【Recruiters' Insights】 HOW TO GET HIRED in Development Consulting Post-COVID

Updated: Sep 15, 2020




We are proud to finally release our interactive Q&A with Cécile and Olivia, HR experts at Tetra Tech International Development Europe! In collaboration with LSE Department of International Development


Tetra Tech International Development Europe specializes in project management and consulting in the international development sector. TetraTech works with global governments and other partners to tackle complex development projects and to deliver results in creating positive change in people’s lives


Cécile has worked in the international development sector for 10 years in various roles. Currently, she is a recruiter focused on new projects and is actively involved in organizational and staff development initiatives.


Olivia is an LSE alumnus and has worked in the international development sector for 3 years in business development. Currently, she works as a business development recruiter focused on building teams for new business opportunities.


Listen in as Cécile and Olivia answer questions from many of our followers on HR insight in the development field during post-COVID-19, tips for entry-level development consultants, and how to stand out as a candidate for an ID career.


Here is a skip time for you :)


[1:03] Introduction by Olivia & Cecile

[1:49] About Tetra Tech


PART I Job landscape in international development (ID) industry

[2:22] What types of roles are available for graduates and young professionals in ID currently?

[6:37] Type of contract available to entry-level graduates?

[9:02] How locations might impact job prospects in international development?

[10:12] How are job opportunities affected during and post COVID?

[11:55] Are there likely to be new sources of funding for ID programs?


PART II How to get hired in ID

[13:12] What are the skills and experience required for entry-level roles during/post COVID?

[18:10] What is the best way to find a job as a graduate in our current climate?

[21:07] Where to look for jobs in ID?

[22:35] How can candidates make their applications stand out?

[24:50] How can one transition into an ID career from another sector?

[26:03] How can one build a career in a specific ID thematic area?

[27:30] How can entry-level professionals grow into mid-level roles?

[29:15] Final advice for graduates post-COVID?

Here are the interview highlights


Q: What types of roles are available for graduates and young professionals?  [02:22]


A: We are in a strange time at the moment, no one knows for sure what’s going to happen with COVID, but here are some general points that are unlikely to change.

  • Within IDEV, 3 main sources of jobs:

  1. Public donors and institutions: bilateral donors like UK government agencies, USAID; and multilateral EU/UN

  2. Non-profit: NGOs, Think Tank/Academia

  3. Private implementers: consulting firms – This is what we will focus on. This is where a lot of jobs are but graduates may not be aware.


Types of roles for graduates specifically within the private sector (although they exist in other sectors)

  • Project Management: there are PM focused roles, but PM is a skill that is useful for most other roles. Activities include: managing projects technically and financially (including reporting), recruiting and contracting teams, managing staff, liaising with stakeholders. (MOST COMMON)

  • Business Development: activities related to designing projects, often in response to tender specifications. Procurement process. Activities include: gathering intelligence, building partnerships, preparing budgets, recruiting teams, developing technical proposals for donor-funded projects.

  • Operational support: would find them in all sectors, and also in IDEV. Examples: Human Resources, Communications, Compliance, Risk management, operational setup, IT

  • Research and MEL: something we can talk about well because we have a large M&E team that works on some of the UK’s largest evaluation programs. Activities like: collecting and analyzing data (quantitative/qualitative), conducting surveys, knowledge management.

Advice for graduates: to identify entry-level positions in these different families, and look for titles that include keywords like “junior”, coordinator, administrator, assistant, officer.


Q: What type of contract available to entry-level graduates? [6:37]

A: 5 main types in IDEV world

  1. Internships: short term, usually unpaid.

  2. Grad schemes: 1-2 years, usually with big firms.

  3. Employment contract: eligibility to work in the country is key (UK, EU or USA). Employers rarely sponsor visas, particularly at an entry-level role. employment package. Possible to be employed straight out of university

  4. Young professional programs (YPP) run by multi-laterals UN/WB/OECD/ADB. Paid, highly competitive, usually require a minimum 2 years experience and with an age limit.

  5. Independent consulting: self-employment set up, daily fee rate. Possible at Junior level. But not as common.


Q: How locations might impact job prospects in international development? [09:02]

A: There are 3 types of locations:

  1. Head office + travel: based in developed countries, traveling to developing countries

  2. Field posting: usually with a fixed term, expenses either covered by program or employer (not as common with entry level- started at entry level then changed to AM)

  3. Remote-working: the norm during Covid. Post-Covid, maybe more flexible depending on the role and organization


Q: What are the skills and experience required for entry-level roles during / post COVID? [13:12]

A: let’s talk in terms of field experience and skills


Field experience:

  • In general: Previous field experience is preferable / puts you at an advantage but not mandatory. If someone has the right attitude ie willingness to travel and other types of experience and education that would also be a plus

  • Post-COVID: field experience may become more valuable as travel to the field to assess situations may be limited, so we need to rely on those who have experience of similar situations and context.

  • Advice:

  • highlight past training, studies, volunteering or personal experience, field expertise does not necessarily mean abroad, it can be in your home community.

Skills:

  • Languages: many languages are an asset, particularly for EU/UN job. For roles in the UK, having one language beyond English is useful: French or Arabic, or Spanish for roles based in the USA.

  • Quantitative skills: useful to know how to make use of data and be comfortable with numbers. Most roles have a commercial side and involve working with budgets. Being able to synthesize data and bring evidence together to form a credible narrative is helpful.

  • IT skills: are key for remote working. Good to know how to work with online platforms, tools, suites

  • Soft skills:

  • Flexibility and resilience: being flexible will make it easier for an employer to employ you. with the location, working environment, travel requirements, etc. Resilience to overcome challenges.

  • Collaboration and good communication skills (both written and verbal). At entry-level, need to work in teams and work with many stakeholders (clients, partners, individual experts). Communication skills are key to present information in a concise way (reports, presentations, daily exchanges) and make it suitable for the audience.

  • Open to learning and doing various tasks: showing that you are keen to get involved in all aspects of project management or business development, keen to learn.

  • Work fast (efficiency): being diligent, accurate and careful in every task (effective)


Q: What is the best way to find a job as a graduate in our current climate? [18:10]

A: Networking!


Networking (As mentioned by many RE: Project mentors such as Sumanee; Ted and Mario) is often recommended to graduates. The purpose of networking is to find out about opportunities and introduce yourself to a wider network even in the absence of specific opportunities.


You can use networking to: i) find out about job opportunities, ii) learn about a company or the sector, iii) learn about possible career paths, then apply efficiently.


Note: But you will almost always still need to apply through the formal routes and processes.


Options for networking:

  • Immediate circle: ask peers, teachers, networks of networks if they know of opportunities.

Be aware of referral schemes.

  • Beyond this circle, possible to reach out to organizations’ staff through LinkedIn, requesting to have a chat to learn about a company and opportunities. Be specific and: i) know LinkedIn account limits ii) be respectful and polite, iii) try to add value.

Note: recruiters receive dozens of messages per day have limited capacity to respond to all, so it may be more efficient to contact other people in the organization – perhaps technical experts who work in the field you are interested in.

  • Attend events, webinars and take note of the attendees/hosts

  • Join mentoring programs like the RE:Project to connect with IDEV professionals:

*The RE: Project is launching a FREE mentor-led workshop on How to network systematically on July 16. Sign up NOW



Q: Where to look for jobs in ID? [21:07]

A: Here are some formal channels:


Generic Job Boards

  • LinkedIn

  • Indeed

  • Monster

  • University job board/career website

  • Glassdoor


International Development Job Boards

  • EuroBrussels / Eurojobs: for jobs in Europe, including the UK

  • BOND: for charity jobs in the UK

  • ReliefWeb / Humentum: for humanitarian jobs worldwide

  • Devex: for international development jobs with a US focus

  • Development Aid: for international development jobs with an EU focus

  • UN / EU rosters

  • Impactpool

Websites of individual international development employers:

  • Charities

  • Think Tanks

  • International Organisations

  • DFIs

  • Top EU / DFID / USAID implementers (includes private implementers)


Q: How can candidates make their applications stand out? [22:35]

A: Here are a few things to do

  • CV and Cover Letter well written, structured, complete, and looking professional:

  • CV includes an introduction, tailored to each role, 2-page long max

  • Cover letter – think about what the organization wants not what you want to tell them. Once you have tailored to what they want, make sure you emphasize your motivation. We want to see what is driving you. What makes you unique. How you can fulfill what they want. Specify availability and avenues to be contacted

  • Attitude: responsiveness and good communication with hiring managers (this is the person who is hiring for the role)

  • Consistency on LinkedIn profile. Clean up Facebook account, online footprint.


Q: How can one transition into an IDEV career from another sector? [24:50]

A: Transitioning into an International Development career from another sector is challenging because the competition is strong but possible

  • Focus on transferable skills and field experience that would be useful in International Development – for instance, project management or research skills.

  • If currently in a senior role, may have to step down in seniority of role to start a new career path (depending on the role)

  • Build field experience (e.g. through volunteering) to keep a senior level role and salary.

  • Start International Development studies or training: skills-based training or practical knowledge that can be applied.


Q: How can one build a career in a specific IDEV thematic area (e.g: peacebuilding, gender, migration, infrastructure) [26:03]

A: Here is our advice

  • Research and target organizations working in that area: private/public sector, think tank. Note it may be difficult to specialize right out of uni. Suggest taking an entry-level role and getting involved in opportunities

  • Develop technical knowledge of the topic by following latest research and developments (including while having less specific roles)

  • Connect with experts and professional networks/platforms working in that area: social media, follow and participate conversation on Twitter

  • Show your knowledge and interest. Engaging with people on social media, publishing something constructive. Insert yourself into the conversation. Produce content related to this area (articles, blogs, etc)

  • Volunteer in that area, gain experience.


Q: How can entry-level professionals grow into mid-level roles? [27:30]

A: Here is what you can do

  • Do the simple things well consistently and continually (hit deadlines, try to get things right the first time)

  • Step up while maintaining diligence: make sure you still fulfil the tasks of your role, then be proactive, and show interest beyond your role.

  • Be aware that it can take time to grow. But it’s also possible to prove yourself and move relatively fast. Example: we had someone who was a Business Development Coordinator, became PC and become Assistant Manager very quickly, working hard. But this isn’t the norm: entry-level candidates have expectations of progressing rapidly, while it actually takes time, hard work and patience.

  • In the last 20-30 years, it’s become more common to grow your career by changing company and role, but there may be as many opportunities in your company


Q: Final advice for graduates post-COVID? [29:15]

A: We have mapped out the sector and roles for graduates, to give you an overall picture of the landscape, as well as possible steps and actions. So you know what is available externally. But it’s also important to look internally and make time for self-reflection, particularly during COVID.

  • Consider what are your: strengths / weaknesses or limitations (within control or outside control, e.g eligibility), interests, goals. It’s okay not to be 100% clear on career, but take time to reflect and look for aligned positions.

Then you can be open to opportunities while knowing what is not appropriate for you.

Balance openness when considering roles (first role won’t be the last role, and can be a stepping stone) but focus your energy when searching or applying. It’s easy to get distracted online during COVID.

  • Know that the IDEV sector is challenging: it’s hard work and you will be surrounded by intelligent, hard-working people. Good to be aware of this.

  • Keep up with COVID and International Development evolution to sense where the market is going:

  • Follow major organizations online

  • Read International Development specific news

  • Speak with International Development professionals


Thank you, Cecile, Olivia, and everyone in Tetra Tech International development for sharing these exclusive insights!


The RE:Project is a career advice, peer mentoring, and re-skilling community for millennial and Gen Z social scientists/practitioners.


For more interesting content on career building in international development/social science/humanity fields:


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Why should you join the RE:Project Community?


One main reason behind the high unemployment rate among recent grads is the gap between the structured academic training and the “messiness” of the real-world career market. This is especially true for International Development students, on average with 0–3 years of experience, that look for impact-driven work. However, the development sector requires significant work experience, specialization, and networking to break into — none of which academic training alone can adequately offer.


The RE:Project a career advice, peer mentoring, and re-skilling community for millennial and Gen Z social scientists, born with the idea that millennials and Gen-Zers can help one another out for today’s job market.


In the short-run, we offer tailored career support by creating curated real-life, authentic content generated by real people of the millennial generation working the industries. Practitioners with 4–7 years of experience can offer as many insights (or more!) as 50-year-old CEOs and Directors about how to break into the industry.


This way, young job seekers can interact with mentors using social media live (visit our Linkedin page, Instagram coming soon), and blog posts.


User-generated blog posts, interviews, and tips will also be very welcome.


In the long run, the ultimate goal of this platform is to grow into the forefront community for the Future of Work for social scientists.


You can also get involved with our work as a mentor, a community ambassador right on organizational capacity. Find out more here www.thereprojectcommunity.com/get-involved


If you got any good content ideas, any interesting people you’d like us to interview, or interested in joining the team as a content creator email us at

thereproject.manager@gmail.com