What does it take to get a Peace Corps invitation?

By Mariana Andrade-Bejarano
Dec. 30, 2016

To a vast number of us returned Peace Corps Volunteers, our time in service is considered the toughest job we ever loved. 

For 27 months we didn’t have typical work hours, we carried our title 24/7 and the work we committed to accomplishing called on a broad range of personal attributes and technical skills. This is why as placement and assessment officers we look for a balance of technical and “soft” skills when assessing applications. We know these are the foundation of a successful service experience, and demonstrating these skills increases your likelihood of securing a job offer: the invitation to service.

I. Technical Skills

Peace Corps’ first goal is "to help the people of interested countries meet their need for trained men and women.” In other words, we need to build capacity in order to achieve sustainable development. This is why different technical skill requirements are posted in each of our job descriptions.

For example, some tutoring or teaching of a foreign language experience is needed for many English teaching jobs. Serving in economic development often requires a degree in the business field or many years of relevant experience; some countries even have a language requirement. These are in place as a result of requests made by the countries in which Volunteers serve; therefore, you should carefully review the “required job skills” or “language requirements” to make sure you qualify technically when applying (make sure it's clear in your résumé). But careful – don’t assume that this is all it takes!

2. Soft Skills

The second skill set placement officers look for, no matter the sector or country, are “soft” skills. These are what enable our Volunteers to meet goals 2 and 3: friendship building and cultural exchange.  

Cultural sensitivity and curiosity; the ability to observe, adapt and take initiative in environments with different structures; resilience — pushing through adversity or seeming failures, resourcefulness, flexibility and evidenced commitment to impacting positive change — these are “soft skills” that we try to gauge during the interview, through your references, motivation statement or service experience on your résumé. 

No single degree or life experience can fully prepare you for 27 months of rewards, challenges, lessons and growth. If you are selected to be a Peace Corps Volunteer, you’ll quickly find out it will become part of your lifelong identity. You will realize there is much to learn, no matter how much you knew before. So beware thinking that one single technical skill can secure you an invitation or that just wanting to be a Volunteer is all it takes.

These skills are a baseline upon which pre-service training will build, but most importantly, they’re the skills that will be necessary to ease into a brand new way of life for two years. So make informed decisions when applying, target your application as best you can and maximize on your available resources (virtual or in-person recruitment events, Volunteer blogs, returned Volunteers, etc.). 

Remember that patience and flexibility are among the most invaluable attributes you will need if you will serve. Peace Corps service is more than a job; it is an incredibly formative experience and a privilege. May you make the best of it if and when you have the chance!

Ready to start your Peace Corps journey? Connect with a recruiter today.

Mariana Andrade-Bejarano