Writing Skills for the United Nations

Writing for the United Nations has many purposes, but the main purpose is to provide information. That calls for brevity, clarity, simplicity of language and logical organization of material. Those qualities are all the more important because the readers of United Nations reports speak many different languages and come from different backgrounds and cultures.

Here are 6 key tips to improve your cover letter when you are applying to the United Nations!

Tip #1: Structure the letter in a clear and logical way

The order of the provided information may be different, but a good cover letter for the UN should include the following content:

  • Introduction, where you express the interest in the job announcement;

  • Motivation statement, explaining why you are willing to become a United Nations civil servant;

  • Summary of your background, including education, professional experience, skills and competencies to demonstrate that you are able to perform the duties of the position;

  • Conclusion, where you summarize your thoughts and thank the Examination Board for taking the time to read your cover letter.

Tip #2: Show your personality and make them remember you

Introducing your motivation to join the United Nations is a must-do in your cover letter. Writing a motivation statement is the same as answering the question “Why do you want to work in the UN?”

Which arguments do you use? “Save the world”? “Serve a great cause”? “Help the poor”? These answers are cliché for the applications to the United Nations. The Examination Board reads the same points in 95% of all the cover letters. This is, therefore, a great opportunity for you to stand out! Tell them a bright inspirational story which stands behind your desire to work in the UN, introduce yourself as a real person behind the words - and they will definitely remember you!

Tip #3: Reflect your education & work experience properly

Does your background make you the right candidate for the UN YPP? It is essential to demonstrate it in your cover letter! The background part normally includes two key points: your education and professional experience.

When describing your education, clearly show that your degree is in line with the eligibility criteria of the job network you are applying to, and that your academic credentials provided you a strong understanding of theoretical concepts essential for your future work as a successful UN YPP candidate.

Speaking about your work experience, do not just list your duties and responsibilities - open up a bit more!. Emphasize your bright achievements, highlight competencies and show your willingness to develop personally and professionally and address challenges on the global arena.

Tip #4: Show that you have already performed the UN responsibilities

The ultimate target of your cover letter is to make the Examination Board believe that you are the right person for the program. Show that you will be able to cope with the duties they expect you to perform!

The easiest way to do this is to show that you have already performed them! Mention that your responsibilities in previous engagements were similar to those listed in the UN YPP job announcements and emphasize your words by listing several great achievements!

Tip #5: Demonstrate the United Nations competencies

According to the United Nations, your past behavior and experience is the best indicator of your future performance. Therefore, demonstrating compliance with the core UN values and competencies in your past projects will leverage your chances to be convoked for the written examination.

The main competencies for the UN YPP candidates are Professionalism, Teamwork and Planning & Organizing and are clearly explained in the job announcement. Make sure to indicate your compliance with them and support your arguments with personal examples!

Tip #6 (and very overrated but really important tip): Double check the vocabulary!

Make sure to incorporate the United Nations language together with the keywords of your job network in your cover letter! Check it carefully for spelling and grammar mistakes – they would ruin even the best cover letter. Do not rely solely on electronic spell checking – it is likely not to pick up all the typos.

Last but not least, ask other people to proof-read your application – they may give you unexpected advice helping to make your dream of working in the United Nations come true!


The article was written by Isabella Silalahi, IUNIA Mentor. Feel free to drop your comment and questions to

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