2021 Experts in Structural Reform Support & Schengen Acquis EPSO Exams - Information Webcast | EU Training

2021 Experts in Structural Reform Support & Schengen Acquis EPSO Exams - Information Webcast

This is the complete recording and presentation of the 2021 Experts in Structural Reform Support & Schengen Acquis EPSO Exams - Information Webcast

Presentation slides

Transcript - click here

You can access the Experts in Technical Support to Member States’ Structural Reforms profile here
You can access the Experts in the Schengen Acquis profile here

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Webcast TRANSCRIPT

Transcript Quick Links

ABOUT EU TRAINING
WHERE WILL YOU WORK?
WHAT WILL YOU DO?
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

As always, the official source of information is the Notice of Competition, and the Selection Board who may give you authoritative information on certain questions which fall into the grey zone.

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ABOUT EU TRAINING

If you are new to our services, you might be interested to know where we’re coming into this game from. We have a pretty robust community of those interested in EU careers, EU jobs and EPSO competitions. We’ve been dealing with these topics and building our expertise for over ten years. 

OUR COMMUNITY

  • We have over 100,000 registered users. 
  • We’ve been in the EPSO preparation service for over ten years
  • We have lots of Facebook followers and fans. You might want to join them and there are dedicated groups too, based on which competition you are enrolled in.  
  • This very competition has, or will very soon have, it’s own Facebook group as well. (see links below)

TEST PACKAGES

  • We have a huge collection and database of test questions. As you can see on the screen we have 25,000+ questions.
  • Millions have been practised on the platform.

WEBINARS

  • We have tonnes of webinars, I encourage you to check those out.
  • A large number of those are free of charge, others are paid. Either myself, or my expert colleagues have presented these and shared methodology, best practices and very practical tips that you can immediately apply to your preparation.

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WHERE WILL YOU WORK? (06:30)

The very first question you’ll ask perhaps is ‘where will you work?’, which is very practical, before anything else. Chances are you’ll be working in Brussels. It’s very unlikely that you’ll end up in Luxembourg for these competitions given the European Commission’s Directorates General, who aim to recruit staff on the basis of these competitions, are all based in Brussels.

Therefore, chances are you’ll find work in Brussels if you succeed in these competitions.

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WHAT WILL YOU DO? (07:05)

What is it that you are actually going to do when you succeed? And you see my positive, motivational wording - it’s not an ‘if’, it’s a ‘when’ you succeed…
When you are successful you are placed on a ‘Reserve List, then you can be recruited. So in the case you actually get the job, you may be wondering ‘What is that job?’.
Essentially we’re covering two competitions today. One is about the Schengen Acqui and the other one is Structural Reform in EU Member states.

WHAT WILL YOU BE TASKED WITH?

1. Experts in Technical Support to Member States’ Structural Reforms

The full official  title is quite the mouthful. One word really stuck out for me when I heard about this competition a few months ago for the first time when this was being planned. That word is ‘experts’. The European Commission does hire a lot of experts who tend to be external consultants, advisors. These experts can have their day jobs in research institutes, in companies or in government and then the Commission entrusts them with certain tasks to provide expertise. Do not be misled by this word. 

This is really a competition that aims to ultimately select and hire permanent EU staff with a special expertise. So the word expert should not be misleading in this context. This is really about a full time, permanent position at one of the EU Institutions, or more specifically at the European Commission.

  • Directorate-General for Structural Reform Support will be your employer
  • Those succeeding in this competition will be hired by this particular Directorate.

What is it that you are actually going to do when you are hired? This is a very special kind of work, in the sense that it’s rather broad, as you can see:

  • Design, implement and evaluate support projects, with the aim of supporting administrative and structural reforms in Member States

That is very broad because the European Commission, as you are likely aware, is very keen on reforming the public administration and even economic structures, competitiveness, climate-friendly policies and practices in the EU member states. To assist in this process is what this Directorate General was set up to do and they are the ones who ultimately do the hiring. You can see that there is a very diverse list of topics that you may be tasked with once you are working in this position: 

  • public administration / judicial system / financial sector / public revenue administration / expenditure management / business environment / energy and climate sector / environment sector / education sector / health sector / social welfare systems / digitalisation 

It is very diverse, which in some degree is very good news for you as a candidate because you, as an EU career candidate, may have a very diverse background. I’m sure you will have questions about your various degrees and if they are eligible. It is partly what degree you have but as we will soon see what kind of work experience you have will matter a lot. This is very diverse, which means chances are your profile, as diverse as it might be, could be eligible. If this was a competition for Nuclear Inspectors, which we covered recently, but you have a degree in law, that would be quite a stretch to be eligible. But in this competition if you worked in a consultancy working on public administration contracts or with clients you could easily be eligible. This example was just to show that there is such a broad range of topics that it can bring in more diverse profiles and more chances of eligibility. 

(Incorrect information was provided between 12:05-12:45 minutes in the recording. This is clarified and corrected later during the session at 22:55 minutes.)

2. Experts in the Schengen Aquis

  • Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs will be the main recruiter.
  • Design, implement and evaluate the Schengen acquis in Member States, with the aim of reinforcing the legal and policy framework in place, in these areas of expertise: 

Again, quite a range of topics are included here, but it is much more specific than the Structural Reform competition given that it is about the Schengen Aquis, or the Schengen Body of Law. The term ‘aquis’ might sound a little alien to those not in the field, in this context it means the European Union body of law in this particular policy area, which is the Schengen Agreement, including migration and free movement of people between borders. As you can see, here are the topics:

  • integrated border management / external border management / police cooperation concerning implementation of the Schengen acquis / visa policy / large-scale information systems for border, migration and security / migration management sector (including return)

All of these would fall under the Schengen system, but much more circumscribed than the Structural Reform competition. 

POSITIONS AVAILABLE

How many positions are available? You are all probably well aware of this because this info is all clearly stated in the Notice of competitions

  • Structural Reform Support: Grade AD7 - 45 places 
  • Schengen Aquis: Grade AD7 - 25 places

These are pretty large numbers given the nature of EPSO competitions, these are very large numbers, which gives you a much higher chance of succeeding. Some competitions may only have 6 or 10 places on the Reserve List, that’s why this one is considered a fairly large one. 

  • You can only apply to one of these competitions. 
  • APPLY BEFORE 11 MAY 2021

Take your time but don’t leave it to the last moment. Make sure to fill out whatever you need to fill out in your EPSO profile, answer all the questions, and DO NOT leave it to the very last moment. 

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ARE YOU ELIGIBLE? (16:00)

The big question: are you eligible? This is usually the most contentious or difficult part for many candidates given the various backgrounds. First, there’s always some general criteria, as always for EPSO competitions.
General Conditions

  • Must have EU citizenship
  • Completed military service requirements
  • Meet the character requirements of the job

I sometimes wonder what that last one means, but given the Schengen topics, or even the Structural Reform then maybe security clearance will be requested from the country of your citizenship. If you fail a security clearance that may be an issue. Although that usually comes way later and not at this point. But it’s general criteria, so if you have a criminal record that might be an issue at one point. 

LANGUAGE RULES

LANGUAGE 1

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

I often emphasize at this point, that no matter what your mother tongue is and no matter what your passport is, you are free to choose any language as your Language 1 provided it is one of the 24 official languages of the EU. 

This is a pretty easy and clear rule. For example, if I have dual citizenship from Japan and Belgium, then obviously I need to show my Belgian passport, or if I grew up in the Netherlands and Dutch is my mother tongue but I speak fluent English then I can still choose English. Passport and language is decoupled, and even among languages you should choose whatever you feel you’ve mastered best as Language 1. But then comes the tricky part because there is: 

LANGUAGE 2

  • Must be English OR French (minimum B2 level)

Some parts of the competition will be held in Language 2, which must be English or French and it must be different from Language 1.
If you have the luxury of speaking multiple languages then you can play around with these choices. 

The general rule of thumb is:

  • Language 1 should be a language in which you can process information the quickest, especially in reading because the Abstract, Verbal, Numerical Reasoning tests will be held in Language 1.
  • Then Language 2 should be one in which you can express yourself actively while speaking and in writing. For example, if you are more fluent, or let’s say sophisticated in English, choose English, if that’s French for you then choose French.

Then again, if you have the luxury of selecting languages then these are the considerations I recommend.

Language 1 and Language 2 MUST BE DIFFERENT

QUALIFICATIONS 

Here comes the, perhaps, trickiest part which is qualifications. What sort of qualification do you need to have? There are two scenarios, relatively similar.

  • Completed university studies of at least four years attested by a diploma
  • PLUS a minimum of six years professional experience directly related to the duties of the chosen field as indicated in Annex I.

OR

  • Completed university studies of at least three years attested by a diploma
  • PLUS a minimum of seven years professional experience directly related to the duties of the chosen field as indicated in Annex I.

Bottom line is your background education and your work experience need to add up to ten years, and it needs to be relevant. This is where it becomes a little tricky for some of you. It has to be relevant to the nature of the duties listed. 

For the Schengen competition I think it’s a little more specific, so perhaps less controversial. But when it comes to the Structural Reform competition, given that it’s just so vast, whether it’s transitioning to a green economy or digitalisation or public sector reform, or macroeconomic changes that the Commission wants to analyse - that is very broad. Therefore, your expertise is really going to be subjected to the assessment of the EPSO Selection Board. In some cases you may not be entirely sure whether or not your work experience is accepted as relevant experience. You need to go in with a certain level of uncertainty and hope to persuade them with your background and the right information that it is indeed relevant. 

Here we have some information taken from the Notice of Competition, as you can see it is basically two parts. One is what are considered relevant areas, then in the second part you see what duties you will be requested to do. From an eligibility point the second part is not so relevant. But the first part is which truly demonstrates that whatever work you did actually ties in nicely with the qualifications shown here. 

ANNEX I: Structural reform support

The European Commission is looking for administrators with a strong knowledge of and expertise in structural reforms. The administrators recruited will be expected to perform tasks such as those described below, in one or more of the following areas/sectors of expertise:

  • Public administration
  • Judicial system
  • Financial sector
  • Public revenue administration
  • Expenditure management
  • Business environment
  • Energy and climate sector
  • Environment sector
  • Education sectorHealth sector
  • Social welfare systems
  • Digitalisation

In these areas/sectors of expertise, the administrators’ main duties may include, but are not limited to:

  • Providing Member States’ authorities with direct advice at technical and political level (by discussing reform needs), translating Member State requests for support into technical support projects and contributing to their successful implementation on the ground;
  • Designing and coordinating technical support projects, as agreed with the Member States, in coordination with other Commission services and technical support providers (officials from other Member States, international organisations, public agencies, private experts);
  • Providing direct technical support to reform design and implementation;
  • Managing complex contracts or agreements of technical support to Member States, including the drafting of terms of reference and the description of the actions;
  • Monitoring the operational implementation of technical support to Member States;
  • Contributing to the evaluation of the results of the technical support projects and of the relevant reforms;
  • Representing the Commission in discussions with Member States and other stakeholders (technical support providers in particular);
  • Providing general analysis on policy developments in the area/sector of expertise;
  • Providing inputs from technical support projects in the European Union governance processes, such as the European Semester.

The Schengen competition is very similar with a list of topics we already covered and also listing the duties that will be expected of you. There’s a huge list of these and if you’ve done any of these things it’s a good proof point towards the Selection Board that your background is indeed relevant. 

ANNEX I: Schengen acquis

The European Commission is looking for administrators with a strong knowledge of and expertise in the Schengen acquis. The Schengen acquis is composed of a wide-range and fast developing set of rules covering external border management, a series of flanking and compensatory measures as well as a robust evaluation and monitoring mechanism. The Schengen acquis concerns different policy areas/sectors on which specific expertise is required in the Commission to develop new policies and provide technical support to Member States (in the context of evaluation and monitoring).

1. The administrators recruited will be expected to perform tasks such as those described below, in one or more of the following areas/sectors of expertise:

  • Integrated border management
  • External border management
  • Police cooperation in the field of implementation of the Schengen acquis
  • Visa policy and travel documents
  • Large-scale information systems for border, migration and security, their interoperability and automation of border controls
  • Migration management sector, including return

2. In these areas/sectors of expertise, the administrators’ main duties may include, but are not limited to:

  • Preparing legislative initiatives on the Schengen acquis and participating in the negotiations with the co-legislator;
  • Contributing to the design and implementation of new policy initiatives for the Schengen acquis;
  • Providing general analysis on policy developments in the area/sector of expertise;
  • Assessing and evaluating existing legislation of the Schengen acquis;
  • Identifying new needs and adapting the existing legislation of the Schengen acquis on the basis of the outcome of its evaluation;
  • Preparing and coordinating Schengen evaluation missions on the implementation of the Schengen acquis by Member States and Schengen Associated countries; leading the team of experts and following up with the evaluated Member States in coordination with other Commission services and technical support providers (international organisations, EU decentralised agencies, namely CEPOL, EUROPOL, eu-LISA and FRONTEX);
  • Monitoring the operational implementation of the Schengen acquis by Member States and EU Agencies;
  • Providing Member States’ authorities with direct advice at technical and political level by discussing needs to improve the implementation of the Schengen acquis;
  • Contributing to the evaluation of projects supporting the implementation of the Schengen acquis;
  • Providing input to projects in the context of the Border Management and Visa Instrument (BMVI) as part of the Integrated Border Management Fund (IBMF) and Asylum Migration Fund (AMF);
  • Representing the Commission in discussions with Member States, the European Parliament and other stakeholders, including technical support providers.

I’ll pause here to take a few of the many questions I see here:

-- What if you’re an expert in two fields, for instance Education and Environment? Do you have to choose one only? 
I may have been a little misleading earlier on. What I meant was, these two competitions we’re covering now, Structural Reform and Schengen Aquis, they are considered a package. You have to choose one of these two. That’s what they meant by profile. So it is not within the Structural Reform, or within the Schengen that you need to make a choice. You need to make the choice between Structural Reform OR Schengen.

I may have confused things earlier on, but I want to clarify that. It’s either of these two competitions that you need to choose. 
Within those two main profiles, as far as I’m aware, you do not need to make a choice. You won’t have to choose between digitalisation or education, for example. That is not something you need to choose at this point. You choose one of these two competitions. And to the person’s original question, you don’t need to choose between those two, Education and Environment. They both reinforce your application. 

-- Is there a difference for chances in which nationality I apply to the competition? (German and Austrian)
This is a delicate question, because at the point of application, so right now when you apply for an EPSO competition there’s absolutely no relevance, as long as it’s an EU passport, you meet the formal criteria with either nationality. 

However, when it comes to the actual recruitment, once the selection process has concluded, and you are on the Reserve List, that is when you become eligible to be hired by these particular Directorate Generals of the European Commission. Then it can get a little tricky which nationality you registered in the database. This is because the Commission’s staff regulations states that there needs to be a broad geographic balance among the staff hired. Which does not necessarily mean quotas but they do try to make it somewhat proportionate, related to the size and population of the member states.

As you can imagine this is a highly delicate question because at the same time they also want to be merit-based. As long as you’ve proven yourself and passed the competition, you’ve shown yourself entirely capable of doing the job, then you should be hired. You may want to do some ‘arbitrage’ with your passports you want to use then maybe look at some statistics from the DG for Human Resources. They have annual reports with statistical tables and if you see that there are far more German nationals vs Austrian, proportionate to the population, then you can make a more informed choice.

-- Isn’t it exceptional that they don’t require experience to have been performed after the diploma? Usually that is specifically required.
I’m not sure what you are referring to because there is experience required, either six years or seven years, which is default counted from once you obtain your diploma. 

-- For the Structural Reform comp, if your experience touched upon design implementation and evaluation, would you simply stress this or focus on one area? Depending on the choice  you appear as a Generalist, or a Specialised Person, which can be a double-edged sword.
We’ll come back to this question when we talk about the Talent Screener. The Talent Screener is the place you want to emphasize certain aspects of your profile and your experience, that’s when you can address these questions. But I think you can go around it by showing that you have a T-shaped expertise, a broad knowledge of many fields, and deep knowledge in one field. That is perfectly legitimate, and this is the advice that most career coaches and consultants tend to give.

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WHY IS THIS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY? (28:20)

Now probably you are already convinced that this is a great opportunity for professional reasons and, obviously, monetary reasons. 

ATTRACTIVE SALARIES

  • This is an AD7 position. It’s not a starting-level position which is the AD5. It is two levels up. 
  • We have a Salary Calculator on the EU Training website, which you might want to check out. There you can simulate what type of salary you can reasonably expect given your family situation or where you will be recruited from - whether it’s outside of Belgium or you are already living here. 
  • Usually for an AD7 position you can expect around 5,000-5,500 euros NET/month. Which is a very attractive salary. 

GOOD BENEFITS

  • You will get, on top of this, a very generous EU funded health insurance. 
  • There are European schools if you have children, they can study in basically any EU language and follow that curriculum.

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HOW TO GET ONE OF THESE JOBS? (29:37)

This is probably the question on your mind. Let’s look at a couple of ideas. You definitely want to follow the application process. That’s first and foremost. Make sure you fill out the online form the way it’s required of you. 

STEP 1 - APPLICATION PROCESS 

  • Eligibility declaration
  • Pick your Language 1 & 2 based on the criteria we covered
  • Applications can be submitted in any of the 24 EU languages 

Maybe for simplicity’s sake you want to do it in French or English, it’s entirely up to you. This is for equality of access and chances. Some governments are particularly keen on this aspect that candidates need to be able to submit their applications in their native languages, but then of course you need to choose a Language 2 - English or French. Even if you are fluent in Czech and Romanian but don’t speak English or French you will not stand much chance at the exam itself.
BUT the Talent Screener needs to be in either English OR French. 

Validate BY APPLICATION DEADLINE - 11 MAY 2021

WHAT IS A TALENT SCREENER? 31:03

Some of you may be wondering ‘What is that? Is it a survey? Or a sophisticated CV screening tool? What is it?
The good news is we have a lot of materials about the Talent Screener. Many of our free Tips & Tricks articles have info on it, some of our free E-books have more info on it, we have very comprehensive materials. I also know for sure that I did a webinar on how to make the most of your Talent Screener with very concrete tips about formatting, narrative and all those aspects that you can immediately apply.

Let’s take a look at how the Talent Screener is scored and how you can maximise your points while you are truthful, accurate and honest. You cannot, and you should not, put any false or misleading information into your Talent Screener. Having said that you can make the most out of what you have achieved by presenting it in a way that is persuasive for the people who read it, so they award the highest scores based on the information they learned from your answers.

HOW TO MAXIMISE YOUR TALENT SCREENER SCORE

A few tips…

  • Try to answer ‘YES’ as much as you can

The Talent Screener is a set of sometimes ten, maybe up to fifteen questions and you have quite a lot of space to answer them. They are usually ‘yes or no’ questions, e.g. ‘Do you have any experience in dealing with IT systems linked to the Schengen Aquis?’. I haven’t seen the Talent Screener questions for this particular competition, I am just making this up as an example. However, the questions are often ‘Do you have such and such experience?’, ‘Have you dealt with this particular aspect?’, ‘Do you have any achievements in this particular field?’. As long as there’s something there that you can present, try to answer yes to as many questions as you can. 

It’s perfectly okay to answer ‘no’ to a handful of questions. When I say, for the sake of example, that there are 15 questions on the Talent Screener and in all honesty you have to answer no to three or four or five of them, that’s fine. That’s not going to harm your chances as long as you can answer yes, and back it up with a lot of information, to the remaining questions. You can add proof points and data to back up your claims. Do not be alarmed if for some questions you simply have never dealt with it in your life. Then again, if they ask ‘Do you have project management experience in the public sector?’ and maybe you worked on that, maybe you wrote a study on that, maybe you worked on specific projects for a few months, then you should absolutely say yes and provide the proof points accordingly.

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

I’ve seen quite a few Talent Screeners over the years. Even the brightest minds, in fact - sometimes it is the brightest minds, who have a hard time communicating their achievements in a clear and structured way. You probably have a lot of good substance to share, but the way you present it may not reflect on you in the best possible light. 

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

Make sure you add dates, numbers and figures, and meaningful answers. Don’t write something general like ‘I’ve successfully dealt with a number of projects’. What does that even mean? What is a great number? Put the exact number there. Great success? Meaning what? Instead write ‘84% of those involved in the project rated it positively’. Try to quantify. Back it up with numbers. How much was the budget you were responsible for? How many people were involved in the project? What scale of organisation did you work in? Was it a large ministry or consultancy with 10,000 people? Do not suppose that the reader would inherently know it, even if you worked with some great brands or very famous universities or a country’s public administration, make sure to mention it and back it up with concrete numbers. Do not assume that the reader would know this information.

Be careful with adjectives. ‘The project was successful’ What does that mean in concrete numbers? ‘The project was large-scale?’ Large-scale for me might not be large-scale for the reader, so you have to provide concrete numbers. Make sure to be very clear when using these adjectives. Read through your answers before submitting with a very critical eye. Ask a colleague, friend or spouse to read it and evaluate it from this angle of being concrete.

  • Do not copy-paste previous answers. 

Even if some questions resemble each other, you may think ‘well, I already answered that in Question 4, I’ll just copy/paste my reply’. DO NOT. Try to customise it and reword it to be more targeted to that particular question so it is more relevant and potentially increases your scores.

  • 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 really important. Many candidates may not consider it that important, but it is.

The evaluators, the Selection Board members, who are reading the Talent Screener replies have a limited time to read those answers. They want to be able to scan it quickly. How do you help them to read through it quickly? You create bullet points. Even if you have limited formatting options you can still do a lot. You can number your answers, use dashes or asterisks, you can make it so visually appealing that it is really easy to understand the building blocks of what you want to convey.

Writing very long paragraphs with very few line breaks, which is just a mess of text, makes it very hard to find what is truly important. 

  • 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.

Think a little bit like a marketing person or a salesperson, what is in it for them? Why would an EU institution hire me? The assessors would see, for example, that this person has expertise in development projects in a certain country, and they would ask why is that relevant to what we are trying to do here, to the kind of profile we are trying to attract? Try to think with their heads and see how your experience working on structural reform in Romania could be highly relevant given the nature duties described for this position.

Don’t make them do the hard work to make that link, spoon feed it to them. Tell them how your experience is relevant.

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

I suggest reading reports from the DG for Structural Reform has published. Read annual reports, press releases, familiarise yourself with the language and terminology they use. Same with the Schengen Aquis.

Before we get to the CBT, I’ll take some of the many questions coming in:

-- In the Talent Screener for each box they ask for full details of the work experience, name of the employer, whether it was full or part time, etc. Do we need to fill in this information in this exact format or do we have some drafting freedom?
It does not necessarily have to be in that exact order, but you do need to provide all the information they are asking for. This is where it comes back to what we just talked about and how they are formal and process-driven. If they want your employer’s full name, exact dates, etc, then make sure you provide that exact information and that it’s as comprehensive as it needs to be. 
You do have certain drafting freedom though. This is not just simply ticking boxes. It’s actually an open text field, so you do have some flexibility in how you format it. 

-- Could you clarify if experience in research in rehabilitation robotics (seven years) makes my profile eligible for experts in technical support under health/education fields?
Research in Rehabilitation Robotics really sounds interesting and exotic to me, but I’m not sure I fully understand what it is. I would think it would maybe fall under social care or hospital care? Or something else related to healthcare. To me it doesn’t sound exactly relevant, but close enough. I think you could sell it as a relevant experience, because you have healthcare expertise (I’m assuming), you have digitalisation expertise given that it’s robotics, perhaps third would be the policy aspect. How to use such technologically advanced systems for large-scale public health improvements. If you worked a bit on that as well, I think your experience can fairly easily be packaged as a very relevant experience.
I’m saying this on the fly without knowing anything more in depth, but it does sound relevant to me.

-- Who assesses the Talent Screener?
The Selection Board, as far as we know. Each competition has a selection board composed of five or maybe more, typically, EU officials of the same grade or higher. Usually AD7 or higher. They are usually volunteers. They are the ones who are assigned to score the Talent Screener, anonymously, obviously for privacy reasons. 
The Talent Screener is usually scored by two people separately, and if the discrepancy between their scores is too big , then a third person is brought in to evaluate the Talent Screener in question as well. 

-- Are they marked anonymously?
I inadvertently answered that already, yes, they are marked anonymously. 

-- How’s the CV section considered in the application process? 
Often you are asked to upload a CV or fill in a CV section, but that is not part of the application process, in the sense that it is not being scored or evaluated. They don’t actually look at your CV. They do look at the declarations you make. They look at your citizenship, if you have the relevant experience, that you tick those boxes and have filled out what was required. 
The CV might come into play at the recruitment phase. After you have passed the competition, you are happily on the Reserve List, you have put the champagne in the fridge, so it’s already half a success and then the DGs are looking through the database of successful candidates, at that point you are called a laureate, because you are no longer a candidate and have won the competition, this is when they might look at your CV and say this person’s profile is super relevant to our newest project. They will then call you in for an interview, from there you are offered the job.
Again, your CV is not being scored or evaluated at any point in the application process.

-- What happens if we put the wrong dates for a specific experience in our CV or Talent Screener? Errors cannot be corrected afterwards? Does this lead to elimination?
First of all, if it was an honest mistake, and we’re talking about one specific error, I think that’s still okay. You are not making false declarations or outright lying, or trying to embellish your experience which is not truthful just to be eligible. That would be dodgy. If you mix up certain dates in one place on your Talent screener, and realise it after you have submitted it, it should not be a big problem.

Whether you can edit that afterwards - the answer is no. Once a Talent Screener is handed in, you can no longer edit or update it because that is when the evaluation begins. You cannot update a document that is being evaluated or has already been evaluated. 

STEP 2 - PRE-SELECTION CBT EXAM 

Computer-Based Test Exams:

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

I would presume that most, if not all of you have already heard of such exams and have probably already taken some of these in the framework of other competitions. So I’ll be very brief at this point.

It is basically a computer-based multiple choice test. We have tens of thousands of practice questions on our website that you can check out, there are a lot of sample ones too. The verbal reasoning test questions we have in 20 languages now, if I’m not mistaken. 

One question worth discussing is when does the CBT exam take place, the Abstract, Verbal, Numerical Reasoning tests? There are two scenarios depending on how many candidates there for the competition.

  1. If there are lots of candidates for either of the competitions EPSO may then choose to use the CBT as a pre-selection exam. After all the application forms are submitted EPSO will assess how many candidates there are relative to the size of the Reserve List, and if that number is large enough, they will need to narrow it down by holding the CBT exams before the Assessment Centre, as a Pre-Selection exam. You will be notified about this, the booking period and exam period in your EPSO profile messages. Those that score in the top tier will be invited to the next phase.
  2. If there are not that many candidates relative to the size of the Reserve List, EPSO can then decide not to use it as a pre-selection tool, but will make it part of the Assessment Centre. Which means that they will check the Talent Screener, give you the scores, establish a list of those who can pass to the next stage and then the Computer-Based Tests are going to be part of the Assessment Centre. It will be one of the exams you need to sit, but at this point there is no ranking. You just need to pass a certain threshold to be accepted onto the Reserve List. 

1. VERBAL REASONING

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

This is quite a bit of time pressure given the length of the test and finding the right answer.

2. NUMERICAL REASONING

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

3. ABSTRACT REASONING

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

CBT SCORING

Now the good news is that the threshold (pass mark) I mentioned before is separate for Verbal Reasoning and there’s a combined one for Numerical and Abstract Reasoning. Even if you’re terrible in Numerical Reasoning, yet amazing in Abstract Reasoning you can still pass given that it’s a combined 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

The pass mark is NOT enough - if it’s used as a pre-selection exam. You need to get one of the highest marks overall to make it to the next stage of the competition.

Step 3 - TALENT SCREENER

Then comes the Talent Screener review, again, depending on whether the CBT happens before or as part of the Assessment Centre.

Step 4 - ASSESSMENT CENTRE 

  • Approximately three times the number of candidates sought will be invited.
  • The Assessment Centre is conducted in Language 2: English or French. 

Will it be online or in person? Almost all the assessment centres these days are being held online, which is a very interesting thing. Actually, this very studio, where I’m broadcasting from, is available to you as candidates. If you’d like to have a sound-proofed, well-equipped studio with reliable internet access, then please do get in touch with this to rent this space. Obviously, we won’t be standing behind you or in front of you, or anywhere in the room with you. The technical facilities, however, are here for your use. 
You can do the online AC from anywhere, from your home, or any other space with reliable internet. There is the live interview and other exams, as you see here:

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

And number six might be the CBT exams, depending on when they are held.

ASSESSMENT CENTRE SCORING

For the general competencies which are not related to the field of the competition you need to get at least forty points out of eighty. For those that are related to the field you need to have at least twenty-five out of fifty for each. Your points are compared to the other candidates so you do need to rank higher, hence the competition.

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

WRITTEN TEST IN THE FIELD

  • Pass mark 25/50

Those who get the highest overall scores will make it onto the Reserve List.

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SUCCESS! RESERVE LIST (52:30)

If everything goes well and why wouldn’t it, then you are placed on the Reserve List, and you can be recruited by DG Structural Reform or the DG Migration and Home Affairs.
The number of places on the Reserve List 
Reserve lists usually have a one year validity, but for specialist competitions it will probably be valid for longer.
This is when the actual recruitment happens.

I’ll pause here for a moment for some more questions:

-- What is more relevant experience in the field - public administration climate or the tasks that will come up: implementing forms, providing technical support?
It’s both. One is more context, the other is more process. Both are important and I’m pretty sure the Talent Screener will ask you about both. There may be the question: do you have any expertise in one of these fields?, then you will answer yes, Public Administration Climate, and then they will ask ‘how did you work within this topic?’ Then you can list the tasks.

--There are some general questions about motivation and contribution at the EU level, but it doesn’t seem from the Notice of Competition that this will be looked at. Just include experience strictly on Talent Screener?
In your application there will be questions about how motivated you are to work in the EU. These are not scored. This does not mean you should not take the time to answer these questions, or that you shouldn’t take it seriously. However, that part may only be looked at when Head of Unit is looking at the Reserve List to recruit someone and then they may be interested in your motivation. It’s one of the formal elements you need to fill out but it’s not something you will get scored on, or that can make or break your application. 

-- What if the people passing the CBT exams are not the most experienced in relation to the profile. How is that measured?
Now you’ve touched on a nerve, I believe, because this is probably the number one criticism for these types of tests. And vice-versa, I know a lot of people who are brilliant in their jobs, but they would not be able to pass the CBTs.

Unfortunately, they can’t really correct this conundrum because once you have hundreds, if not thousands of candidates, you need to find an objective and relatively bullet-proof system to eliminate certain candidates, otherwise it’s just not possible to meaningfully evaluate their knowledge, performance and competencies.

That’s the harsh reality. The CBT is a tool to shrink the number of candidates who will actually be evaluated in depth, even if that means certain highly qualified and otherwise very competent candidates get sorted out in the process. 

-- Is the Assessment Centre still done by the same Selection Board?
Yes, as far as I know it is. Actually, when it’s online there is a person who asks the questions, who basically runs the actual interview/exam. But that person is not evaluating you. There are two assessors who are also on the Skype call and they are the ones evaluating your performance and your answers. Online there is this different way of running it. 
When it’s in person then it’s the actual assessors sitting in the same room with you. From your perspective as a candidate it doesn’t really make any difference.

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HOW TO GET THE JOB? (57:00)

  • Practice for 10-12 weeks. 

Practice very consistently, whether it’s ten to twelve weeks, or one month or four. It depends on where you are right now, if you’ve done competitions before, how familiar you are with it. 

  • Make a plan.

Make sure whatever time you do put into it, that you are consistent in your preparation efforts.

  • Learn the test methodology. It’s really about finding the best way forward. 

I often cite sports examples, e.g. skiing is not just putting on a pair of skis at the top of the mountain and rushing down as fast as you can. There’s many factors involved, your physical fitness, your alertness, your technique, etc. 

EPSO exams are not about physical exercise, but still you need to figure out what the best way is to learn to read a text quickly, recognizing essential information, devising what the best answer could be- the same things I described for the Talent Screener - how do you present information in the best possible way. All of this has a method to it which I encourage you to learn because it will enhance your performance.

  • Persistence is key! 

Not just rushing in, but having some type of plan and consistently moving towards your goal. 

  • Do lots of test simulations always helps because you become more familiar with the interface and the kind of exercises you can expect.

We are here to help you, use our resources, ask us questions any time.

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SIMULATED PRACTICE TESTS

  • We have 20 questions in our verbal reasoning database. We have all the tests you need for your preparation.
  • Numerical Reasoning
  • Abstract Reasoning 

We have Ebooks, webinars and other live webcasts like this one:

WEBINARS

Free - Beginner's Guide Webinars:

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 try to cover everything that you might need to succeed at these competitions. 

 

JOIN AN EPSO COMMUNITY

There is a Facebook group created for this competition as I mentioned earlier.

BOOKS

You might want to check out the EU Test Books, if you prefer print copies.

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QUESTIONS PLEASE (59:25)

-- Do you review Talent Screener answers?
Yes, we actually have a service like that. Our experts would review your draft Talent Screener replies before you hand them in. Obviously it’s entirely your responsibility what you write in it finally, but we are happy to advise you if you would like our input on how you could present yourself better. 

-- What materials should be studied for the Assessment Centre? Are there any hints to focus on or just read as much as possible?
For the Assessment Centre you do need to have substantive knowledge about these fields and you need to have the right competencies. We do an enormous number of preparation courses and webinars with live simulations of the Assessment Centre. We do it online for now, if and when it is possible we will start doing it in person again, right here in our training centre in Brussels. All of that is possible and available, so I encourage you to research the methodology and ways in which you can express yourself better, for example ways in which you can process information in a background document quicker. All of these things can be learned and practised to show positively in your performance.

-- Which is better: the EU Test book or online training?
The book has a slightly different purpose, then online training. The book is more about learning and digesting information, going perhaps a little deeper into the subject. The online training sessions are actually simulations of the real thing. Forgive me my sports analogies, but it’s a bit like working out in a gym vs. taking part in a competition, and simulating how it might look at the real deal. Both have their roles, it depends on your personal preference and learning style. For some people one works better than the other, but usually a combination of both is best.

-- When do you plan to update the online tool to match the new EPSO interface?
Thank you for asking that, we are actually working on that right now! We want to make sure that we reflect EPSO’s interface 100%. I cannot give you a definite date of when it will be ready but I’m hoping within a few weeks. But we are definitely working on it. We want to make sure that what you practice with our system will be almost identical to the one you will have at the live exam. 

-- Will the laureate list be consulates for other relevant EU positions?
I don’t think so. Definitely not at the beginning. There’s usually this gentleman’s agreement between two institutions, there’s no poaching of candidates. The DG running the competition gets priority choice. I can imagine if the laureates on the Reserve List don’t get places within a year, they might open it up for other DGs.

THANK YOU FOR PARTICIPATING

Hopefully this was helpful, interesting, relevant and practical. 
Feel free to ask questions - send us a message.
I wish you lots of success. I think this is a great competition, it’s a really good opportunity given the topics, the fact that it’s AD7, which is definitely a higher position, with a broad intake of candidates there’s many positive sides to it. We are also observing how many candidates will apply and all the other details, and will keep you up to date.

Good luck to everyone! Big thanks to our Budapest team, Lenke and Veronika for providing the support, for putting all of this together with me and for me, and for us, for you!
Thanks for being here! You can share all of these resources with fellow candidates.

I wish you good luck, keep us posted. Once you’ve succeeded, ring me up and we’ll go for a beer in Brussels. 
Hope to see you around!