United Nations Welcome to the United Nations

Elena Cisneros

Before joining the Organization in 2007, I had been working since 2000 as a freelance conference interpreter for international organizations, mainly the European Union institutions, the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and to a lesser extent for the private sector and United Nations affiliated institutions. 

Why work for the United Nations? 

My principal motivation was the opportunity to live in Africa for a few years, discover a continent I did not know much about and do so while enjoying good working conditions. By the time I decided to work for the United Nations I had just started a family and felt that having stable work and maternity benefits could be very helpful. 

Preparing for the United Nations Language Competitive Examination 

I did not prepare for the United Nations Language Competitive Examination in any specific way, because I was already working regularly as a freelance conference interpreter for a variety of organizations and had just completed a master’s degree in international relations. I felt that my educational background as well as daily practice of interpretation skills at work adequately prepared me for the examination. 

Challenges and rewards of the job 

One of my challenges is maintaining fluency in my working languages. I try to read as much as possible in those working languages that I have fewer opportunities to use in everyday situations. 

Situations where speakers are not sensitive to the needs and interests of the audience, resulting in poor communication, constitute another challenge. When a speaker tries hard to communicate and is considerate of the audience, cultural differences are easily overcome. 

The most rewarding aspect of my job at the UN is the opportunity to travel to various interesting places around the world, gaining an insight into many current developments in international relations and politics. When I joined the UN I specifically asked to be assigned to Nairobi since I find it is a great opportunity to live and work in an emerging continent. After four years in Nairobi I moved to Vienna.

Recommendations to potential candidates for the United Nations Competitive Examination for Interpreters 

Aspiring candidates who do not work regularly should use the internet webcasts of the General Assembly and other United Nations meetings. 

The interview is more about getting to know the candidate on a personal level. Candidates are expected to explain why they want to join the United Nations.