The World Bank Young Professionals Program (YPP) selection cycle includes a face-to-face stage that involves an assessment center and an individual interview. At this stage, the World Bank YPP team aims to gain an in-depth analysis of the candidates’ knowledge, competences and experience. There is no difference in the weighting for the interview and assessment center, both being equally relevant for the selection process.
In this article, we’ll look at the World Bank YPP interview. Interviews are an interpersonal research method used to obtain more in-depth information from someone, using questions and answers (conversation), and observing non-verbal elements (such as attitude, behavior and appearance, among others). Interviews are widely used in job selection processes, and allow important information to be obtained from candidates. Interviews can be conducted using different methods and approaches, seeking the most appropriate candidate for the vacancy. The World Bank YPP selection process is no different. Therefore, knowing about this important phase of the selection procedure, the exercises and logic, helps the candidate to be better prepared, increasing their chances of being selected by the World Bank YPP selection team.
In pursuit of its mission, the OpenIGO network has prepared a comprehensive eBook and support and guidance services with the aim of highly increasing your chances of success in this competitive process. Our comprehensive eBook will introduce you to the complex world of the World Bank Group and its approach towards international development; it will teach you how to prepare each of the documents required in detail, and will also get you ready for the interview and assessment center. This eBook was written and revised by a team of professors, human resources specialists and former young professionals with a great deal of diligence.
The eBook is divided into 12 (twelve) chapters and one attachment, and contains more than 190 pages. The Chapter 11 (The World Bank Group: interviews) qualifies candidates, so that they perform successfully in the World Bank YPP interview. This chapter describes how the interview takes place at the World Bank YPP and what this process expects from them; it presents the different interview methods used in this selection (especially the Behavioral Event Interview) and gives tips and suggestions for candidates to be better prepared for this stage of the selection process. The Chapter 12 (The World Bank YPP: Assessment Center) prepares candidates to impress the assessor at the Assessment Center (AC). This chapter gives a presentation on the Assessment Center model used on the World Bank YPP, but specifically on the group case study and gives tips on how candidates can be better prepared for this stage.
In addition, we have developed support and guidance services. These services include revising your WB YPP application documents (essay, curriculum vitae and thesis/dissertation short summaries) and a mock interview as per the World Bank YPP model. Having a mock interview with a professional who has extensive experience and knowledge of the World Bank YPP interview model will help you be better prepared for this phase, greatly increasing your chances of being selected for the desired vacancy.
This article is only a small sample of the extensive content present in our excellent ebook.
WORLD BANK YPP INTERVIEW: PRELIMINARY INFORMATION
The World Bank Young Professional Program interviews take place after the second selection round (technical review), in person, in Washington D.C. (in December) and Paris (in January). The interviews take place in the morning or afternoon (this is decided by the Bank) and last an average of one hour and thirty minutes. The Assessment Center activities, in a group of four people, take place on the same day as the interview. Approximately 200 (two hundred) candidates are selected for this stage, with 8 (eight) people interviewed each day.
The candidates approved for this stage are usually advised between three and four weeks before the date of travel. Information, such as the date, time and location of where the interview will be held, travel logistics and a map showing the exact location of the World Bank offices, is sent via email.
Example of email inviting a candidate for interview
We are pleased to inform you that you have been selected for interviews for the Young Professionals Program. Information regarding the interviews is listed below. INTERVIEW DATE MONDAY, JANUARY 19, 2017 TIME: 8:00 AM – 5:30 PM (all day) – Please be punctual. Bring a picture identification (ID) VENUE World Bank Office 66, avenue d’Iena 75116 Paris, France. We will cover your travel costs. Arrangements should be made with our approved travel agent, American Express (AMEX). AMEX will process your travel arrangements and will contact you directly. If you do not hear from them within the next five working days, please contact: Ms. Meriam Villaljuhysenor on (1- XXX) XXX-4326 (e-mail: Meriam@aexp.com). Please note that we cover an “Economy Restricted Fare” ticket
IMPORTANT NOTE: Please send us a digital picture (passport-type) as soon as possible. If you are a US citizen we need you to send us your Social Security number to be able to process your travel to DC for your interviews. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us.
XXXX Amparo XXXX
Explanations for candidates’ main queries about the World Bank YPP interview stage are listed below.
The approval email
The emails sent to those selected only include information about the date and interview location, travel logistics and the contact person. There is no information about how the candidate should prepare for the interviews or further information about them.
The interviews take place in December and January. The Bank schedules the dates and they cannot be rearranged, for any reason.
Interviews are allocated in line with the program’s geographical regulations. In other words, candidates will have the interview in Paris or Washington D.C. depending on where they live.
Acquiring a visa
The candidate has sole and exclusive responsibility for acquiring a visa to travel and take part in the interview. The World Bank is only responsible for issuing an invitation letter, which facilitates the visa issuing process by the relevant bodies.
The dress code is formal wear (a suit for both men and women). Although the dress code requires something along these lines, remember that the interview and Assessment Center stage will take the whole day, so dress for comfort.
The World Bank YPP team will provide details of the travel logistics via email. The organization pays for air tickets and accommodation. After receiving the email confirming the interview date, the World Bank gives five (5) working days’ notice for a travel agency employee to contact the candidate to finalize the travel arrangements. If the agency does not contact the candidate in the stipulated timeframe, s/he can get in touch with the agency and obtain this information. On average, the hotel reservations are for one or two nights in the city where the interview will take place. It is possible that the agency will request the candidate’s credit card information to make the reservation (but no debit is made).
Reimbursement of expenditure
There is a process for reimbursing food and transportation expenditure. Any receipts should be kept and submitted to the World Bank in the period stipulated by the institution on your return.
WORLD BANK YPP INTERVIEW MODEL
There are various ways to conduct a selection interview. The World Bank YPP uses a semi-structured interview combining different methods, which are the traditional, brain teaser and the behavioral event interview. This interview is conducted by a panel of three (3) World Bank specialists and seeks to analyze technical and behavioral aspects and the candidate’s problem-solving capacity. Candidates should bear in mind that the three main competences sought by the World Bank are client orientation, professional expertise and team leadership.
|The World Bank YPP interview seeks to evaluate:
1. The candidate’s knowledge in their area of expertise;
2. The candidate’s knowledge of the World Bank’s other operational areas;
3. The candidate’s competences;
4. The candidate’s problem-solving capacity;
5. The candidate’s cultural fit with the organization.
Pursuant to these comments, the different methods on which the Word Bank YPP interview are based will now be presented. These explanations will be divided into the following sub-topics: traditional interview; brain teaser interview (puzzle interview) and behavioral event interview.
This type of interview is known by many people, since it is widely used by organizations in their selection processes. It is also one of the oldest methods of formulating an interview, following an easily-identifiable pattern: the interviewers ask questions, which require short and direct answers, and seek to identify a specific element. The questions posed to candidates are usually linked to elements listed on their resumés, information on the application form and essay. Examples of the questions at this type of interview are as follows:
- Do you prefer working in a group or alone?
- What are your strong and weak points?
- Why should we employ you?
- What are your three main achievements until now?
This approach is demonstrated in the WB YPP interview, in the form of questions about the candidate’s prior work experience, their area of study and specialization, as well as their course completion work (thesis and/or dissertation). The specific aim of these questions is to understand aspects presented by candidates on documents submitted during the process, which may raise questions, and to evaluate certain knowledge from their area of study.
BRAIN TEASER INTERVIEW
This type of interview attracted more attention when Microsoft started to use it in their selection processes during the 1990s. The brain teaser interview (also known as a puzzle interview) is an interview method in which the candidate is faced with questions containing enigmas or problems, which should be solved immediately. Some examples of this type of questions are presented below:
- How many coins are thrown into the Fontana de Trevi per year?
- How many people visit Christ the Redeemer in December?
- If you could remove one country from each continent, which would it be and why?
According to Honer, Sablynski and Wright (2007), the questions in this type of interview can be divided into two groups: proscriptive and descriptive1. Proscriptive questions are those which put forward problems, which have a single correct answer. According to the authors, this type of question tends to identify the candidate’s ability to solve problems. An example of this type of question is: measure four gallons of water precisely using only one three-gallon and one five-gallon bottle. Descriptive questions do not have a single correct answer. The aim of this type of question is to evaluate creativity, the ability to think and solve a problem, considering several variables. An example of a question of this type would be: how many liters of orange juice in cartons are sold in Geneva?
Brain teaser questions provide information such as: 1) How a person performs under stress; 2) The mental process the candidate uses to analyze a problem; 3) How creative or innovative the solution proposed by the candidate is; 4) How the person reacts to unforeseen challenges or difficult problems.
This interview method is also commonly used in the WB YPP selection process. The type of question is descriptive. Questions of this type are posed to the candidates, even though the related topics are not from their area of specialization, precisely because they do not want to evaluate their knowledge, but their problem-solving approach. As is commonly known, there are many ways to solve problems. However, the World Bank uses neo-institutional economics to solve international development problems. Therefore, understanding the bases and principles of this approach is fundamental, for both the interview and the essay. In order to understand the principles and base-concepts of neo-institutional economics, please consult our ebook “The World Bank YPP: the essencial guide”.
BEHAVIORAL EVENT INTERVIEW
The behavioral event interview (BEI) is the type of interview predominant on the World Bank YPP and aims to assess candidates’ competences. In other words, beyond specific knowledge or the capacity to solve certain problems, these interview questions aim to evaluate whether a candidate has the competences an organization is looking for. In order to understand the concept of “competences” and those sought by the World Bank YPP, please consult our ebook “The World Bank YPP: the essencial guide”.
The BEI is commonly used in the selection process of organizations that already know the competences they are looking for in their candidates. Therefore, the questions posed during the interview aim to discover whether the interviewee has the competences pre-selected by the organization. To evaluate competences, the BEI sets off with the premise that the best predictor of an individual’s future behavior is their past behavior. As Hoevemeyer (2006) explains:
“The premise is simple: Behavioral interview techniques attempt to relate a candidate’s answers to specific past experiences and focus on projecting potential performance from past actions. By relating a candidate’s answers to specific past experiences, you’ll develop a reliable indicator of how that individual will most likely perform in the future. Behavioral interview questioning strategies do not deny that people can learn from their mistakes and alter their behaviors. However, they do assume that future behavior will closely reflect past actions. (HOEVEMEYER, 2006, Foreword, para. 6)”2
When attempting to identify an individual’s competences from their past behavior, the BEI seeks to: make it difficult for the candidate to invent answers about competences which they do not really have; avoids subjective evaluations based on future hypotheses and allows the interviewers to explore details in related situations, thereby identifying inconsistencies in the answers provided.
PREPARING FOR THE BEHAVIORAL EVENT INTERVIEW
The best way to prepare for the World Bank YPP selection BEI is to understand how the questions posed by the interviewers are structured, and the expected responses. Thus, this section will start by presenting how the BEI questions are structured, followed by how to formulate the responses.
The BEI questions are directed towards the interviewee’s past, focusing on past situations, and allowing specific competences to be revealed. The questions follow a line of reasoning in which the interviewer leads the candidate to describe a situation or event experienced in the past, the resultant action and the final result achieved (if it was positive or negative)3.
BEI questions usually start with: “talk about a time…”; “give me an example of a time when…”; “describe a situation…” and “how you dealt with a given situation…”. Some examples of these questions are as follows:
- Tell me about a time when you had to work on a project which you considered daunting.
- Describe a situation in which you tried to explain your reasoning to the group but it was not understood. How did you deal with this situation?
- Give me an example where someone came to you to resolve a complicated situation.
- Tell me about a project which you finalized, even though many thought that you were not capable of this.
- Tell me about a time when you had to deal with an unexpected situation.
- Give me an example of when you had to deal with a dissatisfied client.
- Have you ever had a project which failed? Tell me about this experience.
During the interview, it is common for the interviewer to use fact-finding questions, after the candidate has given their answers. These questions aim to clarify certain points about the situations and behavior described by candidates, thereby allowing the interviewer to make a more decisive evaluation of the existence of a specific expected competence.
According to Foster (2013)4, the responses given in a behavioral event interview have advantages which responses to hypothetical questions or ones based on the future do not, as follows:
- The responses are real.
- In addition to technical knowledge, the response can reveal how decisions were made and problems solved.
- Responses are verifiable. Hypothetical responses cannot be fact-checked, since they never existed.
- Prevents lying. Repetitive details reduce exaggeration. Made-up stories disappear by the third example.
- The interviewer does not have to interpret what a response means. All the responses, based on the questions, should be simple facts that do not require interpretation. (Foster, 2013, Part 3, Section 4, para. 6)
When responding to BEI questions, firstly the candidate should narrate the context in which the situation took place, then report the problem identified, the solution proposed, how it was implemented and the results achieved. This entire sequence should be included, describing the interviewee’s personal contribution to the process. In other words, what the candidate should always bear in mind is that the main focus of the answers should be themselves. The interviewer needs to precisely identify what the candidate did, even though the situation is related to group work.
Think of your answer as a story! Your response should give examples about the behavior the interviewer is interested in. Remember to give specific examples of situations from your individual experience.
The candidate should bear in mind that their answers will address past events and may require details to be more consistent. Thus, it is advisable for the situations mentioned to be recent. Hansen (2012)5 provides some criteria which make a story effective and can be used in a BEI response:
- Internal consistency: the story needs to be consistent and cohesive, without any contradictions;
- Consistent facts: the story should be credible and in line with the candidates’ experiences, which the interviewer has prior access to through a resumé;
- Relevance to the question asked: the story responds to the question asked, providing examples which illustrate the competences the interviewer is looking for;
- Unanimity: the response should lead to a single conclusion and/or interpretation.
In light of the above, specialists argue that the answers given to BEI questions should present the situation, the activity performed and the final result. From this understanding, various techniques structuring response to BEI questions have been formulated and awarded different titles. The most famous is the STAR technique, which develops the answer through the following line of reasoning:
- S (situation) – The candidate should describe the situation experienced. The description should contain details, so that the interviewer understands the context of the situation, the candidate’s position during the event and which other people were involved.
- T (task) – The task that the candidate was responsible for or was tasked with carrying out in this situation should be explained. This point has to be extremely clear for the interviewer because it will be their guide to evaluating the next points to be included in the answer.
- A (action) – Here the interviewee will talk about the action which s/he took to resolve the problem or the task which arose in this situation. The action should be clearly explained and focus on how the candidate acted: what they did; what they thought and how they conducted the process. Even if a group of people were involved, the candidate should highlight their own participation.
- R (result) – Lastly, the interviewee should include the results achieved at the end, whether negative or positive. These could be: what they learned; the impact the result had on the organization and the activity’s ramifications. If possible, quantify the results.
The other response structuring techniques follow the same fundamental idea as the STAR technique, with a number of differences. Some of these are as follows:
BEI Question Response Techniques
Situation: description of the situation related to the competence included in the question;
Action: description of the action taken to solve the problem;
Result: what happened; how the situation ended and what results were achieved.
|Problem: the problem that needs to be solved;
Action: description of the action taken to solve the problem;
Result: the results achieved;
Learning: what the individual learned from the situation;
Application: where and how s/he could apply what they learned from this situation to others.
|Situation: description of the situation related to the competence included in the question;
Challenge: the challenge which should be tackled to resolve the situation;
Action: the action which was taken to solve the situation;
Result-quantified: the results achieved, with metrics.
Some other tips to construct responses are: make clear your participation in the situation and in developing the solution; whenever possible, quantify the results achieved; when thinking about a situation in which you failed, mention what you learned from it; be careful not to draw out your answers. Focus on the main information. The interviewers can ask for further details in subsequent questions. Develop your public speaking. Since the BEI responses are characterized as stories about specific situations, it is very common for people with above average oral competences to stand out.
Planning for questions, which may be asked during the interview, is one of the best ways for the candidate to prepare for this stage. To facilitate the preparation of answers to interview questions, the candidate can prepare a list with questions on the competences to be investigated and prepare answers for each one. To help you with this task, lists of questions which are related to the competences sought by the World Bank YPP are provided by our ebook “The World Bank YPP: the essencial guide”.
Do you want to know more details about the World Bank YPP interview? Do you want to become the next World Bank 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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1 HONER, Jeremiah et al. Puzzle Interviews: What Are They and What Do They Measure? In: Applied Hrm Research, [s.l], v. 11, n. 2, pp.79-96, 2007.
2 HOEVEMEYER, Victoria A. High-Impact Interview Questions: 701 Behavior-Based Questions to Find the Right Person for Every Job. [s.l]: Amacom, 2005. 192 p. Kindle edition.
3 BISHT, Anil. Behavioral Interviews explained in 30 Points: Everything You need to know about behavioral interviews as a job candidate or an interviewer. [s.l]: Abulous Books, 2015. 20 pp. Kindle edition.
4 FOSTER, Tom. Hiring Talent: Decoding Levels of Work in the Behavioral Interview. [s.l]: Foster Learning Corporation, 2013. 160 pp.
5 HANSEN, Katharine. The Quintessential Guide to Behavioral Interviewing. [s.l]: Quintessential Careers Press, 2012. 70 pp.