Sounding off on online applications for foreign aid jobs

Devex readers share their struggles on online job hunting. Photo by: USAG- Humphreys / CC BY

How can you land a job in global development by applying online? Although referrals often work, many people have landed jobs without them and did so by submitting applications electronically.

In a recent Career Matters blog post, Kate Warren, senior director and editor of careers and recruiting content at Devex, offered some tips on how to succeed in your online job application. Apart from tailoring your resume to the job and applying early, use the so-called 80 percent rule: Only invest your time in job applications where you meet at least 80 percent of the criteria.

Indeed, many global development professionals have shied away from applying for jobs if they don’t meet all of the requirements.

“I normally refrain from applying for positions if I do not have the exact years of experience they require, even though I may have all the other requirements,” one Devex reader noted, agreeing that the 80 percent rule is “worth considering.”

Others raised concerns that application portals of some organizations prevent candidates from tailoring their resumes to different positions because they can only upload a limited number of files on the system. Some portals don’t even allow removal of previously uploaded resumes.

Many readers maintain that referrals remain the basis for recruitment at international organizations like the United Nations.

“Most of U.N.’s recruitment are made through insider recommendations. Very rare on merits,” wrote Mohammed Maideen, who said he has worked within the U.N. system for 12 years.

Tatjana Milosevic shared Maideen’s opinion and said she has “still to meet someone who got a job through applying online alone,” rather it’s mostly made possible via networking “aka nepotism.”

Roberto Leon Gomez likewise agreed with the view that references are key to landing jobs. He characterized the hiring process as “rigged,” with most job ads “just a formality,” citing his experience applying through job platforms over the past six months.

“It is either that the jobs are highly competitive, which in many instances they are/or they are just not ‘real jobs’ or jobs that are being advertized [as a] formality,” another Devex reader wrote. “I guess like with everything, this too requires patience.”

Steph Anyaegbu has a different, positive experience though as “all my jobs have come through … online applications,” explaining that she does “not have the network as such.”

What has been your experience applying for jobs online? Tell us your story by leaving a comment below.

The views in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect Devex's editorial views.

About the author

  • Ma. Eliza Villarino

    Eliza is a veteran journalist focused on covering the most pressing issues and latest innovations in global health, humanitarian aid, sustainability, and development. A member of Mensa, Eliza has earned a master's degree in public affairs and bachelor's degree in political science from the University of the Philippines.