Interested and want to know if you are suitable for MSF’s frontline missions? Not sure about how to become a field worker? You need to meet 3 fundamental requirements, as well as having the right skills, experience and inner resources. Then there’s a 4-step selection process and if it all goes well, you can become one of our field workers. We also have 5 tips further down the page to help you prepare yourself and increase your chances of joining us.
3 Fundamental Requirements
To become an MSF field worker, there are 3 fundamental requirements: professional work experience, language ability, and the availability to join our assignments.
1. At least 2 years experience working in your specialty
Because MSF provides medical care and support to people suffering from conflict, violence, epidemics and natural disasters, life and death can be separated by just a few seconds when it comes to an emergency situation. Both medical and non-medical field workers are required to have relevant professional work experience to cope with the fast-changing field work. The more seniority and experience the better, but the minimum is two years.
2. Effective English language communication in the workplace
In frontline assignments, teamwork with international and local staff is always needed, and English is the most commonly used language. Therefore, one of the most important requirements for field workers is to be able to clearly express yourself and truly understand others in English. Good communication not only helps team collaboration, but also improves the efficiency and effectiveness of the medical projects, so that more patients will benefit from them.
3. Available for at least 6 months in the field
To ensure our projects and teams are sustainable and to reduce the frequency and cost of sending new field workers to the front line, the assignments are typically at least 6 months long. For surgery related professionals, like surgeons and anesthetist or other emergency responders, there can be shorter assignments that last only 2-3 months. Medical staff usually commit for 6-12 months, whereas non-medical staff spend 6-9 months in the field.
The entire selection process consists of 4 steps. Once you have looked at the field worker profile you would like to apply for and the general information about working overseas, you can submit your application online with your resume, motivation letter and related supporting documents. Shortlisted applicants will be invited for a phone interview, and those who pass the phone interview will be invited to an assessment centre (AC). This is a whole day activity that involves a face-to-face interview, teamwork exercise and discussion, as well as the problem-based scenario session. Applicants for some positions might also be required to take a written test and will be notified in advance. Following a successful assessment session, you will be accepted into MSF's field worker pool ready for deployment to an MSF project according to your expertise and skills.
1. Understand our principles and your motivation
Since the establishment of MSF, we have stood by our principles and core values, which have driven every aspect of our work – from medical care to everything else. So we recommend that you take some time to really understand our principles and the nature of medical humanitarian work. We will also be very interested in your motivation and reasons for wanting to be a field worker.
2. Understand the types of interview questions
We will definitely want to know more about your relevant knowledge, skills and previous experience, as well as the different ‘soft’ skills like problem solving, decision-making, communication and coordination. If you can share some of your past challenges with the lessons learnt and insights, that can also help us understand you better. Be prepared for different kinds of interview questions. Your responses can help demonstrate if you’re a good fit as a humanitarian worker.
3. Preferred experience
The vast majority of MSF projects are in developing countries and places with harsh living conditions. Previous work experience in these kind of difficult conditions is particularly desirable. Field workers also need to work hand in hand with local staff or to lead a team. That’s why team management experience and good team spirit are very important as well. Experience of running projects with other NGOs or participating in voluntary work are also desirable.
4. Mental qualities and other skills
Working on the front line could be challenging and unpredictable, therefore being able to cope with stress and being flexible at work are some of the qualities we are looking for. Applicants who are fluent in French, Spanish, Arabic, or with clinical experiences in tropical diseases and/or a certificate in tropical medicine are preferred but this is not a requirement.
5. Be honest
In the selection process, we will share the life and situations you may encounter while in an assignment. That means discussing the difficulties, challenges and limitations in order to help you understand the true faces of our frontline projects. We would also like to understand your true personality and way of thinking, values and beliefs, as well as your ability and experience. The information not only helps us determine if you are suitable to be a field worker that can take on the ever-changing and life-saving field work, but also to find the right placement of field workers to best utilise your expertise to help those who are in need.
There is no right or wrong answer to the interview question, you can be open to share your views and ideas. The most important part is not about how to face the assessment, but more on enriching your experience whether in terms of expertise, team management or other aspects.
── MSF (HK) Human Resource Manager