2021 EPSO Agriculture & Rural Development Specialists Exams - Information Webcast | EU Training

2021 EPSO Agriculture & Rural Development Specialists Exams - Information Webcast

This is the complete recording and presentation of the 2021 EPSO Agriculture & Rural Development Specialists Exams Information Webcast (EPSO/AD/389/21).

Presentation slides

Transcript - click here

You can access the 2021 EPSO Administrators in the field of sustainable agriculture and rural development Notice of Competition here

Want to join the conversation and talk to other candidates about this competition? 
Join the EPSO Administrators in Sustainable Agriculture & Rural Development Exams Facebook Group.

WANT TO BOOST YOUR EPSO COMPETITION PERFORMANCE?

View these Methodology Webinars (many are free) or utilise these additional preparation services...

APPLICATION:

COMPUTER-BASED TEST PREPARATION:

ASSESSMENT CENTRE PREPARATION:

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

Transcript Quick Links

INTRODUCTION
ABOUT EU TRAINING
WHERE WILL YOU WORK?
Q&A PART 1
POSITIONS AVAILABLE
ARE YOU ELIGIBLE?
Q&A PART 2
WHY IS THIS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY?
Q&A PART 3
HOW TO GET ONE OF THESE JOBS
RESERVE LIST
HOW TO GET THE JOB?
Q&A PART 4

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INTRODUCTION

Sound check, greetings and introduction (00:00-03:55)

Presenter: Andras Baneth

  • EU Training co-founder, author of The Ultimate EU Test Book, Former EU Official

A warm welcome to you! I am so pleased to present to you this information session on the 2021 EPSO Competition for Sustainable Agriculture & Rural Development Specialists. This is a very unique exam, and as far as I’m aware, this is the first EPSO has ever organised a competition on this very topic. This is great and a fantastic opportunity for everyone involved in the field - no pun intended!
I am here in our Brussels studio which is fully equipped with all sorts of backup and reliable network cables. By the way, we rent this studio to EPSO candidates for when you have your Assessment Centre online interviews and presentations. 

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ABOUT EU TRAINING (03:56)

Very briefly about our company:

OUR COMMUNITY

  • Our community has become a very large community over the many years we’ve been in business. 
  • Over 100,000 people have used our services or have become acquainted with our practice tests and preparation resources.
  • We have tens of thousands of followers on our Facebook page which I encourage you to join if you’re on Facebook: 55,000+ fans and followers.

TEST PACKAGES

  • Then we have a large number of test packages that you can use for your preparation in many languages, and for all the domains and fields that EPSO requires you to sit, we are happy to assist you in your preparation.
  • Database of 25,000+ questions
  • Over 17 million questions have been used

WEBINARS

  • There are lots of webinars available, similar to the one I’m doing right now.
  • There are a lot of methodology webinars that I encourage you to check out. Including Verbal Reasoning, Structured Interview or any other aspect of the EPSO exams - you will find a webinar for it on our website.
  • Over 100 hours of free and paid webinars.
  • 10,000+ people have participated in our webinars.

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WHERE WILL YOU WORK? (05:25)

Let’s get started with a couple of basic points which tend to be common for all EPSO competitions, and ultimately the EU jobs they yield. The first question is where do you think you will work? Perhaps I will rephrase the question - it’s not about where YOU think, but what the institutions are going to offer. 

Chances are you are going to end up working at the European Commission, more specifically at DG AGRI, the Directorate-General for Agriculture. It is one of the most long-standing, well-known and well-sourced directorates of the Commission. Given the history of the EU and given the importance of agriculture historically in the EU. 

The place of work is Brussels. That is pretty clear. It’s not Luxembourg, it’s not Strasbourg, or any other place, and, very specifically, at the European Commission.
Now, whether you technically end up working at the European Parliament or the Court of Auditors dealing with agricultural issues, the very specific target for this competition is still that you assist the staff at DG AGRI.

WHAT WILL YOU DO?

You will be an EU Civil Servant after you pass the competition. As many of you might know, EPSO does not recruit. EPSO selects candidates, and you end up on a Reserve List once you’ve successfully passed the subsequent stages of the competition. Once you're on the Reserve List you can be recruited. 

Once you are recruited, specifically in the European Commission’s DG Agri you will deal with various aspects of the European Agricultural policy, or Common Agricultural Policy as it is technically referred to.

WHAT WILL YOU BE TASKED WITH?

A couple of things, that were abundantly clear and transparent in the Notice of Competition that launched this specific exam:

  • You will develop policies and new legislation
    • This is broad enough, this can cover reformulating the milk sector, all the way to issues relating to sustainable agricultural practices, certain aspects of trade in agriculture - it really could be any or every aspect of the agricultural policy field that you could be tasked with depending on your background and area of expertise. 
  • Implement and manage existing  legislation and programmes
    • Obviously, there is a huge number of directives and regulations and other sources of European Law that cover agricultural policy. That is something that needs to be managed and properly run so agricultural policy functions the way it is meant to.
  • This is also supplemented by requiring you to perhaps work on economic analyses and provide policy perspectives. 
    • This is a common task for civil servants, to analyse different aspects of the policy or the changes when it comes to issues linked to sustainable agriculture, and we’ll come back to that and what that means from the exam’s perspective. 
  • Negotiate and/or monitor trade agreements
    • Obviously the European Agricultural Trade has a massive impact on member states and their economies: producers, importers, for the entire agri-food chain, the farm-to-fork strategy, all of these have important trade aspects with Mercosur, Australia and different Asian countries - some of the countries some of you are currently based in 
  • Contribute to evaluation activities on the performance and the EU added value of measures under the responsibility of DG AGRI.
    • Basically evaluating the performance of the various policies. 
  • Represent DG AGRI in Commission working groups, EU committees, EU institutions, and international organisations.
    • Negotiations within the institutions - with the European Parliament, with member states, with the European Court of Auditors - and certainly with third parties - whether it’s an agricultural organisation, the World Bank, the United Nations, or governments and diplomats.
    • Some of this you may never have been involved in before, because you are an expert on sustainable agriculture practices or maybe you’re an agronomist, or maybe you deal with agricultural trade or other angles of agricultural policy. Which is a great entry point for you to enroll in this competition, be eligible and then the actual job might have you working on different aspects of agricultural policy.

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I’ll take a few questions here:

Q: What kind of documents are going to be checked by EPSO regarding professional experience? 

A: We’ll get to the professional experience part soon, but typically they would ask you to declare what sort of jobs you’ve done in the past three to six years, depending on your underlying degree. Will get to those details in a moment. 

They may ask you for some type of employment certificate. If you were an employee they may ask for some official document that shows you were employed from this date to that date. 

They might ask you for some formal documentation, if you were, for example, a freelance consultant, then you need the documentation to demonstrate you worked on things related to the specific field.

Normally you should have some document, publication, news item or employer certificate or social security extract - something that backs up your claim that you were actually working in that time frame and on that specific topic. 

 

Q: When applying we are asked to check a box if we agree to have EPSO share our information with our National Authorities. Which authorities are these because I do not wish my actual employer, the ministry, to actually know that I’m applying? 

A: That’s a good question. I haven’t encountered this question before. I will just tell you what I think off the top of my head. I think this is referring to a background check, in regards to a criminal record or probably a security clearance. Some posts might require a security clearance, certainly not all of them. But let’s suppose you’re dealing with a multi-billion euros trade agreement, they would obviously need to know that you don’t have a conflict of interest or that you are not linked to any organisations that you are not supposed to disclose any information to. 

My guess is that this is linked to a background clearance rather than actually contacting your ministry, or whoever else, to ask if this person is really working there.

I understand the sensitive nature of this, because you certainly don’t want your employer to know that you’re enrolled in this competition. 

I wish I could 100% reassure you that this is not going to happen, but I cannot. You might want to ask EPSO or the Selection Board directly. There is contact information (not of individuals, do not contact individual Selection Board members). There is an information email for EPSO, ask them the question and if you get an answer please let us know because this is publicly interesting information. If you’re comfortable sharing that with us we’d be very grateful. 

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POSITIONS AVAILABLE

How many positions are available? Clearly you see it on the screen it was in the Notice of Competition.

  • There are 55 positions available 

That’s really good, this is amazing. It’s a great number because many competitions may have 8, 10, 15, 20 - relatively low numbers available. So, 55 reaches a critical threshold where your chances are good. Not only good, they’re great, because the number of potential applicants is somewhat limited, this is not just about having a legal degree. It’s much more niche, much more specific, that you need to have a specific profile, either in terms of your background degree or the number of years of work experience in the field. That significantly reduces the potential number of candidates and the number of places are relatively high. 

  • The grade is AD6 

Entry level is AD5, so this is one level up. Typically, you would need three years to advance to that administrative status. And the salary (we have a Salary Calculator on eutraining.eu), depending on your family situation, which country you’re hired from and a couple of other factors, this can be a salary of up to 5,000 - 5,500 euros net / month.
That’s a very attractive proposition given the seniority of the post.

APPLY BEFORE 9 MARCH 2021

Do not miss it, do not leave it to the last moment. Make sure to fill in everything and that you submit your application by the 7th of March. Don’t do it the day of, because that is when the EPSO website tends to crash, or you may have a last minute urgent thing to take care of, unforeseen, so really make sure that you do not leave it to the last moment.

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ARE YOU ELIGIBLE? (17:08)

Main question: are you eligible? Take this very seriously because you don’t want to be disqualified from the competition for lack of supporting documents, for making the wrong declaration or ticking the wrong box. You want to make sure that you are fully eligible in the eyes of the Selection Board members.

GENERAL CONDITIONS

  • Must have EU citizenship
  • Completed military service requirements
    • If this is a requirement in your country, which is only just a couple countries in Europe that require that still.
  • Meet the character requirements of the job
    • If you have a criminal record, or something similar, that may call into question your eligibility or requirements for the job. I think, again, going back to the questions we had about contacting national authorities probably refers to this. That if they want to check your character requirements then they should be able to do that.  

LANGUAGE RULES

LANGUAGE 1

  • Any of the 24 official EU languages (minimum C1 level), regardless of your citizenship. 
  • If you are Finnish citizen, your L1 can just as well be Spanish as it could be Romanian or Swedish. That is entirely up to you, which language you declare, independent of your passport, as long as it’s an official EU language.

LANGUAGE 2

  • Must be English OR French (minimum B2 level), and it has to be different from Language 1. 
  • If you declare French as Language 1, then Language 2 has to be English. I often say, I am a Hungarian citizen, also Belgian citizen for some time now, but my main language, which is really my mother tongue, is Hungarian. In Language 1 and Language 2 terms, I can very easily declare French as my Language 1 and English as my Language 2, completely independent of my passport or the language that I truly speak on a native level. 
  • You may have the luxury to make a choice. Make sure your Language 1 is what you are most fluent in absorbing information, kind of passively understanding information. Which means you can read fast, you can answer Abstract, Numerical, Verbal Reasoning Tests very fast, and can process the information the fastest.
  • Language 2 should then be a language in which you can express yourself with the greatest ease. I would probably choose English because I’m much more comfortable expressing myself in English, let’s say more fluent. I am also fluent in French but I just don’t have the same depth or vocabulary. I’m giving you my personal example that even if you have the luxury of choosing between these two languages then choose the one in which you can write and speak with the greatest ease and fluency.
  • That is the French / English choice. Obviously if one or the other is very dominant for you then the choice will be pretty clear. 

Language 1 & 2 MUST BE DIFFERENT!

QUALIFICATIONS

First of all, we’re talking about a Specialist competition. This is not a generalist competition, this is a specialist competition. That means a couple of things. One, you need to have a special degree from the outset. Two, if you don’t have that, you need to have some special work experience in the field. It cannot be a generalist degree and generalist experience. Let’s say you have a degree in law or economics and then three to five years of work experience at an investment bank or a consultancy firm dealing with transport. That is not relevant from the perspective of this competition. 

  • Completed university studies of at least THREE YEARS with a DIPLOMA IN AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES. 

PLUS a minimum of THREE YEARS professional experience in the field of the competition

So the completed university studies with a diploma in Agricultural Sciences is a pretty broad area, but still, quite specific. It’s not about engineering, but perhaps bio-engineering and bio-tech might fit under this category, when it comes to crops and crop science. But, again, if you are a civil engineer then you probably won’t qualify. 

Then if you have this specialised degree you also need three years of professional experience in the field of the competition. There are a couple of indicators for what the field of the competition actually means in practical terms. This was scenario 1, scenario 2 is:

  • Completed university studies of at least three years with a diploma.

PLUS a minimum of SIX YEARS professional experience in the field of the competition.

You can have a general degree, basically any bachelor degree - it could be law, musicology, or anything as long as it’s recognised by an official EU country - but then you have to have more years of relevant work experience, which needs to be six years professional experience in the field of the competition.
In summary, you need either three years specialised Agricultural Sciences diploma and three years relevant work experience OR ANY three year diploma and six years of relevant work experience. 

Certainly there are many grey zones. Many candidates have unique qualifications and backgrounds where you may wonder if it qualifies or not. 
Here is my legal disclaimer: Whatever I tell you is not official information. You need to specifically ask EPSO, who will then probably convey your question to the Selection Board and they have the authority, legally speaking, to decide whether you qualify or not. 

I’m not sure whether they do this in advance. You might be in a situation where you need to fill out the application completely, hand it in and then wait for their official evaluation of whether or not your degree and experience qualify.

In some situations they’re more amenable, more approachable and they may decide that a particular degree ‘seems’ to qualify. They may not give you 100% legal guarantee that they will accept your degree, but they may state something like ‘Based on our current evaluation it seems to fit the profile we are seeking.’ 

It is a delicate question where some candidates in other specialist competitions have had some challenges, legally speaking, with their degrees qualifying for what EPSO was seeking.

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I’ll take a few more questions here:

Q:  I’m not sure if my degree and professional experience meet the requirements for this competition. I will submit my application through my EPSO account, when will I know if I’m eligible to take the tests?
A: When they let everyone know that you are now invited to take the test. We’ll look at this later, but depending on the number of candidates if there are a lot candidates they may require you to take a pre-selection test, Abstract, Verbal, Numerical Reasoning tests, and only then do they check your eligibility if you passed those tests. 
If there aren’t that many applicants then they may immediately check your eligibility. In any case, I encourage you to submit your application. As long as you are fairly confident that your background and work experience qualifies you for this particular profile then I encourage you to take your chances. Then they will let you know that based on your background you have been granted the opportunity to sit the tests, or it doesn’t meet criteria they are seeking and therefore, you are disqualified. 

Q:  Does it make any difference if you send in your application very early in terms of the likelihood to be selected?
A:  No, it does not give you any advantage. What happens is, there is a deadline, 9th of March 2021 @ Noon, Brussels time (GMT+1). You need to submit your application by then. They are not checking anything before that point. 
In the private sector, or sometimes in public service, they might check applications on a rolling basis. This is not the case here. 
Send in your application whenever possible, ideally latest a day or two before the deadline. 

Q:  In some CBT tests (Computer-based tests) the texts are not very clear.  Do you think that French and English tests are more accurate?
A:  I will crowdsource this question, because some language versions of the Verbal Reasoning may not be that solid. I guess some of you have had experience with that. Perhaps the Latvian Verbal Reasoning is not as easy to understand or fluid as the English or the Greek.
I really don’t have experience with that. Other candidates may have. There are different Facebook groups that you may want to join, dedicated to this particular competition where you can exchange ideas and information. 

Q:  At which stage of the selection process is experience evaluated, at the beginning or end?
A:  This is a good question and I wish I had an immediate answer. I’m not entirely sure.
If I had to guess, I’d say probably by the end of the selection process. But this is something we will look into. But if someone has information on that, or has asked that question in the context of this particular competition, or another one, please put the answer into the chat box for everyone's benefit. We really would be grateful for that. 
I want to give you the most accurate information, so I don’t want to say anything I’m not 100% confident about. 
If I had to guess, again, probably by the end of the competition. But there may be some reference in the Notice of Competition that says by the application deadline, which certainly can make a difference for many candidates whether or not they have reached three or six years of work experience.
Okay, here is Natalia saying it is by 9th of March, 2021. And others have also backed this information up. So that is the answer, that by the 9th of March you need to have reached three or six years of relevant work experience. 

Q: If I already passed the CAST exam (Contract Agents for Specific Tasks) do I need to sit the CBT exams again?
A: Yes, you need to sit the CBT’s again. There is no test ‘passport’ or any similar rollover of tests you’ve done and the scores. For every competition you need to sit those tests that are required  by each particular competition. 

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There are many puns you could do with the word ‘field’ in the context of agriculture, but we’ll stay serious. What is included in the:

“FIELD OF THE COMPETITION”

  • Sustainable agriculture
  • Rural development
  • Forestry
  • Sustainable natural resources
  • Agricultural economics
  • Agricultural markets and trade

This is how they define the fields of competition. Your degree and your work experience are the fields they need to be related to. Let’s hope that’s clear. 

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WHY IS THIS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY? (31:58)

I probably don’t need to preach to the converted, but those who may not yet know the great benefits of being an EU official or civil servant will now know: 

  • ATTRACTIVE SALARIES

The salaries are very attractive. I mentioned roughly what you can expect as an AD6 civil servant at the European Commission - roughly 5,000-5,500 euros net / month. Again, this depends on a couple of other factors but this gives you an idea.

  • GOOD BENEFITS

You get health insurance and it is a pretty generous package. If you have kids then you get to send them to European schools. 

There are various perks that come with the job, including it being an open-ended contract, or you might call it a lifetime job. It’s not a fixed term contract it’s an open-ended employment contract.

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There are a couple of tricks and ideas that I will share with you soon about how to get one of these jobs, but before we get to that let me quickly get to some of these questions coming in:

Q: The 2012 edition of your EU Test book, is it still relevant regarding the reasoning tests? 
A: Hm, the 2012 edition - that was quite some time ago. It’s probably quite outdated by now regarding the format, the difficulty - and in the meantime we have added a lot of expert review to the tests and the questions found in the book since then. So, I would not really encourage you to use that as your single source of preparation.
Whether you’re interested in a more recent edition of the book or the practice tests on eutraining.eu, those would prepare you better for the current format of the EPSO exams. 

Q: Does the three years of professional experience count from after obtaining a degree or can an internship done during university, for example, get taken into account?
A: Typically EPSO or the Selection Board, would only count work experience that started after you received your degree.
You cannot really say that you studied for three years and have three years experience because I worked full time in parallel with my studies. 
Again, this is sort of the main rule that is applied but if there is some overlap, again, it probably won’t be counted.
It has to be a three year degree and six years work. Even if you have done some type of internship as part of your studies or even independent of your studies.
If this is a critical point because otherwise you would not have the sufficient amount of work experience do ask EPSO just to make sure. 
Again, I’m just telling you the main rule, and typically the answer they would give is that work experience begins after you’ve obtained your primary degree. 

Q: How strict is the three years experience? If a candidate is good is there ever a possibility to be qualified with less years of experience? 
A: Unfortunately, given the relatively large number of candidates, EPSO tends to be very strict on this rule. 
In the private sector companies tend to be more flexible about this. 
From my own experience, way back when I was hired into a private sector job, they were looking for 15 years of work experience, I only had 12, but they liked me, I was a good candidate, and they hired me. This sort of flexibility would not happen in the Commission, or in EPSO competitions, because of the amount of candidates they do need to apply these formal rules before they actually look at you as an individual.
In this case if you only have two years, and the requirement is three, you will probably not qualify. Even if you are the best agricultural expert in the world or you have been in a senior position for two years at a top environmental agency, or an NGO, it’s still only two years, and unfortunately you will not qualify.

Q: Can a PhD in the field of competition be considered professional experience?
A: Hm, another good question. 
Again, if I had to guess because I don’t know what their policy is on PhD’s. I don’t think it’s considered professional experience. Even despite the requirement that you need to teach and do research while you are getting your PhD. If you have not done actual remunerated work in parallel to your PhD studies then I doubt they would consider it as work experience. 
Again, I am not 100% sure what their policy would be. But if your amount of work experience would not be sufficient otherwise, then I encourage you to contact EPSO because this is a tricky question, and the Selection Board may take a position on that which may differ from other competitions. 

Q:  Do EPSO accounts get deleted after a certain time of inactivity? I created one two and half years ago, but it no longer exists.
A: Normally EPSO wouldn’t delete it. But maybe they have something about it in their terms of use, that after a certain number of years… I think it may be related to GDPR, the privacy regulations that if you are inactive with your profile for a year or two then it needs to be removed for the sake of protecting your privacy. 
But it’s pretty easy just to create a new EPSO account and then make yourself a reminder to log in every six months. But if you’re interested in competitions and getting a job, then I guess you would log in anyways. 

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HOW TO GET ONE OF THESE JOBS? (32:50)

STEP 1 - APPLICATION PROCESS 

  • Declare your eligibility
  • Pick your Language 1 & 2 the way I described it,  based on the principals and rules already discussed
  • Application can be submitted  in any of the 24 EU languages which is equality of access and equality of chances
  • BUT the Talent Screener needs to be in either English OR French
  • We have a couple of words on what the Talent Screener is and I’ll get to it in a second
  • VALIDATE BY APPLICATION DEADLINE: 9 MARCH 2021

WHAT IS THE TALENT SCREENER?

A Talent Screener is basically a long questionnaire, a kind of survey, that you need to fill in as part of your application. This is a typical way for the Selection Board, in almost every specialist competition, to judge whether or not you are eligible for the given competition. 

HOW IS THE TALENT SCREENER SCORED?

Then you will at one point ask yourself how is it scored, how can I get the highest score, why is being truthful and honest about my background and professional experience so important? Hopefully asking these questions will result in you optimising your score and getting the most out of it.

A FEW TIPS:

You can read and learn much more about this, than what I will tell you now, through our webinar and Tips&Tricks articles. I’ve done an in-depth look at how to optimise your Talent Screener answers, so check those out when you get a chance. 

  • Try to answer ‘YES’ as much as possible, but only if you can back it up with truthful and relevant information.
    • Usually they ask open questions, e.g. ‘Do you have experience in so and so…?’ As long as you’re honest, and you need to be honest and truthful, you can certainly enhance certain aspects of your background. You can try to optimise it and show your experience in the best possible light.
  • Concrete vs. Abstract answers - scores are based on hard evidence liek facts, figures, places and dates.
    • One of the key mistakes candidates make is being too abstract. Always backup your replies with text, with achievements, with numbers and concrete projects. 
    • At the same time do not overload your answers with too many statistics and numbers. But you do need to demonstrate your claims and bring ‘proof points’ to your claims. 
    • For example, just saying ‘I have vast experience dealing with plant breeding and integrated task management.’ But what is that experience? In which country did you gain that experience? How many years did you work there? What scale and what sort of projects were you involved in? You need to provide those details so your claims are far more credible, and ultimately result in points that the Selection Board will award you. 
  • Provide lots of valuable information, but give only relevant and meaningful answers. Leave out space fillers.
    • Avoid clichés, e.g. ‘I’m extremely committed to making the world a better place.’ Great, but stick to the subject and focus. 
  • 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 seem rather similar to each other in the Talent Screener -  try not to copy/paste all your answers. You can give a tailored and customised answer to questions, not just referring to previous answers. Try to stay relevant in your answer to the given question.
  • 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
  • EU institutions and EPSO are formal and terminology-driven. Learn the lingo and use it.
    • I suggest you take a look at DG AGRI’s annual report. You might want to read some speeches that the commissioner for agriculture has given. You may want to read through some policy documents. This way you’ll become familiar with the terminology.
    • If you are not linked to the EU currently in any way because you are working in a national ministry or international organisation, some terms are very different, or maybe not even used in the EU. Maybe some terms you use every day have a very different meaning when it comes to common EU agricultural policy. Make sure to become familiar with the terminology because this will have an impact on your score. 
  • 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. 
    • They are not the ones who will ultimately hire you, because that is Head of Unit in DG AGRI. But they do need to know that a candidate actually can contribute something to the work and policies regarding EU agriculture. 
    • This is a ‘service’ attitude, of what you can bring instead of just listing achievements. Connect those achievements to how they will benefit your 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

There’s far more to it than these very quick ideas and tips I’ve shared with you. But hopefully this gets you thinking that it’s more than just sitting down and just writing whatever then hoping for the best 

STEP 2 - PRE-SELECTION CBT EXAM 

The Computer-Based Tests are:

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

As I said it depends on how many candidates there are. There is always a computer-based test. But it may vary when it is held.
It may be held at the Assessment Centre if candidate applications do not exceed a certain threshold.
If there are so many candidates that they need to filter out candidates, then it will be held at the beginning of the competition. Then they will only consider those applications of candidates who have passed the pre-selection CBT’s.

1. VERBAL REASONING

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

It’s pretty straightforward, as you can see on the screen.
It’s pretty tough given the timing. You need to process the information fast, there are different ways of preparing for that. We have methodology webinars, e-books and practice tests on eutraining.eu. Check those out so you get fully familiar with these tests.

Text Passage --> Question --> Four Statements --> One Correct Answer
Outside information Generalisations Possibility vs. Fact Similar Wording

2. NUMERICAL REASONING

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

Similar in concept, but it’s about numbers and data tables. Again, it’s about time pressure, which makes it difficult, not so much the difficulty of the maths.

 

 Data Interpretation -->   Reasoning -->   (Estimation) -->   Calculation 

3. ABSTRACT REASONING

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

Then you have Abstract Reasoning,which is probably the toughest because it’s ten questions in ten minutes. Do the maths, that’s one minute per question, you need to process the information really fast. It’s charts and images that move around to a certain logic that you need to figure out.

EU Training Abstract Reasoning Explanation Sample

CBT SCORING

The good news is that the scoring is a bit more flexible for this particular competition. 

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

If you are really bad at abstract reasoning, but pretty good at numerical, then you can still pass with a decent score. You can, relatively, easily reach fifty percent.

PASS MARK IS NOT ENOUGH! Because you need to get the highest marks overall to make it to the next stage of the competition.
So if it’s really difficult, it’s difficult for everyone else, in which case the maximum score will be a little lower for other candidates as well. But you do compete against others, not just against the 50% pass mark. There’s an objective threshold, and then there’s a relative threshold comparing you to other candidates. 

STEP 3 - TALENT SCREENER REVIEW

This is when they actually read the answers of those who have passed the CBTs, evaluate them and give a final score.

Step 4 - ASSESSMENT CENTRE

Then comes the Assessment Centre. Which, these days has pretty much become an online exercise. We’ll see how the covid situation might change and how it might affect the Assessment Centre by the time you get to this point. 

  • Approximately three times the number of candidates sought will be invited.

As you see that  about 150-170 candidates will likely be invited to the Assessment Centre where they evaluate your competencies.

  • Tests are in Language 2

So from this point it’s Language 2, which means English or French. 

  • Location is either online or in person

As I said these days it’s essentially online, either in a test centre where you do the Case Study. And then whether in our studio, or in your home office, wherever you have reliable and good quality internet.

ASSESSMENT CENTRE TASKS

FIVE TYPES OF EXERCISES:

  1. Case Study
  2. Situational Competency-Based Interview (SCBI)
  3. Competency-Based Interview (CBI)
  4. Interview in the Field
  5. Written Test in the Field.

There’s far more information about all of these on our website. We’ve done a couple of free webinars focusing on the ‘SCBI’,  I talked about it at length recently during the Live Assessment Centre Q&A webinar and also the most recent ‘Ask me Anything’ session on Facebook Live.

ASSESSMENT CENTRE SCORING

How does the scoring work? You need a minimum, again ‘objective’, pass mark of at least 40/80 because there are eight competencies.

  • EIGHT GENERAL COMPETENCIES
    • Pass mark 40/80
    • Each worth 10 points
    • Which means at least five points per competency
  • FIELD-RELATED INTERVIEW
    • Pass mark 25/50
    • Here they really ask about your experience, your background mostly based on the talent screener but not exclusively, they may ask you anything related to the subject matter at hand.
  • WRITTEN TEST IN THE FIELD
    • Pass mark 25/50
    • And then there’s the written test that has the same scoring. 

Based on all these points, whether you have the competencies and you are able to apply your knowledge in the context of the competition all of this will be aggregated and then it will be decided whether they will put you on the Reserve List or not. Hopefully they do, and once they do that you will be among the 55 lucky and high-achieving candidates. And the result of that is that you are then recruitable, you can get a specific job. 

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SUCCESS! RESERVE LIST (51:15)

The number of places on the Reserve List - we know there are 55.
Validity - usually for one year but for specialist competitions it can be two years, or even more. 
Recruitment - until pretty much everyone who wants to be hired from the Reserve List actually gets hired.

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HOW TO GET THE JOB? (51:35)

Practice! Practice for 10-12 weeks.

  • Really put your mind to it and take it seriously. If you’ve heard me speak on other webinars then you’ve probably heard me say it is like preparing for a sports event. You need to be focused and consistent. 
  • Maybe 10-12 weeks, maybe four weeks, maybe 20 - it really depends on where you are right now in terms of being prepared to take the Abstract, Verbal, Numerical Reasoning tests. It depends on how much you know about the subject matter, what level of interview skills you have.
  • Some type of evaluation of where you are in terms of prep would be encouraged. And then:

Make a plan. 

  • Prepare one hour a day or 10 hours per week, whatever it is - make a plan and stick to it. 

Learn the methodology. 

  • There is a lot more than what I just shared with you. You can learn ways to calculate quicker for Numerical Reasoning, for example. There is a lot out there that can help you learn. Learn how to do it right, not just with sheer willpower and brute force.

Persistence is key! 

  • This really matters. If you’re enthusiastic about it for two weeks then give up, or do everything at the last minute in the last two weeks before the exam - neither is good, you will burn out. 

Do lots of test simulations as part of your preparation.

  • Whether with our services or elsewhere, just make sure to do it to familiarise yourself with the layout of the interface and answering questions under time pressure.

Obviously, we are happy to recommend our own services, which you might want to check out. We have so many resources available. We’re proud to offer 19 languages for Verbal Reasoning. Almost all of the EU’s 24 official languages are covered. We’re at 19, and we’re still planning to add more. Hopefully you’ll find your first language there. For Numerical Reasoning I believe we offer it in five, or maybe six languages. And then for Abstract Reasoning language is not an aspect.

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:

I’d like to call your attention to the training services we offer, and the personal coaching. We have two excellent coaches (Jan De Sutter and Ticiana Tucci), both have received fantastic feedback. They can help you with small group simulations or individually to make your preparation worthwhile.

JOIN AN EPSO COMMUNITY

Engage with other candidates and learn from their experiences.

BOOKS
You might want to check out the latest edition of my EU Test Book

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

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QUESTIONS PLEASE (54:20)

Q:  What will the written test look like? Is it multiple choice? 
A: No, the written test is not multiple choice. It’s part of the Assessment Centre. I’ll give you the typical scenarios. It can take two forms. 
Either they give you some background documents that you need to analyse, and then you need to draft an essay or a briefing based on those background documents. 
OR, and this is more likely in the case of this competition, they ask you one big open question and then you just give your best possible answer. That big open question could be something related to the farm-to-fork strategy and your thoughts on it. It could be something about the ‘greening’ of the common agricultural policy and what your assessment is for the next five years. It will be a quite broad question, quite open, related to the field, obviously. 
Here what really matters is clear writing, proper articulation, accurate substance, being to-the-point, all of these things come into play for this kind of exercise. 

Q: If the computer-based test is part of the Assessment Centre, do we still need to compete? Or is it enough to pass with 50%?
A: The concrete and accurate answer to this question should be in the Notice of Competition.
But as far as I remember, in that scenario it is enough to pass with 50%. If there aren’t so many candidates, and they make the Computer-Based Test part of the Assessment Centre, then typically it is enough to pass with 50%. Or as they describe it, 50% for the Verbal, and 50% for the combined Numerical and Abstract Reasoning. 
Again, double check it in the notice of competition, but this tends to be the rule because in this case there are not that many candidates and then the pass mark threshold does not need to be so strict.

Q: I can obtain full marks in one question of the Talent Screener but zero in another question? Do you think it’s a good idea to apply?
A: It’s absolutely a good idea to apply. Just because you will not get a score for one of the questions does not mean you will not pass. If they happen to ask for example ‘Do you have any experience in working in developing countries?’, and your answer is no - that is okay. As long as you reach a sufficient number of points overall in the Talent Screener, that is enough. 

Q:  Is it possible to choose to do verbal reasoning in Language 2?
A: No. The computer-based tests are always in Language 1. Abstract, Verbal and Numerical Reasoning are all in your Language 1. That is why it is important that you choose your languages carefully.

Q: Could you please give some hints on how better to separate the descriptions on the nature of the work and your specific role and responsibility when describing your work experience in the Talent Screener?
A:  The nature of the work is your job description. Your specific role and responsibility is what you did specifically in the job. 
For example, I could say my responsibility at EU Training is dealing with strategy, looking at the big picture, where the company is going and how we are providing the best possible EPSO preparation service for the largest number of candidates. That is the nature of the work, or the job description.
What I do on a daily basis is, for example, running webinars to share insights with candidates applying to different EPSO competitions.
One is the framework, the other is the content. What you actually do in your job is really important, that’s where those ‘proof points’ become really important to demonstrate that you have the experience. 

Q: Does EPSO value professional experience or education more?
A:  I don’t think this is an either/or situation, because given the formal requirements that we’ve discussed you need to have a certain background or a certain diploma AND you also need to have the work experience. From EPSO’s perspective it is neutral. They just need to know you have both and that you tick those boxes.
When it comes to Recruitment, once you are on the Reserver List and DG AGRI is looking to hire from the list, they will likely look at both your educational background and your professional experience. Perhaps, maybe, professional experience counts more at this phase. Because if you have a degree in agricultural sciences and then you worked with small-scale farming in developing countries and that is exactly what they are looking for, the position that they want to fill needs exactly that sort of expertise, chances are they will pick you.
It’s really about the relevance to the actual job. Then again, this is at the recruitment phase beyond EPSO, it has nothing to do with EPSO. 

Q:  Regarding the Talent Screener, what if one doesn’t have the limited experience in one or more areas mentioned? Does it reduce the chance to pass to the next stage?
A:  It’s what I just mentioned a moment ago. It’s really about getting a sufficient number of points because you have demonstrated the existence of a certain experience. If you answer no a lot, or leave a certain number of answers blank because you truly have no experience there, then yes that will certainly reduce your chances. 
It’s really trying to get as many points as possible while being 100% truthful and accurate. 

Q:  As there are rules to changing DGs, as in you can move to another one after a certain amount of time., if you get selected in this competition, does it mean you have to stay in DG AGRI forever or can you change your Directorate General?
A:  Yes, you are locked in a room and you are not allowed to leave until the day of your retirement. Just kidding!
Certainly you can leave after a while. They will probably very strongly discourage you, to say the least, from leaving within three years or so. That’s pretty much the minimum required / obliged / encouraged to stay. After that period of time, perhaps it’s four years or something similar, you do get so-called ‘mobility’. You can move to another Directorate General or perhaps even to another EU institution while keeping your salary and administrative status. 

Q:  It seems the Talent Screener is key, but it seems that motivation is not as important. Or is it going to be evaluated or determined later? 
A:  On the EPSO application you do have to fill in your motivation, on your profile. It’s not that important, honestly. You do want to fill it out with something meaningful, don’t leave it blank. It does not, however, have an impact on your scores. 
This particular competition does not have a Motivational Interview, which other competitions tend to have. They might read your motivation (on your application) but it doesn’t really impact your chances. 

Q:  I have relevant experience of three years back in 2008, but not recently. Is this a problem?
A:  It shouldn’t be a problem, as far as I know. As long as you have it, even though it was some time ago, no one says that it has to have been from the last three years or the most recent experience. As long as you have the relevant three years of work experience in your professional background, that should qualify you. 
Where it might be more challenging is at the time of Recruitment. But that’s a separate matter. For the sake of the competition as long as you meet the formal criteria then you should be eligible to sit the exams for the competition. 

THANK YOU FOR PARTICIPATING

Voila! I think we’re done. That’s pretty much everything that I wanted to share with you. I hope it was helpful and informative. I was very open and honest with you about questions that I was not 100% sure about. If you are in doubt, always check the official sources or contact EPSO directly through formal channels.
But do contact me through LinkedIn, that’s my social network of choice. Do contact our EU Training team.
A big thanks to Lenke and Veronika for being so professional, putting together the presentation and helping us share the best information out there with all of you. 

Good luck to all of you - this is an amazing opportunity for everyone in agricultural sciences. It’s an area which I personally find fascinating. I work with some clients in similar areas. Fight the good fight, do the right thing and join the European Commission through this competition. 
Wishing you good preparation, success and a great career!

Contact for free advice: support@support.eutraining.eu

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