Getting into the Inter-American Development Bank Young Professionals Program, similar to its counterparts at other development banks, is tricky. From about 4,000 candidates, the bank eventually chooses only eight to 12 to participate in the program.
So what’s their secret?
Devex spoke with an informed source within the bank, who prefers not to be named, to know the profile of successful candidates and details of the recruitment process. Read on so you can prepare for the next application round, which opens sometime in June.
The IDB Young Professionals Program is generally open to member country nationals who are 32 or younger by Jan. 1 of the year covered by the program round, can speak fluent English and Spanish, and has working knowledge of another official bank language such as French and Portuguese.
For candidates from historically underrepresented populations such as those of Afro-descent or from indigenous communities, the age restriction increases to 35. They need to be fluent in one of the bank's languages and preferably have working knowledge in another.
Regardless of the candidate type, applicants should also:
• Have already been awarded master’s or equivalent post-graduate degrees from accredited universities by the time they apply.
• Possess at least two years of professional experience that is relevant to IDB operations.
• Be exempt from military duties during YPP’s duration.
The recruitment process starts with a monthlong posting of the ad, followed by a similar amount of time to do the initial screening. From the 4,000 applications it receives, IDB trims the list to 1,200 to 1,500 candidates, who will then go through a series of online assessments.
From that roster, about 100 to 150 candidates make it to the succeeding phase, which involves additional exams and telephone interviews. To stand out, candidates should make sure their CVs offer “the closest match” to the skills, experiences and competences that the bank seeks for its priority areas, according to our source.
The top 20-24 candidates head to the bank’s Washington, D.C., headquarters to attend the assessment center, where applicants are evaluated on how they fare in group exercises and work on business cases, which a technical committee designs for the purpose.
Interviews with the bank’s senior managers or technical leaders also take place. The interviews evaluate candidates on their adaptability to work on various program areas; analytical, interpersonal and communication skills; team-player attitude; and desire and willingness to take on field assignments.
Successful candidate profile
Although the program accepts applications from candidates with at least two years of experience, in reality, most of those who get chosen have five to seven years of experience. They also typically have a strong background in international development and economics and have been involved in policy discussions, knowledge production and program management.
Candidates who come from other international organizations have an edge, according to our source. Of the recruits, about a third are IDB consultants and a third join from similar bodies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, such as former junior professionals who are barred from employment immediately after their fixed stint.
The rest have worked in nonprofits, the United Nations and government ministries. Those with private sector experience may also apply, but they have to make sure that the work they have done is relevant to IDB. As such, the application of someone who is an expert in doing marketing at Coca-Cola will most likely be rejected.
Apart from several years of relevant experience, candidates need to be personable. Those with positive outlooks and who are the “smiling type” would do well, our source said, noting the “very Latin” culture that the bank has. Being able to build rapport is essential as “you will get a lot done through this rather than by strictly using your title or your mandate to obtain certain things.”
During and after the program
YPP hires get salaries at Grade 6 level, which is in the range of $90,000. Depending on their performance, they get a higher pay once they are fully absorbed into the organization.
During the biennial program, the YPs work in one department for a year and get assigned to another the following year. The rotation allows them to acquire new skills and fully understand the bank’s perspectives.
Deciding where the YPs will work depends on several factors including interest of departments, business needs and candidate profiles. The team overseeing the program, said our source, initially assigns YPs who join from outside the bank to departments where they can use 80-90 percent of their acquired skills.
Should they stay in the same department, the YPs are placed in a different office for their second rotation. This typically happens when the YPs have narrow profiles and a desire to hone their expertise in a particular area. The YPs may also be deployed to country offices, but that would depend on the needs of the bank.
IDB also provides YPs with a professional development package that includes a mentoring program, access to training that's offered to regular staff and an annual budget of about $3,000 to attend conferences or courses of their own choice. Under the mentoring program, the YPs and their senior counterparts are advised to have regular conversations. Some have weekly meetings, coffee or lunch, while some have biweekly or monthly get-togethers.
After the two-year program, YPs become part of the IDB permanent staff, receiving three-year contracts. Some, though, decide to leave for various reasons such as to join academia or their countries’ public sectors; in rare cases, it’s a result of a profile mismatch, which happens when candidates have too narrow of a professional background that their skill sets are not broad enough to be applied to the work of various departments in the organization. But overall, about 80-90 percent stay on and have fulfilling careers at IDB.