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25th Nov 2017

Focus

New EU exam to axe dreaded quiz on union trivia

  • EU's recruitment office switches to more modern exams (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission will next week present new recruitment procedures for EU officials, scrapping the dreaded quiz about the bloc's institutions and history. The new system should also shorten the delays in publishing results and the months or years of waiting for a job after having passed the exam.

Graduates and professionals tempted to become an EU official so far faced two major off-putting hurdles: the EU questionnaire and the lengthy procedures, at the end of which the only guarantee was to be put on a waiting list.

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Some landed a job within a few months after passing the exam, others are still on the list one year later.

"I studied two years for my exam, passed it out of 7,000 candidates for 50 places and since 2009 I am still on the reserve list, waiting to be called by an EU institution. Like me, many laureates who spent time and money are waiting too," one young EU official to be told this website.

Horror stories about the questions asked in the EU quiz include obscure trivia, which have no relevance to the job someone is applying for. One translator was asked what was the year when the EU institutions adopted new accounting standards and how many employees the Committee of the Regions had.

"It's a great thing they are eliminating the EU test, those questions were crazy. They were only promoting people who learned random things by heart, not the ones who actually had relevant skills," said another candidate, who has now found a job within the EU institutions.

The new exam organised by the European Personnel Selection Office (Epso) will be unveiled next Thursday (11 March) by the commissioner in charge of administrative issues, Maros Sefcovic. Actual registration for the next "concours" will kick off the following week, on 16 March.

"Whilst we wouldn't say that candidates recruited under the new system are 'better' than those already recruited, the shift from knowledge to competency-based assessment allows Epso to provide the EU institutions with candidates who have a range of competency," Michael Mann, Mr Sefcovic's spokesman told this website.

Unlike in previous years, when it was very hard to predict how many exams were organised each year, depending on the EU institution's ad hoc or long-term needs, Epso will now hold only one competition a year for each category of EU official: administrator, assistant and linguist. This should force the EU parliament, council, commission, courts and a wide range of agencies, to plan their personnel needs better and drain the existing pool of "waiting lists."

Competence profiles of the candidates, based on situational interviews and simulations should replace the "academic" selection procedures so far, which mostly relied on CVs and other paperwork.

But the new exam will not exclude so-called internal competitions run by the EU commission, which people who passed the Epso exam and are now waiting for a job offer from institutions slam as an "unfair shortcut" for people on short-term contracts to get into long-term jobs.

Exams for nationals from specific countries, which were held to boost the ranks of officials from new member states, are also likely to be scrapped.

The waiting lists will from now on remain valid for only one year, until the new exam is held the following spring. EU officials admit however that this is a "learning process" and that the efficiency of the new exam remains to be seen.

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