How I Got into the World Bank Young Professionals Programme

Between the time I submitted my application for the World Bank Young Professionals Programme and and the first time I report for duty, it will have been one year, two months!

Previous Work Experience and Professional Profile

When I applied for the role at the World Bank, I was transitioning out of a two-year tenure with the Commonwealth Secretariat in London. My role involved primarily providing technical advisory to governments of the 53 member states, facilitating ministerial meetings, capacity building for senior officials and coordinating youth networks. Through this role, I appreciated the synergies between development and diplomacy, the challenges and opportunities regarding development financing and the increasing importance of engaging the agency of local stakeholders in development affairs in global spaces. This role at The Commonwealth was my breakthrough into the international job market. Prior to this, my initial experience was at community and national levels in Malawi, working with non-governmental organisations (Plan International; Konrad Adenauer Foundation) and intergovernmental organisations (UN Women; European Union Election Observation Mission).

At the time I applied for the role at the World Bank, I had work experience ranging from grassroots to global, totaling seven years including one cumulative year of research and consulting. Although my job descriptions varied over time, the nature of my work has consistently involved development policy and politics in relation to gender and young people. Thus, my tack record has made my professional interests and expertise very clear and distinguishes my profile as an emerging specialist in social development.

Application Essay on Financing Youth Development

My application essay was a clear proposal on financing for youth development inspired by the work I was involved in during the 9th Commonwealth Youth Ministerial Meeting. In the essay, I drew on my early experiences working with young people in Malawi and referred to some of my latest work at the global level to emphasise the risks, vulnerabilities and potential of young people. I argued for a deviation from the conventional piecemeal approaches whose solutions are not well-suited for the interrelated and multidisciplinary nature of the challenges facing young people today. I proposed possible solutions highlighting my expertise and echoed the World Bank’s ingenuity in providing innovative financing solutions to support countries in making evidence-based investments.

The Interview Process

About five months after I submitted the application, the World Bank invited me to an interview in Paris. I could not believe it! Everything was surreal from that point on. I attended the day-long interview at the World Bank office in Paris, with 12 other brilliant candidates from all over the world. It started as early as 8am and did not end until 5pm. The first thing we were told in the welcoming remarks was that over 9000 people applied, about 1400 were shortlisted and only 240 were being interviewed for around 40 positions. I did not know what to do with this information, whether to feel privileged or scared or both. I decided to carry on with gratitude.

The interviews were in two phases. The first phase was assessments in groups of six candidates of different specialisations and cultural backgrounds. In the group assessments, the tasks included simulations, group discussions, presentations and individual written assessments. The tasks were based on a case study, a really long document. All the tasks were timed. Two observers, male and female, assessed our interactions with each other for the entire duration of the group assessments. This phase concluded with completing a self-assessment on personal performance during the group tasks.

The second phase was an hour-long individual interview. I had four men on the panel; it goes without saying that I questioned this. The panel had different specialisations and were senior colleagues at the Bank. Their questions were followed by probing of my answers, which made the interview conversational. I enjoyed this! A lot of the questions were based on hypothetical scenarios mirroring the real work of the Bank, and from my experience, this required more applied knowledge than theory. I had to continually make reference to specific situations in which I had been involved, the task that I needed to accomplish, the actions I undertook, and the results I achieved. Overall, it was a positive interview experience.

Two MADM Graduates among the Successful Candidates

I was notified that I was successful in the interview nearly two months later, but this was not a final decision. The dossiers of successful candidates at the interview stage were circulated to managers who had to pick candidates according to their business needs. After more waiting – and it was emotionally draining – I got the great news of my appointment. In fact, as the odds would have it, one of my classmates in the MA Development Management Class of 2013 was also successfully selected to the 2018 World Bank Young Professionals Programme.

Thus, the only limitations we truly have are the ones we put upon ourselves. Go. Get it!

This article was first published here.


  1. Mapenzie

    Congratulations once again Patience. Am glad you got to share your experience, makes it motivating that it can indeed be done.

    Looking forward to hearing more on your journey.

  2. Ayda

    Dear Chifundo, thanks for sharing your experience!

    Now, are you still working as a social development specialist? or has your career vision changed inside the WB?

    Background: I am doing an internship at a HQ UN agency in Social and Environmental Management, -I love to work with people in the projects- however in HQ doing networking and following trends inside the UN I’ve realized that priority is given to portfolio analysis and investment in the development business, climate bonds, etc.

    What’s your view?

    1. Chifundo

      Hi Ayda, I still work as a social development specialist. And I do think it’s a great opportunity to work in an institution where there are many pathways to career growth. I think it’s a great quality for one to remain adaptable, and to be able to apply ones skills to solve various challenges across sectors.

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