MSF/Garvit Nangia

Recruitment Zone Summer 2018: Why we need people with management experience

In June 2018, MSF Canada launched the Recruitment Zone with an email to our network of interested applicants in Canada:

Welcome to our first MSF Canada Recruitment Zone update. If you are receiving this, it’s because you have previously participated in an MSF recruitment event, either in person or online; you have applied to work with us in the field in the past; or you have signed up on MSF Canada’s website to receive our updates.

For this first instalment, we want to bring up something that is important for anybody considering working in the field with MSF, with the following thought exercise: Picture yourself as part of an MSF emergency medical project overseas. You’ve just arrived in a new country on your first assignment. You’re introduced to the team you will be working with most closely. They are national staff, meaning they have been recruited and hired from within the country in which we are operating. They’ve been working for MSF for years, so they understand the project well. They also know the local culture, the language, the context and the potential challenges of safety and security. 

You, however, are their new manager. How would you approach your working relationship with your new team on the first day? How might that change during your first week, your first month or your first three months? How is the role of a manager different when the team’s knowledge and expertise is high? What about when it’s lower? Are there cultural considerations that you may need to be aware of to be a good manager in a different cultural context than you’re used to?

Why we need people with management experience

From our doctors and nurses to our logisticians and pharmacists, nearly everyone we recruit in Canada manages a team when they work overseas with MSF. As activity managers, their responsibilities include performance management and participating in recruitment processes, and there is always a lot of training and coaching to be done. Our international teams often include experienced human resources professionals who can provide support to our activity managers in the field, but it’s important to already have some experience in team management and training.

That is why management and supervision is one of the essential criteriafor all MSF field-worker applicants, regardless of professional background. If you’re interested in developing some management experience to help with your application, consider exploring opportunities in your present work situation that can expose you to the roles and responsibilities of a supervisor. You may also want to reach out to a supervisor or manager who you personally admire and ask them about how they developed their own skills when it comes to overseeing personnel.

Remember if you have any questions you can reply to this email or send an email to and we will make sure to get back to you.