We recently had the opportunity to interview a real World Bank Young Professional and thought you would be interested in knowing how this conversation went. This YP purchased our World Bank YPP Application Review service and was accepted into the program on her first try! She chose to remain anonymous, but her answers can greatly help you in preparing for this competitive selection process. Keep reading to know more about the selection process!
- What is your professional/academic background?
“When I applied for the World Bank YPP, I was approaching the final year of my PhD and I am still trying to finish that. I have a few Master’s in different areas such as: psychology and international education policy. I really wanted to work with students and make sure that they have access to equal opportunities and quality education, so that is kind of what arouse my interest in working for the Bank.”
- How did you come to know about the WB YPP?
“That’s a good question! (laughs) I guess that at some point I was just googling, beginning to think about what opportunities I wanted to take on and I think I came across the UNESCO YP Program. One day, I decided to google “young professional program” thinking that this (the UNESCO YPP) was the only one, and then I learned that there were lots of them! So I took a look at some of them individually, but was under the impression that the World Bank YPP was the ‘strongest’ of them all. And people on the internet seemed to agree with that – I saw comments on how this program was the best, that it encouraged rotations… I found out about the program, I believe, one month before its application deadline! I got very lucky.”
- Do you remember which Global Practice you thought your profile was most suitable to when you applied?
“Yes. I ranked Education first, followed by Social Protection, and then Poverty.”
- What this your first time applying for the WB YPP? What was your personal preparation like?
“Yes! It was my first time. Well, for the application stage, I guess I went through my essay ‘a million times’, my boyfriend went over it and I also had professional advice from OpenIGO and got great feedback. Before I got to the second screening round, I had drafted an e-mail for the people I wanted as my references in the application process. As soon as I got invited to the second round, I literally just hit ‘send’, because I knew that I would only have two weeks, so I wanted to be ‘ahead of the game’. I also had asked them unofficially first if they would be willing to do that for me, so when they got the e-mail, it wasn’t a surprise. When I sent the e-mail, to make it easier for them, if they’d written me previous letters of recommendation, I would include those in the attachments and I also made sure to send them a short description of what the World Bank was looking for so that they could include some of these specific aspects in their letters.
As for the interview… I took an entire week. There were some really good questions in OpenIGO’s WB YPP Guide, so I came up with scenarios for all of these questions. I made bullet points about my own life/professional experiences and kept reviewing them so that even if I didn’t get those specific questions I was practicing, I probably would have reviewed every experience I have ever had. I also tried to go through some of the World Bank’s reports and publications on education and this quickly became overwhelming. It’s a lot, as you can imagine! So, at some point, I started watching and listening to some of their official videos, with people speaking about the Bank. I also practiced my interview skills with my boyfriend! Made him sit down and practice with me for hours. I would record ourselves and listen to that over and over again! Overall, I think I did a pretty thorough job (laughs).”
- How would you describe the assessment center experience to a candidate that has absolutely no idea of what that is?
“To be honest, I would say be prepared for anything! You will go into a room with a small group of people, in a very ‘scripted fashion’: where you sit is determined by the Bank, the activity you are engaging in is determined by the Bank and then be prepared for your fellow members to put you on the spot. I remember that during my assessment center, someone from my group emerged as a leader and they put me in the spot first. It was a tricky situation because I had to rise to the occasion. There were people evaluating me so I had to look like I could participate, even though, to be honest, the exercise was completely ‘over my head’ because it was very economic and I have no economic background. I think you shouldn’t focus on trying to be so ‘intelligent’ – don’t try to focus on having all the knowledge or the right information, focus on trying to be a good team-player, participate in the group discussion and, even if you are not a specialist in the subject, make an effort to participate, say what you know and try to keep the group on track.”
- Do you feel that the other candidates who were with you in the Assessment Center were actually willing to display their teamwork skills or did you feel that there were people trying to outshine others?
“People were trying to outshine others. Definitely. People just took on the role of leaders, which I never do. I purposely don’t do it – I always try to ‘come’ in the middle and be very group-oriented. The people who emerged as leaders were fighting over that position… fortunately, that gave me the opportunity to be a mediator: ‘okay everyone, I think we should move on to the next topic’; ‘we need to pay attention to the time’… and as matter of fact, when I got feedback on my performance, these were the things they mentioned as ‘positive’ and that made me stand out. So, it’s very important to be ‘cohesive’ and a good team player and if you’re not, you will most likely be eliminated. People get caught up on sharing knowledge and trying to prove that they are very good economists and that’s not what people care about – at least, I don’t think so. Because, again: my academic background is not in this area, I just did my best to make sure that I was keeping the group on track and that everyone was engaging.”
- How was your interview experience?
“I was happy with my performance, even though there was one question in the beggining that I couldn’t answer properly – they wanted three answers and I couldn’t think of a third one. I just went through and had conversations with them (the panel) and was really honest when answering the questions – they told me they had been wanting to redesign the program and asked me questions about that, it seemed they wanted to see how I would respond. I said what the good things were about the program, what could be improved… when they made points, I made points back. Engaging in a very honest conversation, I think, is the key message that I would take from the interview and don’t worry if you don’t know everything, don’t let that get to you, just keep going. And make sure you have questions to ask them!”
- Were you allowed to take notes during the interview?
Yes, I was!
- Of all stages, which one do you think it was the most challenging?
“That’s a tough question… I think the interview was the most challenging for me. I remember panicking before the interview, one or two days before… I think that’s the worst part – when you’ve made it to this point and now it’s ‘make or break’ and one mistake can throw everything off. So I guess that was the most difficult part for me: when I got the invitation I was so excited, but as the interview was approaching a part of me was like ‘oh my God… (laughs)”.
- How long did it take for you to hear back from the Bank and know that you were accepted? And how did it feel to know that you had been approved and was on your way to become a World Bank’s Young Professional?
“I think I was one of the last candidates to be interviewed – I was interviewed in mid-January and heard back from them in early February, so it took them about three weeks. The final decision came in early March. And how did it feel? I mean… to me it was going down into the floor and crying… quite hysterically! (laughs) It’s not that I was surprised to be accepted, because I felt really good after the last stage of the selection process, and I’m not trying to say that in an immodest way… It’s just that the process is so long and so emotional, that, at the end, once I learned that I had passed, I thought to myself ‘wow! I can actually get through something this difficult!’, even though there were thousands of people who applied to this position. It’s emotionally exhausting. I myself could only apply once, because I was at the age limit, so this was my one and only try.”
- Which one piece of advice would you give to someone who is going to try out the program this year?
“I would say be honest about your skills and experiences from the beginning, because during the interview they will really try to ‘get at you’ and see if what you presented on paper actually matches up with what you have done and who you are, and I think that people sometimes try to ‘overinflate’ what they have done and try to be somebody who they’re not. This type of thing tends to come up very quickly in the interview.”
- How does it feel to be a World Bank’s Young Professional? What is your routine like and how was the training to take on this role?
“Well, it looks different for every YP. When we came in we thought we would have a similar kind of program or schedule of activities, etc., but it’s totally different! What we didn’t know is that you can either be put on an operational or an analytical ‘track’. I’m operational, which means that I travel a lot, and engage with counterparts building projects, whereas people in analytical are usually handling a lot of data and things like that. So it really depends on which unit you’re in, who your manager is, what projects you will be working on.
During the onboarding process, we had lots of trainings, some of them designed specifically for the YPs, which was nice since we got to see one another, because otherwise we really don’t!
As for being a YP… unfortunately, some people at the Bank think that we are arrogant since the selection process is so competitive. All in all, I have enjoyed the experience so far, but it’s definitely a steep learning curve, so be prepared to start from the beginning. But the YP program is changing. For the first time it is going through some very drastic changes. Apparently, they will start limiting the amount of candidates who have had previous experiences at the World Bank as consultants for example, to try to make the process fairer and to stop people who are already at the Bank from using it as a tool to progress.”
- How long were you in Washington, DC (the WB headquarters) until you were deployed for your first field trip?
“A month and half! Doing mostly trainings and then I was gone to a different country.”
Do you want to know more about the World Bank YPP? Do you want to become the next World Bank’s Young Professional? We can help! OpenIGO is an extensive network composed of former young professionals, professors and researchers from the best universities in the world, international civil servants and Human Resources specialists.
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