Congratulations! You’ve excelled in the EPSO selection process and made it onto the Reserve List. Have you ever wondered what you’ll need to do once you get there?
This article takes you through the most relevant questions asked by participants who attended Online EU Training’s live reserve list webinar and offers useful insights to enhance your understanding of this critical recruitment stage.
If you would like to access more information on this topic, please make sure you view our highly requested webinar “How To Get An EU Job Once You Are On The Reserve List”, which takes you through the process step by step, so you can successfully navigate this exciting recruitment stage and get to your final goal of landing an EU job.
You may also find some of our FREE e-books helpful as well.
#1. What is the "typical" professional profile and what are the key strengths of candidates who are successfully contracted?
Apart from the formal criteria of passing the EPSO competition (including the Assessment Centre), there are some additional things to say about the ‘typical’ profile of a candidate who’s recruited. They understand the idea of working in a large multinational organisation with a diverse culture, hierarchical system and high levels of responsibility. This can also be communicated in the cover letter and at the job interview to reinforce the ‘cultural fit’. A key strength is clear oral and written communication, which is shown in the application for a specific job and at the interview. Other than that, it is hard to mention any definitive technical skill as it largely depends on the specific job the laureate (as you are called after being placed on the reserve list) applies for.
#2. How is it possible to apply for a job at the institutions if they don’t accept spontaneous applications?
I don’t recommend sending spontaneous applications at all. The Head of Unit or Director will most likely not be in the position to hire you even if they find your profile to be a perfect fit. Your best bet is to look at the vacancies made available on your EPSO profile. Also try to get a hold of the internal listings of the institutions and apply for those vacancies.
#3. I am now taking part in the Assessment Centre phase of a competition which is clearly meant for Directorate General for Competition (in the Commission). Will I be able to be hired by other European Commission Directorate Generals?
Yes it is possible, but unlikely. This is largely due to the internal ‘gentleman’s agreement’ of the Commission’s services that may be reluctant to “poach” you from other DGs. Nevertheless, if you qualify for a post and they really want you on board, they can arrange internally that you be hired - you just need to be on a reserve list, which you most likely already are.
#4. Can I be "booked" by more institutions at the same time?
No, only one institution (e.g. the European Parliament) can book you at any given time, but once it’s clear they won’t hire you for whatever reason, they will ‘free’ you and make your profile available for others as well.
#5. Do these rules apply to those who are in a database of eligible candidates from the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) / Contract Agent for Select Task (CAST)?
CAST candidates are eligible for contract agent posts, but not permanent ones. Depending on the needs of an institution, this does not preclude you from applying for vacancies in the hope that they may hire you temporarily until they fill the post with a permanent staff member.
#6. What are my chances of being recruited from the reserve list? Do many not get recruited by the time their reserve list expires?
There are no publicly available statistics on the “conversion rate” of how many people get hired from the reserve list. However, based on anecdotal evidence and personal experience, almost all candidates who have passed a competition in the past few years, who are willing to accept the job they are offered, will succeed in securing a position eventually. The institutions are careful not to “overshoot” the number of potential candidates on a list, partly because they don’t want to raise undue expectations, and also because the selection process requires the investment of a lot of time and money from each successful candidate.
#7. What information do institutions have access to via my EPSO PROFILE? Only my CV or can they also see the other competitions I have participated in?
Only your CV and competency passport. Previous competitions are not a relevant factor in inviting you to an interview.
#8. Is my age a criteria used for selection?
No, this is not a factor. However, your work experience may be, as each recruiter obviously looks for the most suitable and relevant candidate. So if you have experience in the policy field they deal with, you’ll have an advantage over other candidates. See also the CV boosting tips discussed in the Reserve List webinar and further tips available for free via “14 Tips To Start Your EU Career”.
#9. If I refused an EU job in the past for another reserve list, does it affect my chances?
Absolutely not. Unless, of course, the very same head of unit who tried to hire you is the one recruiting now and has some long-lasting bad memories (jokes aside, the answer is “no”!).
#10. What if the Official Journal (OJ) with the reserve list has not been published yet? Should I still convey such information in my application (the fact that it hasn't been published), or should I wait until it is published, and then link it in the CV?
If you know from your EPSO profile that you have officially passed a competition, you can simply mention this fact without referring to the OJ.
#11. As a laureate lawyer-linguist for the Court of Justice, do I have a chance of being hired by another institution?
Realistically, the chances are low, but not impossible. For an EU official to be recruited they need to be on a reserve list and there is no formal restriction which list this could be even if the competition itself was designated for lawyer-linguists or other ‘specialists’. The reason why it’s difficult to be hired for a post other than the one of your competition is because the institutions and the departments respect a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ not to “poach” candidates from other reserve lists. Nevertheless, if you qualify for a job and the Head of Unit or Director who is interested in hiring you manages to get the internal approval, there is no formal hurdle to you being hired.
#12. Do you have an example of a cover (presentation) letter? Is it better to be detailed?
The free webinar “14 Tips To Start Your EU Career” talks about cover letters. Generally, you shouldn’t be overly detailed and writing 5-6 paragraphs should be absolutely sufficient.
#13. How can I be proactive with sending my CV to the right people? Where can I send my CV?
Do not send unsolicited emails, but as soon as you get the list of vacancies in your EPSO profile, or if you manage to get a hold of the institutions’ internal vacancy publications, you can send a well optimised, carefully worded cover letter and CV to all jobs where you meet the formal criteria.
#14. I was placed on a reserve list in 2012; do I still have a chance of getting an EU job? There was never a job offer on my profile and I never had an interview?
If you have not received a job offer on your profile, make sure there are no technical issues involved. Also, double check that your reserve list is still valid and the date of expiry. For example, specialist competitions’ reserve lists have a validity of several years, but generalists (e.g. AD5 public administrator exams) have one year validity. If these conditions are met, you can and should absolutely apply for jobs!
#15. If I get hired in Luxembourg, what are my chances of getting a transfer to another place, e.g. Brussels?
The formal rule is that you need to spend 2 years in your first job before being considered for internal vacancies (for which you need to apply, but these are listed on the intranet of the institution you’re working for). As long as you get invited to an interview and pass, you can indeed transfer while keeping your salary, administrative grade etc. It is often competitive to get a transfer, but many do successfully move from one institution/location to another each year.
#16. I am on the reserve list of EPSO CAST 25 competition, which I passed in 2007, but so far have not been recruited by the EU. What strategy should I follow to be contacted by Head of Units?
First, make sure your reserve list is still valid (by asking EPSO, Directorate General (DG) or Human Resources and Security (HR) directly) as it was quite some time ago and it may have expired since. Second, try to check the list of vacancies in the Commission if someone can send you this (they should make sure this is not against any internal rules) so you can apply for posts. Although most vacancies would be looking for permanent Administrators or Assistants, your profile may get more visibility this way. Finally, EU agencies may be a good target as they tend to employ temporary agents (and sometimes contract agents), so check the vacancies there too.
#17. How can I make a Head of Unit think: "Yes. That is an excellent CV!"?
An excellent CV is a relevant CV. That is, it is great not in and by itself, but it’s great because it meets exactly what the Head of Unit is actually looking for in a candidate. So if you can establish the link between your profile and what they are seeking, you can get them fired up and invite you for an interview!
#18. If you feel that you did badly in one interview, could it influence other units?
Not unless you did something so outrageous that informal rumours may spread. Everyone involved in the hiring process must observe confidentiality rules - so the short answer is ‘no’.
#19. Does it happen regularly that institutions contact candidates without a specific application for a particular post advertised on one's EPSO profile?
Institutions do often get in touch with candidates directly, but this only happens when a candidate has a unique profile that is very relevant for the job the Head of Unit or Director is seeking to fill. Therefore, it’s important to find elements in your profile that makes you stand out. For example, your relevant policy expertise, your EU experience (even in your home country), knowledge of languages, internships or summer jobs you did etc.
#20. How can I apply for jobs at the Commission, European Parliament and Council when they don't seem to accept spontaneous applications?
As long as you are on a reserve list, you can check the list of vacancies on your profile. There are also many more positions advertised internally in each institution. See question #2 above.
#21. Are the positions advertised on our EPSO profiles already at the external candidates priority level (that is, no internal or inter-institutional candidate was identified)?
The advertisement is independent of your recruitment status. They advertise jobs as they become vacant and are open to accepting external applications. However, it doesn’t mean that these posts are reserved exclusively for external applicants. It may happen that a post is filled by an internal candidate despite the post having been published on your EPSO profile.
#22. I would like to work for the EC DG-General Human Resources and Security, but they do not accept spontaneous applications. What can I do?
Unfortunately, it’s very difficult, if not impossible to know exactly which DG you will end up working at. If you have a very unique profile, for example, you used to be (or are) a HR consultant who is an expert in 360 degree staff appraisal, and that’s exactly the kind of expertise they are looking for, then it’s a “marriage made in heaven”. Otherwise it’s more likely that you’ll start working in a different DG and then later, when you see an opening that is relevant to your profile, you can apply and transfer there.
#23. Should we wait to be called for an interview or take the initiative and make contact? Who should we reach out to?
For all vacancies that the institutions advertise, there is a contact person to whom you should send your application. Once you sent it, don’t call or send reminders as that will most likely not improve your chances of being invited. You can nevertheless try to check if there are people you know in a given unit or DG who can put in a good word for you to their superior.
#24. In the inter-institutional vacancy notices, it is often clearly indicated that laureates should not apply if the vacancy notice is not shown on their EPSO profile. So, even if a friend lets me know about some inter-institutional notice, I typically cannot apply if it is not shown on my EPSO profile. Wrong?
I’m not sure how strictly this policy is “enforced” or if you can still give it a try and send an application. Provided your profile is very relevant for the position they are seeking to fill, they have a strong incentive to consider your application despite the warning. Try asking around from friends and others as we don’t want to give you advice that might backfire!
#25. I sent several applications and on one of them I was flagged "grey". Can I still be contacted by other institutions I applied to and get an interview or is it one institution at time?
Not until you had an interview and they made a decision, but as soon as your flag is ‘cleared’, you can be invited again.
#26. Do all the EU Institutions have visible job offers? Some of them seem to be impossible to reach.
This comes partly from the fact that, for example the Council has a very small secretariat so the number of vacancies is limited, and they often have seconded experts or diplomats from member state representations to fill in posts. On the other hand, the Commission is the largest employer and to their credit, the most transparent when it comes to the publication of open posts.
#27. Can we use any format for our CV posted on our EPSO profile?
Yes, it is up to you which format you use unless a vacancy specifically requires you to use Europass.
#28. So would you recommend not using a Europass CV (unless advised to use this)?
Correct. I’m not a big fan of the Europass format as it takes up a lot of space. Other formats allow you to communicate a lot more information and present it in a more ‘digestible’ format. If the post expressly asks you to use this format however, make sure to do!
#29. What would you consider a good attitude?
A ‘can-do’ attitude and an open mind-set. Let them know that even if you don’t know a certain field, procedure or file, you’re willing to learn it fast. Try to convince your potential employer that you possess these and other positive qualities during your interview and in your cover letter.
#30. How long do you generally have to accept an offer? During this intermediary period, are you able to apply for further positions and attend other interviews?
I know of a few cases where candidates had multiple offers as the interviews/invitations overlapped, but it’s a good dilemma to have (that is, to be able to pick from many options). There is no formal time limit, but you don’t want to wait so long as to risk your job.
#31. Is the actual EU job interview's approach similar to the structured interview, in the sense of "give me an example of a time when...."?
You might get such a question if the Head of Unit wants to test your competency or way of thinking in a hypothetical situation. Most interviews would have classic questions about your profile, technical knowledge, CV, attitude and general skills.
#32. Why do some people not want to work in Luxembourg? I would love to!
Here are a few reasons pros and cons Luxembourg :-)
#33. Is it worth visiting the DGs or EPSO in person to increase our chances of getting a job?
In-person visits are not recommended at all, but checking their websites will unfortunately not help in your job search either, as they don’t publish vacancies there. Before you send an application for a job advertised by a given DG, it is greatly recommended that you have a good look at their website so you can make your cover letter as relevant as possible.
#34. I am in a database of 30 successful candidates from a CAST process where they had 70 open vacancies. After 2 years no one called me, what can I do?
Make sure your profile is updated and ‘optimised’ (see our free webinar on “14 Tips To Start Your EU Career”). Also, try to find out from friends or other sources which DGs or units have recruited from this list, so you can make sure you present yourself in the most relevant way. You could also contact some of the officials who have hired from the list and suggest you are available in case they need more staff.
#35. I was placed on a reserve list in January 2013. In August 2014, I received an e-mail asking about the preferred site of recruitment. After replying to this e-mail, I haven't received anything. When should I contact them?
This was probably a request from DG HR or EPSO, and they needed this information for your profile, but see the above tips on proactive steps that you can take to maximise your chance of being recruited.
#36. I have no international experience. What can I write on my CV? What can I say about that in an interview?
That is not a strict ‘requirement’ and most likely won’t preclude you from finding a job. But even some professional trips you may have taken or an international project you may have worked on or participated in from your hometown/country can qualify as such experience. Your attitude, subject matter expertise and other factors are just as important and can be sufficient to secure you an interview and a job.