Exams for interpreters

An interpreter at work at UNHQ. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Recruitment process

Interpreters are recruited through competitive examinations in their main language.

A first-level degree from a university or institution of equivalent status is required for all United Nations interpreters. Many interpreters also have a degree from an accredited school of interpretation. Candidates must be able to interpret from one to two official languages into their main language. 

In the examinations for interpreters, candidates are asked to interpret speeches of increasing difficulty, in terms of complexity and speed of delivery, from each of their source languages. Each speech is approximately 5 to 10 minutes long.

Examinees must demonstrate:

  • Excellent passive comprehension of their source languages (one or two official languages)
  • Accuracy in interpreting into the target language in a grammatically correct manner
  • Ability to construct complete sentences
  • An understanding of the appropriate style and register
  • An ability to keep up with the speed
  • Intelligent editing of logically redundant words and phrases
  • Ability to cope with difficult or dense passages
  • Good diction and delivery

Candidates who fail to interpret any speech in a satisfactory manner are automatically eliminated. Successful candidates are convoked to a competency-based interview.

Please note that the content and format of the examination, as well as eligibility requirements and instructions on how to apply, may vary from one examination session to the next. Applicants should therefore check the corresponding examination notices carefully in order to be fully prepared.


How to apply?

The competitve examinations for interpreters are held, on average, once every two or three years in each official language. The examination announcements are posted on the United Nations Careers portal a few months prior to the date of the examination, together with information on eligibility requirements and how to apply.

Applicants should check examination notices for further information. Official examination schedules, announcements and notices are available here.