job for you. If you only get warm with people and you open up after a year or two, probably humanitarian crisis stuff is not good for you. Then perhaps more research related and conceptual work is the better option. So it’s kind of resilience and to also be able to absorb disappointment. It’s the optimism and kind of this consistency that I think pays off in the long run.

UNjobfinder: Wonderful, Jens. I think that was so much value in a couple of minutes that I’m really thankful. I think what you’re saying with sort of believing in the multilateralism and the commitment that you need to have to this, to be optimistic and project yourself as a reliable and loyal colleague, keep up your productivity. A career is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. And make sure you sustain your energy, keep up the productivity, motivate yourself and be sure to establish and keep relations and be resilient. I think that’s really wonderful.

Jens Behrendt: And, in terms of managing relations, it’s easy to do that when things go well and you have good projects and activities. It’s more challenging if there’s also kind of interpersonal challenges. Sometimes, even as a manager, you have to be able to go to your staff and apologize for something you’ve done wrong or the wrong tone you had in your voice or if you said the wrong thing. So you have to be mature enough to do such things. And also, this is the feedback that sometimes I got from my own team mates or team members. Sometimes, we feel that you’re kind of excited about things positively or negatively, you almost lose your temper but you manage to control yourself. But you also sometimes feel that you’re frustrated. It makes you human. You don’t have to be a boss that’s absolutely super perfect. And also the perfect manners all the time, in full control of yourself, optimistic to a way that is almost incredible. Sometimes, they want to see that I also have my limitations and I’m a human being. It makes me more emphatic. As long as you don’t let this carry you away to kind of destroying relationships or being unproductive or cynical or all these things, but also don’t be afraid, among colleagues or even as a supervisor, to just show your human side. You’re not a machine. And it pays off I think a great deal.

UNjobfinder: I perfectly agree with you and I think showing that you are human… I’m thinking maybe that is something that is needed especially if you are working in conflict areas or situations like yourself. I mean you’ve been taken hostage. You are forced to be a human of course in those situations. You cannot keep up a façade of being something that you are not. Would you say that working in these areas and these situations has added to that? That you actually have the ability to show your personality and show who you are and make sure that people actually see that you are you.

Jens Behrendt: I think it has, yes. When it happened in Ghana, back in 1994, of course I was lucky enough to have a boss and some people around me who understood what happened. And, actually, it took a few months until I told my parents what happened. They would have been scared to death. Some people were informed about that. And luckily, my boss said I’ve been a witness to several coup d’états very violent, I was in the middle of cross-fire, so I know what you’ve gone through. And this was very useful for me but it also showed that sometimes you’re exposed to things and things can go wrong and it teaches me another lesson which is there is work and there is a job, which is very important in my life, but it’s not everything and it can be over in a minute. So celebrate other things as well and there’s no point in working 15 hours a day. First of all, you may not be productive not even 10 or 12 hours. Sometimes, it’s needed and you chip in to work on weekends if need be of course. But then, you also need to let go and you have to give the same to your team. And you see that other things matter in life and career is not everything. And even if the pressure is high and sometimes you get so much absorbed especially, and this is an experience in the UN as well, you get drawn into, you get absorbed by the expectations of the organization to you. And it’s very hard to take a step back and say you don’t own me, you pay me a very decent salary but you don’t own me and there are limitations to what I can provide. I’m a very disciplined and committed professional but you don’t own me. And it’s very important that you have a life outside the office and you have people who have nothing to do with the UN, which, of course, if you were placed in a place like Juba, it’s much more difficult to have that. But in any normal duty station, get people who have nothing to do with this strange world of UN or EU or other organizations. They ground you, which is very important.

UNjobfinder: Exactly. Thank you for sharing that. I think that maybe also adds to that resilience because, by having that, you also prepare yourself for that marathon rather than being exhausted after a sprint. Because you get energy from doing other things, from meeting people who are not only working in this sector and getting that into your life.

Jens Behrendt: Of course, people have certain expectations for their own careers. But one thing I learned is that I had like a zigzagging career myself because I left the UN and joined the government service, which was the Foreign Ministry and the Center for International Peace Operations. And then I rejoined multilateral organizations, the OSCE. But I never kind of measured my own professional life in terms of let’s move up to the next grade and the next grade thereafter. So I zigzagged in terms of income. I zigzagged in terms of places I lived. I zigzagged in terms of seniority and I, of course, zigzagged in terms of my functional area because I started off with program management and development aid and then gradually kind of slided into this human resources type work which I have passion for of course. And perhaps this is what I will do for the rest of my professional life. I could well imagine. But it’s this kind of openness to things and I keep my expectations modest because I have seen people who kind of rose to D2 level and are now happy to have their P5 back. So don’t feel this is kind of a failure because it’s not. And especially with the volatile environment in which international organizations work in terms of their own budgeting and the cycles and the contract cycles and moving from core to project budget and 75% of their staff being on short-term contracts and things like that. These are things that are beyond your control. So just accept it. And this also leads to reviewing your own expectations.

UNjobfinder: Exactly. Thank you, Jens. I’m looking at the time now. Really, I would like to talk something also about OSCE. Lots of people of course know about the OSCE and know what you are doing but there are also probably a few who don’t know. So could you please tell us a bit more about what it is that you are working with and some of the challenges you are facing. You have mentioned some already but maybe give us some more information about that.

Jens Behrendt: Sure. We’re a fairly young organization. We’ve set up as an organization only 20 years ago with a secretariat in Vienna and 21 other offices, independent offices around the northern hemisphere if you like, mainly in Central Asia, in the Western Balkans and South Caucasus. And now, of course, our big operation, Ukraine, with monitoring the status of the conflict and the different agreements made in Minsk. So it’s a political organization. It’s the largest regional security organization in the world. And it offers international positions in a whole range of different areas. We have a total of 750 international colleagues, like the P grades in the UN, professional. Two thirds of which, however, are seconded through the member states or what we call participating states. So they come to us through their own ministries of foreign affairs and we of course do have a selection process for them so it’s competitive. But the first point of contact for many job vacancy notices that we publish are ministries of foreign affairs in your own country. And then, of course, we have about 250 what we call contracted positions from P1 to D2 level, both in administration - including finance, HR, IT - and programmatic areas back stopping our missions in the field or working on what we call transnational threats including money laundering, cybercrime, border management, police affairs, economic crimes, human trafficking, all these substantive areas. It’s a full range. Everything that’s somehow related to international security. So the broad mandate of the OSCE of course is very significant and we try to have expertise for all of these things and also of course human rights and rule of law among our ranks. So it’s fairly broad in terms of the professional areas that we look for and, of course, for some jobs we need people who speak Russian. Otherwise, it’s English. And who have a background in kind of governance issues in different areas because, obviously, we don’t have executive functions, we have advisory functions. So we advise governments on how to improve the governance in certain security matters. This is what we do. Of course, we do scenarios in terms of what will the OSCE in ten years look like. Probably the times of having large-scale, long-term missions like in Kosovo, Bosnia, other places where we still are, may be coming to an end especially with those countries who move closer to the European Union, who have a more stable situation. So the OSCE’s trademark probably will be to be the organization of choice when it comes to deploying quick large-scale missions to monitor, to observe, to inspect as an organization which is really inclusive for East and West and which is a place where these countries and conflict parties can talk, which probably other regional organizations cannot provide for. So this is kind of the strength of the OSCE and, of course, for many years we were not so much in the headlines apart from election observation. But otherwise, it was a fairly quiet organization to the point that many confused us with the OECD in Paris. Of course, Ukraine in that respect was a blessing in disguise because it brought back the OSCE into the media and we were making the headlines. Sometimes when we go out to recruitment missions and fairs, some people ask us I can’t work for you because I don’t speak French. And I say, why do you need to speak French? Because you work in Paris. No! Our secretariat is in Vienna and we have offices in 22 different places. Of course, we advertise all our positions on our website, Most are seconded, contracted but also short-term opportunities. And we have the usual selection methodology in terms of written test and interview and those things. So nothing special and nothing unpredictable.

UNjobfinder: So if you look now maybe in the near future, are there any specific areas that you are specifically targeting? I mean key areas, or regions, or skillsets that you are in need of?

Jens Behrendt: Well, as I mentioned, nothing that will stand out. Yes, we need the substantive experts of people with some background. For example, kind of a human rights expert for Ukraine or somebody as kind of a program officer for human trafficking. So this is something that is in high demand. We published a few positions recently and we were flooded with applications because you need to be aware of some of the international mechanisms, of course the magnitude of the problem, and then have what the rest of the HR world calls transferrable skills in terms of you need to know what the project cycle is about because that’s the form in which we work. You need to be good in drafting, in English, without your supervisor spending 2 hours a day editing what you did. That’s very important. And, of course, be able to make presentations. Whether you are at a P2 level, the more junior level, or the P5 as a team leader or section manager, you still have to have that.

UNjobfinder: Would you have any good tips to share? How would they actually get a job with you?

Jens Behrendt: Well, two key things I would like to emphasize. One is, coming back to this example, we advertised a P2 post in human trafficking and we received about 1,000 applications. Now this sounds like horror, which is more than the average we receive, which is about 180 for a professional post. It doesn’t make sense to apply for something that you don’t have a specific experience in. And this whole philosophy is yeah, I haven’t done human trafficking, but I can still try. Still try doesn’t work because you need to make it on a long list in the first place. And a long list is the best 15% of the thousand. So it’s only people who really have worked in human trafficking somehow and not just done a very generic, research job or you worked for an embassy but you didn’t have much to do with human trafficking. It just doesn’t work. So the one thing is target your application and you have to have something that is really specific to the job. The second thing is many people come to, I’m still surprised about that, but they enter the room and the interview panel is sitting around the table. And, of course, there’s two things. One is we start up with the usual warm-up question to get them into talking mode which is tell us what motivated you to apply for the job and about yourself. And people are not prepared to give a two minute selling pitch of themselves. This is a constant thread that runs through my professional life, to summarize things rather than being simply chronological and not able to give like a gist of really what they are as professionals. So this can be prepared and it can be rehearsed. So applicants should do that. And the other thing is that sometimes they have no idea about the OSCE. And we don’t expect them to be insiders. We don’t expect them to be knowledgeable about the organization, but they have to do some research. And, luckily, there are ways to get that information about what’s cooking in the OSCE. People can talk to their foreign affairs or foreign ministries. They all have a delegation here in Vienna and most of them are very happy and pleased to help applicants with some information about this is on the agenda of OSCE, these are some of the key challenges, these are things you should know about the structure apart from reading the website. Research a little. And I think from applicants’ own governments this can be provided and, usually, people are very happy to share that. So sometimes it only takes like a few phone calls to get that. Even if you are outside your own country, you can still do that. Also, it shows in the questions. At the end of the interview, of course we give people the opportunity to ask questions and we had cases like tell me about what the OSCE is doing, which is absolutely ridiculous. It is embarrassing to everyone in the room. So questions are not questions. Questions are actually answers. So people should be aware that asking smart and well-informed questions without pretending you know already everything about the organization. That is a way to earn some additional brownie points with us because it also reflects an interest, a genuine interest in what we do. And that kind of wraps up your performance in an interview. But it’s very basic. The funny thing is, during all my years in HR, you still have a very limited number of people who actually did it. It’s sad because this is not a very big thing to do. It’s very fundamental in your preparations for an interview.

UNjobfinder: Exactly. Absolutely. Thank you, Jens. Make sure you meet the requirements for the position. If you are called for an interview, make sure that you are prepared for the interview, make sure that you research about the organization and, of course, the position. Which shows that you understand what kind of job that you might be entering into. And I think it was a good quote that questions are answers for the recruiters. Really good. All this will of course be able to be found in the transcript of this interview afterwards and we also have articles about all this at So I think it’s wonderful, Jens. Thank you for sharing that.

Jens Behrendt: Well thanks again for the opportunity.

UNjobfinder: Before we end, any final tips that you would like to share or any advice you can give? I mean you have already given us so much, but any final words?

Jens Behrendt: Well, I would only encourage people to seek an international career with all the downs and ups, all the challenges in a career or work/life balance. But it’s highly rewarding. But, at the same time, I felt it also was good for me to leave the world of international organizations for some time in between and then come back with a new perspective. I think there’s no harm in doing that but, of course, people fear that then of course I’ll lose my entitlements and other things. So there’s always a financial side to it. On the other hand, also, one thing perhaps I’d like to stress at the end is that what I’ve come across is that many people in international organizations, of course, you get used to the conditions, you get used to the privileges that you enjoy in terms of the compensation you receive and all that and you take it for granted that you have that. And also coming back from a national organization where people work just the same amount of time for half the pay reminded me it’s a reward, it’s a privilege to work for an international organization and I should not complain about the stress and about the work load and about a 5% cut because I’m still in a privileged position. And a lot of other people who work a lot of time and at a special effort but they do it for much less. It’s a special career. We should not forget about the goodies that we get for putting in our effort.

UNjobfinder: Exactly. That’s very good, Jens. Thank you so much and thank you for being with us today and for being willing to share all of your insights and wisdom and experience. What you’ve told us has been truly valuable. Thank you so much.

Jens Behrendt: Thank you very much again.

UNjobfinder: I hope you enjoyed that interview with Jens Behrendt from the OSCE. Jens, thank you so much for joining the show. And, once again, thank you to all of you who’ve been sending us feedback. That’s really appreciated to hear what you like and what you don’t like and what we can improve with the show. So keep that feedback coming. You can send us all that via Twitter @UNjobfinder, via, or directly via the contact form that you’ll find at So if you want to be sure that you receive all the new episodes, please subscribe on iTunes, SoundCloud or Stitcher. Showing what you think of this show and leaving an honest review on iTunes is something that we really appreciate. You will be able to find all the show notes, transcript of the show at So thank you so much for listening, bye for now and see you in the next episode!


Was this transcript relevant for you?

Latest transcripts