2021 Administrators in Health & Food Safety EPSO Exams - Information Webcast | EU Training

2021 Administrators in Health & Food Safety EPSO Exams - Information Webcast

This is the complete recording and presentation of the 2021 Administrators in Health & Food Safety EPSO Exams - Information Webcast

Presentation slides

Transcript - click here

You can access the Administrators in policymaking and law-making in the field of health profile here
You can access the Administrators in policymaking and law-making in the field of food safety profile here
You can access the Administrators in auditing, inspection, and evaluation in the field of health and food safety profile here

Want to join the conversation and talk to other candidates about this competition? 
Join the Health and Food Safety Specialists - EPSO Exams Facebook Group

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Free Tips & Tricks articles

How To Make The Most Of Your EPSO Talent Screener

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

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Webcast TRANSCRIPT

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ABOUT EU TRAINING
WHERE WILL YOU WORK?
APPLICATION
ARE YOU ELIGIBLE?
WHY IS THIS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY?
HOW TO GET ONE OF THESE JOBS
RESERVE LIST
HOW TO GET THE JOB?
QUESTIONS PLEASE

INTRODUCTION

INTRO - Introduction, greetings and sound check (00:00-06:30)

Presenter: Andras Baneth (EU Training co-founder, author of The Ultimate EU Test Book, co-author of The Ultimate EU Test Book - Assessment Centre edition, former EU Official

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ABOUT EU TRAINING

I’d like to encourage you to check out our community of EU Training. Over the many years we’ve been in business we’ve had over a hundred thousand registered users, thousands of them are EU officials. This is something we’re really proud of, that we could help them in their preparation.

OUR COMMUNITY

  • Over 100,000 people have used our services or have become acquainted with our practice tests and preparation resources.
  • We have different Facebook groups and our Facebook page where we share breaking news, sometimes funny stuff and rumours: 55,000+ fans and followers.

TEST PACKAGES

Then we have all those test packages available on our website eutraining.eu for you to use with over 17 million questions that have been used. That’s a pretty impressive number!

WEBINARS

  • We have lots of webinars, some information sessions like the one we’re having right now.
  • But there are many others which are on methodology,like Abstract, Numerical and Verbal Reasoning questions. There are others dealing with the Talent Screener, which is particularly relevant for this competition since the Talent Screener is part of it.
  • Then we have other dedicated webinars on the Assessment Centre, and the different parts of the Assessment Centre, like the Case Study, or the Situational Competency-Based Interview (SCBI),  a relatively new addition in light of the pandemic measures.
    • Over 100 hours of free and paid webinars.
    • 10,000+ people have participated in our webinars.

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WHERE WILL YOU WORK? (05:50)

Let’s get started. I’d like to just say a few words about where your place of work will be, if and when - I like to say when, you succeed in this competition. Where can you reasonably expect to be working? The interesting thing is that the typical answer for that is Brussels or Luxembourg. But, with this particular competition there is also the possibility of Grange, Ireland. This is where DG SANTE, the Health Policy Directorate General of the European Commission has a special office for Food & Veterinary inspectors. It’s a relatively small outlet, and interesting that it’s in Ireland. But formally it belongs to DG SANTE and it is mostly for those involved in Food & Veterinary audit inspection who will be placed here.

This is interesting and rather unique because most competitions revolve around the Brussels and Luxembourg axis. But in this one, Ireland is another possibility, depending on which profile you apply for, and which one you succeed in. This will determine where you are going to be working.

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APPLICATION (07:10)

Next, let’s look at the process, the details and a couple of tips, tricks and ideas about how you can make the most out of this competition and succeed. 

POSITIONS AVAILABLE

How many positions are available? You probably already know this if you’ve read the Notice of Competition. There are three profiles, or fields, within this particular competition. You can only apply for one of these. You cannot apply for two or more. You need to make a choice. In some cases the choice will be straightforward depending on which degree or diploma you originally have. In other cases if your background qualifications are more versatile, e.g. you have a biochemistry degree or something in toxicology, or something similar, that could qualify you for more than one profile. In that case, you need to make a choice. In other cases your diploma and your work experience will be the determining factor in choosing a profile. 

  • 41 places for policy-making and law-making in the field of health 
  • 30 places for policy-making and law-making in the field of food safety
  • 30 places for auditing inspection and evaluation in the field of health & food safety

These are pretty high numbers. It may seem relatively limited to those of you who are new to EU Competitions, but in terms of the number of permanent officials that EU Institutions will eventually hire, this is considered a large competition. It’s a specialist competition, so the rules are somewhat different from the so-called generalist competitions. We’ll look at the whole process and in ways it differs from the generalist ones. But then again, even for a specialist competition it’s considered a relatively large one. It’s understandable given the importance of health policy, partly thanks to the pandemic and all that has happened in the past year. Policy-making in health, and all that goes with that, has become extremely important in Europe, hence the need from the institutions to hire a relatively large number of staff.

You can see the three fields, which I’ll just read out: policy-making and law-making in the field of health, policy-making and law-making in the field of food safety, and then there is the third one which is  auditing inspection and evaluation in the field of health & food safety. Profile number three is unique because it is auditing and inspection. Whereas the other two are about policy-making and law-making.

The grade is AD7

APPLY BEFORE 22 JUNE 2021

Do not miss it! Do not leave your application until the last moment. Make sure that you finalise everything that you need to, you fill in all the right things online, and you hand it in at least a day or two before the deadline because many people leave it to the last moment, servers might crash, or you may get a last minute impediment and then you won’t succeed in handing it on time. And there are no exceptions for anyone. Usually, it’s noon (Brussels time zone), again, just do it on time!

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ARE YOU ELIGIBLE?(11:00)

More importantly… and this is perhaps the most important question in every competition, and this one in particular - are you eligible? Do you have the right background, profile, qualifications, experience, etc?

GENERAL CONDITIONS

As in every case, there are general conditions. You need to meet certain, very basic criteria in order to qualify for the competition. What are these?

  • You need to have EU citizenship. For instance, a UK passport is no longer eligible.
  • You need to have completed military service, if that’s compulsory in your country.
    •  Perhaps in Austria, Greece, and maybe one or two other countries it’s compulsory. In other places this is not.
  • You need to meet the character requirements of the job
    • Which we often wonder about what exactly that means, but perhaps a criminal record might be a problem. 
    • Or if certain aspects of the job require security clearance because of the sensitivity of an assignment or you’re exposed to trade negotiations, or highly confidential data - commercial, political, military or other, then clearance needs to be ensured and this requirement refers to that.

LANGUAGE RULES

These are pretty straightforward, but you need to pay attention to choosing the right language combination to optimise your chances of succeeding. Here is what I mean: There is always a Language 1 and Language 2 in these competitions that EPSO administers, EPSO is the acronym for European Personnel Selection Office.

LANGUAGE 1

  • By law, this needs to be one of the 24 official languages of the EU (minimum C1 level), 
  • This is quite an easy choice for most people depending on what your mother tongue is, as long as your mother tongue is one of the EU’s 24 official languages.
  • It’s decoupled from your passport. If you happen to have a Spanish passport but you lived most of your life in the Netherlands, and you dream, swear and communicate in Dutch, then that will probably be your Language. It’s entirely up to you.
  • If you’re in a good situation where you speak multiple languages then you can choose any language that you have mastered to such a degree that you can express yourself, read and understand things easily in that language. 
  • For instance, I often give my own personal example: I’m Hungarian, I speak English and French. My Spanish is very rusty, so I probably wouldn’t choose that. I could choose Hungarian, I could choose English, or I could choose French - as Language 1. Although my written French is not that good. I’m sharing this personal example so perhaps you can get some tips from it:
  • My logic is I want to choose a Language 1 in which I can process information the best. When it comes to the Abstract, Verbal, Numerical Reasoning tests, when it comes to processing information on a screen, that would be my Language 1. But as we will see...

LANGUAGE 2

  • Must be English OR French (minimum B2 level)
  • The Assessment Centre will be conducted in Language 2. It should be a language in which you can express yourself with ease. For me that would probably be English.
  • Again, if you have the luxury of speaking multiple languages and being able to express yourself in those languages, then try to pick Language 1 as the language you understand passively best, then choose Language 2 as a language where you can actively express yourself with ease.

Language 1 & 2 MUST BE DIFFERENT!
The language rules are pretty straightforward, it shouldn’t be too difficult to pick and choose one.

QUALIFICATIONS

What is a little more difficult, and I’m sure there’s going to be many questions around this, the qualifications. In this particular competition they are a little more straightforward. Three plus seven, or four plus six. As you can see here:

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FIELD 1:  policymaking and law-making in the field of health

  • Completed university studies of at least FOUR YEARS attested by a diploma in one of the subjects specified by EPSO

PLUS a minimum of SIX YEARS professional experience directly related to the duties of the chosen field as indicated in Annex 1.

OR

  • Completed university studies of at least THREE YEARS attested by a diploma in one of the subjects specified by EPSO

PLUS a minimum of SEVEN YEARS professional experience  directly related to the duties of the chosen field as indicated in Annex 1.

Now, both your diploma and your professional experience have to be relevant to the competition. For example, I would not qualify for this competition because I have a degree in law and in European Studies, which is among one of the profiles, I think for Food Safety, I believe. It is listed that I could qualify with my legal degree but my professional experience has nothing to do with Food Safety or Public Health. It has to be relevant. 

AREAS OF STUDY
Diplomas in the following areas are considered relevant for this field: 

  • Medical and health sciences (in particular, epidemiology, biology, biomedical sciences, laboratory disciplines, communicable and non-communicable diseases, molecular biology/genetics, antimicrobial resistance).
    • “In particular” doesn’t mean only, because this is not the full, exhaustive list. And here is a quick question I see from the corner of my eye: “Can a medical doctor apply?” I very much think so! It’s a medical science, so a medical doctor should be eligible by all means for this competition, provided that you have the right professional experience that they require, that you have worked in relevant areas that they list.
  • Pharmacology, pharmaceutical products, toxicology.
  • Healthcare systems, integrated care.
  • Statistics and big data analysis, digital health, health information management.
  • Social or political science, law, economics.
  • Other subjects that are directly relevant to the nature of the duties in this field.

It is still a relatively open-ended list. Because if you have studied something that is not listed here but it’s entirely clear that it’s relevant because you dealt with biophysics . Perhaps biophysics is not specifically mentioned here but it’s just as relevant as toxicology or antimicrobial resistance - all of that would qualify. It’s more the substance, rather than the title of the degree.
One very important legal disclaimer here: I am doing my very best to be accurate and to give you information that is based on all the official sources. But we are not the official source. The official source is the European Personnel Selection Office and in some cases the Selection Board which can make the ultimate call on a certain qualification or background. They have the legal authority to decide on those matters. 
When it comes to the actual job description which also ties back into what sort of work experience they are looking for, that you have after obtaining your diploma, this list, in the Notice of Competition, is a more detailed description of exactly what they are looking for:

Annex 1 of Field 2: Policymaking & law-making in the field of food safety
If recruited, you will be expected to perform tasks such as those described below:

  • Develop policy and legislation, manage existing legislation in the areas of food and feed safety, animal health and welfare, and plant health;
  • Implement all aspects of legislation in the area of food and feed safety, animal health and welfare, and plant health, carry out preparatory socioeconomic studies and consult stakeholders and Member States;
  • Carry out regulatory tasks in the various fields of food and feed safety, animal health and welfare, and plant health (including risk assessment and crisis management) and follow up scientific developments in these areas;
  • Prepare and participate in negotiations (Commission working groups, EU committees, EU institutions, international organisations), including analyses and evaluations of proposals in the area of food and feed safety;
  • Monitor and follow up trade arrangements and bilateral/multilateral agreements in the area of food and feed safety;
  • Monitor and contribute to the EU’s international regulatory activities (CODEX, SPS, WHO, FAO) and trade policies in the area of food and feed safety (WTO-TBT);
  • Monitor and use scientific advice issued by the European Food Safety Authority and other relevant EU agencies;
  • Develop, contribute to and monitor EU policies in the area of food and feed safety and EU industrial policy on food and feed products.

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FIELD 2: policymaking and law-making in the field of food safety

  • Completed university studies of at least FOUR YEARS attested by a diploma in one of the subjects specified by EPSO

PLUS a minimum of SIX YEARS professional experience directly related to the duties of the chosen field as indicated in Annex 1.

OR

  • Completed university studies of at least THREE YEARS attested by a diploma in one of the subjects specified by EPSO

PLUS a minimum of SEVEN YEARS professional experience  directly related to the duties of the chosen field as indicated in Annex 1.

AREAS OF STUDY
These are somewhat more nuanced, or more limited for the food-safety profile. 
Diplomas in the following areas are considered relevant for this field: 

  • Natural sciences (in particular, veterinary medicine, agriculture, chemistry, food and nutrition legislation, biology, food chemistry).
  • Social or political science, law, economics.
  • Other subjects directly relevant to the nature of the duties in this field.

Annex 1 of Field 2: Policymaking & law-making in the field of food safety
If recruited, you will be expected to perform tasks such as those described below:

  • Develop policy and legislation, manage existing legislation in the areas of food and feed safety, animal health and welfare, and plant health;
  • Implement all aspects of legislation in the area of food and feed safety, animal health and welfare, and plant health, carry out preparatory socioeconomic studies and consult stakeholders and Member States;
  • Carry out regulatory tasks in the various fields of food and feed safety, animal health and welfare, and plant health (including risk assessment and crisis management) and follow up scientific developments in these areas;
  • Prepare and participate in negotiations (Commission working groups, EU committees, EU institutions, international organisations), including analyses and evaluations of proposals in the area of food and feed safety;
  • Monitor and follow up trade arrangements and bilateral/multilateral agreements in the area of food and feed safety;
  • Monitor and contribute to the EU’s international regulatory activities (CODEX, SPS, WHO, FAO) and trade policies in the area of food and feed safety (WTO-TBT);
  • Monitor and use scientific advice issued by the European Food Safety Authority and other relevant EU agencies;
  • Develop, contribute to and monitor EU policies in the area of food and feed safety and EU industrial policy on food and feed products.

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FIELD 3: Auditing, inspection and evaluation in the field of health and food safety

  • Completed university studies of at least FOUR YEARS attested by a diploma in one of the subjects specified by EPSO

PLUS a minimum of SIX YEARS professional experience directly related to the duties of the chosen field as indicated in Annex 1.

OR

  • Completed university studies of at least THREE YEARS attested by a diploma in one of the subjects specified by EPSO

PLUS a minimum of SEVEN YEARS professional experience  directly related to the duties of the chosen field as indicated in Annex 1.

AREAS OF STUDY:
Diplomas in the following areas are considered relevant for this field: 

  • Natural sciences (in particular veterinary medicine, food safety, health, environmental health, chemistry/food chemistry, pharmacology/toxicology, pharmacy, medicine, biology, microbiology, biomedical science, agriculture, forestry, horticulture, human and animal nutrition).
  • Other subjects directly relevant to the nature of the duties in this field.

They even state that this is not a full comprehensive list, other degrees can also qualify you as long as they are relevant.
And here is a huge laundry list of the nature of your duties, which ties into the type of work experience which they will be seeking, that they will consider relevant to the nature of the duties.

Annex 1 of Field 3: auditing, inspection and evaluation in the field of health and food safety
If recruited, you will be expected to perform tasks such as those described below:

  • Carry out and lead audits, inspections and evaluations of the performance of national authorities, other official entities and control bodies responsible for among others regulatory oversight and control in the areas of food and feed safety, animal health, animal welfare, plant health (harmful organisms, plant protection products and pesticide residues), genetically modified organisms, animal feed and nutrition, health protection (clinical trials for human medicines, medical devices (including in-vitro diagnostic devices) for human use, medicinal products (including active pharmaceutical ingredients)) and related areas;
  • Administrative duties in the above areas, including preparation of audit and evaluation plans, drafting of audit reports and communicating the results of such audits, ensuring the consistency and quality of reports, liaising with relevant policy units in the Commission and EU agencies, and helping develop and refine policies in light of the results of the audit and inspection activities linked to the above areas;
  • Maintain professional and scientific knowledge and expertise relevant to the technical areas included in the first bullet point;
  • Prepare written contributions and reports within short deadlines in line with the quality standards established by the Directorate;
  • Prepare technical matters and attend meetings with other Commission staff and/or external participants;
  • Collect, analyse and summarise data and information from different sources;
  • Develop and give presentations on specific technical areas and general issues related to the job;
  • Learn about new technical areas to enable audit activity in these areas in line with the DG prioritisation process. 

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Before we move on, I’ll take a few questions here:

Q: Is the level of Language 2 a criteria to succeed?
A: They say it has to be B2, that’s basically a reference that it doesn’t need to be at the mother tongue level. You don’t need to be fully fluent, or perfect. But you need to have a good, working knowledge of that language.
In practice, there’s no official language exam, it is not required of you. It is how you apply the language, to what extent you are able to express yourself, are you able to articulate your thoughts, write a case study… etc. It’s about applying the language rather than testing the language per se.

Q:  Completed military service - does it count as work experience, even if done before getting the bachelor’s and master’s degree?
A:  I don’t think so. Military experience is probably something you had imposed upon you. It was an obligation of you as a citizen of the given country. I highly doubt that it would be considered work experience. 
Typically, the rule of thumb for the Selection Board and EPSO for the work experience is that the clock starts ticking after you’ve obtained your degree. That is when your work experience would actually be counted from. You may have done some work during your university studies, but again not until you obtain your degree would that count. If you have a bachelor’s, a three-year degree, and then you started working, but in parallel you also obtained a master's degree, as long as your work was paid and it was a formal employment, or even self-employment, but then you have to prove that the kind of work you did was relevant to the duties, that can count. As far as I can tell, with the caveat that it all depends on certain personal factors and your situation. But by and large, once you’ve received your minimal degree that is required for these positions you can start working or the working time can count.

Q:  How is a PhD counted? Degree or work experience?
A:  That’s a frequent question and honestly, I don’t know 100% how that’s counted. For most PhDs you need to teach, research or do certain things and often you get paid for that. Again, once you have the underlying degree if you’re pursuing a PhD in parallel that can count as a work experience. I think it also depends on whether it is a full time PhD or part time. Depending on your personal situation, you may want to ask the Selection Board. They might point you to some policy or statement in that regard.
My guess would be probably yes, but then again I wouldn’t say it for 100% certainty. Often really the best is to ask them for guidance just to make sure that you are eligible and the sufficient number of years add up. 

Q:  How will the six years of experience be assessed? What do they mean by two years of experience in legislation implementation?
A:  Legislation implementation is applying the legislation. If you worked in a law firm or you worked for a national inspection authority, or you worked at a company as a biochemist making sure that the company complies with the relevant food or veterinary or public health legislation - that is experience in legislation implementation, making sure that the legislation works.
If you worked in a public administration, it's often easier. It’s more relevant to a job that an authority like the European Commission would be dealing with. If you worked in the private sector that may be a little harder, to make the case. There are so many variations as to what the substance of the work was that it’s very hard to say anything in generic terms.

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WHY IS THIS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY? (28:30)

I probably don’t need to convince most of you because you are already familiar with the many benefits and perks that the job gives.

ATTRACTIVE SALARIES

  • This is AD7 level. We have a salary calculator on eutraining.eu, which you can use to do a simulation based on your family situation (single or married and/or children), depending on which country you are being recruited from, because it depends whether you are already living in Belgium or not. In this case Ireland too, whether you are already there or not.
  • Broadly speaking, an AD7 job would have a salary of around 5,000-5,500 euros net/month.

GOOD BENEFITS

  • It also comes with many benefits. There are European schools if you have children.
  • There’s health insurance for you and your partner / family. 

Then there is something that is often the main motivation for many people is working in an international organization, and dealing with minimum European, but often international issues linked to food or public health policies. That often is the main motivation. Of course, all these material benefits are certainly important, but the fact that it gives you a very diverse and very interesting job is often the main motivator for many applicants.

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Before I go on I will get to a couple more questions:

Q: By when can a successful applicant who passes all selection steps be expected to start working?
A: I didn’t specifically mention yet, but this reminds me to explain that what EPSO does is selection. They are the ones running the selection process at the end of which they create a so-called reserve list. What EPSO does is not recruitment. From the moment a competition is launched, like in this very case, here we are in May 2021 and application deadline is in less than a month. Once that closes, the selection process essentially begins. You take the different steps, we’ll take a look at what type of exams you need to pass in order to end up on the Reserve List, and once you do, that is when you become recruitable. When can we reasonably expect the Reserve List to come out, when will the whole competition finish? Hard to guess. Roughly, probably by the end of this year. It might even go on until January, February 2022. There are a couple of factors, especially how many candidates there are. There’s a relatively large number of candidates, or laureates, the individuals placed on the Reserve List. Given that it’s a relatively large number it’s going to take more time because they need to evaluate, assess and test more people. Again, it will be roughly the end of the year, and from that point on, the relevant EU Institutions, or in this case the European Commission, or more specifically DG Santé, will pick laureates off the Reserve List, and hire them. 
Even the hiring is not automatic. What happens is they will invite you for an interview, perhaps two or three people from the same reserve list will be invited to an interview  and then they decide. From that point on it’s quite straightforward that you are going to be hired sooner or later. Roughly 85-90% of those on the Reserve List will get hired. Do not get scared or despair, even that remaining 10% is often not hired, not because the institutions don’t want to hire them but because their life circumstances may have changed and they just no longer want to go for an EU job, despite having passed the competition. 
Bottom line: when can you reasonably expect to be hired? Maybe a year from now. I know this might be a little bit discouraging because that means next January / February, but setting your expectations and understanding that this is a relatively long process, this is a likely timeline. 

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HOW TO GET ONE OF THESE JOBS? (34:00)

STEP 1 - APPLICATION PROCESS 

Certainly follow the application process meticulously, make sure every box that needs to be ticked is ticked, that every necessary file is uploaded, that everything is properly filled out and take the time to fill it in. Given the sheer number of applicants, for most competitions if somebody doesn’t meet the formal criteria it’s very easy to disqualify them, because there are so many others who are vying for those positions. Make sure that all the formal parts are properly done. 

  • Declare your eligibility
  • Carefully pick your Language 1 & 2 according to those ideas that I shared with you. 
  • Application can be submitted  in any of the 24 EU languages for equality of access
  • BUT the Talent Screener, which is an entirely separate part of the application process,  needs to be filled in in either English OR French
  • This is something we’ll come back to in a moment, about what the Talent Screener is.
  • VALIDATE BY APPLICATION DEADLINE: 22 JUNE 2021

WHAT IS THE TALENT SCREENER?

As I mentioned, it is an integral part of the application process. So, what is it? What is a Talent Screener? Great news, not only will I say a few words now and give you a couple of ideas, but we have e-books, we have Tips & Tricks articles, we even have a dedicated webinar on how to make the most of your Talent Screener. I’ll share a couple of ideas with you now, but if you’d like to dig deeper many of these resources are available and you might want to check them out. Hopefully they can help you craft a more persuasive Talent Screener response. 
The Talent Screener is basically a set of questions, open-ended but quite targeted questions, that you need to fill out as an applicant. It’s always used in so-called ‘Specialist’ competitions, like this one. 

HOW IS THE TALENT SCREENER SCORED?

It’s scored in a way that every question typically gets a score from zero to three. That’s the most classic scoring, it might differ a little from one competition to another, but typically they give zero to three points for each question. 
Do not despair if for some questions you need to answer ‘No, I don’t have that experience.’
Going back to that earlier question about implementing legislation, unless that’s a must have listed in the application criteria, some questions of the Talent Screener you simply will not have that experience. And that’s okay as long as you can respond in the affirmative to many of the other questions, you can say ‘I do have that experience’ and then you give all the details. 

HOW DO YOU MAXIMISE YOUR TALENT SCREENER SCORE?

Number One - always be truthful! Do not lie or make up stuff. Do not input something that is not backed up with experience and evidence. Having said that you can still make the most of your Talent Screener responses while remaining entirely truthful and honest, to present them in the most persuasive manner. 
When you have a certain experience, do not just give a very broad statement: ‘Yes, I worked in this field for two years.” You can be very concrete and very specific with bullet points, with numbers, with figures and proof points to persuade the person reading the Talent Screener that you actually merit three points. This is a very important idea to bear in mind, because it’s going to be the assessors, usually two of them, who are scoring or reviewing the Talent Screener independently of each other. If there is a big discrepancy between the scores, then a third person will be brought in to ensure objectivity to the greatest extent possible. But they will be scoring it, it’s not a computer, AI or an algorithm, or any other automated system that scores it, it’s humans. That’s why communication principles of clear communication, structures communication, proof points, narrative, and many of these aspects, come into play. It‘s really important that the way you respond to the Talent Screener will certainly have an impact on the score that you are given.

A few tips:

  • Try to answer ‘YES’ as much as possible, but again, emphasizing that you need to be truthful. 
    • If you have some experience that can be “sold”, or “packaged” in a way that reinforces your application and it corresponds to the question being asked, then try to say yes to that particular question. 
  • Provide lots of valuable information, but give only relevant and meaningful answers. Leave out space fillers.
    • Be selective. Be mindful of what degree and how detailed you are going to be in your responses.
    • I’ve seen a lot of Talent Screeners over the years where candidates just dump an insane amount of data on those poor EPSO assessors, or Selection Board members, and they just get lost in the details. There doesn’T need to be a full list of all your publications if you’ve done a PhD, or all the scientific papers. Perhaps they will ask about your publications, but it should not be a five paragraph citation and full reference of the journal and its impact score, and all the unnecessary details which are not immediately relevant to your application. 
    • Make sure that you are comprehensive in your answer, but not adding unnecessary information. 
  • Concrete vs. Abstract answers - scores are based on hard evidence like facts, figures, places and dates.
    • Again a very common mistake when it comes to Talent Screeners is to say “I have a lot of experience in food inspection.” Okay? What does that mean? 
    • Be careful with adjectives which are too broad, too abstract e.g. ‘a lot’ or I’ve worked in ‘multiple’ companies. What does that mean? Is it five, is it fifteen? 
    • Or saying you have ‘international’ experience. Great, but what does that mean? Is it because you’re French and you worked in Bulgaria, Estonia and Pakistan? Be more specific! Give those examples, name the names. Because the trouble with these adjectives is that everybody has a different interpretation of them. 
  • 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.
    • Some questions may resemble each other, or look like a previous answer, and you may be tempted to save a bit of time by copy/pasting your responses. 
    • Generally, this is not a good idea. Try to tailor each response to each separate question, make it a bit more unique. 
    • Or highlight different aspects of the same experience, achievements or publications that you’ve already mentioned in a previous answer. 
  • 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
    • Formatting is important. The person reading your answers can easily get lost if it’s just an unstructured mash of text.
    • You probably want to use bullet points. And even if you cannot do any fancy formatting, just use the little asterisk or dashes, or any other visual element that segments and structures your message to help the reader understand it. And if there is more clarity and understanding then chances are the score will be more favorable. 
  • 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. 
    • You have to think a little bit like a salesperson. Why does your experience in that research institute, at that public authority, in that private company’s research department, etc, ultimately benefit a public body, such as the European Commission?
    • For example you can say “My experience working for three years on biochemical research can be a great contribution to the policy-making process of the European Commission in this particular field.” It’s saying what I did can be helpful to you, instead of saying I did this, I did that, I achieved this, I achieved that, and then hoping the reader will make that connection. You have to spoon feed it to them. Give them the connection, tell them that this is why your experience is useful to them. 
    • This is not a traditional job application but it’s about your professional experience through which you want to convince them that you’re eligible for this competition. 
  • EU institutions and EPSO are formal and terminology-driven. Learn the lingo and use it.
    • You might want to look up DG SANTÉ’s website, read some press releases, reports, familiarise yourself with their language and their terminology.
    • I’ll give you an example: the term sustainability, everybody has a different interpretation of that. EU Institutions might call something sustainable, which from another angle, or depending on which country you’re coming from, might have a different meaning. 
    • Try to speak their language, as in, speak their jargon.
  • And then finally, a reference to the webinar I had mentioned earlier: “Everything You Need to Know About EPSO’s Talent Screener” ...But You Never Dared to Ask!  laugh
    • Be courageous, and dare to ask! We’re happy to assist you in any way we can. So you can ask it now, or later from our Support Team.

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Before we look at the actual exams in a nutshell, I see a couple of questions coming in:

Q: How are the years of relevant experience specifically defined and measured? How does work time count and how does voluntary work count?
A: Typically, paid work is considered work experience. If you did volunteer work, that may not count as work experience. There could be exceptions. If you perhaps worked with Doctors without Borders, or a charity organisation where you were not paid, but you did relevant work, as long as you have certification, or some sort of document to back it up, that should still count as work experience. 
It’s not like you were working at an ice cream stand, which is totally unrelated to the fields of the competition, but you were doing relevant work, even if unpaid.
It’s hard to say anything more meaningful about how work experience is measured. But again, the rule of thumb is, whatever you did after receiving your diploma, paid occupation would count as work experience. If there is doubt about the sufficient number of years, then I would encourage you to contact the Selection Board and ask how they consider certain work experience.
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Q: Do you know when the first exam will be held?
A: The first exam is this, the Pre-Selection Exam. It depends on how many candidates there are.
This is the principle EPSO uses: If there are lots of candidates, (a lot means perhaps five or ten times, it’s not always determined, there’s always a lot more candidates than the number on the number of places on the Reserve List, five, eight or ten times more. In this case, there would be more than a thousand applicants.), there will be Computer-Based Tests, a Pre-Selection Exam, like the one you see on the screen, with Abstract, Verbal and Numerical Reasoning Tests to pre-select candidates.
If there aren’t so many applicants, this kind of exam, the Abstract, Verbal and Numerical Reasoning Tests, will be part of the Assessment Centre.
There is the difference - it’s either used to pre-select candidates who can then go to the Assessment Centre, or if there are not that many candidates, then these exams are part of the Assessment Centre and the scoring is more flexible. 
But if it’s used as a pre-selection then there’s a real competition because only those with the highest scores will pass to the next stage.
Given the uncertainty of how many people will apply, EPSO built in these two scenarios.
When it will be held also depends on this. It’s hard to tell.
22nd of June is the deadline, I’m not sure it will be held before the summer break. August is pretty dead, my guess would be late August. Then again, who knows. If they really want to speed it up given the importance of health in Europe as a policy they might push it and have these exams before the summer break, so mid to late July. We’ll see, those are rough guesses.

Q: Right now, I’m in a previous competition, it’s AD6, so this one is actually better. Could I still be eligible for this competition if I’ve already started to work for the previous one?
A: The answer is yes. You can apply to as many competitions as you like. Often they might have limitations as to which field you can apply for. For this particular one, this is one competition with three fields. You can only apply for one field. If tomorrow there is another, different competition for Nuclear Scientists and you happen to qualify for that too, you can apply for that as well. And then if there’s another competition, totally different field, then you can apply for that too. Even if you are hired and working, your competition can go on and who knows, maybe you can switch easier after a year or two. It basically increases your opportunities. 

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STEP 2 - PRE-SELECTION CBT EXAM 

What about these pre-selection tests? You probably know a fair bit about it if you have ever interacted with EU jobs, EU careers and EPSO exams. These are classic psychometric tests. 

The Computer-Based Tests are:

  1. Verbal Reasoning
  2. Numerical Reasoning
  3. Abstract Reasoning

1. VERBAL REASONING

  • Administered in Language 1
  • 20 questions
  • 35 minutes to complete it

This is more about the logic of the text, it’s not about linguistics, meaning vocabulary. Obviously, that’s an important part, but this is more about trying to find the correct statement on the basis of the text.

2. NUMERICAL REASONING

  • Administered in Language 1
  • 10 questions
  • 20 minutes to complete it

There’s a very intense time pressure. You need to do this fast. You are given a virtual calculator, which is good. But still, you need to quickly understand how to decode a chart, a table, and find the correct answer.

3. ABSTRACT REASONING

  • Administered in Language 1
  • 10 questions
  • 10 minutes to complete it

This is often the most difficult for most candidates because it’s only ten minutes for ten questions, that’s one minute per question. It’s about finding the next correct image in a sequence. It’s more about logic and abstract logic that you need to apply.

CBT SCORING

The pass mark is somewhat flexible here. The verbal reasoning has its own separate score but the numerical and abstract reasoning are combined. If you are really bad at abstract but pretty good at numerical then you can still pass with a pretty good score.

  • VERBAL REASONING (0/20)
    • Pass mark: 10/20
  • NUMERICAL REASONING (0/10) 
  • ABSTRACT REASONING (0/10)
    • Pass mark: the two above COMBINED 10/20

As I said earlier, if this is used as a pre-selection exam then the 
PASS MARK IS NOT ENOUGH! You need to be among the top-scoring candidates to qualify for the next stage. Generally speaking it is worth performing well because of the competitive nature of these exams.

STEP 3 - TALENT SCREENER REVIEW

Depending on how many candidates there are, if the the pre-selection tests are really used as pre-selection or if they become part of the assessment centre, but those who get the highest scores in the computer-based tests and make it through the Eligibility Check will have their Talent Screener reviewed at this point.

Step 4 - ASSESSMENT CENTRE

The assessment centre used to be a full physical exercise in Brussels. These days, however, and likely even still for this competition it’s going to be pretty much entirely online, with the caveat that this might change come September or later in the year. Essentially these are the four tests that are required of you.

ASSESSMENT CENTRE TASKS

FOUR TYPES OF EXERCISES:
  • Case Study
  • Situational Competency-Based Interview (SCBI)
  • Interview in the Field
  • Written Test in the Field.

It’s very likely that all of this will be held online.
The Case Study exam is currently held in test centres, which are available in every EU country and even beyond. 
Then there’s the SCBI, the Situational Competency-Based Interview. You are provided with a background file, which you need to read, and you have interaction with the assessors based on that background information.
Then there are two others which are related to the field. One is an Interview in the Field, that is about your professional experience, your knowledge about that particular subject of the competition. The other one is a Written Test in the Field. As the name suggests, it is a written test related to the topic of the competition. 

ASSESSMENT CENTRE SCORING

Here are the pass marks. Again, nothing extraordinary, but as you can see the scoring for your subject matter expertise, the Field-Related Interview and the Written Test in the Field, these are very high, they weigh very heavily in the overall score. The SCBI and the general Case Study are about the competencies, of which there are eight that EPSO evaluates, and then you need to know stuff, you need to be an expert in your field hence those two other tests and the relatively high scores linked to it.

  • EIGHT GENERAL COMPETENCIES
    • Pass mark 40/80
    • Each worth 10 points
  • FIELD-RELATED INTERVIEW
    • Pass mark 25/50
  • WRITTEN TEST IN THE FIELD
    • Pass mark 25/50

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SUCCESS! RESERVE LIST (55:20)

And then, if everything goes well, (and why wouldn’t it?) you have the Reserve List. That is where your name appears in the official journal, you can opt out of that if you have privacy concerns, but you will still be in the database, you will be recruitable for EU jobs. 

  • Validity - often it’s one year, but for specialist competitions that is usually longer, often two years or even more, or until a new, similar competition is launched. This is not something you should worry about.
  • Recruitment - and then comes recruitment as mentioned earlier.

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HOW TO GET THE JOB? (57:35)

  • Practice a lot! Practice for 10-12 weeks. 
    • The amount you practice depends on what your baseline is, how comfortable you are with the reasoning tests or how comfortable you are with the tests related to the Assessment Centre.
    • At this point, focus on the exam step-by-step. For example, right now just focus on filling in the Talent Screener to the best of your abilities.
    • Then you can focus on the pre-selection tests, if it will be happening at that stage. 
  • Make a plan. 
    • Take it step-by-step, but practice consistently. Approach it as preparation for a sports event, where you cannot just gain the stamina or technique five minutes before the competition. Build it up over time.
    • Practice regularly, make a plan. Prepare one hour a day or 10 hours per week
    • Perhaps with friends, perhaps you want to get together with others, even virtually, and motivate each other.  
  • Learn the methodology. 
  • Persistence is key! 
  • Do lots of test simulations!
    • You want to be intimately familiar with the interface and how it works, so you don’t have to figure everything out on the day of the exam.

This is where we come in and try to be as helpful as we can. Our interface looks almost entirely like EPSO’s, we go to great lengths to simulate the questions, the difficulty, the length, and the style of the exams. We are constantly working on it and developing to provide the most suitable preparation tools. We have all the tools on the website, and you’re the first group with whom I can share this happy news, that we have just launched a new project: we are going to have verbal reasoning in every language of the EU, meaning every official language of the EU, all 24, probably by September / October 2021, perhaps even sooner. This includes Maltese, Gaelic and Latvian. It’s going to be fully comprehensive, so if you’d like to practice Verbal Reasoning in any of those 24 languages, you will have the chance in a couple of months.

SIMULATED PRACTICE TESTS

  • Verbal Reasoning - 19 LANGUAGES!
  • 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

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

Others:

A WEALTH OF RESOURCES:

We also offer personal coaching and group classes virtually, and hopefully, very soon, in person.

JOIN AN EPSO COMMUNITY

There’s also a Facebook group dedicated just to this competition.
"Health and Food Safety Specialists - EPSO Exams"

BOOKS
You might want to check out these EU Test Books:

  • The Ultimate EU Test Book - Administrators 2020
  • The Ultimate EU Test Book - Assessment Centre 2020

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QUESTIONS PLEASE (59:15)

Q:  Are the points from the Talent Screener added to the points of the rest of the tests in order to have a final ‘grade’? 
A: No, it is not added. The Talent Screener score helps the assessors rank the applicants, but those points are not carried over. That score is separate. As you can see for the Assessment Centre it has its own exams and it’s own scoring system, but the Talent Screener points are not a part of that. 

Q: Is this competition for people who’ve already trained for a long time or is it possible to start preparing now?
A: It’s entirely possible to start preparing now. There is still lots of time. The application deadline is towards the end of June, but the actual exams start much later. There’s absolutely no disadvantage if you’ve never done any of these tests. Check out the resources mentioned, do simulations, familiarise yourself with the whole process - it’s entirely possible. Do not be discouraged - on the contrary!

Q: Will candidates with less than six years experience be allowed to participate? Because I assume they will be disqualified from the second round. 
A: If you have less than six years experience, then you will probably not qualify for the competition, given that it is a pretty strict, formal criterion to have at least six years work experience. If you cannot really prove the six years experience then you will probably not be eligible for this competition. But I would encourage you to check out other competitions which are still open or ones that will be launch in the near future. 

Q:  Is the Situational Competency-Based Interview (SCBI) almost the same as the Situational Judgement Test?
A: No, it’s different. Those of you who are familiar with the Situational Judgement Test, that was a multiple choice test, and computer-based. Whereas, the Situational Competency-Based Interview is based on a background file, a sort of briefing. It is face-to-face, well, virtually, but face-to-face live, simultaneous exercise with an assessor or interviewer with whom you need to interact on the basis of that file and they ask questions from you. In that regard, these are pretty different tests, in terms of how the test goes. 

Q: 2021 Assessment Centre Book (I presume you mean the Ultimate EU Test Book 2021 edition for the Assessment Centre) - does it cover the current remote setting?
A: Yes, we added a chapter and refined it. We added new text on these changes that EPSO has brought about as a result of the pandemic, you will find this in the book. It’s not massive, substantive changes, but those are still covered in the book.

Q: Do you have books to use for preparation on top of online packages?
A:  I can toot my own horn and tell you about the Ultimate EU Test Book, different editions, targeted for EPSO exams, you may want to check those out. There are other books, of course, I’m not going to pitch my competitors, but you can Google around and find other resources which are related to EPSO exams or psychometric tests as well. 

Q:  Does the online EPSO application need to be done in one go or can it be saved and resumed multiple times?
A:  I’m pretty sure you can save it and come back to it later. I don’t think you need to start it and finish everything in one go. I’m almost certain that you can go back and edit things before you submit it. Obviously, once it is submitted online you can no longer edit it. 

Q:  If you pass the Talent Screener and the pre-selection tests, but fail on the technical interviews and other Assessment Centre exams, what happens to that score? Can you re-do certain parts?
A:  Unfortunately, those scores are not saved. They are strictly linked to the competition in question and there’s no credit or carry-over, or accounts in which those scores are saved. The competitions are always unique in the sense that the scores you get in one competition are not valid for any other competition.

THANK YOU FOR PARTICIPATING

With that, our one hour is up, so I will close it off. Please get in touch if you have any questions or if you have any information to share with us, we are always happy to hear from you, we treat every request or piece of information confidentially:  support@support.eutraining.eu
If you have a dilemma, perhaps about language choice or anything else, we are happy to give you guidance or our perspective. 
All that’s left for me to say is to wish you good luck! I think this is a fantastic opportunity and really an amazing time for this competition with everything that’s happened in the past year obviously gives ample reason why it is so relevant and topical. Also because health, food and veterinary issues are policy areas that are growing, there’s massive public interest which the policy makers and regulators are responding to. This is a good time to deal with these topics on a European level and I encourage you to check out this opportunity. 

Good luck, keep us posted and once you’ve succeeded we’ll be happy to celebrate with you, perhaps fly on over to Ireland and get a good Guiness there. 
Thanks so much! To be continued…

(PLEASE NOTE: The official source of information on EU competitions is the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO). We at EU Training, however, do everything in our power to provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information possible based on the official documents from EPSO.)