For the Asian Development Bank, its Young Professionals Program is more than a tool to fill current business needs. Rather, it is considered a breeding ground for its future leaders.
The hiring unit, which is among the bank’s group of operations departments, as such is advised to keep that perspective in mind.
“When we talk to the hiring department, we always tell them, ‘don't consider YPs for your current needs but really for your future needs,’ because when they [the young professionals] come here in their early 30s or their late 20s, they still have a long way to go at ADB,” said Yohana Kho, a former YP and principal human resource specialist at the Human Resource Business Partner unit, which oversees the ADB Young Professionals Program. “And we hope that they stay for a long time.”
In our conversion with Kho, she provided details about the selection process and discussed what the bank is exactly looking for in YPP candidates.
The ADB Young Professionals Program accepts applications from member country nationals who are not older than 33 when they join ADB. In 2016, the new YPs are expected to start work in the fourth quarter.
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Minimum requirements include having university degrees in economics, finance, business administration, transport management, urban and regional planning, environment, public management or engineering; three years of experience relevant to ADB operations; excellent communication skills in English; and the ability to work with people of various nationalities and cultural backgrounds. The bank, though, prefers candidates with advanced degrees.
Candidates should also not have any close relatives, including immediate family members, cousins and in-laws, at the bank in line with ADB’s anti-nepotism policy.
ADB on average receives between 2,000 and upwards of 4,000 applications per year. These go through a series of screenings, first with the local staff members within Kho’s office who check the applications against eligibility criteria. At this stage, the list shrinks to 1,000 applications.
National officers will then review the applications and trim the roster to 500. A committee of five international staff members will each have 100 applications to look at. At the end of that process, a total of 100 will be included in a list from which 30 people will be chosen to go through video interviews. These interviews involve technical experts with sector experience relevant to the applicants’ backgrounds.
From the group of 30, ADB will invite 20 to come to its Manila headquarters for a two-day assessment that includes a written test prepared by the group of operations departments and a behavioral or competency-based exam designed by the policy division. There will also be interviews with the YPP committee, which comprises of deputy heads of the departments where the YPs will work and who will select the participants for the three-year program.
Prior to the assessment at the ADB headquarters, the finalists submit videos about themselves, explaining why they want to join the Young Professionals Program. The video may serve as a gauge of the candidate’s presentation skills.
The two-day event also aims to help prepare candidates for life at ADB by offering them opportunities to meet with those who have been part of YPP and explore housing options.
ADB then sends offers to selected candidates. It has a two-stage process where it first makes a preliminary offer to ascertain the applicant’s commitment to join the bank. If the candidate commits, Kho’s office will seek management approval for the appointment, perform reference checks and send a formal offer. Should the applicant back out, ADB may choose to hire from the roster of the remaining finalists.
Eventually, a nationally diverse pool of 10 will get offers to join YPP in 2016. The number of YPP participants per year depends on the budget. In 2015, the bank hired nine, and in previous years, between five and six.
Successful candidate profile
Most successful applicants have at least five years of relevant experience, but it's not necessary that they have development backgrounds. Although half of the YPs for 2015 were consultants with organizations like the U.K. Department for International Development, the rest actually came from the corporate world, with experience in investment banking and project financing. ADB welcomes candidates from the private sector, given its robust private sector operations.
ADB, said Kho, specifically wants individuals who not only have great potential to be leaders but are also bright, or those who can articulate themselves very well.
It also pays to be humble. Kho noted that millennials, people whose ages fit the YPP criteria, tend to be very confident about themselves “that sometimes you forget that there are other people who are better than you.”
That being said, in the end, it’s a matter of being a fit for the organization. For instance, an energy specialist with experience in renewable energy might lose out to someone with expertise in conventional energy if the need is for the latter.
During and after the program
The YPs stay with the operations departments during their first year and rotate to non-operations units on the second year. They may also choose to rotate to an office of their choice on their third year, although most opt to return to the operations departments, acquiring a broad perspective of what ADB does, according to Kho.
Throughout the program, the YPs have access to in-house training, especially on operationally relevant areas like project management, project design and procurement. All YPs also get mentors at the departments where they stay.
The YPs receive international staff salaries at Level 1 (starting at $79,000 in 2016) during their first year and at Level 2 (at least $87,700 in 2016) during their second and third years in the program. Once they graduate, their pay reaches Level 3 (a minimum of $97,700 in 2016). They are also entitled to a number perks such as health and life insurance, educational support, relocation assistance and retirement benefits.