Frequently asked questions

General

Q :  What is a competitive examination for language positions (CELP)?
A :
Competitive examinations for language positions (CELPs) are the examinations used to recruit language professionals to fill staff posts in the professional category at different duty stations of the United Nations Secretariat.
Q :  What type of language professionals are recruited through the competitive examination for language positions?
A :
We hold competitive examinations for interpreters, translators, translator/précis-writers, editors, verbatim reporters, copy preparers/proofreaders/production editors, and computational linguists. Please visit the language careers pages of the website of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management for more information on career opportunities for linguists.
Q :  What is the structure of a CELP?
A :
CELPs generally comprises career-specific skills tests (often organized in two parts) and an interview. Successful candidates are placed on a roster for subsequent recruitment according to the Organization's staffing requirements.
Q : Will I have to relocate to a UN duty station if I pass a CELP?
A :
Yes, CELPs are used to identify language professionals to whom fixed-term appointments (renewable full-time contracts) at different duty stations may be offered.
Q : Can I get short-term and/or remote work if I pass a CELP?
A :
Depending on the specialization, language professionals suitable for other types of employment, such as contractual work or temporary assignments, are sometimes also identified through CELPs and offered a place on the Secretariat’s global roster of language professionals eligible for contractual work or temporary appointments. Examinations for placement on the Secretariat’s global roster of language professionals eligible for contractual work or temporary appointments are also arranged separately from CELPs on an as-needed basis. These are not announced on this portal but are advertised in Inspira.
Q : What does "P-2 level" mean?
A :
The United Nations workforce is made up of different categories of staff. Each category is made up of different levels, which reflect increasing levels of responsibilities and requirements. P-2 level is at the entry level and normally does not require extensive experience.

LANGUAGE REQUIREMENTS

Q :  In what languages do the United Nations language professionals work?
A :
The United Nations has language staff providing language services in all six of its official languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. There is also a small German translation section at UN Headquarters in New York. All language staff, except Arabic and Chinese interpreters and Chinese translators, work exclusively in (or into) their main language.
Q :  What is the difference between official and working languages at the UN?
A :
Official languages are those in which all official proceedings and documentation are made available to Member States (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish).
Working languages are those used for internal communications amongst staff. English and French are the working languages of the United Nations Secretariat.
Q :  What languages do I need to sit a CELP?
A :
You must have perfect, native-level command of the language of the examination, known as your main language. Typically, this will be the language in which you were brought up or educated. Additionally, you must have excellent knowledge of at least one, and usually two, other official languages of the United Nations. Check the announcement of the examination you are interested in for the specific language requirements.

AGE/EDUCATION/NATIONALITY

Q : I see that candidates need to be 56 years old or younger in order to qualify for a competitive examination for language positions. Why do you have an age limit?
A :
This requirement is based on the Organization’s need to recruit staff who can serve for a reasonable period of time and progress through the Organization’s career structure before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65 years.
Q :  I will be obtaining my B.A. in June of next year. Can I apply?
A :
In order to be eligible, you must have completed a degree relevant to the job function (or, in the case of interpreters, have 200 days’ experience) by the time you submit your application. Please check the announcement of the examination you are interested in for specific educational requirements.
Q :  I have more than one nationality. Am I qualified to apply?
A :
Yes, CELPs are open to candidates who have more than one nationality. However, the United Nations will not recognize more than one nationality for administrative purposes (see Staff Rule 4.3).

Top of Page

Application Process

Q :  Where do I go for help if I have problems completing the application form?
A :
Click on the “Contact us” link in any section of the application.
Q :  What do I do if the educational institution from which I obtained a qualification does not appear in the dropdown list in the application?
A :
Please follow these steps:
1. Click on the look-up icon at the end of the "Name of Institution" field.
2. Select the "Advanced Lookup" link.
3. Select "contains" in the "Long Description" dropdown menu and then enter part of the name of your institution (for example Chicago if you are looking for University of Chicago).
4. If no result is found, search for "Other Institution".
5. Note: If you select "Other Institution", a new text field "Please enter name of institution" is automatically added allowing you to be more specific.
Q :  Do I need to attach all of my diplomas in my application? What if, given the size, they cannot be all uploaded?
A :
Yes, you must attach them all. Upload them one at a time and shrink the file size if necessary.
Q :  Although I have the necessary qualifications, I have lost the diploma and the university that issued it is no longer operating. Can I still apply?
A :
If having a degree is a requirement and you do not have a proof that you obtained that degree, you will be screened out for not meeting requirements.
Q :  I have been asked to write a cover letter, in which language should I write it?
A :
Cover letters must be written in the language of the recruiting service. If the examination is for Russian translators, the cover letter should be written in Russian, even if the rest of the application form is being completed in English or French. Read the instructions in the examination announcement very carefully as the instructions vary.
Q :  How do I know whether or not my application has been successful?
A :
If your application is successful, you will receive an e-mail inviting you to the career-specific skills tests. The e-mail will contain a unique application number which is used for several purposes. Unsuccessful applicants will be sent an e-mail notifying them that their application has not been accepted.

Top of Page

CAREER-SPECIFIC SKILLS TESTS

Q :  How are the career-specific skills test structured?
A :
Each competitive examination has its own format and structure. The career-specific skills tests are usually divided into two parts that are held on different days, with several months between them. In these cases, they are referred to as part 1 and part 2 of the examination (with the interview being part 3). Each part lasts several hours and comprises a series of function-related tests aimed at assessing whether you have the professional/technical skills required for UN work.

CELPs are multi-hurdle examinations. For example, in three-part examinations, only candidates who perform well in the first part (career-specific skills tests) are invited to sit the second (more career-specific skills tests); and only those who perform well in the second are invited to the third (the interview, plus, possibly additional skills tests). Those who pass all three parts are placed on the roster for subsequent recruitment.

Visit the language careers pages of the website of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management for more information on the structure of the examinations for each function and language combination, as well as tips on how to prepare for the exams. Make sure you visit the pages in your target language as the information varies accordingly.
Q :  Can I get a sample of the career-specific skills test I am interested in so that I can prepare?
A :
Sample tests are sometimes available on the language careers pages of the website of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management for specific examinations. Visit the relevant pages for your language and language career. Please note that sample tests are only meant to be an indicator of the type of content and level of difficulty of the actual career-specific skills test.
Q : What will I need to take the skills tests?
A :
Unless the career-specific skills tests are being held at a test centre, all you need is a computer and a reliable Internet connection. You might need certain software and a camera or a microphone connected to your computer. Of course, you will want to make arrangements to not be interrupted for the duration of the tests.
Q :  I have an important appointment that I cannot miss on the date of the career-specific skills test. Can I take it earlier or later on that day, or any time before or after the announced test date?
A :
Unfortunately, we cannot accommodate this. In online exams, all candidates must complete the skills test within the specific time window assigned to them. For exams administered at test centres, all candidates must start and remain until the end of the test according to the specific schedule of their test centre. There is no makeup examination, and we cannot make exceptions, not even for medical or other compelling reasons.

Top of Page

SKILLS TESTS AT TEST CENTRES

Q :  Where will I take the examination?
A :
Most examinations are taken remotely, requiring you to take the examination online on a specified date. Some CELPs require the skills tests to be taken at test centres. These are assigned a few weeks after candidates have been invited to take the career-specific skills test. The location of the centre depends on the number and location of the applicants admitted. If your application has been accepted, visit Information for candidates for more information.
Q :  I will be living in another country at the time of career-specific skills test. Can I take it at a local university or at my country's embassy or consulate?
A :
For CELPs that are held at test centres, we will make every effort to arrange the career-specific skills test at the test centre closest to where you are living. Please include this request when you submit your application or at least six weeks before the test date.
Q :  Does the United Nations cover my travel expenses to take the career-specific skills test?
A :
No, the United Nations does not cover any cost, including travel to a test centre if required, that may be incurred for taking the career-specific skills tests. However, the United Nations will cover the costs of travel if you are successful in this part of the exam and are invited to take any subsequent parts held on United Nations premises.
Q :  What should I bring to the test centre? What is not allowed in the test centre?
A :
Depending on the examination you are taking, you may be asked to bring certain items and not bring others to the test centre. Check the examination notice and notifications about the competitive examination to which you have applied carefully.
Q :  Is there a dress code to take the examination at a test centre?
A :
There is no dress code to participate in the examination. Please be aware that some examination rooms might be rather cool or warm and prepare accordingly.

Top of Page

INTERVIEW AND ADDITIONAL TESTS

Q :  What is the structure of the competency-based interviews?
A :
The interview includes questions on expected competencies as a candidate for a language post, as well as a candidate for a job at the United Nations. These are listed in the announcement of the examination. Portions of the interview may be conducted in the language of the competitive examination you applied for. You can find more information on competency-based interviews. Additional skills test may be conducted on the same day as the interview.

Top of Page

Examination Results

Q :  When should I expect the results of the examination and how will I be notified?
A :
The marking of career-specific skills tests can take several months. You will be notified in writing via e-mail. The application numbers of candidates invited to the competency-based interviews are also published in the Information for candidates section. The interviews usually take place 1-2 months after the marking of the last set of career-specific skills tests.
Q :  How do I inform you of changes in my contact details, such as my e-mail address?
A :
Please email celp@un.org indicating your full name, application number and updated contact details.
Q :  I passed the career-specific skills test but not the competency-based interview. Do I need to repeat both parts at a subsequent examination?
A :
Unfortunately, yes, as each examination is different. You will need to go through the entire examination process again, starting with the submission of your application. Results from one examination do not carry over to another.
Q :  I failed the CELP three times. Can I still apply for the next one?
A :
Yes, you can. There is no limit to the number of times you can apply or take the exam.

Top of Page

Career prospects

Q :  Where can I expect to get a job if I pass a CELP?
A :
There are language positions at United Nations Headquarters in New York, the United Nations Offices in Geneva, Nairobi and Vienna, and the Regional Commissions in Addis Ababa Bangkok, Beirut and Santiago. Candidates who pass a CELP are placed on a roster for the corresponding language and function. When vacancies occur at any one of the above locations, the most suitable candidate in terms of relevant skills and experience is contacted and offered the position. Not all language functions or language combinations are required at each location, and the specialized subject-matter knowledge required also varies from one duty station to another.
Q :  When can I expect to get a job if I pass a CELP?
A :
The amount of time between passing the exam and receiving an offer for a specific position varies and is determined by the needs of the Organization. Vacancies may arise very soon after the examination results are issued or several years later. Make sure you keep your profile in Inspira up to date.

You may be offered a temporary appointment or contractual work in the meantime. This in no way affects your prospects of being offered a position.
Q :  What happens if I turn down the offer of a position?
A :
If you receive an offer of appointment to a position for an initial trial period of two years, you are strongly encouraged to accept it, as declining may affect your prospects of receiving a subsequent offer.
Q :  How long will my initial contract be?
A :
Language staff are normally offered an initial fixed-term appointment at the P-2 level for a trial period of two years. Upon satisfactory completion of this trial period, they may be promoted to the P-3 level. Fixed-term appointments of language staff whose performance does not meet requirements will not be extended after the trial period.

Top of Page

Last updated on 4 October 2021
Join the United Nations
Talent Pool
Home | Privacy notice | Site map | Fraud alert | Contact Us
Copyright 2022 United Nations. All rights reserved