14 practical tips based on the screening of 196 CVs: what to do, not to do, types of jobs and EU careers.
Below you will find the complete recording and transcript of the free webcast we held on 22 May, 2013 for hundreds of job seekers.
As an added bonus, we've also embedded the complete Prezi presentation onf the event for your viewing pleasure.
Recording of the 60-minute webinar: 14 Tips to Start an EU Career
Presentation in Prezi
Full transcript of the webinar
Please note that the following transcript has been edited to make reading easier and may slightly differ from what was said in the webinar recording. Disclaimer: We aim to ensure a high level of accuracy, but the webinar and the transcript are for information purposes only and they cannot be considered as legally binding.
Speaker: András Baneth
Today, we will be spending one hour with various ideas and tips and hopefully, you will find it useful and relevant in terms of your career prospects and in how to advance your future in EU affairs.
This is Andràs Baneth live from Brussels and I am going to be sharing with you 14 tips to optimize and make the most out of your career in EU affairs. I am a Senior Partner at Online EU Training. You might be familiar with the Ultimate EU Test Book, which I wrote, and is currently in its 11th and 12th editions. I also run the European Training Academy, which is a training company dealing with EU affairs and providing corporate training for different private and public clients.
When talking about EU careers, we recently did a little poster in terms of how EU officials are viewed by themselves, their spouses, their bosses and others. The reason is that there is quite a range of perceptions when it comes to people working in European affairs and on European Union issues, whether that is inside or outside the institutions.
Another nice poster I came across the other day, shows a gentleman who spent his last £500 advertising himself, trying to look for a job in this very unique manner. This is not an endorsement that you should do the same but there are ways to promote yourself, which are just as efficient as the billboard of this British gentleman.
Tip # 1: Which is the right type of job for you?
This is a little bit of a high level approach but I do find it very relevant and important that in terms of your longer career prospect and your job satisfaction, you make sure that you are sitting in the right position and that you are doing the right type of job.
Let’s look at a few ideas. Are you more of anorganiser type or of an analytical type? This is an over simplification and a quite blunt way of approaching your personality type. However, many people are more inclined to be an organiser type, whether they are more agile and like fast moving things, like myself, instead of an analytical type, which is the PhD type of person, who would sit down and go deep into a given file.
If you happen to apply for a job which requires a lot of analysis, maybe a legal type of job or even a translator or a lawyer linguist job, you need to be an analytical type, otherwise you may not be the right fit for that kind of job.
The other thing to consider is whether you prefera flat organisation or a hierarchical organisation. What I mean by this is that if you have the liberty to choose between two different jobs or decide on the type of employer to whomyou would apply, small companies or small consultancies in EU affairs, tend to be rather flat given their limited number of employees that usually does not exceed10, 20, or 30 people. Therefore, there is not a lot of hierarchy in these types of companies.
When you work for a larger company, like PricewaterhouseCoopers or a larger consultancy, or even the European Commission, there are various layers of hierarchy. Therefore, the question is not whether to work for a public or a private company, but whether you are okay to work with procedures and different layers of hierarchy or whether you prefer to be in a more flat organisation.
Another point to consider is whether you plan for the long term or the short term in the sense that if you have a career opportunity that you would like to seize, would that fit your CV? Would that really serve a consistent, coherent profile that you would like to have? Or would it be a good opportunity in the short term because money-wise, it pays well -say an internship- but it may not be the perfect fit when it comes to your overall profile and the impression it would give to a potential future employer?
Tip #2: Know which selection method your target uses
In order to get a job in EU affairs, you need to be, at least superficially, familiar with the type of recruitment or selection process that takes place because you need to make sure that you passthese filters in order to get a job.
In order to get a permanent job in the EU Institutions, you need to pass the European Personnel Selection Office competitions (EPSO), which is something we help you with on our website through eBooks, tips and other methods. This is a must in order to get a permanent contract.
When it comes to EU agencies, as a main rule, you do not need to pass these competitions. Although there are exceptions, agencies select based on your CV, your profile and your cover letter. On the other hand, EU consultancies, think-tanks, non-EU institutional actors and the broader private sector select and recruit based on their own methods or preferred way of going through CVs and finding the right candidates.
EU institutions do notorganise individually their own selections and the interview only happens in the very end of the process, whereas EU agencies, look at the CVs and the interview. That is why I will spend quite a significant amount of time in today’s presentation on how to optimize your CV and cover letter and will share with you many practical ideas and a few mistakes that you can learn from. The same goes forEU consultancies in terms of making sure that you are visible enough and positioned in the proper way in order for them understand that your profile is the perfect match for what they are seeking.
Tip #3: The job that makes you ‘flow’
‘Flow’ is a concept developed by a psychologist of Hungarian origin, who works in the US. It meansthat you are sufficiently stimulated intellectually and have a sufficient amount of challenges. At the same time, these challenges need to meet your skill set and not being inferior to it. For example, if you speak Spanish fluently and you apply for a job where you would need to translate letters into Spanish that might be insufficient for the skill set you have. On the other hand, if the challenges are far superior to your skills that would lead to disappointment, anxiety, worry etc. That would be the case where you are requested to deal with the EU-China trade relations and you do not have the skill set which would enable you to do that.Therefore, the right balance needs to be found between the perfect amount of challenge and the perfect match to the skills that you possess.
Finally, which job makes you happy?This is kind of a philosophical question but there have been a lot of studies and experiments conducted on this very topic. A famous American psychologist named Dan Pink concluded that in order to have a job that really makes you happy, you need essentially three elements: autonomy, mastery and purpose. In brief, what they mean is that you need to have an amount of autonomy in your job which makes you feel comfortable. Some people need to have a lot of freedom in what they do whereas others need more guidance. But there is an optimal level of how much freedom you want to enjoy in being satisfied in your job. The number two is mastery, which means that what you do teaches you something, you learn everyday and you become better at it. This is the number two pre-condition in being happy in your job via learning from it andfeeling that you are improving on a continuous basis. The number three, and this is where dealing with EU affairs is for many people very important, is that they feel that there is a purpose in their job. It is not purely earning money, it is not purely having a 9 to 5 job but there is a highergoal or a more important purpose in what they do. Thus,what they do on a daily basis, serves a bigger objective.
Working for EU institutions
We will now look at the classic split in EU careers whether it is working for the institutions or working with the institutions. This is something that I have been talking and writing about quite a lot so I would touch on this quite briefly because my main focus is not so much the split between these two types of jobs but really looking at optimizing your performance for either type of career.
Working for EU institutions is strictly speaking working in the European Commission, the Court of Auditors or the Court of Justice, ideally with a permanent contract.
Tip #4: The job that makes you ‘Happy’
To work for an EU institutionyou need to pass the EPSO exam or the kind of selection that a given EU agency proposes. Thereare three types of administrative positions you can have a) being a paid trainee, under a fixed amount of time, such as five months, which ends there b) being a temporary agent or a contract agent under a contract of a limited amount of time that can be anything between six months and five years sometimes extendable on certain occasions and c) being a permanent EU official.
Regardingwhat you do on a daily basis, this is just a very short sample of the types of jobs you can have in the European Parliament or the Council of the EU or in any other European Union institution. You could be a scientific expert; a trade negotiator, a classic policy officer dealing with agriculture or the freedom of movement or with any other issue where the EU has a shared or an exclusive competence.
In terms of how the selection and the recruitment actually happen, I would like to provide you briefly with a few pointers to give you an overview. There are the so-called Annual Cycles. This means that EPSOorganises selection exams every year and certain exams are organised at the select part of the given year.Thus,they take place on a regular basis.
The exams and the competitions always start with a Notice of Competition, which is the official declaration by EPSOsaying ‘listen people, we are selecting candidates.’ As a footnote, I would like to mention that EPSO does not recruit itself but selectscandidates from a vast pool, which is then given to the EU institutions such as the European Commission Directorate General for Education and Culture, which eventually recruits the candidates who have been selected.
In most cases, during these competitions, you have a pre-selection test in three quarters of the exam, which includes an abstract reasoning, a verbal reasoning, a numerical reasoning and a situational judgment test.This is the pre-selection test by which EPSO filters out the largest number of candidates who will be admitted to the next phase of the competition, the so-called Assessment Centre. Therefore, this is a formal procedure whereEPSO checks the diplomas and qualifications of the candidates, making sure that they meet the formal eligibility criteria.
The Assessment Centre is part of almost every single competition that EPSO organizes, with very few exceptions. The Assessment Centre is essentially a one day series of exercises that usually includes an oral presentation, a so-called structured interview, a group exercise, possibly a case study, and a so-called in-tray exercise. There maybe also other exams for interpreters or translators. This is really where your competencies and various skills are tested in a series of tests, which are quite relevant and related to the job that you will be doing if you are successful.
The last part of the competition is that you are placed ona reserve list and once you are on this list, you can be recruited. In that case,any EU institution that has a vacancy may invite you. What happen next is that two or three candidates who are all on the reserve list would be invited to a classic job interview during which the EU institutionwould choose the final and future colleague and employee.
The EPSO exams are about a personnel selection and not so much about a ‘personal’ oneregarding you as an individual. A large number of candidates are being selected and then eventually recruited in any given year. There are roughly 1,000 new EU officials who are being recruited per year due to retirement, staff fluctuations, and other reasons despite the restrictions and certain limitation in the staff numbers.
Tip #5: Optimise your chances
From a very practical side, when you are applying for a specific competition, make sure that you choose a so-called specialist profile. A specialist could be a nuclear scientist or a macro-economist but specialist can also be a sub-profile in a given competition. Here is an example: where there is an administrator competition, EPSO would usually have sub-profiles such as law, public administration, audit, finance and others. The more specialist or unique profile you can choose because you qualify for it under the formal eligibility criterion, the less competition you are going to face.
The sub tip here is to choose the exam language carefully. Make sure that the exam language that you have picked is really the one you originally had in mind because the so-called ‘language one’ is usually your mother tongue as long as it is an EU official language. That is the language in which you will sit the pre-selection tests. For the current Croatian exams, it is a little bit different but as a main rule, you will sit the pre-selection tests in your first language. ‘Language number two’ is your first foreign language as long as it is English, French or German. Therefore,make sure that you are able to sit those tests in your first language and then inEnglish, French or German at the Assessment Centre. In case you speak a language at a sufficiently good level, you may decide to do it in a different way, only to make sure that you have full verbal expression possibilities in the language two that you choose.
Tip #6: Master the methodology
Within the EPSO exams and within the field of working for the EU institutions, there is always a methodology. This is not out of the blue, since it is not onlyborn geniuses who can pass these exams. With practice, with the right approach and with a very methodological -I would even call it scientific approach-; you can master both the pre-selection tests and the Assessment Centre. I myself do quite a lot of training for the Assessment Centre simulation as well as other coaching. Based on feedback from surveys that we have ran, via practicing, pre-selection tests can be significantly improved in order to have your performance at a level which enables you, not just to pass but to be better than the rest of the candidates.
Tip #7: Make a plan
It is of crucial importance to make a plan. However simple that sounds, I suggest that you form a study group and that you have a specific timeline and a preparation plan because ad hoc preparation will not yield in success. It will not lead to success.The most efficient and effective way of passing the competitions is to make a plan and have peer pressure from your friends or colleagues, who maybe preparing for the same exams.
Working with EU institutions
We will now proceed to the other and larger part of my presentation, which is working with EU institutions but not necessarily inside as an EU official but in other companies and organisations surrounding them. Then, we will be looking at specific examples of how you can actually optimize your CV and your cover letter for having an impact.
There is one single thing that you need to do when applying for classic jobs outside the institutions. You need to convince the employer that your CV and your profile is the perfect match. This sounds quite simple but in practice there is a method to it and there are many things to master and bear in mind. Recently, I hired an assistant and when I published the opening, there was a significant number of people who applied, namely 196. Thus, I wanted to make sure that I do not miss anyone and I am fair to every applicant. So, I went through all the 196 cover letters and CVs. I will share with you many of the things that I saw, obviously completely anonymously and with privacy respected, wanting to make sure that others can learn from certain mistakes that I have seen.
Tip #8: Check where you have the most chance to succeed
In an EU context, there are three main categories of jobs. One is the diplomatic type of jobs whenworking for permanent representations. In particular, if you work in the EU and if you are citizen of an EU member state, you can work in a permanent representation as a seconded national official or you could be a diplomat in the foreign ministry. This is through the national channel. Thus,you would need to become public servant or a civil servant through your home country.
In addition, there are the so-called SNEs, the Seconded National Experts, who are alsoofficials. They have a public status in their home countries and if you happen to be German or Maltese or Slovenian, you would be an official in those countries. In that case, your ministry or the Foreign Affairs Ministrysends you to work in an EU institution but legally speaking, you are still linked to your home administration. Again, this is more in the diplomatic field and in most cases you can get this job only through national channels.
Then you have the so-called political jobs, which could be several types but I would only highlight three: a) be an assistant to a member of the European Parliament. This means that an individual member of the Parliament would consider you as an asset, as a helper andas a political advisor as long as you basically share the same political views or at least your views are not far from that person’s. If that MEP is representing the Greens in the European Parliament, you would need to be aligned with that. If that MEP is a conservative or a socialist, he/she would want his/her assistant to be sharing a similar ideology; b) working for a European Parliament political group, which is a political job but of an administrative nature since all the major political groups in the European Parliament employ a number of people in their administrations, who are not necessarily working for an individual MEP but for the political group as a whole; and c)working foradvocacy organisations, anything from Greenpeace to various other NGOs that have a strong valuesset and a strong agenda. I consider that as a political job because these organisations want you to have a similar opinion or share the same values. Again, for these types of jobs, you need to convince those potential employers that you are the best fit and you have the right profile that matches their needs.
Last but not least is working inthe private sector, for think-tanks such as the European Policy Center or others that search and research EU, Asia relations etc. If you are more of an analytical type, think-tanks are probably a good fit for you. Consultancies are a very popular career path which basically comprises lobby firms and public affairs companies thatfall under this category as well as trade associationsdealing with photovoltaics and solar panels all the way to animal import and customs duties. In all of these jobs, you essentially need to convince the recruiting person that you have a good CV and profile.
Tip #9: Your goal
This takes me to the next part of my presentation, which consists of very practical tips and case studies of what makes a good CV but also of typical errors that I would caution you against and plead that you avoid. Ultimately, your goal is to stand out and as easy as it sounds, the execution is always the hardest part. So, how can you make sure that you are different from all the other candidates? I certainly do not think that sending in an email with a blue background or a blue letter -if it is a physical mail- would qualify as standing out because there are many other ways of lookingunique and relevant.
First of all is the packaging in terms of the overall look and feel of your application, your CVand the content that you share, certain extra elements that you can add to boost your CV and last but not the least; luck, however random it may seem.
I recently screened 196 CVs originally not with the idea of turning this into this kind of presentation but I certainly find it very useful to sharewith you my insights.
Tip #10: The packaging
Packaging is about what makes a good cover letter and a good CV and on the other hand it is about what totally ruins it.
Number one is when you apply for an EU affairs job mainly in Brussels, make sure that you convey the message that you are available for relocation or that you are already living here. Because many employers, however bad it sounds, may not even invite you for an interview if you are out of town. They will say, ‘Well, I am not sure I am going to hire this person because I cannot commit to whether he/she would make it all the way and fly here.’However motivated you are, they would say, ‘I would rather not invitethis person’. They would not bother having a Skype call or anything else. Therefore, provide an indication that says, ‘Yes, I am flexible or I am actually living in Belgium’.
Number two is to use the right style. Recently, I prepared a little questionnaire when I advertisedthe position for an assistant and some people wrote quite interesting things there. In particular, I asked the question: ‘Do you have a thorough knowledge of the EU institutions and procedures?’andone answer started with ‘Yeah’. If somebody can blow an application with a single word, I think this is a good example of that. It is quite strange to see “Yeah” written in a professional setting.
A very important point is attention to details and many people claim that they have a very high attention to details and are very thorough in their work. At the same time, I look at their CVs and applications, and I seethings such as ‘political activists’, which is notsupposed to be in plural or ‘I managed to get to know the EU institutions in details’, which should be ‘in detail’ or‘representing it’s members’, written with an apostrophe. These aresome of the mistakes I really find irritating because no matter how tiny they are, they are sometimes enough for your application to be rejected. If you have almost 200 candidates to choose from,one little apostrophe or one small mistake might disqualify you. However bad it sounds, this is reality.
Next one in line isspelling errors and again attention to details. For instance,“I know that there seven institution in the European Union”. This is a small mistake that reflects though very bad on this candidate. One of the most entertaining mistakes I have ever encountered is:‘The European Commission, the governing body concerned mainly with draughtinglegislation’, with ‘draughting’ spelled in a way that you draught beer. Incidentally, it was an Irish candidate who wrote that and thus, I was wandering whether that had any bearing on the spelling. In any case, the fact that he was a native speaker made this mistake even more painful. Another mistake I encountered was ‘Leonardo di Vinci’, which would render many Italian listeners and even non Italians very uncomfortable.
Another important point is your email address. It tells a message just like any communication you have, it reflects on you and it gives an impression to potential employers about who you are and about whether you are professional and serious. ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’: this is an innocent Gmail address that I had a hard time reading, let alone having to have a phone call with this candidate and asking that person to spell me his or her email. I would have a very hard time even writing it down.
One of the key points, if not the most important of all, is to show that you care about the potential employer’s organisation. A question that says, ‘What is your main motivation to work in this job?’essentially means ‘what is in it for me?’One candidate replied to me, ‘I will give you three reasons. First, I definitely think that I can benefit from the extensive experience of the Director by working next to him. Second, I feel myself suitable to work in small teams, surely my dimension. Last but not least, I still have a lot to learn about EU regulations and therefore I consider this as the chance for a quick learning by doing’. It is great that this person is so motivated and I do appreciate his kind words but how do all of these add value to my organization? That person could have turned the second point for example, into, ‘I am very efficient when working in small teams and I think this efficiency will benefit your organisation’. Thus, immediately turning a sentence from what it is in for me into what it is in for you. If I would have to highlight a single point, I would encourage you to not only talk about yourself in your application but to relate itto the needs of the employer and to the needs of the organisation.
The next point is more of an administrative nature especially when it comes to working in EU affairs in Brussels or in Luxembourg and relates to whether you have citizenship or work permit issues becausesome candidates are coming from non-EU member states. This is certainly not a problem in itself but it can make potential employers think,‘Am I going to have certain administrative issues with this person?’, ‘Is it going to be a headache for me to file certain documents and get certain papers approved?’Prevent that. Make sure you emphasize in your application that you can take care of these administrative issues or that you already have a long term residence permit. Do not make them think or have doubts about whether this would be a problem because it might lead to an immediate rejection of your application. Not because you are not a relevant candidate but due toa pure administrative formalistic issue.
The other question is whether youshould you apply or not if you are overqualified. Today’s job market is extremely competitive; there is no doubt about that. Therefore, if you are over qualified, it is alright. But explain to the employer why it is okay, emphasising that you will not have an issue when doing things, which may be inferior to your qualifications. Show that you do not mind thatin order for the potential employer not to have doubts about whetheryou might end up being very frustrated in the job because you happen to have two masters’ degrees or a PhD, when the job is actually an internship. Make sure that you preempt this doubt and already answer it in your cover letter or in your CV.
This was the packaging, a few horizontal or cross-cutting ideas in your application. We willnow look at the CV more specifically; how it should look and which are the certain issues and problems that you can avoid, to optimize it.
Tip #11: Your CV’s layout and content
First and foremost, is your CV updated? However simple and blunt it may sound, make sure that your CV is updated. The applications for the assistant positionI advertised, were sent in December 2012, whereas some candidates wrote that their diploma was expected in November 2012, meaning that at least for one month, they did not bother to update their CV, especially not before sending it to me. The other example is in education and training with a candidate referring to a graduation in July 2012, which means that for more than half a year this candidate had not updated his or her CV or that thIS candidate may have failed his/her exams, which is not necessarily a good sign.
Establishing relevance in your CV, you should feel free to cut and/or prioritize certain parts of it. If you apply to be an assistant to a Member of the European Parliament, you should highlight the fact that you spent three months as a trainee in the European Parliament. If you are applying to be a consultant in a public affairs firm, highlight the specific EU experience you may have because that is what they are looking for. The fact that you went to study Spanish in Chile for six months is great for your linguistic knowledge but is less relevant for the kind of profile they are seeking. Do not just send out your CV as a mass mailing. Make sure that it is as relevant and as tailor made as possible.
The next point to make is that a small formatting goes a long way. A quite extravagantformatting of a candidate’s CV, might be a little too much in a relatively conservative EU environment but then again it depends on the type of job you are applying for. If you are applying for anything related to communication, acreative way of presenting your knowledge or languages or knowledge of different computer tools, can be highly appreciated by the hiring manager. If it is for a relatively conservative and analytical type of job, like the one of a researcher, this may not be the right format. This is only to point out that a small unique formatting can go a long away.
I would also like to mention something that I am sure many of you are asking and is on your minds: ‘Should I use the Europass CV format?’ Here, I have to make a confession with no offense to anyone. I personally hate the Europass CV format for the simple reason that it is extremely long and it does not go directly to the point. It obliges you to go on and on for three or more pages, whereas it can get pretty complicated when filling out your language knowledge. Thus, unless the employer specifically asks for the Europass CV format, I would very much encourage you not to use it and use instead something more unique, more personal and -I dare to say- more creative.
In terms of the CV, does it tell a consistent story?For example, one candidate had a degree in Advanced Master in European Studies, a diploma in a language immersion course, a master in Business Communication and aWorld Education Program certificate in the US as an exchange student. I do not really know how to grasp this student. Where do I put this candidate? Is he/she more of a communication person? Is he/she more of a journalist or a linguist type? Potential employers love to put you in boxes and however bad or good that is, they certainly do it. They want to have an idea of whether you are for example more a manager type or of an EU energy policy expert. They want to know what your main line is in your profile and what the threadis on which they can put theseelements.Thus, your CV needs to tell a story. Each element needs to reinforcethe kind of profile that you want to pass and the one you can convey.
The other point I would like to make is more of a formalistic nature but very important in terms of content. It has to do with an all-caps overkill. In particular, a candidate wrote every single word in all caps, which totally decreased the value of the words that he/she wanted to pass. There were just too many items. It is a complete overload of information and I simple cannot believe that this person is an expert in Financial Mathematics, Business Administration, Marketing, Banking etc. I understand that these were probably the subjects that had to be covered in the school he/she was attending but there needs to be some focus, some choice of the main subjects or main interests of that person.
Equally important is putting concrete achievements into your CV. If you have certain numbers or figures, these are always welcome in your CV. In American CVs and resumes, this approach is extremely popular and if exercised in the right proportion, it can be just as good in classic EU affairs jobs. To give you an example, a candidate mentioned that meeting with the Food and Drug Administration resulted in a 77 day reduction in lead-time in product to market. The fact of mentioning the number 77 somehow makes it sound much more concrete. This person has achieved something, has reached a certain objective and that was very positive for the organisation. Therefore, if you have this sort of credible achievement, itis better to mention that ‘I organised a conference on the EU Data Privacy Law with 200 attendees’ instead of only saying,‘I am a good organiser’.
The next point when it comes to EU affairs jobs is to make sure that you highlight anypractical or inside knowledge of how EU institutions work. Having talked to a number of people in and around EU institutions, I know that potential employers always look for candidates who have a good understanding of the procedures, the decision making, the policies and the rest. If you have such an experience, make sure you highlight it. One of the candidates who applied to the position I announced, spent over a year in the European Parliament. But this was hidden in the middle of her CV, which was a very silly thing to do because this was one of the biggest selling pointsof her CV. Thus, if you have any kind of practical EU-related knowledge, highlight it since it constitutes a huge selling point when it comes to finding employment in EU affairs.
Next point: think with the reader’s head. In particular, one candidate wrote that he wasan ‘Aspen Institute Intern in the Leadership Department’. This may sound impressive but I have no clue whatsoever what is the Aspen Institute. It is importanthere to think with the reader’s headand mention what kind of establishment is the Aspen Institute and where it is located first of all. Probably in the US but I am not 100% sure. Do not make the potential employers think that they are not going to google Aspen institute in order to find out just an item in your CV.
Formalistic things such as the file size of your CV are equallyimportant. These days, we are almost exclusively sending CVs through e-mails. Make sure that you do not send files that clutter the mail systems because if the potential employer sees this kind of attachment on their phone, you do not want them to pay an extra fee for the data charges only to download your CV. So make it relatively small, easily accessible and turn it into a PDF because having Word or all sorts of formats will be displayed in totally different ways on totally different systems. I recently started using a Mac and as Mac users know very well, you cannot easily open a Word file unless you have the Word for Mac. Make sure that the CV is sent in a PDF format, which is compatible with every computer system. In terms of the chronology of your CV, I am very much in favour of candidates starting with their experience and not with their education because in most cases, experience is much more important than education itself.
Next point: should you add a photo or not? I do not have a preference on this but if you decide to add one, make sure you look at the camera and you make a professional image that it is not taken in an informal setting. Party background, summer holiday cut outs or anything else is strictly prohibited. If you decide to add a photo, make sure it looks professional. Obviously, this might lead to certain prejudices from potential employers. Ideally, that should not happen but in reality it does so it is up to you to decide whether or not toadd a photo.
Regarding the length of your CV, it should not be more than two pages. Make sure that it is to the point. Do not enclose five pages of publications list and keep it focused so you can cut it down;add certain items in bold; and have the reader’s eyes look at things, which are really important. Thus, formatting is not just a pure presentation issue. It can make or break your application because future employers may not have 200 CVs to go through, but several hundreds. Thus, the time they spent on any single CV is extremely limited. Sometimes, it only takes them seven or eight seconds to go over a CV, occasionally more. Therefore, it is really the overall impression that counts. So, once you have that CV, show it to a few friends, colleagues and even your family, asking them what is the first thing that you see, and the general impression that you get in roughly 10, 20 or 30 seconds.
Tip #12: Extra elements
Depending on the type of job you are applying for it may or may not be appropriate to add any extra elements. One element for instanceis to say in your cover letter what you would do in that organisationon Day 1. Many employers like this. It is a very proactive approach to say ‘Well, this is what I would do on Day 1’and ‘this is how I can contribute to your goals and your objectives.’That can be an EU agency in Copenhagen all the way to a potential consultancy in Luxembourg or in Brussels. Thus, this could be a valuable part to add. You could also add some ideas about the employer and the organisation, in terms of what you perceive or what you see. You only need to make sure that you are politically correct and you are not critical in any way.
Mostly for communication purposes or, in a broader sense, for public affairs or public relations types of jobs, you may create a video introduction. This is quitea creative thing and that is why I am emphasising that not every job would welcome this but some potential employers may be responsive to such an idea. You could for example put in the cover letter or in the CV itself a link to your Linkedin profile. Make sure that your Linkedin profile is consistent with your CV because the potential employers would want to find out more about you and have a kind of reinforcement of the impressions that they got based on your CV and cover letter.
Another extremely important point that many candidates overlook is to put a link to any kind of online resource to a book, study or intellectual input that they have created and are proud to share. The potential employers may want to see the thesis that you wrote at university. If you have created any kind of Powerpoint presentation, put it onSlideshare because all of these prove what you are claiming. If you claim that you have good English writing skills, there should be evidenceso thatwhen potential employersclick on it and see it, they will say, ‘Yes, this is not just an empty claim.It is actually true.’ In addition,it is of crucial importance to showcase that the thesis or any kind of scientific or other paper you have written is related to EU affairs. These extra elements are for your consideration because they can reinforce your application and provide it with a lot of uniqueness over other candidates.
Tip #13: The importance of luck
This is something that you always need to consider. However, you do not have much influence on it. Luck, as the classic definition goes, is when preparation meets opportunity. Thus, you need to be prepared for the job interview in case you get that phone call and not to decline it because you have not read enough about the company. Moreover, when a new position opens up, you need to be already prepared with your CV and with other forms of application sowhen the opportunity knocks on your door, you do not refuse it and you do not skip it.
Tip #14: Minimise your risk
This is a very legal expression that means due diligence on what resonates with the potential employer. What I mean by this is to look at their website. If you happen to know the individual hiring manager or if it is a small company, the top manager will possibly be very much involved. In that case, look up their profile and see what they do. In an online world, this is certainly possible. In this way, you can make your application very relevant for that person or in professional terms, for the organisation. If you have a better understanding of the organization and you integrate it in your CV and cover letter as well asin the interview at a later stage, this will significantly improve your chances to eventually get hired.
I cross my fingers for all of you who are seeking jobs or a career change and wish you lots of luck in your career paths.
If you have further questions or if there is any point I have not covered, I encourage you to send us an email or post it on our Facebook page, which is www.facebook.com/eutraining, and either me or one of my colleagues will be very happy to answerit whether it concerns CV writing, EU agency jobs or in a broader sense, EPSO competitions.
Thank you very much for your attention. This was Andràs Baneth live from Brussels