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:

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