How To Ace A MUN Chairing Interview
This article was written in collaboration with members of secretariate who have interviewed over 1000 chairs between them.
Many say that it is the chair who makes the Model UN conference. A bad chair leaves a sour taste in everyone’s mouth and makes us feel like we wasted our weekend. A good chair can leave us inspired, energized and with a drive to be better at future Model UNs and life as a whole. For this reason, every secretariat wants to have the best chairs at their conference.What makes a best chair? Sometimes it’s experience, sometimes it’s gravitas and sometimes it is that perfect blend between a teacher’s, a captain and a judge. However, some first time chairs are not less impressive due to common sense, clear judgement, intuition and a drive to do right by the delegates and themselves.
They say finding a good chair is like finding the love of your life, it’s hard to describe but you know it when you see it.
Matthew Kielstra, USG Chairing 2015
When you receive an email inviting you to an interview you know that your application was successful, so far. An interview for a Model United Nations chairing position is in many ways like any other job interview. However, in some ways a Model UN interview is different in that it requires you to show knowledge about the rules of Model UN and intricacies of the game, as well as good judgment, a cool head and interpersonal abilities. The following guide will give you many options of questions that are commonly asked and some tips for how to come better prepared and how to show that you are qualified, both academically and as a responsible team player who can show empathy and good judgment. It should be noted that newer chairs are not expected to know everything in the academics department but enthusiasm, openness and willingness to learn are often enough to show the secretariat that they want your Model UN career to start at their conference.
The following guide will teach you how to answer chairing interview questions, as well as provide many of the most common chairing interview questions and some tips for how to come better prepared. This guide to chairing interviews will help you show that you are well qualified, both academically and as a responsible team player who can show empathy and good judgment. It should be noted that newer chairs are not expected to know everything in the academics department but enthusiasm, openness and willingness to learn are often enough to show the secretariat that they want your Model UN career to start at their conference.
Knowledge of current events
Basic understanding of the United Nations
Understanding of Model United Nations
Knowledge of the Rules of Procedure
Why did you pick this committee?
This is the place to show that you are interested in the committee you will be chairing and care about the committee / topic.
“I find the actions of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations very interesting, specifically their work on international plant protection and work to reduce malnutrition.”
What topic would you choose and why?
This is the place to show you did research and bring specific examples showing an understanding, not only of your choice but also that you can be similarly serious about any topic or committee.
“I would want to discuss the creation of a World Food Summit in 2020. The FAO last organized such a summit in 1996, where 112 heads of state attended and they signed the Rome Declaration. As the summit was an important step in critiquing the industrial agriculture business, and focusing on protecting the ‘right to good’ of the poor, I believe that the reality has changes in the twenty plus years since the summit and it is time discuss the current problems in the food industry and create a new declaration.”
What are your favorite news outlets?
This question exists to show how often you keep up with global events and also test your general knowledge. It is important to be honest, as the interviewer can ask follow up questions.
Example: “I personally get my news from CNN but sometimes use the BBC and France 24 English edition, usually through apps on my phone. Sometimes, when I have more time I read in depth articles from The Economist.”
Room management Methods of making delegates feel included and comfortable
How would you educate a room of beginners?
This question is here to make sure the delegates will be cared for even if they do not know how to do Model UN. These questions are more about making people comfortable than knowledge of Model Un RoP.
Example: “I would start by telling everyone that this is a learning experience, they should take their time and not be afraid to speak up in front of their peers. I would aso stop the clock if someone was nervous and have them do it without the stopwatch.”
What do you do when some delegates are and others advanced?
This is a question to check if you can make sure all delegates will enjoy being chaired by you. It is important that your answer address how you would ensure a good experience for beginner and advanced delegates.
Example: “It is clear to me the a beginner getting an award is unlikely and I don’t try to force them to speak more or be more active. I might offer them speaking time during an unmod, and might try to encourage them during lunch where I can. However, I do not punish advanced and active delegates and those who offer motions, and to speak during unmods, will get their chance to do so.”
A delegate hasn’t spoken for three sessions. What do you do?
This is a question of human relations. Your answer needs to show sensitivity, empathy and a creative solution to the issue.
Example: “I would go to them during the next break and ask them what it up. I would ask them why they aren’t speaking and hear the reasons. If they felt they had nothing to say I would offer to sit with them after session and work on a speech for them which they could give the next day.”
Room Reading & Award Criteria
Method of taking notes / tracking debate Criteria for choosing awards
What do you consider the criteria for giving an award?
Your answer needs to show an understanding of Model UN and also the ability to give ballance judgement.
Example: “I would give awards to the delegate who most influences policy. This would be the one who brought original ideas and lobbied to get them through. Definitely not someone who was inactive during unmods.
If one delegate gave speeches but didn’t write any clauses and the other wrote most of the resolution but did not speak who would you put ahead and why?
Questions like these exist specifically to test judgement. Why you made the decision that you did is just as important as what your verdict would be.
Example: “I would probably have to credit the speaker. I don’t know that the writer thought of anything and if they did they did not own it. Of course I would need more information but based on what you are saying the one who brought the ideas, and seemingly sold them, was the spearer.”
What in your opinion makes a best delegate?
A very common judgement question. Best to avoid saying it goes to the best speeches or the most aggressive lobbyist.
Example: “A best delegate, for me, is someone who manages to get the interest of their country represented while also helping fix the global problem everyone is discussing.”
How you deal with uncomfortable situations
Delegate comes and shows you that half of the other blocks the resolution was a copy paste from S/RES/2214?
Make sure to focus on the problems with plagiarism and the lack of sportsmanship by the aggressor. Make sure to address both.
A delegate is continuously making up facts. What do you do?
What do you do when a delegate uses profanity during an unmod?
Your answer needs to show how you would deal with the situation. A good answer will also include what you would do if this continues.
How Available are when it comes to time free to work on MUN related tasks
How long does it usually take for you to reply to an email?
Always be honest and match expectations. If the chairing position is important enough you should be able to make the time. However, say that you will and they find that you we dishonest about your schedule is a great way to get kicked off the chairing team.
Out Of The Box Thinking / Other
Some out of the box type of qustions that might come up
How do you put an elephant in a refrigerator?
Iron Man vs Superman, who would you bet on?
If you could live in any historical era which would it be and why?
Let the true you shine
What are your strengths?
Show strengths related to chairing of Model UN. You are being compared to other candidates and it is your strengths which will help you pass the interview
What are your weaknesses?
Everyone has weaknesses. They should not be deal breaker weaknesses but showing humanity and self awareness is important.
Are you a leader or a follower?
Here there is no wrong answer. If you answer leader be humble. If you answer follower, make sure to show that you still have the skills to be a good chair.
What gets you up in the morning?
No wrong answer as long as it shows you are a competent, thinking person.
Other questions that could come up
- Tell me how you handled a difficult situation.
- Why are you interested in our conference specifically?
- What are some of your leadership experiences?
- What do you like the most and least about the world of Model UN?
- What can you uniquely offer us?
- Why should we hire you?
- What are your Model UN goals?
- What was the last book you read for fun?
- What are your hobbies?
- What are three things you would improve from your last time chairing?
- Tell me about a Model UN moment (as a delegate / chair) you were most proud of?
- Tell me about a time you made a mistake.
- How did you hear about this position?
- Will you be regularly available to contact?
- Will you have the time to write the study guide? meet all other obligations?
- Give a time when you went above and beyond the requirements for a project.
- What was your biggest failure?
- What motivates you?
- What is your availability?
- Do you have a mentor and if so who?
- Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss.
- How do you handle pressure?
- What is your favorite website?
- What makes you uncomfortable?
- What questions haven’t I asked you?
- What questions do you have for me?
10 Tips To Ace Your Model UN Chairing Interview
Many of the above questions are less exciting to prepare for than “Superman vs. Iron man,” but they are generally what you need to be ready for.
Most aspiring chair do not prepare for specific questions so this list alone can give you a leg up. Study the list carefully and have general ideas of the answers ready. Make sure they are not robotically rehearsed so that you can speak naturally, comfortably and confidently. However, to really nail the interview, you will need to follow the strategies below to go beyond just answering the questions above to really make an impression and ace your interview.
1. Identify Your USP
A USP (Unique Selling Proposition) is what makes you unique. This is important because most Undersecretaries of Chairing / Academics / Personnel interview many candidates and sometimes many many candidates. Usually, at the end of the interview the chairing staff need to go back to their notes to remember the applicants, with the exception being those who stand out.
Sometimes your USP will be your voice or the way you dress. However, better USP’s are if they are impressed with your academic abilities, work ethic of a memorable story. When you can wow them in some way that sticks out that already moves you to the top of the list.
2. Know the Position You’re Applying For
Get to know the job Model UN position that you’re applying for. There is a difference between being a head chair and a first-time trainee vice chair / co-chair. Knowing how many chair positions are open per committee can help you prepare yourself to best fit one of the positions.
Don’t prepare to be just a general chair but think where within the mechanism you see yourself fitting. When you interview, frame your answers so that you show your specific fit for the type of chairing, and possibly committee, that you are aiming for.
3. Know What Makes You An Excellent Fit
Most committees want at least one main chair who is very experienced and can manage the room well. For advanced rooms, the conference may want two strong chairs and a strong vice-chair. International Court of Justice or International Criminal Court positions generally want delegates with experience in those committees, or law students. The same goes for crisis committees.
If you interned at UNESCO, are did the World Health Organization three times, this could justify why you are uniquely suited for that specific room. Make sure to convey that during the interview. What makes you special? Whatever it might be, know it and wave it into your responses.
4. Know the Conference
Some Model UN conferences focus more on the social aspect, some of the city, some on the quality of the chairs and some on their similarity to the United Nations procedure.
No matter how prepared you are to talk about yourself or your chairing experience, not knowing the essentials of the conference you’re interviewing for conveys a lack of interest and preparation. You can’t show an USG chairing how you’ll fit at the conference until you know the conference.
Before your interview, see if this Model UN conference is known for anything specific. Most of the time they will simply want the best chairing staff they can find. Make sure you know the basics and prepare to answer accordingly.
5. Research your USG Chairing
Model UN is not a large community. Chances are that someone you know knows someone who has worked with whoever is hiring the chairs for the conference. While not always essential, knowing if this person is a stickler for Rules of Procedure, or requires all chairs to take notes on the delegates’ speeches could be the difference between acceptance and rejection or getting the spot you want in the committee you want.
The secretariat member in charge of selecting the chairs is usually one of two things. They are usually either a final year student / active member in their society or area merit-based import from the larger Model UN community. If they are a final year student / active member it is likely that someone delegates or chaired with them at previous conferences. You can also ask other chairs who were on the same staff. If they are Model Un celebrities, of sorts, it should be even easier to find people who know them.
Once you find a reliable source, ask them what types of delegating they respect, tips about their chairing style or whatever else comes to mind. Just because it is Model UN does not mean that preparation should be taken any less seriously than for an internship interview. Sometimes you will get more out of a Model Un conference and should definitely have more fun.
6. Prepare Follow-Up Answers
Follow-Up Answer are the answers to questions that usually beg a second question after your initial answer. For example, if you say you are especially good at writing guides for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the interviewer might ask for an example of a topic you chose that shows this to be true.
Taking this step to the next level is answering questions like “What are your strengths” with a strength that begs a follow up that can lead to a story. This type of preparation will help you develop your USP, avoid awkward silences and minimize uncertainty. Having Follow-Up Answers will also build your confidence prior to the interview and have you more prepared for surprises.
7. Practice, Practice and — wait for it – Practice!
Even after completing steps 1 – 6 you know that you, and everyone else interviewing to be a chair, can already expect some of the questions what will be asked. The difference is going to be the preparation. A unique and position-specific response will be what gives you a competitive edge. This does not mean you should memorize answers, but you should know certain points of reference about yourself and general lines of answers for different types of questions.
If it’s one of your first times, “mock interview” yourself. You can even video your responses and rinse and repeat until you are able to speak comfortably and confidently. Videoing yourself may feel awkward at first. Keep in mind that most Model UN interviews are on skype so some of your presence, and nervousness might be hidden while other parts may be enhanced. All this may seem strange but it will pay off during your interview.
Not being relaxed during the interview could undermine all of your preparation. It is essential to be yourself and show the best parts of you. Also, if the interviewers feel you are nervous in front of them how will you manage in front of 47 delegates in the Human Rights Council.
Showing nerves or anxiety appears cannot compare with a relaxed smile and genuine self-confidence. Starting with a smile will not only boost your confidence but also put others at ease and is a simple trick to start off on the right foot.
9. Stay Positive
While seemingly obvious, staying positive can be difficult when trying to show that you have a good academic understanding, as well as people skills, experience and everything else you are trying to get across. Also, Model UN chairing staff are often experiences Model UNers, which means they have experience reading people. They also have conference experience and could ask you specific questions about an issue that happened in a committee you were part of a semester ago. However, even in these cases, where you are telling a story that doesn’t show you in the best light don’t panic. Being able to say these things in a straightforward manner is exactly what they want to see in you. Show the interviewers that you can maintain a positive attitude even as you show Model United Nations expertise, and they will see the flexible, talented and resilient individual they’re looking for.
10. Honesty is the Best Policy
If the member of the secretariat will have a way of getting to the core of who you are. They will often have a sense of reading people and may also have a talent for asking the right questions. In either case it is important that you approach the interview with honesty.
Chairing a MUN committee effectively is not easy or simple. The secretariat often understands that we all need to get our start somewhere and are looking for good genuine people, not a checklist of answers. Do not focus on what they want to hear. Instead be genuine about why you are a good candidate by being the real you.
Bringing It All Together
Truth of the matter is that even after these 10 steps interviewing is still tough. Sometimes it is difficult to show who we are in a face to face chat so all the more reason to be nervous about a 10 minute skype interview.
Remember that in the end we are all here to have fun and help each other move forward within the complex Model UN family that we are part of. Also, these same interview techniques will help with further interviews in life. Model UN is a safe place to practice all of the things stated above and you will find the process getting easier with each interview. For those reading this, whether it is your first interview or you are a veteran who just wants to see it all in one place, stay calm, focus on the prize and make your interview a great one.