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Introduction to Competencies


UNDP Competency Framework

UNDP's ability to fulfil its mission of helping countries accelerate progress on human development is directly linked to having a well managed qualified workforce, with the right set of skills mix and competencies. The Human Resources (HR) Strategy, A People-Centred Strategy 2008-2011, aims at developing organizational effectiveness in three areas: Talent Sourcing, Staff Capacity and Enabling Environment.

In the area of Staff Capacity, UNDP establishes in the HR Strategy that "[it] will build depth in the competencies and skills that make [its workforce] most effective in the functions [they] currently perform." In order to do so, the Competency Framework, which is the basis for all the HR management mechanisms, was finalized and it will be integrated in all the HR processes, among other actions that will as well be pursued in this direction.


What are competencies?

The term 'competency' refers to a combination of skills, attributes and behaviours that are directly related to successful performance on the job. They are the basis upon which other human resources systems, such as recruitment, staff development, career planning and performance appraisal, are built.

Competencies are the talent needed to actualize the UNDP vision, mission and strategy. They permeate through all HR practice.

Competencies are sets of behaviours (encompassing skills, knowledge, abilities and personal attributes) that taken together are critical to accomplishing successful work and achieving an organizational strategy. Competencies represent the most critical knowledge, skills and commitments that underlie superior performance.

Competency is the way you conduct yourself with others, the way you behave in your professional dealings. Competency is everything that you bring to your work - the knowledge, the experience and the values that help make UNDP what it is today.


Competency-Based Interview

UNDP interviews are competency-based and will normally be conducted by a panel comprising at least three persons. In many cases, UNDP interviews are conducted by telephone, and in a small number, by videoconference. When possible, face-to-face interviews are scheduled. An interview may last from 30 to 60 minutes approximately.

A competency-based interview (sometimes referred to as a 'behavioural' or a 'criterion-based' interview) is a particular type of structured interview in which the interviewer's questioning is directed at ascertaining the candidate's qualities or capabilities on a number of job-related dimensions of behaviour (competencies). Normally they are defined in the vacancy announcement.

In contrast to the 'traditional interview', questions from the interviewing panel usually focus on eliciting specific examples from the candidates, in which they describe situations where they might (or might not) have demonstrated the required behaviours. These are probed in a systematic way by the interviewers to build up a picture of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the candidate on the specific competencies.

Additionally, the interviewee may use information about the position revealed through the competency-based questioning to determine whether he or she is still interested in a position. In many cases there are competencies that might seem obvious, e.g. positions in the field of Information Technology and Systems typically would include the core competency Technological Awareness. Candidates should, nonetheless, be prepared to discuss all competencies listed in the vacancy announcement during their interview.


Interested in learning more?

A good (and quick) way to get a clearer sense of how competencies are used in recruitment is to review the booklet United Nations Competencies for the Future, paying special attention to the bullet points.

You may also visit the UNDP Jobs site to see how UNDP competencies are incorporated into vacancies.

Finally, the Application & Interview section of the Career Management website includes information about preparing for competency-based interviews.

We highly recommend you to do this as part of your career development planning and preparations for other assignments in UNDP, following the end of your JPO assignment.