2020 EPSO External Relations Exams - Information Webcast | EU Training

2020 EPSO External Relations Exams - Information Webcast

This is the complete recording and presentation of the 2020 EPSO Administrators in External Relations Exams Information Webcast (EPSO/AD/382/20):

Presentation slides

Transcript - See below.

You can access the 2020 EPSO Administrators in the field of External Relations Notice of Competition here

Want to join the conversation and talk to other candidates about this competition? 
Join the EPSO Administrators in the field of External Relations Exams Facebook group

WANT TO BOOST YOUR EPSO EXTERNAL RELATIONS COMPETITION PERFORMANCE?

View these Methodology Webinars (many are free)...

How To Make The Most Of Your EPSO Talent Screener

The Motivation Challenge - What To Write In Your EPSO Application?

Webcast TRANSCRIPT

Transcript Quick Links

PLACE OF WORK
ARE YOU ELIGIBLE?
WHY IS THIS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY?
THE APPLICATION PROCESS
RESERVE LIST
HOW TO GET THE JOB?
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

INTRO - Sound check, greetings and introduction (00:00-06:00)

Presenter: Andras Baneth

ABOUT EU TRAINING

About our company in a nutshell before we get on with today’s topic.

OUR COMMUNITY

  • In over ten years of being in business we have had around 100,000+ registered users, which is a very humbling number
  • Over the years we’ve helped thousands of candidates prepare for competitions with great success and become EU officials, which is something we are very proud of.
  • There is a huge alumni community of those who prepared with EU Training who are now happy EU officials.
  • We have 54,000+ followers on Facebook, please like our page and get all the important EPSO updates.
  • There are many EPSO themed Facebook groups, including one for this particular competition. You can share insights, ideas, news, rumors, updates, success stories with each other in these groups.

TEST PACKAGES

  • We have 25,000+ test packages to help you. We have a huge database with many languages, 19 languages.
  • Over 17 million questions have been used, which is pretty fascinating.

WEBINARS

  • Make sure you check out our webinars. 
  • We have over 100 hours of free and paid webinars with dedicated materials like Verbal Reasoning, the Maths Refresher and the Talent Screener.
  • 10,000+ people have participated in our webinars

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

PLACE OF WORK (6:05)

Perhaps the very first question when it comes to EU External Relations and the position of Administrator in External Relations is where you might end up working. The very simple, immediate answer is that you will work in Brussels at the European External Action Service, or EEAS, which is at the Schuman roundabout, with very nice restaurants nearby. It’s quite a busy hub, that area, with many other institutions. That is the easy answer.

The more complicated answer is that whether immediately or in the course of your career as an Administrator in External Relations, you will most likely work, for a certain amount of time, at one of the 140 EU Delegations around the world. Just a bit of terminology distinction: there are ‘representations’ which are EU representative offices in one of the 27 member states. Then there are ‘delegations’ which are in so-called ‘third’ countries. Obviously this is not ‘third world’ countries, it’s ‘third’ countries meaning outside of the European Union. Even the UK EU representation has turned into a delegation or perhaps it will turn into a delegation when Brexit is finalised. But this is an ever-changing situation. I don’t know whether right now it’s a representation or delegation but if I had to guess it’s probably a delegation already. But for all other countries in the world outside of the EU, those are classified delegations. And it’s not just countries where the EU has delegations, but also international organisations like WTO or United Nations, and many others, then specific countries or territories. Which, again, is a question of international law, whether a certain area is recognised as a country or territory, or some other special status.

You as an administrator can end up working in Brussels  or be on a mission, or assignment, in one of those other countries or areas. And I just peaked at the comments and yes, the UK is already a delegation. Thank you for pointing that out.

This makes it a pretty exciting competition because you can deal with foreign affairs in a variety of settings, and do that in so many different countries around the world. Obviously, that may include dangerous or controversial places, which comes with its own set of challenges. But this is a part of the job, and probably one of the key motivating factors for those who are interested in this competition. 

 

WHAT WILL YOU BE TASKED WITH?

There are a variety of tasks that you might be doing:

  • Through the EEAS, help the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy carry out the Union's Common Foreign and Security Policy.

  • Promote and Protect the EU's interests and values in its relations with third countries, international organisations, and to contribute to the conduct of the Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy.

    • This is a very broad thing, whether it’s value-driven, projects, infrastructure or local initiatives in a given country - it’s really similar in many ways to being a diplomat and representing a country, which in this case is the European Union. Which, all of you dealing with Foreign Affairs would know, is a highly complex and very political issue of getting the 27 member states to come to agreement and a common political platform that then you have to go out and represent to other countries. But - that is what makes it so exciting.

  • Cooperate with the national diplomatic services of the EU Member States, the Council and the European Commission, in order to ensure consistency between different areas of the Union’s external action.

    • The European External Action Service does not exist in a vacuum. It’s not really the Foreign Office in the sense of a separate, unique, single foreign policy, but it’s deeply embedded into the member states’ foreign policy. And it’s the confluence of the 27 national priorities and how that translates into a common foreign security policy.

We took all this information from various EU sources, the Notice of Competition, EPSO and the EEAS.

This is pretty much what you’ll do on a day-to-day basis. Just a few examples it can be project management, it can be dealing with political interlocutors, local organisations and coordination with other ambassadors.

 

POSITIONS AVAILABLE

Given this competition, as with every EPSO competition, so competitions for the selection of future European Union civil service staff, there is a fixed number of places that they foresee to have on the reserve list. 

In this particular case you have 53 places for Grade AD5 and for Grade AD7 33 places on the Reserve List.

AD5 are entry level positions for those with a university degree. Then the AD7 requires more work experience to be placed in a higher level position in terms of administration, responsibilities, and certainly in terms of salary.

This gives a specific number of how many places there will be on the Reserve List. From the Reserve List you will be recruitable to specific positions. 

Certainly there are far more candidates than positions available, and that’s why it’s called a competition. So we’ll look at the way the whole process needs to be followed in order for you to succeed and realise your dream of becoming an EU official in this particular area.

 

APPLY BEFORE 13 OCTOBER 2020

This is the deadline which is not to be missed! Make sure to send in your application at least a couple days before the deadline. We always say this: the servers might crash, personal challenges may suddenly come up, your computer or device may crash unexpectedly… so make sure you complete and submit your application with sufficient forethought and sufficient attention to the deadline. Because if you miss it - that’s it, the opportunity is gone. Also be careful with time zones: if you happen to be east of Brussels just remember to keep the Brussels time zone in mind. In short, don’t leave it to the last moment, because it can lead to disappointment. 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

ARE YOU ELIGIBLE? (13:15)

Perhaps the most important formal question is are you eligible. Eligibility is a formal set of criteria that we’ll look at now briefly. If you do not meet these, you do not qualify for the competition. It is fairly independent of your personal merits and how well you might perform at the competition. These are basic criteria that you need to meet to be eligible.  

General Conditions

  • Must have EU citizenship

    • If you have dual citizenship, and at least one of them is an EU citizenship, lucky you, then you qualify. 

  • Completed military service requirements

    • It’s still compulsory in some countries, I believe Greece, maybe Austria. So you need to have completed it if this is a requirement in your country. Or you need to have an official document excusing you from military service. 

  • Meet the character requirements of the job

    • If you have any criminal history or any similar situation then you may not qualify. You need to be in good ethical standing as an EU citizen. 

That is pretty much the baseline, which is not particularly difficult to meet, and I believe most candidates would not have any issues with these.

LANGUAGE RULES

Then comes the second part which is the languages. You need to have a good command of at least two languages. These are called Language 1 and Language 2. 

LANGUAGE 1

  • Any of the 24 official EU languages (minimum C1 level)

    • That means you might be fluent in or a native speaker of Luxembourgish, but that is not an EU official language, despite being widely spoken in Luxembourg, and a little bit beyond. 

    • There are other widely spoken languages in Europe and within the EU that are not official languages.

    • So it needs to be one of the 24 official languages. 

    • But it’s entirely your choice which of those 24 you choose as your Language 1.

    • I’m Hungarian, I speak English, French and Spanish. I could choose any of these four as my Language 1. Now, my Spanish is a little rusty these days, so I certainly wouldn’t choose that. But I could perhaps choose English even though my mother tongue is Hungarian. 

    • It’s entirely up to you and it’s independent of your citizenship. No matter what passport you might have it is your choice which one you choose as Language 1.

    • The general rule of thumb that I advise is choose a Language 1 that is a language with which you can take in information the fastest. Meaning, perhaps passively you can read texts or analyse a verbal/numerical reasoning exam quickly - then that’s the one you should choose.

    • Because as you’ll see now:

LANGUAGE 2

  • Must be English or French

  • Has to be different from Language 1.

  • Language 2 is the language of the Assessment Centre where you need to truly actively use that language. You’ll need to speak at the Competency-based Interview, you’ll need to write a Case Study related to the field of the competition.

  • For instance, my spoken French is pretty good, but my written French is not as sophisticated or elaborate as my English or my Hungarian.

  • This is my personal consideration, but given your situation, your linguistic knowledge or how comfortable you are in each of these, and whether you have the luxury of actually choosing from some languages, that can all impact your choice.

One thing for sure, Language 1 can really be any of the 24, and then Language 2 has to be English or French as long as it’s different from Language 1. So if you are a native English speaker, and you choose that as Language 1 then you are only left with French as Language 2.

Make this choice carefully, after analysing it, but then again, it’s a relatively easy part of the competition.

 

QUALIFICATIONS

There are different qualifications, different for AD5 and different for AD7.

GRADE AD5

For AD5, as I said it’s an entry level competition, but it’s a so-called Specialist competition. The rules are a tiny bit different from the Generalist competitions. Like the ones that EPSO often runs for public administration. In this particular case:

  • Completed university studies of at least 3 years attested by a diploma

    • So if you studied, for example for three years at a particular university and it gave you the title of lawyer, that three years would not qualify you for this competition.

PLUS

  • A minimum of 1 year professional experience in the field of External Relations.

This is a little unique because normally for AD5 competitions they don’t require any professional experience. But in this case you do need one year professional experience related to External Relations. 

You might ask, what qualifies as professional experience? If you’ve worked in the Foreign Affairs Ministry then that’s pretty straightforward. If you were, for example, a PhD researcher, or just pursued studies in a certain field- then I’m not entirely sure. It may be worth asking the Selection Board or EPSO directly, to make sure that you do qualify and you won’t be disqualified  or on the basis of that one year that may or may not be considered professional experience.

As a main rule, the way they look at professional experience is that it needs to be a paid position. So if you worked as a paid volunteer in Vietnam or in Latin America for a year, as long as you were paid and it had to do with external relations then it could be accepted as professional experience. But if you were just trekking across Latin America for a year, good for you, but that will not count as professional experience. Again, as long as it was a formal work relationship that was paid and you can justify all of that, then that, as a main rule, should qualify as such.

Here comes our legal disclaimer. Whatever I am telling you in this webcast is what we know, to the best of our knowledge, but the true, official information must come from the Selection Board or EPSO, or any other official source, such as the Notice of Competition. So make sure to double check any doubts you may have, make sure you are fully covered from a legal perspective.

GRADE AD7

When it comes to AD7, more experience is required. You will have more responsibility once you get the job and certainly a higher salary.

  • Completed university studies of at least 4 years with a diploma. PLUS a minimum of 6 years professional experience in the field of External Relations.

OR

  • Completed university studies of at least 3 years with a diploma. PLUS a minimum of 7 years professional experience in the field of External Relations.

So studies and experience need to be all together ten years for both, whether it’s four and six, or three and seven is basically up to you and how you did your university years in this context.

That’s pretty much it in terms of the formal qualifications that you need to meet. You need to be able to prove these, upon request you need to be able to present the right documents and  background information, they might even require you to upload that into the system. They probably won’t check it until much later in the process because of the sheer number of candidates and the initial filtering of candidates via pre-selection tests and exams. Only those who qualify for further rounds will have their diplomas and documents checked.

 

I’ll take a few questions here:

For AD5 only 53 will be taken. What minimum points do I need for the multiple choice tests to pass to the Assessment Centre? 

We’ll get to the actual tests in a moment and then everyone will be on the same page as to what kind of tests you need to pass. Then we’ll cover the scoring and how many points you need to get. But, as a rule of thumb,whatever the maximum score is, if you can reach roughly 90% of those maximum points, I’d even say 85-90% of the maximum, then generally you stand a good chance of passing to the next stage. That’s sort of the ballpark of how well you need to perform.

Given the competitive nature of these exams, you truly need to be at the top of your game because there are a lot of candidates and you need to be among the top performing ones in each stage of the competition.

 

If I don’t fulfill all the criteria in the Talent Screener do I still have a chance?

I’m glad you brought up the Talent Screener, for those of you who may not know, we’ll get to that as well in a moment. The Talent Screener is a special questionnaire that you need to fill in and we’ll talk a little bit about what best practices you should apply to optimise your Talent Screener responses. And again, that’s part of the process and we’ll definitely be covering it soon. 

 

I’ve done a non paid internship at the UN. Even if it’s not remunerated due to the nature of the institution would it count as a working experience?

That is a very good question that I would not feel comfortable answering with any certainty. Given that it’s the UN it’s extremely relevant for this position, but the fact that it was unpaid that may put it in a different light. This is the type of question I would encourage you to ask directly from the Selection Panel or there is an EPSO helpline, make sure you get official information from them.

 

What is the difference in salary between the AD5 and the AD7?

That is also a good question. We actually have a salary calculator on eutraining.eu that you may want to try out. But it is roughly 1000 euros difference between AD5 and AD7.

The AD5 starting salary, depending on certain factors, whether you are married, have children, relocating, or already in Brussels for over six months, the salary will be around 4000-4500 euros NET per month. That also includes many other things which we will talk about now.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

WHY IS THIS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY? (25:30)

  • ATTRACTIVE SALARIES

  • GOOD BENEFITS

Additionally there is a very good health insurance scheme that comes with it. If you have children then they can go to European schools in their respective languages. 

There’s quite a lot of infrastructure around it to make sure that your work in this international environment is as productive and pleasant as possible.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

HOW TO GET ONE OF THESE JOBS? (26:00)

The question on everyone’s mind! How do you actually get these kinds of jobs? Well you need to pass the competition, you need to pass the different stages of the selection process. 

 

STEP 1 - APPLICATION PROCESS 

  • Declare your eligibility and make sure you meet all the formal criteria as discussed.

  • Pick your languages, Language 1 & 2.

  • Then your application needs to be submitted by the deadline in any of the 24 EU languages, which means getting all these administrative formalities done, this is pretty much the easy part.

  • Then comes the Talent Screener which needs to be in either English or French.

 

WHAT IS A TALENT SCREENER?

I mentioned before when I saw that question that the Talent Screener is part of this competition, as it is part of any other so-called specialist competition. The Talent Screener is basically a set of questions, a questionnaire of sorts, which explores your professional background in more detail and wants to find out why you are suitable, eligible or relevant for that particular position. A lot of questions are asked about your professional background, about your studies, about your views on certain matters, about your approach to a certain problem, but more broadly it is related to your professional path. They ask about your CV (resumé), and they ask about anything related to your interests in the given field. 

Then there are the assessors, the Selection Board members, who will be reading through these answers and scoring you. The points given for each answer are 0-3. 0 being absolutely no relevance to the question, and 3 being the maximum you can get, and means you are exactly what they are looking for in this particular area. 

We’ll come back to this, but I just wanted to say I’ve seen hundred of Talent Screener answers over the years, and candidates who are brilliant, really talented and they have an excellent academic and professional background often shoot themselves in the foot by not providing or framing the answers in a way that would optimise their scores. Writing in a very clear, understandable, compelling and dare I say, persuasive manner in the Talent Screener has a major impact on the score you will be given. 

I’m pretty fascinated by this topic, because it relates to persuasive writing and despite talking about your own academic or professional background it still needs to be formatted in a way which is easy to scan and quick to understand. You need to present it in a way that highlights certain specific facts so the assessors will get a very clear idea of your achievements. Whereas many candidates tend to bury certain critical information in their answers, covered by long sentences, hard to read paragraphs or just too much text.

The point is that the Talent Screener is part of this particular competition because they are looking for those who are specialists in External Relations and you need to make the case for yourself given all the things you’ve done in your academic and professional life until now. 

I already mentioned briefly how it’s scored with 0-3 points. Again this is the main rule with the disclaimer that there might be slight differences or changes. We don’t expect any changes to happen in this particular competition, but there might be. I’m telling you everything that we’ve seen so far and rumours that we’re hearing so we’re pretty sure that it will stay the same. Just make sure to double check the Notice of Competition, and your application, and whatever is written there is the most accurate and up-to-date information. 

 

HOW DO YOU MAXIMISE YOUR TALENT SCREENER SCORE?

This is exactly what I was mentioning a moment ago, that you would certainly want to maximise your score because it is such an important part of the overall process.

A few tips:

  • Try to answer 'YES' as much as possible, but only if you can back it up with truthful and relevant information.

    • Try to be positive. For example, they might ask you ‘Do you have experience with a local charity organisation in a given country?’ As long as you are really honest and remain truthful, ethical but at the same time you can present an experience you had in a way that answers the question in the affirmative, in that case you should do that. Think about whether your answer will be relevant to the question.

    • Simply putting ‘No, I don’t have that kind of experience.’ That is an immediate 0 points.

    • To emphasise - you really need to be truthful and rely on your own experiences and not distort any information.

    • At the same time approach with this sort of positive mindset. E.g. ‘Does that project I did in Easter Europe qualify and can I present that in a way that this question requires me to do?’

  • Concrete vs. Abstract answers. Scores are based on hard evidence - facts, figures, places and dates. 

    • Be very concrete. This is such a simple thing to do, yet so many candidates fail to keep this in mind.

    • Here is a, perhaps silly, example: ‘I worked on many international projects in a range of countries in Asia.’ Almost nothing was said with this sentence. There was no mention of how many countries, no countries were named, there was no budget mentioned in relation to the projects, or the scale - how many people were involved, there was no description of the impact of the project… there are so many concrete, specific pieces of information you could add to indicate the scale, the importance, personal responsibility, specific tasks. All of this you could add to your answer to make it concrete.

    • It’s a simple exercise just to go through your answers and make sure you’ve been very specific with your information, because that is exactly what will resonate with your assessors which in turn means better scores.

  • Provide lots of valuable information, but give only relevant and meaningful answers. Leave out space fillers.

    • This is very similar to the previous one, where you want to give examples, make sure you can demonstrate your claims, and include the proof points to underline what you claim as experience.

  • Do not copy-paste previous answers. You can use the same experience again if you can manage to present it from a different angle than before. 

    • I’ve seen many candidates do this. When there are a lot of questions in a Talent Screener, out of laziness or lack of imagination they would copy/paste earlier answers.

    • Even if it’s some sort of duplicate answer, then you should rephrase it or just take a different angle on the same matter. This will have an impact on your scores. This is a crucial part of you optimising your talent screener responses.

  • Readability and clear communication will influence your assessors' understanding of your professional background:

      • Use a structured layout with bullet points.

      • Clear references.

      • Short but to-the-point descriptions.

    • I’ve seen Talent Screeners with extremely long run-on sentences, I’ve seen long paragraphs which should have been broken up into sub-paragraphs. You can even add little titles or numbers, or bullet points, which can even be done in simple text format just to help the reader scan through and understand what your presenting. 

    • You may think - ‘My achievements speak for themselves.’ Often, they don’t. Often when an assessor has to read dozens, if not hundreds, of Talent Screeners in a given day, their eyes will just glaze over and that might impact your scores. Therefore, you want to make sure you help them and make their job easier by helping them understand your achievements as fast as possible. 

  • EU institutions and EPSO are formal and terminology-driven. Learn the lingo and use it.

    • They do like their jargon, they like to hear about EU programmes. Whenever there is a link between your background or your achievements to what the EU does or what the External Action Service does you would want to highlight that. And do that by replicating their language in the vocabulary you use to provide a positive impression.

  • What's in it for them...make sure to link your personal background and work experience with the needs of the EU or institution you are applying to. 

    • This is a pretty basic concept in any persuasive writing, from marketing to cover letters for job applications all the way to the Talent Screener.

    • You want to make it clear what you will contribute to the European External Action Service and the European Union in general with your background and achievements. 

    • Don’t just list your fantastic achievements, but connect those with the kind of things they care about.

    • For example, ‘I have five years of experience dealing with conflict resolution in very challenging conflict zones. This can be a relevant experience given the EU’s engagement or commitment in the following areas.’ So you not only state something but you connect that very concretely to how that is going to be very good for your, hopefully, future employer.

  • If you want to write a stellar Talent Screener view this webinar recording: "Everything You Need To Know About EPSO's Talent Screener"

    • You will hear all these points with far more detail and a lot of examples, and specific ideas that you can apply when filling in the Talent Screener.

    • If you are interested in this topic in a more in-depth manner then feel free to check out the Talent Screener webinar.

 

Let me pause here to take a few more questions:

Should the university degree be related to the field?

There’s no requirement stated in the Notice of Competition that your university degree needs to be related to the field. Which is pretty understandable to me, given that External Relations is a vast area. You could be a lawyer, an economist, a development expert, a conflict resolution person, a psychologist, a sustainable agriculture expert, there are so many fields that can broadly relate to External Relations. I do agree then, that this makes sense. And from a formal approach, there is no such requirement in the Notice of Competition.

It’s your experience that needs to be related to the field, related to External Relations. 

 

Can UK citizens apply?

Unfortunately, no. So, the UK is no longer a member of the EU. We are talking about EU27. UK citizens are therefore not eligible, because they are not among the 27 EU member countries.

 

If I have a degree in International Relations can I apply to the European Law Administrators competition, or only the External Relations competition? I was wondering if I could apply to both?

I’ll address this question, though it’s slightly specific. There is a broader point I’d like to make. Generally for EPSO competitions you can apply to as many as you like. You can sign up for all these competitions in parallel. Unless there is a separate and concrete clause in the Notice of Competition stating ‘Those who applied for ‘so-and-so’ competitions, cannot apply for this one.’ But this is extremely rare. The main rule is, you can have 3,4,5 - any number of applications running in parallel as long as you meet all the formal criteria.

Regarding the question, if you have a law degree, then you can apply to both the External Relations competition and the AD5 Law competition which happens to be ongoing now. As long as you meet the formal criteria and you have the right degrees then you can apply for any number of competitions in parallel. 

It might even be a good thing because you can practice the Computer-based test and certain parts of the exam which can improve your performance.

 

STEP 2 - PRE-SELECTION CBT EXAM 

  1. Verbal Reasoning

  2. Numerical Reasoning

  3. Abstract Reasoning

These take place at a test centre, which are located all over Europe. You can book an exam date when you are notified by EPSO by following the link and booking a spot via the website. 

Given the current situation, September 2020, many institutions are closed, and there are severe restrictions in terms of where you can go. What we’re hearing is that EPSO is exploring different ways of taking some of these tests perhaps from the comfort of your own home or some other alternative way, which we don’t know about yet. There might be some changes coming up soon about where you can take these tests. But the substance, the very nature of these tests, will stay exactly the same. 

1. VERBAL REASONING

  • Administered in Language 1

  • 20 questions

  • 35 minutes to complete it

This is a fairly straightforward exercise. It’s 35 minutes and 20 questions where you need to pick the right answer from multiple options. You have a text passage, you need to analyze it very quickly, because you see how little time you have, then choose the answer from the different options provided. 

This is Verbal Reasoning, not so much Reading Comprehension. So there’s a bit of a logical element to it, where you need to analyze and deduce an answer from the text, and not just look for a synonym or look at the linguistic meaning of a given sentence. There is more analysis to this kind of exercise. 

2. NUMERICAL REASONING

  • Administered in Language 1

  • 10 questions

  • 20 minutes to complete it

Here you have a chart, a table often where you need to analyse the different cells, the connotations between the various numbers and figures and do an algebra calculation and choose the correct answer from the multiple choice options. The best thing to do in this case is mental calculations, and maybe not use a calculator, but you are given an on-screen calculator. It certainly helps you but it takes up time. Numerical Reasoning, as well as Verbal Reasoning, and to some extent Abstract Reasoning, is not that difficult if you have time. The time pressure is what makes it so difficult. That’s why it requires a lot of practice a bit like any sport that is being timed, in that most people in good physical condition can run 100 metres but they cannot necessarily do it in under 10 seconds. So for that, you need massive preparation. Speed is of the essence

Quick methodology to use:

  • Data interpretation

  • Reasoning

  • Estimation (Guesstimation)

  • Calculation

3. ABSTRACT REASONING

  • Administered in Language 1

  • 10 questions

  • 10 minutes to complete it

Here you will see charts on the screen, with a variety of images and sequences and you need to figure out which will be the next image in the sequence. And again, with a bit of time most candidates can actually find the correct answer, but you only have 10 minutes to answer 10 questions. One minute per question is pretty challenging

 

CBT SCORING

Why are pass marks important? You have a so-called objective pass mark, which is independent of any other candidates and you need to hit those minimum thresholds in order to pass. 

And then you have the relative pass mark which is compared to other candidates. This is the question we had earlier asking what score you need to secure your place at the next phase of the competition. And I answered roughly 85-90% of the overall achievable score will likely get you to the next stage. 

Therefore, the objective pass mark is less relative from this perspective. It’s really against the other candidates that you need to compete. 

Here are the different pass marks:

VERBAL REASONING (0/20)

  • Pass mark: 10/20

  • This is a pretty achievable bar. 

NUMERICAL REASONING (0/10) 

ABSTRACT REASONING (0/10)

  • Pass mark: the two above COMBINED 8/20

  • You can underperform, for example, on the abstract reasoning, and be a star on the numerical reasoning and still get a pretty high score.

  • But then you have to wonder if you will be among the top-scoring candidates. If you compare your score to all the others.

As I said, the pass mark is not enough, you really need to achieve a very high score to be successful and get to the next stage. 

 

Step 3 - TALENT SCREENER REVIEW

Then comes the Talent Screener review. The Talent Screener will not be reviewed until you pass the pre-selection exams. 

Those who got the highest scores in the computer-based tests for each grade and make it through the Eligibility Check will have their Talent Screener reviewed.

 

Step 4 - ASSESSMENT CENTRE 

Then if all goes well you’ll make it to the Assessment Centre. Again, given the times we are living in, the Assessment Centre used to be in Brussels, and I use the phrase ‘used to be’ because even though there is that nice building on Avenue Courtenberg and EPSO has all the facilities there, and for many years now they have been receiving hundreds and thousands of candidates going through the Assessment Centre, right now it seems the Assessment Centre will happen online. 

The content of many of these exercises will not change, save for a few. Doing a Group Exercise or a Role Play Exercise might be a very different dynamic if everyone is on a computer screen. How it’s going to work with Zoom calls, or Webx calls, we don’t yet know.

But there is still a lot to say about it and how you can optimise your performance, from body language, and reading a document on screen, to saying meaningful things and group interaction and how that might happen, there is still a system to it. There is a method to it, something you can learn and something you can train for. 

However, right now, at least according to the Notice of Competition, this will happen in Brussels. Again, we don’t know what the situation will be by the time this competition gets to the Assessment Centre phase. Hopefully there will be less restrictions, hopefully travel restrictions will be eased. But best be prepared for this to happen in a virtual setting through your computer. Or, you may even need to go to a test centre and they will provide the IT facilities where you will still be participating in a more virtual setting. 

The Assessment Centre is done in Language 2, hence my earlier comment that you need to master that language and pick a Language 2 in which you can express yourself to the best of your abilities. 

Approximately 3 times the number of candidates sought for each grade will be invited.

ASSESSMENT CENTRE TASKS

Five types of exercises:

  1. CASE STUDY EXAM

    • This is not related to the field. So it’s not about External Relations.

    • This exam looks at your competencies, like analysing, quickly processing information, writing properly. 

  2. GROUP EXERCISE

    • This we are not sure about, it may be virtual, we don’t know how this will be changed or adapted to the lack of physical presence. 

  3. COMPETENCY-BASED INTERVIEW

    • This can easily be done online, it’s pretty much like a Skype job interview. Perhaps there will be two assessors asking you questions related to your Resilience, your Working with Others skills, your Leadership competencies, and all the eight competencies that EPSO requires to be tested.

  4. INTERVIEW IN THE FIELD

    • You will be asked questions related to your field, very much related to what you were asked in your Talent Screener. You will be asked about your academic experience, your professional background, how you got your position, the experiences you had there. You may be even asked to talk about how you would approach a specific situation, a lot of hypothetical questions as well. 

  5. WRITTEN TEST IN THE FIELD

    • This is truly linked to your field of expertise which is External Relations.

The Assessment Centre typically takes place on the same day except for the Case Study. But then again, if it’s converted to some type of online virtual environment then there might be adaptations. This is pending, but by the time you get to this phase we will have far more information about this, so you needn’t worry about this at this stage because as you saw earlier this is the second phase of this particular competition.

ASSESSMENT CENTRE SCORING

There are 8 competencies each one is worth 10 points.  You need to get at least 40 points out of  80.

The Interview in the Field and the Written Test in the Field that is worth a lot, altogether 100 points. And you need to reach at least 50 points (25 each) in order to pass. 

Those who get the highest overall score will make it onto the RESERVE LIST. That’s it in a nutshell.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

SUCCESS! RESERVE LIST

If everything goes well, and why wouldn’t it, you get on the Reserve List. Once you are on the Reserve List, you can be recruited by, normally any EU institution, but given this particular one, by the European External Action Service or, perhaps, even by one of the delegations. However, in legal terms, the delegations are under the supervision of the European External Action Service, so even in that case you would probably be hired by the EEAS, though there are some non-EEAS staff in delegations as well, but we won’t go into those details now.

The Reserve List itself has a validity, which is typically one year, though in some cases they might extend it and in other cases it’s valid for a longer period until a similar competition is announced. In this case, it will probably be valid for two or three years, or even longer. Although the aim of the institutions and probably your professional aim, is to be hired as soon as possible. 

And again, a little plug for one of our webinars which is called How To Get An EU Job from the Reserve List. So when you get to that stage, make sure to check it out and hopefully you’ll get some helpful pieces of advice.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

HOW TO GET THE JOB? 

  • Practice a lot! Practice for 10-12 weeks. Depending on where you are right now in terms of your abilities in Verbal, Numerical and Abstract Reasoning and your general understanding of the competition, prepare regularly. 

  • Make a plan. Whether it’s one hour a day or 10 hours per week, as long as it’s regular. Really look at it like a sports preparation where regularity is really important. 

  • Learn the methodology. There is a sound methodology in place. You do not need to reinvent the wheel. There are enormous amounts of material on our site: free E-books, free webinars and Tips & Tricks articles. We also offer a variety of paid services. Our customer support is also here to help you, guide you and answer your questions. Use the methodology because it will save you time and make you a more effective test-taker.

  • Persistence is key! You may want to create a study group, talk to your friends and prepare together, but be very consistent and persistent. 

  • Do lots of test simulations as part of your preparation.

We are here to help you and to provide all the materials you need:

SIMULATED PRACTICE TESTS

  • Verbal Reasoning - 19 LANGUAGES!

    • One of our proudest achievements! So you can practice in your Language 1 and do realistic simulations.

  • Numerical Reasoning

  • Abstract Reasoning 

WEBINARS

Free - Beginner's Guide Webinars:

  • Beginner’s Guide To The EPSO Verbal Reasoning Test

  • Beginner’s Guide To The EPSO Numerical Reasoning Test

  • Beginner’s Guide To The EPSO Abstract Reasoning Test

  • Beginner’s Guide To The EPSO Organising & Prioritising Test

Pro Tips Webinars:

  • Pro Tips For The EPSO Verbal Reasoning Test

  • Pro Tips For The EPSO Numerical Reasoning Test

  • Pro Tips For The EPSO Abstract Reasoning Test

  • Pro Tips For The EPSO Organising & Prioritising Test

 

A WEALTH OF RESOURCES:

  • Free E-Books

  • Lots of Tips & Tricks

  • Free Demo Tests

  • Training Sessions and Simulations

    • In-person at our Brussels training centre, following all healthy and safety guidelines, as well as online virtual sessions.

  • Personal Coaching

    • Via Skype, or face-to-face in Brussels

JOIN AN EPSO COMMUNITY

EPSO Administrators in the Field of External Relations Exams

  • Engage with other candidates and learn from their experiences.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

QUESTIONS PLEASE

Could you advise on study sources for the Interview in the Field?

Yes, generally I recommend two pretty good sources. And again, as a broad idea, and not necessarily just for external affairs. Typically, Annual Reports from an institution or a directorate general or a service, as in the case of the EEAS. Annual Reports tend to be pretty helpful sources for preparation because they really summarise everything that they’ve done in the most recent years and it helps you get up to speed on what their political, and policy, priorities are. You will then know which issues they are more concerned about, it helps you learn their vocabulary and jargon, and all their achievements that they consider worthy of publication. 

Another good source tends to be press releases. These bring you up to date on the most important issues and challenges that an institution faces.

For EEAS these are the kind of things that you might want to look at.

Then other good sources include the European Parliament’s publications, summaries on foreign policy. There’s the European Parliament Research Service, they may have helpful reports.

And then, of course, EEAS has a wealth of information from different countries and regions, political declarations and speeches. All of this you have access to. 

You may also want to look at some academic literature, whether it’s textbooks or other major publications. I don’t know if you have the time or the energy to go through those, but if you are preparing for the interview in the field, you probably want to take that seriously, depending on what your background is you may need to read more than others who may be actively working in the field already. 

 

I’ve recently passed the computer-based tests. Do I have to pass them again?

Thank you for asking this question because I presume this is on the minds of quite a few candidates. This, unfortunately, you need to take the test, and pass, again. This is not like a language exam, or some other certificate where you only need to pass it once and then you kind of retain the scores, which is even similar to what happens in the CAST exams (Contract Agent exams), which some of you might be familiar with.

But in this particular case, for every EPSO-run open competition you need to pass the computer-based tests each and every time.

You are, however, more experienced if you’ve already passed the computer-based tests for another competition. Good for you, keep practicing and it will probably be easier for you to reach a passing score in this exam, but you do need to pass it again.

 

One of the requirements of this position is to agree to be posted in conflict-prone regions in the world. Does the EEAS consider family situations when posting applicants?

I presume so. I don’t really think that they would expect you to go to conflict zones or war zones without your prior consent, or at least presenting it as the only option, take it or leave it. I doubt that this would be the case. They certainly will listen to your input, so if you have children, especially young children, they will be less likely to offer you that sort of position. 

Of course there are a lot of factors that go into it, like where are the vacancies, where can they offer you a position, what is your experience because maybe you are highly qualified in conflict resolution so they would see you as the ideal candidate to be posted in a certain area. 

However, at any given point, there are lots of opportunities within EEAS, so I’m pretty sure there will be opportunities that you can negotiate and which you can discuss with them directly. 

But you certainly need to be ready to be posted in such places at one point in your career, because we know the world is not just shiny, happy people and that’s part of foreign policy to be ready for conflict and engage in this sort of job. 

 

THANK YOU FOR PARTICIPATING

Thank you so much for your attention! Big thanks to my team in Budapest for putting this together and making sure everything runs smoothly. 

A big thanks to my Brussels team who helped me put our little studio together. 

Hopefully you enjoyed it!

Do reach out to us. Send us messages, we can help guide you or point you to the right resource or the right person to talk to with your questions. EU Training is here to help you succeed and pass the competition, to realise your dream of becoming an EU official and working in External Relations.

Thank you so much for being here. Share this webinar and all the resources with your friends and your network, we will be forever grateful.

This was Andras Baneth from Brussels and I hope to see you next time!