The Real Reasons Your Job Applications Are Failing (And What You Can Do to Change That)

Ok, so you’ve signed up to job alerts that pop up in your email everyday.

You’ve gone ahead and created a LinkedIn account, maybe a profile on Devex or some other job sites, and made sure everyone in your personal network knows you’re ready to be hired. You’ve checked and double checked your profile has strong keywords (you’re detail-oriented and passionate about human rights!), and your photo is professional.

You’ve signed up to LinkedIn groups, read more than a lifetime’s worth of articles on job-hunting and resume writing, and joined that Facebook group where nobody seems to find an international development job. You’ve even made your Facebook profile private, carefully curated your social media presence, and done all of the things you know you’re supposed to do when you’re looking for a career in global development.

Then one day, you find that job that gives you butterflies in your stomach. You think it’s the most exciting job description you’ve ever read, and it’s going to change your life, your family, and give you a chance to make a difference.

Interview strategies

4 Proven International Development Job Interview Techniques

I got a call one day while at a part-time job from my mother. A woman from the United Nations had left a message.

“The United Nations?” I asked, stunned. I was looking for work but hadn’t considered applying to the UN.

“She said she wanted to interview you.”

My mouth dropped wide open.

I eventually pulled myself together and spoke with this UN lady.

She had gotten a hold of my CV from someone and thought to check if I were interested in coming in for an interview for a job at UNDP.

After more mouth-gaping, and JUMPING at the chance to secure the UN interview — I started preparing.

I read everything relevant to the potential team. I gathered interview advice from anyone who had gotten a job – ever. I primped my suit and tie.

On my last interview, I had been 40 minutes late. No surprise I didn’t get the offer. But no sir, not for the United Nations interview. I was early enough to overhear them interviewing other candidates.

After a technical exam, a written test and in-person interview – and some days biting my nails waiting to hear the results – I got a beautiful email: I was offered the job.

What did I do to make an impact? Four main strategies have proven useful to me in every job interview in the last 15 years since that first one.

Impact paths

Four career paths to advance women’s rights


Right now, global development has the unique chance to build on the momentum of #MeToo and the changes within UN agencies and NGOs to eliminate sexual harassment, abuse and other forms of gender-based discrimination.

One of the early achievements of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has been to make clear that progress on SDG 5 to Achieve Gender Equality and Empower All Women — is not only progress for women, but it’s about progress for everyone.

Four career paths can help you make your contribution to eliminating gender inequality.

Jobs data

What are the key search terms for international development jobs in your country?

Knowing interest in key search words over time and where they are most popular can help you navigate your development job search.

Google Trends allows us some interesting insights into these two areas.

Stay tuned to the end to see how these searches have evolved — and what it could mean for your job search strategy. 

CV tips

How long should my international development CV be? Avoid these 4 common traps.

A common question anyone new or seasoned in development asks is: how long should my CV be?

The short answer: 3-5 pages.

But it’s not about word count, or page numbers. Your first and main concern is to make sure you provide proof that you can deliver on what your dream job demands.

International development job applicants around the globe, though, fall prey to focusing too much on this question from the get-go.

Jobs talk

Jobs talk: Emory Law School – Working in Public International Law & Development

Earlier this week, I gave a jobs talk at a small panel at Emory University’s Law School, on behalf of their International Law Society.

It was a great opportunity to think through how a law background is most useful for the international development sector.

The panel was organized around a set of questions to dig deep into what it’s like working at the United Nations, in an NGO, and in global development.

Here’s what I said framed around the key questions.