Networking: You have more connections than you think!

By Andrew Stott

Those of you early in your career may think you have no “network” but you will be surprised once you register in Linkedin as to how many people you can reach through your own friends and family. This is really important when it comes to securing “informational interviews” about sectors, employers and jobs you are interested in. 

Many people I talk to in their early twenties are sceptical about opportunities for networking, but not only is there a real need to do it in today’s competitive job market, but there are more opportunities than you think.

Linkedin now prompts you to  map your network through your email address list, your college and any work opportunities you may have had during your student days. This means that you may well have access to employers and sectors in which you are interested through introductions from your immediate contact circle.

So what do you do with your network? Using your network to get informational interviews means letting your friends, family or other contacts know you are interested in sector X or employer Y and seeing who they in turn know. Networking does NOT mean asking someone to use their influence to get you a job (although that still goes on in certain countries), and as long as you stay on the topic of learning more about the employer, industry and the selection process, you will gather lots of valuable information to help you compete effectively against other candidates.

You may be surprised how many people who you don’t even know directly are willing and indeed interested in helping you to do your homework in preparation for your next job. They have all “been there” and they know how different and competitive selection processes are and also remember what it was like to not really know very much about what employer or job they were joining until they had started the job.

Let us know how we can help you with networking by mailing us at

Selection processes in the European Commission: Getting hired

In the last post we set out how to approach the selection process for jobs in the European Commission. In this, the second of two, we describe the two stage process which follows the initial selection of candidates. Note that all recruitment processes are managed by the EPSO (European Personnel Selection Office) which helps the Selection Board to handle the assessments of the candidates. The Selection Board will define the tests required for each position, and some of these tests are administered by Prometric, an outside contractor.

CBT (Computer Based Test): Tests and points system
Online applications for generalist jobs of candidates are invited to the next stage to undergo a series of competency tests, which are taken remotely in test centres in the candidate’s home country.  There is a limited period in which to book and take the tests for each selection process.  Although it is likely that EPSO uses the same examination centres, the actual list of test centres would be only available when booking the exam.

The multiple choice tests which are taken online in a test centre comprise the following –       Verbal competency
–       Numerical competency
–       Abstract competency
–       Situational judgment (hypothetical situations, NOT your own experience)

The challenge for these tests is the management of your time to answer all the questions. Training to get use of the type of questions is very useful, especially because this is the main filter where most of the candidates will be rejected, and to get a high score will make the difference.

The competitions for specialist positions differ from the generalist mainly in the experience required by applicants. A particular background as well as a minimum number of years of work experience in the given specialism but also some specific experience may be asked (for example experience in the implementation of the EU legislation in the field or in a particular type of work). As advanced in the previous post, usually the online application form includes the “Talent Screening” tab where you describe how you match up against each of the specific requirements detailed in the advertised job. This information is used to rate your applications against other candidates and identify those who will be invited to the next selection stage of the competition.

The more demanding and/or specific the experience required, the fewer the number of candidates likely to be selected. Should the number of candidates be more than required; the Selection Board may decide to use the Talent Screening scoring to select the best candidates. If this is the case, the CBT will need to be taken, but the score will not be the primary filter role as selection for the generalist posts.

The results of the CBT  or the Talent Screening score give a number of points for each application. Note that  candidates’ results are not taken into account in subsequent job applications.

The target number of applicants to go to the next stage is determined in a simple manner – it is approximately three times the number of positions offered. So if EPSO announces 10 translators posts, they will select the 30 candidates whose tests have the greatest points score. Thus there is no absolute points level at which you pass to the next stage, it all depends on points distribution. There is a right of appeal.

Assessment Centre: Interviews and final selection

The candidates who are selected for the final stage will then be invited to an Assessment Centre.  This is at a specific date and it normally takes place in  Brussels.

There are two categories of competencies: general and specific, both of which are listed in the public Notice for the Competition. Each general competency is observed and measured in at least two different exercises, whereas specific competencies are measured only in the case study.
The Assessment Centre will typically involve the following exercises to evaluate all candidates. Evaluation is against the field-related competencies and the 8 general competencies:

  • leadership
  • working with others
  • resilience
  • analysis and problem-solving
  • communicating
  • delivering quality and results
  • learning and development
  • prioritising and organising.

All these qualities are assessed twice in the different tests described below:

–       Case study – you will be asked to read through assorted information then structure and summarise this into a report (1h30min).
–       Group exercise –this will be on a neutral topic in order not to favour those with specialist knowledge. In a group of 5-8 people, you will each have slightly different input information. You will discuss the information and inputs and be expected to come up with conclusions and recommendations
–       Structured interview – testing your specific experience against the job requirements
–       General interview – covering your experience in situations. Your replies need to be structured into Situation-Problem-Method-Solution

Note that the interviews are typically conducted by 2 interviewers.

In addition, applicants for general (versus specialist) posts may be asked to give an oral presentation.
At this stage, you will be asked to bring with you documentary proof of your CV, including copies of your original certificates and employment contracts. Should the candidate pass this stage and afterwards be selected for a particular position, the originals to support these documents will be requested before signing the contract. He/she will have to pass beforehand a medical examination as well.

Whether or not you pass the open competition, if you reach this stage, you will be given your EPSO “passport” detailing your profile and results.

Should you pass and you are selected, your name is included within a “Reserve list” which allows you to be invited to participate in individual post selection procedures. A recruitment quota per Institution might be established by EPSO determining that during a certain period of time (normally three months for generalist and six in the case of some specialist, although this delays can be extended) the successful candidates on the list may be only recruited by certain EU Institution/DG/Service (typically the one that has promoted and launched the open competition, otherwise, it is based on the needs they expressed prior to the publication of the competition). When the quota is lifted the rest of the EU institutions can recruit freely.

The “Reserve List” constitute a pool of potential recruits which is valid for a period of time (typically during one year, but it may be extended). Being on a reserve list does not guarantee you recruitment by the Institutions.

Successful candidates can find all relevant information here:

Do you have insights on selection processes in any employer? If so, please share these with our readers by mailing us at


Selection processes in the European Commission: First steps

For European nationals looking for a chance to work internationally, permanent (versus temporary or part time) jobs with the European Commission may represent an interesting opportunity. In this first of two posts, we talk you through the overall approach adopted by EPSO, the European Personnel Selection Office, which runs selection processes for the Commission.

What jobs are available?


Each year, EPSO publishes a calendar of posts it will be looking for fill during the year at


These are broadly divided into generalist/administration jobs (categorised as Administrator or Assistant and graded) and specialist jobs, requiring specific knowledge or skills, such as translator or agricultural expert (see job profiles at


You can be hired on permanent and fixed-term contract. Permanent staff are selected through open competitions intended not for specific posts, but to fill a reserve pool for recruitment needs.


All the information given below concerns the selection process for a permanent contract, i.e. to become an EU civil servant.


One word of caution: as already hinted above, getting through the selection process for a job posted does not guarantee you a job.  The search may be for, say, 10 people for a certain role, but only, say, 4 positions may be actually offered immediately, the other candidates being held in EPSO’s database with the possibility that they will be offered a job in future. In other words, after passing an EU competition the succeeding applicants’ name will be placed in a database of “recruitable fonctionnaires”. When a particular vacancy is available, Commission services will use this database to withdraw candidates to enter in this particular selection process. This means that you may have passed a competition of a given profile, but may be offered a position for a different one (provided that you comply with the position’s requirements).


All the planned job competitions planned for 2014 can be found at


Registering with EPSO


To be considered for any of these jobs, you need to create a profile on EPSO. This does not pre-qualify you for any jobs, but merely serves to register you so you can subsequently apply online if a job opportunity arises which you want to pursue.


The general requirements are that –


–       You have to be a national of a member state

–       You must have full rights as a citizen

–       You must have fulfilled your national obligations, eg military service

–       You must meet the character requirements for the duties involved.


You can register with EPSO at


Applying online


You can upload your CV to store it online but you will still have to complete a new online application for each job you apply for, which needs to be very detailed and up to date. In addition to the registration data, the online application has four tabs, each of which has to be completed:

–       Your profile – complete curriculum vitae, with specific (day) dates of starting and finishing each eduction and training, employment and indication of your language capabilities)

–       Your motivation and strengths – describing how your education and experience is relevant to the job, what is your interest to apply, what could be your contribution to the EU, and what have been your main two achievements.

–       Eligibility – confirm that you meet the general and specific conditions.

–       Talent screening (only in the specialist posts online application, not in the generalist ones) – how you match up against each of the specific requirements detailed in the advertised job.  IMPORTANT: This information will be used to rate your applications against other candidates and identify the best to be invited to the next selection stage of the competition.


Do you have insights on selection processes in any employer? If so, please share these with our readers by mailing us at


This post was updated on 8 February 2014