The World Bank (WB) is the world’s leading international development organization. It offers unique programs that provide learning, staffing, and capacity-building opportunities for junior and mid-career professionals to experience first-hand what working at the WB is like. Competition is fierce but with a lot of preparation and the necessary skills set, you might get your foot in the door at the WB. In order to help you, we asked several consultants with WB working experience to share their insights and offer valuable tips on how to get your first WB job.
What major skills and requirements are necessary to start a WB career?
„The Bank employs people with qualifications in economics, and subjects related to the sectors and themes it engages in. For economists, in particular, a doctorate is preferred, while for other sectors, graduate education is sought. WB also recruits Business School graduates with some experience as financial analysts and some staff as lawyers. Besides education, analytical abilities, and problem-solving skills are highly appreciated. Language skills besides English, such as French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and Chinese are also valued. An important requirement is an ability for teamwork, as the Bank involves work in international teams. Another required skill is the ability for oral presentations along with clear, logical and well-argued written presentations”.
„In order to start a WB career, it is very important to know in-depth how the WB works, its main activity and its goals. It is imperative to have the patience to learn, specifically to know how reports are written (in a methodological perspective) since their structure is quite different from the traditional ones that are taught in universities”.
What are the challenges one has to face when applying for a WB position?
„One of the principal challenges is high competition for employment. Once recruited, on occasion, staff may have to travel to and work in, low-income developing countries where living comforts could be limited”.
„The major challenge is basically the unknown. People must be optimist since it is not easy to get success in the first attempts. Another major thing is the “missing references”, that are often asked in the application and young candidates often miss to ask. Another important issue is to know exactly the area we want to apply for”.
How do you prepare for a WB interview?
„Learn about: the main objectives of the institution, the objectives of the position you are applying to and your view, based on your experience, about how to address them and the general information about the country or countries where you would like to work”.
„I try to anticipate the main questions they may ask as well as trying to valorize my best skills and try to overcome some potential weak points I may have in my CV and experience. Of course, it is important to know the main references published by the WB in the specific area. One can try to prepare himself by stating how we can be different from other applicants”.
„It always pays to inform oneself about the organization in as much detail as possible before applying for a position. The World Bank’s website is an exhaustive source of information on all aspects of the institution. It is particularly worth reviewing ‘What We Do’ which includes information on the Sectors and Themes that the Bank is currently engaged in. Also, since 2005 all World Bank publications can be accessed by anyone free of charge – it is sometimes called the world’s biggest university in economic and social development ”.
What are some mistakes young professionals make when applying for a WB position?
„To include in their CVs a broad field of expertise (i.e. government, education, finances, fight corruption, etc.). This makes it difficult for the reviewers to understand what is the main experience and activity he or she will perform better”.
„Some applicants can show a lack of modesty, and overstate their achievements, without thinking that many other applicants are highly accomplished. Equally, others may underplay their abilities and achievements. Strike the right balance, or at least try to”.
What are the main benefits of working at the WB?
„The main benefits are to be able to seek for advice, when needed, and to have a broad view of how to analyze a problem to present the most adequate solution”.
„The compensation and benefits at the Bank (and IMF) are based on comparators with public and private sector compensation packages in the US, weighted equally. The packages are reviewed periodically, about once in three years to ensure competitiveness. The leave allowances are also generous. Health insurance and retirement benefits are also included for regular staff”.
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