Brussels Blogger

About two weeks ago the European Union Personel Selection Office (EPSO) announced that selection and recruitment of EU staff will become easier. However, how exactly the new test will look like is unclear.

The press release announcing the change in the recruitment competitions (“concours”) is full of blah-bla. Only in the “background” part it explains the two main changes to the selection procedure:

  1. From 2010, candidates will be tested on the basis of competence rather than knowledge.
  2. The time lag between a candidate’s initial application and taking up employment will be cut from over 15 months today, to just 5-9 months.

The second point is of course very welcome, no one is in favour of waiting nearly two years for a job after making an application.

The first point, however, is not very clear yet. Up until now, all candidates for EU civil servant jobs had to pass a pre-selection test followed by a written test and an interview. The pre-selection test is currently composed of multiple choice questions testing EU knowledge (history, policies, facts) and numerical and verbal reasoning. It is followed by a another multiple choice test and a written test in the specific subject area. Finally there is an personal interview before candidates will apppear on a reserve list, from which they can be recruited.

How will the new tests assess the “competencies” of candidates? Let’s look at the definition of “competence”:

Competence is the ability to perform a specific task, action or function successfully. (Wikipedia)

Now compare this to the term “knowledge”, which is also used to “mean the confident understanding of a subject with the ability to use it for a specific purpose if appropriate” (Wikipedia).

I cannot really see how the pre-selection test could be anything different than multiple choice questions: in this first phase several thousands of candidates go through the tests and only an automatic computer-based analysis of the answers allows quick procedures. So maybe the only change will be that pre-selection tests will already contain questions specific to the policy area that candidates apply for. We will only know when the new rules are in place, which will not be before end of 2009.

In the meanwhile you can watch the promotion video below and look at the new, but still rather confusing EU careers website (which now runs on the address – a bit too similar in my view to the commercially run

Update: I found a document which explains quite in detail how the new selection procedures will work. In short: the EU knowledge test seem to disappear and you will have “behavioural test” in the first phase and group exercises and presentations in the second phase. See the full document for all details. Here is a quick overview of the new phases:

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="320" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Author :


  1. Wow so for administrators they expect to reduce the number of candidates by 9/10 after the first round of tests- aptitude and behavioural. I think you will have to be a genius to pass them!

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘1055386704 which is not a hashcash value.

  2. … EPSO announced that selection and recruitment of EU staff will become easier…

    I don’t think it is going to be easier for the competitors. Many people say that about 60% of people from the reserve list are recruited. EPSO makes a big reserve list so the institutions can choose appropriate candidates.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘1055386704 which is not a hashcash value.

  3. hello – well I think your article a bit swallows the EU line. People seeking employment in the EU have (rightly) focused on the absurd recruitment system. So, reform that and hurrah, we have a functioning system?

    Unfortunately, what most applicants don’t know, as they are too focused on cramming for the concours, is that the career system WITHIN the institutions is just as dumb and frustrating.

    Essentially, if you join the EU now, unless you are just out of university, you have NO career prospects. You won’t make senior management, EVER. It takes an average of over 30 years to progress from AD5-14. Noone gets appointed director at 60 years old. Go figure.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘1055386704 which is not a hashcash value.

  4. Smithy, you raise some important points here. Even more as frustration due to lack of opportunities is a killer for an effeciently working administration.

    It’s hard to see what is really going on within institutions for an outsider. Maybe reform-oriented officials could do a bit more constructive outward-communication instead of trying to reform with within, against the highly effective EU staff trade unions.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘1055386704 which is not a hashcash value.

  5. In the meantime, you can still prepare yourself for the existing competitions with AdAugusta, a multiplayer quiz game about the EU available at!

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘1055386704 which is not a hashcash value.

  6. Smithy, we can’t all become directors, now can we. This is basically the same in the private sector, though politics certainly play a smaller part there.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘1055386704 which is not a hashcash value.

  7. to laureate – you really missed my point. But I think if you get off the list, you will see it soon enough.

    it’s not that everyone wants/can be a director. But if you are in a system where you cannot ever make it to (near) the top, regardless of your talents, then we are in a place nobody wants to be.

    as I see it, part of the problem is that member states want above all to slash costs – which I guess is all very well and only to be expected.

    But the hair-brained compromise they arrived at trying to achieve this goal was a promotion system that requires over 10 promotions from bottom to top, implemented by an incomprehensible promotion system (CDR). Nobody now joining the system at entry level will make it above middle management. The price of (trying to) slash costs is a rational, efficient European public service. Regrettably, some member states might not be too disappointed with that outcome either…

  8. smithy2,

    I am in. Content-wise my job isn’t too bad. I guess a lot depends on that too. Still, I don’t get how people over there should moan… I see short working weeks, people having croissants, a coffee and a chat in the morning hours… I mean, I was a coffee-guzzling workaholic wreck in the private sector and when the tax-man passed by, half my salary was gone. Every three months the shit hit the fan as finance people went mad; every two years there were job cuts; every 5 years a hostile take-over… that’s OK voor 20-somethings, but I prefer the Shady Pines retirement home over at the EC.
    At least the first few years people should have retained some marketable skills that should allow them to hop back to the real world.

  9. The content was really very interesting. I am really thankful to you for providing this unique information. Please keep sharing more and more information

Comments are closed.