Employment at NATO International Staff
How to prepare
Only nationals of the 28 member states may apply for vacancies at NATO. Member states are:
NATO member states
|United States of America|
The International Staff of NATO offers employment opportunities in various fields, ranging from policy development, facilitation of dialogue and policy programme implementation to the provision of services and support for the smooth, effective operation of the Organization and to managing and allocating resources.
Jobs at the International Staff fall into NATO’s structure of categories and grades, as follows:
- Category A: Managerial/professional posts
- Category L: Linguistic positions
- Category B: Administrative posts (clerks, senior clerks, IT staff)
- Category B: Assistants
- Category C: Manual and technical posts (technicians, plumbers, electricians, handymen, drivers, firefighters, security guards
Category A is divided into seven grades designated A.7 to A.1; it covers posts ranging from deputy assistant secretary general to junior administrative assistant.
In addition to a university degree, A category jobs require several years professional experience relevant to the particular post, together with a good knowledge of the two official NATO languages (English and French).
As mentioned above on “How to apply”, candidates may only apply for a specific vacancy.
Category L is divided into five grades designated L.5 to L.1; it covers the posts held by linguistic personnel (section heads, revisers, interpreters, translators and junior interpreters and translators.)
NATO linguistic staff are members of two independent services, the Translation Service and the Interpretation Service, both of which are part of Headquarters Support Services.
The two working languages of NATO are English and French and staff members of the linguistic services work only in these two languages.
- possess a university translation qualification or degree in a relevant subject complemented by proven translation capabilities;
- be of English or French mother tongue (NATO translators translate only into their mother tongue);
- have relevant professional experience.
Freelance and permanent staff interpreters:
Applicants should be trained professionals with either English or French as a native language and the highest command of the other language. NATO staff interpreters are all bi-active and work into both official languages whenever required.
Staff interpreter positions are published on the NATO HQ vacancies page. A competitive test is organized to assess candidates’ interpreting skills. The test consists of a mock meeting, comprising simultaneous translation in the booth with a mix of political speeches and technical presentations as well as consecutive and sight-translation.
Category B is divided into six grades designated B.6 to B.1. It covers the posts held by qualified technical, clerical and administrative staff. These posts require secondary education and in some cases additional qualifications. Professional experience of several years in similar functions is required. Candidates must have a good knowledge of one of the two official languages (English or French) together with a basic working knowledge of the other.
As mentioned above on “How to apply”, candidates may only apply for a specific vacancy.
Posts of Assistants are graded from B.5 to B.3. These posts cover a wide range of administrative and organizational support duties. Positions are advertised as and when vacancies occur. Candidates are preselected on the basis of the information provided in their completed application form as well as in their answers to the pre-screening questions, taking into account their qualifications, competencies and professional experience. Generic post description (PDF/26KB)
Preselected candidates are invited to sit the Microsoft Office Proficiency Tests (MOPT) and the Language Test (as well as a written test, details of which are available under “Recruitment and Selection Process” below). These tests, details of which are given below, take approximately half a day to complete. Candidates are then invited to appear before an interview panel. The interview lasts approximately one hour. Please note that, sometimes, a remote, online, selective test or a selective phone interview is organized in advance of the MOPT.
A candidate who is not selected for a specific post, but whose performance at the tests and interview shows potential for future vacancies, may have his/her name added to a reserve list.
When a vacancy arises, the hiring manager will be invited to review the files of candidates from the reserve list along with the applications of candidates responding to the vacancy announcement. At a hiring division’s request, candidates on the reserve list may be invited to undergo a further written test and interview specifically tailored to the vacancy concerned.
When a candidate is selected for a specific post or for the reserve list, some final checks (see details below) must be carried out to complete his/her file. This means that the candidate will receive a letter of intent, informing him/her that he/she has been selected for the post, but that the official offer of employment cannot be made until such time as the medical and security clearance procedures have been satisfactorily completed.
MOPT and Language Test:
These tests are carried out at NATO HQ, using online testing platforms.
- Interactive Microsoft Office Assessments
- These assessments simulate the environment of an actual Microsoft software application. On each question, candidates are presented with a task and must correctly perform a step or series of steps to complete the task. If the task is completed correctly, the question is scored as correct.
- The tests will be carried out on four Microsoft Office applications: Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook, version Windows 7, MS Office 2013. Only Qwerty keyboards are available for this test.
- A time limit of 30 minutes will be allocated to each application.
- Results: at the end of the test session, candidates will receive a print-out of their test results.
- Language: all candidates will be tested on the MS applications in English.
Pass/fail levels: minimum 70% to be reached in two of the four applications and minimum 50% to be reached in the other two applications.
Candidates are required to take a computer-based language test to evaluate their comprehension and writing skills in the second official language. French native speakers are tested in English, English native speakers in French. Non-native speakers are tested in their weaker official language. The results provide an accurate and objective assessment of the candidates’ passive linguistic abilities. Their oral ability will be tested in the course of the interview. The language test results are valid for two years. If a candidate is invited to take part in another selection process after that period, he/she will be required to take the test again in order to evaluate any eventual improvement or regression in his/her knowledge of the language. If a candidate voluntarily requests the opportunity to re-sit the test to demonstrate any progress, this is permitted, but no less than six months after the previous tests. Further information on NATO’s language requirements can be found under “Language Policy”.
Microsoft Office Proficiency Test (MOPT)
Candidates who do not succeed in the Microsoft Office Proficiency Tests may not be considered for retesting before at least six months have elapsed.
Category C: Manual and technical posts (technicians, plumbers, electricians, handymen, drivers, firefighters, security guards
Category C is divided into six grades designated C.6 to C.1; it covers the posts held by ancillary, operative, mechanical, manual or custodial personnel.
These posts require a certificate or diploma attesting to the skills required for the position, together with several years' professional experience.
Candidates must have a good knowledge of one of the two official languages (French/English) together with a basic or working knowledge of the other (depending on the post to be filled).
Candidates for these posts are called for practical tests (for technicians) or physical trials (for security guards and firefighters) together with written tests. These are selective, and the successful candidates are invited for interview.
As mentioned above on “How to apply”, candidates may only apply for a specific vacancy.
Employees of NATO International Staff are recruited from among the nationals of the member countries and selected on the basis of merit. The paramount aim is to secure the highest standards of diligence, competence and integrity. It is also important that those appointed constitute a diverse workforce characterized by different cultures and backgrounds, work styles, values and ways of thinking.
The NATO International Staff welcomes applications from all suitably qualified candidates. They will be treated fairly, transparently and without discrimination, irrespective of the gender, disability, marital or parental status, racial, ethnic or social origin, colour, religion, belief or sexual orientation of applicants. The confidentiality of personal details provided will be protected and the privacy of applicants respected.
The 16 Competencies NATO has chosen to apply to international civilian posts describe how one is expected to execute work activities in order to achieve results. While some Competencies may be viewed as integral to all jobs, certain Competencies are more crucial to the success in a post than others, and therefore not all competencies are reflected in all post descriptions. Below, you will find the name of the Competency and the overall definition as the Competency applies to the NATO HQ international civilian workforce. Understanding how NATO has defined each Competency may help you better prepare for your interview.
Achievement: The drive to work towards a standard of excellence. It may reflect individual performance, improvement, result orientation, competitiveness, challenging goals or innovation.
Analytical Thinking: Analytical thinking includes organizing the parts of a problem or a situation, making systematic comparisons of different aspects of it, understanding the implications, setting priorities on a rational basis, identifying time sequences and finding causal relationships.
Change Leadership: Change leadership is about initiating or managing change. The ability to energize and alert groups to the need for specific changes in the way things are done.
Clarity and Accuracy: Clarity and Accuracy reflects an underlying drive to reduce uncertainty in the working environment. It is expressed in such forms as monitoring and checking work or information and insisting on clarity of roles and functions.
Conceptual Thinking: Conceptual thinking is the ability to identify patterns or links between situations that are not obviously related and to identify key or underlying issues therein. It includes using creative, conceptual or inductive reasoning.
Customer Service Orientation: Customer service orientation is about focusing one’s efforts on discovering and meeting the customer’s needs.
Developing Others: Developing others involves a genuine intent to encourage the long-term learning or development of others. Its focus is on the developmental and coaching aspects rather than just training.
Empathy: Empathy is the ability to hear and accurately understand the unspoken or partly expressed thoughts, feelings, perspectives and concerns of others. It requires taking an active interest in other people.
Flexibility: Flexibility is the ability to adapt and to work effectively within a variety of situations and with various individuals or groups. Flexibility entails understanding and appreciating different and opposing perspectives on an issue, adapting one’s approach as the requirements of a situation change and initiating or accepting organizational changes.
Impact and Influence: Impact and influence imply the intention to persuade or convince others to get their support. It is based on the intent to have a specific impact or effect on the behaviour of others who have their own agendas.
Initiative: Initiative refers to the action taken to address a current or future problem, obstacle or opportunity. Initiative should be seen in the context of proactively doing things and not simply thinking about future actions.
Leadership: Leadership is about the readiness to assume the role of leader of a team. Leadership is generally, but not always, demonstrated in a position of formal authority. The team should be understood to mean a group of any size, with or without formal structure, working towards a common objective, and in which the person takes on a leadership role.
Organizational Awareness: Organizational awareness is the ability to understand the power relationships within the Organization or in other relevant organizations. This includes the ability to identify who the real decision-makers and stakeholders are; the individuals who can influence them; and to predict how new events or situations will affect individuals and groups within the Organization(s).
Organizational Commitment: Organizational commitment is the ability and willingness to align one’s own behaviour with the needs, priorities and goals of the Organization. It involves acting in ways that promote organizational needs and goals. It is putting the organizational mission before one’s own preferences.
Self-Control: Self-control is the ability to keep disruptive emotions and impulses in check and restrain negative actions when faced with opposition, hostility or stress. It also includes the ability to maintain stamina, demonstrating persistence in pursuing goals despite obstacles and setbacks.
Teamwork: Teamwork implies the readiness to take on the role of team member (as opposed to leader), and to work cooperatively with others. It involves working together , as opposed to working separately or competitively. The team should be understood to mean a group of any size, with or without formal structure, working toward a common objective.
In order to attract a large number of suitable candidates, job vacancies are advertised to nationals of the member states, on the internet, and in all other NATO bodies and agencies. They may also be advertised in newspapers and specialized magazines.
All applications received are screened on the basis of the information provided in the application form, taking into account qualifications, training, competencies and professional experience as well as candidates’ answers to the pre-screening questions. Candidates who meet the requirements of the post will be contacted for the next step in the selection process, which may involve written tests, language tests, interviews and an assessment centre.
Candidates not preselected for tests and interview will be notified through the online recruitment system. Due to the large number of applications received for NATO vacancies, telephone, e-mail or fax enquiries cannot be answered.
For grade A.5 posts and above an external Assessment Centre may be organized. It is usually a one-day event and takes place off site. Candidates take part in a number of individual and group activities which enable the assessment of candidates’ competencies in relation to the post applied for. The Assessment Centre is organized by an outside company in coordination with the Hiring Manager of the Division and HR. The results of the Assessment Centre are considered as additional information to assist the Panel with its assessment of all candidates.
It is frequent that candidates are asked to sit a written test to help the interviewers to assess candidates’ drafting skills and/or technical or specialist knowledge of the subject matter.
The test may be either selective, meaning that only the candidates with the best test results will be invited to return for interview, or followed immediately by an interview (usually on the following day).
The written test can vary in duration from 1 to 3 hours, depending upon the post. While, for obvious reasons, we cannot give details of the contents of the test, we can tell you that the questions will be relevant to the functions of the post for which you are applying. Candidates are usually required to demonstrate their knowledge of both official NATO languages (English and French) during the written test as well as at the interview. A personal computer is usually placed at your disposal for the written test. You will not be allowed to take away with you a copy of the questions, or of your answers.
The language test consists of a one-hour multiple choice computer-based test which assesses a candidate’s knowledge of one of the two official languages of NATO (English/French), assigning scores ranging from level 0 (complete beginner) to level 5 (bilingual).
The interview is conducted by an Interview Panel, made up of an average of 5 members/observers. In general, the panel is composed of a Chairman from the hiring Division. In addition, there is another member from a different Division and possibly a further representative from the Division concerned. A member of Human Resources participates, as well as an observer from the Staff Association. There may also be a Secretary to the Panel, whose role is to take notes during the interviews and write the report after the interviews. The normal procedure is for the Chairman or the member representing HR to introduce the candidate to the other members of the Panel, and then to invite the candidate to briefly describe his/her background and qualifications. The interview then proceeds with each member asking questions and opening up a dialogue with the candidate. Due attention is given to the two official languages of the Organization and the candidate’s command of these. The candidate has an opportunity at the end of the interview session to ask questions about the content of the job and the work environment. The interview lasts, on average, one hour. All questions related to the recruitment process can be asked to the Recruitment Service assistants either before or after the interview.
Once all the interviews have been completed, a report bearing a recommendation will be written and signed by all the members of the interview panel. A high-level committee (called the Establishment Committee, composed of senior management), which usually meets once per month, will review the report and make a recommendation to the Secretary General. He will then decide whom he wishes to appoint to this position. This process takes, on average, six weeks.
As soon the Secretary General’s decision is known, the Recruitment Service will inform all the candidates of the outcome of their application. No indication concerning the final decision can be given beforehand, as the decision of the Secretary General cannot be pre-empted.
B, C & L-grade posts:
Once all the interviews have been completed, a report bearing a recommendation will be written and signed by the members of the interview panel. The report is then submitted to the Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Human Resources for his/her approval. As soon as it is approved, the Recruitment Service will inform the candidates of the outcome of their application. This process takes, on average, four weeks. No indication concerning the final decision can be given beforehand.
Following the approval by the Secretary General of the revised language policy, an implementing directive (PDF/54Kb) was developed for the International Staff with effect from 16 June 2011.
Candidates applying for posts of the NATO International Staff are invited to consult the equivalence table (PDF/11Kb) between the NATO IS language levels and international standards of language certification.
If you are the selected candidate, you will receive a letter informing you that it is the intention of the Organization to give further consideration to your application. However, it is also mentioned that you should take no action to leave your current employment, as the appointment is subject to the satisfactory completion of your file. There is no guarantee that you will be recruited.
- Security clearance:
A valid security clearance at the appropriate level (the level depends upon the requirements of the post) must be received in the NATO Office of Security before we can recruit you. This formality is carried out by your national authorities, upon NATO’s request. If you do not currently hold a clearance, you will be sent a number of forms for completion shortly after receiving your letter. The time required to obtain a security clearance varies from several months to one year, depending on various elements beyond NATO’s control (the nationality and background of the candidate, employment history…).
- Medical file:
Another important aspect of the formalities is your medical file. You will be required to complete a medical questionnaire, undergo medical analyses if needed (this is based on the requirements for the post), and submit a Doctor’s assessment to the NATO Medical Service. The NATO Medical Advisor will then assess whether you have the required abilities and are fit for the post.
- Availability and funding of the post:
Once all the above-mentioned formalities have successfully been completed and before we can offer you the post, the availability and funding of the post you have been selected for will need to be confirmed.
You should bear in mind that the date of joining the Organization will depend upon the length of time it takes to complete your file. Due to the fact that the administrative formalities can take some time to complete, it is not always possible to fill a vacancy immediately upon the departure of the previous incumbent, however desirable this may be.
Any future contacts concerning the formalities on your file should be with the Recruitment Service (and not with the service where you will be working). However, any questions related to the content of the job or work environment can be addressed to the service where you will be working. To that effect, you may ask the Recruitment Service to put you in contact with you future line manager.
All progress on a candidate's file is closely monitored by Recruitment. Accordingly, all changes on your file (employment, address, marital status, number of dependent children, etc.) should immediately be communicated directly to the Recruitment Service. Please also make sure your general profile on the NATO eRecruitment platform is up-to-date. You should not discuss your starting date with your future service as no final decision can be taken until your file has reached satisfactory completion.
When all the formalities have been successfully completed, the Organization will send you an official offer letter. Only then can your starting date be discussed and agreed with the Recruitment Service, who will, of course, liaise with your future line manager(s).
Employment Status at the time of taking up duties: Seconded/ US Reimbursable/Direct Hire
A point which sometimes causes confusion is the question of the status of a selected candidate. Seconded staff members are released for a limited time (on leave without pay or leave of absence) from their national administration, be it civilian or military, to take up employment with NATO. On completing their contract with NATO, secondees can return to their original place of employment. For US citizens, this status is referred to as "US reimbursable".
The Non-seconded/Direct Hire status is usually that of an individual who has been working in the private sector, with no ties to his/her national administration. Alternatively this can be a civil servant or a military officer who decides to resign or retire from his national administration.
- Security clearance:
When we come to the point of making you an official offer of employment, a member of the Personnel Support Service will contact you in order to assist you and to coordinate the practical details of your arrival at NATO Headquarters (including guidance on housing and schooling where applicable). Moreover, in order to facilitate your onboarding, he/she will arrange for you to have a sponsor from your Division to assist and guide you in your first days at NATO.