United Nations Secretariat translators, editors, verbatim reporters, interpreters and copy preparers/ proofreaders/production editors are recruited exclusively through competitive examinations. Terminologists and reference assistants are either recruited in-house from language staff who have passed those exams or other staff, or, occasionally, directly through job openings posted on the United Nations Careers portal. Please note that passing the competitive examination is a requirement for full-time in-house positions only.
The language competitive examinations (LCEs), as they are known, are held, on average, once every two or three years for each profession in each official language (e.g. for Arabic translators, for French interpreters, for Chinese verbatim reporters). The examination announcements are posted on the United Nations Careers portal a few months beforehand, together with information on eligibility requirements and how to apply.
The purpose of the examinations is to establish a roster of successful candidates from which to fill present and future vacancies for language positions at the Headquarters in New York, the duty stations in Geneva, Nairobi and Vienna, and the regional commissions in Addis Ababa, Bangkok, Beirut and Santiago. Those interested in taking the next examination for their profession and language are recommended to check the Language Competitive Examinations page of the United Nations Careers portal and this website every month or so.
For information on the usual minimum requirements for taking the examination for each profession, together with past exam papers and tips on how to prepare, click on the corresponding tabs on this page.
More details about the LCE process
The United Nations holds official competitive examinations for prospective translators, editors, verbatim reporters, interpreters and copy preparers/proofreaders/production editors in all the official languages of the United Nations: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. Regulations prohibit the recruitment of candidates outside the competitive examination process.
The frequency of language examinations depends on the needs of the Organization.
The purpose of the examinations is to establish a roster of successful candidates from which to fill present and future vacancies for language positions at Headquarters in New York, the duty stations in Geneva, Nairobi and Vienna, and the regional commissions in Addis Ababa, Bangkok, Beirut and Santiago.
The examinations are open to all applicants who meet the eligibility and qualification requirements. They must have at least first-level university degree and be 55 or younger at the deadline for submission of an application. Citizens of any Member State of the United Nations are welcome to apply.
All applications are reviewed by the United Nations Board of Examiners. In instances where a large number of applications are received, the Board of Examiners reserves the right to admit to the examination only the most qualified applicants based on a review of qualifications. The Board’s decisions are final and not subject to appeal.
Candidates are convoked to the United Nations examination centre closest to where they are residing at the time of the examination. The United Nations will not reimburse the cost of travel in connection with the convocation to the written examination. If, however, candidates are successful in the written examination, the United Nations will reimburse the cost of travel to the interview. Candidates convoked to the interview will be contacted by phone or e-mail.
On the basis of the overall results of the examinations, the Board of Examiners will recommend to the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management the names of candidates who qualify for inclusion in the roster.
The United Nations is a global organization and candidates may be placed in any of the duty stations mentioned above, although their preference may be considered to the extent possible. Successful candidates who receive an offer of appointment are strongly encouraged to accept it. Declining an offered appointment may affect their prospects of receiving a subsequent offer. A successful candidate who declines two offers will be removed from the roster.
Applicants should be aware that the United Nations does not request payment at any stage of the application and review process.
Applicants should check examination notices attached to the announcement of the examination they are interested in, since examination content, procedures and dates, as well as eligibility requirements and instructions on how to apply, may vary. Official examination schedules, announcements and notices can be viewed here.