UNDP Graduate Programme Receives Career Development Roundtable Award for Innovation in Recruitment

UNDP People for 2030
4 min readFeb 17, 2022

UNDP is honored to have received the 2021 Award for Innovation in Recruitment for the Graduate Programme from the International Organizations Career Development Roundtable (CDR). The programme was recognized at the 17th CDR held in Milan in December 2021.

About the Innovation in Recruitment Award

The International Organizations Career Development Roundtable (CDR) brings together international organizations across the multilateral sector, in particular from the United Nations System, the European Union, international financial institutions, as well as the national public sector, academia and private institutions.

The CDR Awards celebrate interesting and innovative HR initiatives in the areas of recruitment, career development and talent management. The awards provide the opportunity to showcase, share and learn from initiatives that successfully address organizational challenges, as well as recognize the potential of creativity and the people behind them.

About the Graduate Programme

As a key part of UNDP’s People for 2030 Strategy, the Graduate Programme was designed to:

  • Increase workforce diversity, giving opportunities to talent from under-represented groups.
  • Build a new talent pipeline of committed professionals for #NextGenUNDP and the international development sector through attracting and engaging young people in the work of the organization.
  • Strengthen organizational capacity in areas where there is a current or foreseeable future gap in competencies and skills supporting the 2030 Agenda.

Innovating recruitment practices to enable diversity

A two-year pilot was launched worldwide in June 2021 and an innovative selection process was implemented to effectively manage the high volume of applications, provide the best candidate experience and enable diversity. The following are some of the measures and their results from phase 1.

  1. Using digital mobile-friendly tools to effectively engage with young people across the world succeeded in levelling the playing field.
  2. Breaking down the UNDP personal history form into stages allowed for a user-friendly application process and kept candidates engaged while ensuring compliance with UNDP standards.
  3. Listing countries with low international staff numbers in UNDP in the advertisement encouraged their nationals to apply.
  4. Leveraging UNDP’s global country office network and their knowledge of local talent markets allowed us to reach many of our target groups.
  5. Making relevant accommodations for candidates with disability or other needs and ensuring active engagement of UNDP staff in the final virtual assessment centre ensured high calibre and relevance.

“With the Graduate Programme, for the first time we piloted a new approach to recruitment — which has tangibly demonstrated how we can effectively leverage digital solutions in the recruitment process and for high-volume recruitment. Some of the lessons learned from the programme have now been adopted by other programmes.”

— Lykke Andersen, Head of Talent Acquisition, UNDP

During the process, a multi-phase assessment was adapted to the online environment and carried out to gauge a wide range of relevant competencies. Through this assessment solution we developed a holistic understanding of the candidates, focusing on their strengths as well as prior exposure. Phase 1 was an online test to screen candidates out, followed by Phase 2 which included online situational judgement test and video questions and finally a virtual assessment centre.

Figure: Multi-phase assessment process

Increasing workforce diversity

At the end of the selection process in August 2021, successful candidates were placed in the Graduate Programme Pool. In addition to providing a platform for exploring innovative attraction and selection techniques, the Graduate Programme has effectively served as a tool to promote UNDP’s workforce diversity. The focus has been on recent graduates as well as nationality, gender, indigenous groups, and socio-economic backgrounds.

The results show undeniably that the outreach efforts have achieved the desired diversity and opportunity objectives. The vacancy attracted over 38,000 applications from 131 programme countries thus confirming the strong UNDP employer brand among younger populations.

33 diverse, high-performing committed candidates were selected to the Pool, representing 22 different nationalities. 17 candidates have already been successfully matched to positions.

Figure: Number of Candidate Nationalities in the Graduate Programme Pool
Figure: The diversity characteristics of the Graduate Programme Pool

As a pathway into the world of development, the Programme offers these talented graduates excellent exposure to kick-start a career in international development, contribute to accelerating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and make a positive difference in the world.

“I feel privileged and fortunate to be part of this amazing programme. It was the most engaging and by far the most organized and innovative recruitment program I ever participated in. It was full of learning and fun as well. The feedback provided by the team is valued and earnestly upheld. Thank you, Graduate Programme Team, I am and I am sure all the participants are inspired and satisfied with your professionalism and passion at UNDP.”

- Candidate from the Pool who was successfully matched to a position (as shared through a post-assessment anonymous feedback forum)

The vision of People for 2030 is to further strengthen young talent programmes and foster greater diversity to bring fresh ideas, skills and knowledge to the organization. In addition to expanding these programmes, UNDP will continue to strengthen its capacity to attract talented individuals from diverse backgrounds and facilitate large-scale recruitment by using more holistic assessment methods.