An open question and answer session with our resident EPSO experts, including insights into the new online EPSO Assessment Centre format.
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ACCESS TO RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THE WEBINAR:
EPSO Case Study Exam Insights - webinar recording
Virtual EPSO SCBI Workshop - sessions are tailored to each EPSO competition's unique SCBI assignment pack
EPSO Competency-Based Interview Insights - webinar recording
EPSO Oral Presentation Insights - webinar recording
EPSO Motivational Interview Insights - webinar recording
Personal Coaching services for each stage of the EPSO selection process
EPSO Assessment Centre Q&A LIVE Session (19 January 2021)
Transcript Quick Links
- Andras Baneth (EU Training Co-Founder)
- Ticiana Tucci (EU Training Assessment Centre Coach, Trained Psychologist)
Introduction, sound check and poll: 00:00-05:20
THE EPSO AC - ONLINE [00:05:20]
Andras: Let’s look at the most recent developments while you are considering your questions, and that is what sort of changes has EPSO introduced, or is, to some degree, still introducing, to the Assessment Centre?
WHAT HAS CHANGED?
ENVIRONMENT (ONLINE PLATFORM)
- The most important change as you see on the screen is that currently the environment is purely online. There’s no in-person Assessment Centre happening in Brussels, or Luxembourg. There’s no in-person testing taking place. Everything is happening online.
- NO MORE GROUP EXERCISE
- Again, what I am telling is in the context of the Covid situation which I believe from EPSO’s perspective will last pretty much until the second half of this year, but chances are for the entirety of 2021. While these measures are in application, there is no group exercise because that would require the physical presence of candidates. Even though most of you are attending Zoom, Google Meet and Hangouts, etc., on a daily basis, it would still be too risky from an equal access and technological standpoint to organize an online Group Exercise. Someone’s connection might drop or others may have technical difficulties and that truly changes the entire dynamic of the exercise and make it invalid.
- SCBI ADDED
- And then comes this novelty, the SCBI. We will look at this in more detail later.
- Ticiana: Yes, the SCBI is the hot thing at the moment. This is a good opportunity to talk about it because there are so many changes. I’ve been checking the questions here in the chat related to SCBI, and we will get to those later.
- Andras: Yes, there is a lot to say when it comes to the format, best practices, and all the experience you have gained these past couple months from training candidates for this exam.
THE ONLINE PLATFORM
- It’s done through Skype for Business, which is similar to the classic Skype. Make sure to download and install it and get familiar with it. The interface is nothing special, it’s pretty straightforward.
- Approximately two weeks before the test you are required to do a Connectivity Trial with an EPSO Assistant. You should be in the same place where you are going to sit the actual live exam and conversation, so you don’t do the trial at home but then you will have a different connection at another place where you’ll actually sit the exam.
- Then about a week before the test date you will receive an invitation with all the details you need.
- There could be different parts to the Assessment Centre, and they won’t necessarily take place on the same day. They do try to group them together and you might have a sequence, or it might be connected but still separate days.
- Currently the computer-based tests are still being held at test centres. If your Assessment Centre includes a computer-based test, this typically happens for Specialist competitions, then you are required, at least currently, to go to a test centre where you booked a date and there you sit the Abstract, Verbal, Numerical Reasoning Tests.
NO GROUP EXERCISE
- Those of you who are somewhat familiar with the Assessment Centre would know that typically there is a Case Study, a Group Exercise, a Competency-based Interview and there are sometimes other tests such as an Oral Presentation or a Specialist Interview.
- In the current set up this is somewhat mixed up and changed. Namely, there is no Group Exercise, for the very reasons I previously mentioned.
- For those candidates who have already done their Group Exercise pre-covid, but the competition is still ongoing:
- Your Group Exercise score will no longer count. This is unfortunate, but it is something to bear in mind.
- You will need to complete an additional test which is the SCBI (Situational Competency-Based Interview). That is something we will look at in depth now.
SCBI: WHAT IS IT?
- The first thing is, is that it’s an interview where they measure general competencies that you have by asking how you would react in a specific given situation
- The most important difference between the ‘old’ CBI (competency-based interview, or as it is sometimes referred to: structured interview) and the SCBI (the situational competency-based interview) is that in the SCBI you’re given a background briefing and you are requested to some sort of role play. You base all your answers on how you would react in the context of that background documentation. Whereas in the classic competency-based interview you bring examples from your own, personal professional background. So the old CBI is really about your professional experience and coming up with good examples to demonstrate the existence of a certain competency. Whereas in this new SCBI your answers are framed around the briefing you are given beforehand.
- This is a very important distinction because you have to place yourself in a new situation (in the SCBI). But also, it’s about you. It’s about your competencies. It’s about how you would react in a given situation.
- That is a key phrase: how would you react? How would you perform in a given situation? There are a lot of hypotheticals but it’s still about the way you think, the way you act, the way you approach a problem, is what matters the most.
Ticiana: I would just like to add that when we think about the CBI we think about the STAR model, which is Situation, Task, Action and Results. Now that we are talking about SCBI, it is really focused on the letter A (from STAR), and that is ACTION. You really have to focus on your actions. You really have to step into the role that they have given you in the scenario and know how you are going to react in that context.
Andras: That’s a very important point, thank you very much.
SCBI: WHAT TO EXPECT?
We will now cover the basics of the SCBI, what can you expect?
- Two to three before the interview you will be getting the assignment pack. That is a pretty good thing because you have a lot of time to analyse it, process it and turn it into a more condensed and clear document based on your own analysis and some methodology that we will share with you.
- Typically, you will take on the role of replacing a colleague in a situation and assume responsibility for tasks / situations to be discussed in the interview.
- The questions will be framed around this situation.
- You need to step into a position (role play) and then you will be asked about how you would react to or handle an issue or challenge in the given situation.
- During the interview some new situations not based on the given assignment will come into play. Not all questions will be limited to the background documents.
- They may ask you to suppose there is a certain development / an unexpected issue / a new piece of information. And then observe how you react to that.
- In this respect, it’s a little less constrained than the classic competency-based interview.
- The interview will follow a semi-structured script.
- They can reflect on what you say and ask follow up questions. It will be fairly dynamic because of this.
- It is not a linear set of questions that they need to fire at you, but it is more fluid and dynamic - which, obviously, makes it more difficult from a candidate’s standpoint.
- However, this does really test well how you react in a certain situation and reveal how you would approach a problem.
- The assessors typically expect short and concise answers.
- Some of you may be very to the point and direct in your communication style. Others may be a little more loquacious and like to explain things at length.
- It’s worth practicing. If you know about yourself that you tend to meander and give lengthy answers that is a skill you can focus on improving and developing with a communications coach or similar.
- The reason I’m telling you this is because you might begin a very long-winded answer and then the assessors would cut you off, resulting in a low score on that answer. This can really hurt your performance because there is relatively little time for a lot of questions. Therefore, getting your point across quickly becomes an important aspect.
- Expect a high volume of questions - approximately 15-20, within a typically 30 -40 minute interview. It is rather fast-paced.
- This requires a deep understanding of the file, as well as using your ability to express your views in a very structured and target-oriented manner.
- Many of the questions will be follow-up questions based on your initial answers.
- Again, it will be a very dynamic interview, based on your answers.
Ticiana: Yes, it’s exactly like that. It’s very dynamic. They do of course consider your recommendation. This is because there are two topics that you have to provide a recommendation for, or give some priorities regarding the recommendation. Then they will ask you questions about what you are bringing to the discussion, (i.e. these recommendations and priorities). For sure they have to check all the competences for all the candidates but the questions will vary, because they will also be considering the individual recommendations and what candidates bring to the interview.
SCBI: NEED TO KNOW
- One important thing to know is that there are not necessarily right or wrong answers. Because a problem, like how you would resolve a dispute between two colleagues or how you would react if the deadline was advanced by two days unexpectedly because the European Commissioner’s agenda has been changed, can be solved in different ways. It’s very real in the sense that this is not like a multiple choice quiz, or maths problem, where there is only one good answer. It’s much closer to problem solving where the same challenge can be tackled from multiple perspectives. And that is exactly what they are looking for. They would really like to know how you would approach. The way you think (about a problem) matters more than finding the ‘right’ answer.
- Because of this there are no best or worst answers. Certainly there could be poor answers to a given problem. For example, if you are asked how you would resolve two people having a disagreement on your team, and your answer is to go to court and sue them - that is probably not a very good answer. A better answer is saying ‘I would try mediation.’ or ‘I’ll try to bring in different incentives.’ or as a team of two, or separately, having several conversations. There are a host of ways to approach a problem. Again, there is certainly a scale, where some solutions might be better than others. But there is no such thing as THE one solution, or THE one answer that they are looking for.
- How you justify and build your arguments to defend your position is key. Again, it’s more the problem solving process, rather than the solution, that’s important. Let me be very poetic - It’s the journey, not the destination. How you get somewhere and the way you process it, is what you need to describe to the assessors.
- A little off-topic, but this just reminded me of something from years ago. It was famous, or rather infamous how Google interview candidates. There was this one question that everyone was quite shocked about: “How many golf balls fit in a car?” Nobody really knew how many golf balls fit in a car, because it depends on the model and other factors. But what they were really looking for was how the candidate would solve this problem.What would their approach be? They might start making estimates about the size of the car and the size of a golf ball, adding, subtracting, coming up with formulas…
- Again, it’s the thinking process that you need to describe and actually, this is good news. Because if you don’t know the answer, it’s a good way to answer like this: ‘I don’t know the exact figure or answer, but here is how I would try to find out, here is how I would approach the problem.’ That is exactly what they are looking for.
- Last but not least, previous knowledge is not required. You’re not expected to know anything about the EU, about the given policy or the given context. Having said that, of course it helps to know. Of course we encourage you to do your background reading, to do your homework and dig into the file provided as best as you can. You have the time to do this, since you are given the file three weeks before the actual exam. You can Google around and check commission websites. You can find resources and talk to people who work in that area. You do want to get a more comprehensive picture. You definitely should do this, but it’s not formally required. It’s not a knowledge-based test. They are not going to ask about specific pieces of information from outside the background documents.
Ticiana: What I would like to add, is exactly what Andras said about experience. This is not what they are going to assess you on. They are going to assess you in terms of behavioural competencies. Just to give you an example, when there was the Law competition back in November and December, there was something in the assignment that talked about copyright law. All of the candidates I coached were lawyers, of course, and they all asked, do I have to know about copyright law, because that is not my field of expertise. The answer is, no. You do not have to know anything about it. It is how you deal with the information provided in relation to the other information and facts that you have in the context of the assignment itself. You are, however, allowed to research external information for the SCBI, for you to build your confidence while speaking. My recommendation was, if you feel more confident having an understanding of the basics of copyright law, then sure, take a look, read about it. But just remember, the aim of the exercise is not for you to discuss copyright law. But instead discuss how this initiative could impact the assignment itself. This is something to be aware of, because normally, as experts, we want to go deeper into a specific subject.
Another thing I’d like to touch on, is the role of the interview. The person who is there, talking to you is only an interview, not an assessor. Besides the interviewer, there will be two assessors present, no camera, just names, and they will not interact with you at all. The interviewer interacting with you has two roles: 1. Asking questions. 2. Initiating role play. The interviewer may step into a role, and then ask you to step into another role. Then instead of talking about solutions to the situation, you have to act out the situation. For example, in the example that Andras mentioned, a conflict between two colleagues, the interviewer could step into that situation and announce they are the unhappy employee and then ask you to role play the manager. You will be asked to provide motivation, Leadership, Working with Others, not just talking about them, but acting them out in a simulated situation.
Andras: Thank you very much!
I will now look at a couple of questions that came in, in no particular order:
Q: How will the Oral Presentation work in the Online Assessment Centre format?
A: This is something we don’t know yet. I think EPSO is still working on it, figuring out if they can use some type of virtual whiteboard, with some applications or how they could administer these types of exercises.
Obviously, from a technical standpoint, this is very easy these days. There are a lot of apps and different ways to connect. Certainly, they have to comply with a lot of technical and equal access requirements. They are still looking into it and we do not know at this stage.
Q: In the CBI (the classic competency-based interview) should we have in mind 5-10 anchors per competence?
A: I will not spend much time on this because the CBI is currently not relevant for our purposes. Yes there are indicators, or anchors, and yes, there around five that you can frame your answers around for the classic CBI.
Q:Should we follow the STAR method?
A: As Ticiana mentioned earlier, really focus on the A - Action, and much less on anything else from the so-called STAR method in your SCBI answers.
Q: Any suggestions on how to stay updated on EU-related developments?
A: If you want to be up-to-date and know the broader EU context you probably want to read Politico’s daily emails, EU Observer, or other EU-focused outlet. These do a good job of following the daily workings of the EU, perhaps too detailed for the purposes of an Assessment Centre. But occasionally reading up on what’s going on is helpful because you will understand the file better and quicker.
Q: Is the Case Study happening online or as necessary in a test centre?
A: Currently, the Case Study still seems to be happening in test centres. It is computer-based, as you know, there is an interface, there are background documents, but yes, it is still happening at test centres right now, as far as we know. We’ll see whether this will change or not but as long as this works we believe this will stay as is despite the covid challenges.
Q: What about the field-related interview in connection with the SCBI? Ticiana I will leave this one to you: How does the field-related interview come in, in the context of the Situational Competency Based Interview?
A: Ticiana: Actually they have nothing to do with each other. Those are very different tests. The SCBI is really focused on the behavioural competencies. The field interview is related to your area of expertise, and it is based on your Talent Screener. They will check your expertise in the field.
Andras: And this will happen online as well? The field related interview?
Ticiana: Yes, exactly, it will be online.
Andras: Okay, so these are the two main points. These are two separate kinds of tests. The field-related interview is very much based on your professional background, and even to some degree your knowledge and understanding of your field of expertise. It is happening online as well, through the same platform, in the same context as part of the Assessment Centre.
Ticiana: In that sense, knowledge of the EU, especially in your field, is very important. Because you have a specific knowledge and need to apply that knowledge to what’s going on in your specific field.
Here is another question which I am again throwing your way Ticiana:
Q: How do you actually practice ‘getting to the point’?
A: Ticiana: We know about the STAR model, right? A good practice is to put your answer to the STAR model first. This will help you streamline your answer straight to the point. Then talk just about the A - Action, focus on the action.
Another good method is to record yourself. Normally when we are speaking we are not 100% aware of the way we speak, if we speak too much, or don’t speak enough. My advice is to record yourself.
If you are not comfortable just speaking to yourself, or just your phone, then you can schedule a meeting with a friend or colleague and then you can record that meeting. You can then assess yourself through that recording. Self-awareness is super important when we’re talking about the selection process.
Andras: Yes, I fully agree. Interestingly, as soon as you know there’s a camera on you, even if it’s only you in the room using your phone or whatever device to record yourself, it forces you to be a little more self-conscious, also to be more to-the-point, more succinct. Especially if you time yourself, let’s say giving yourself two minutes to answer - it is amazing how quickly two minutes can pass by.
In a live exam setting when you’re more excited and nervous, less self-aware, you are trying to remember all the information that you need to provide, then you can easily go beyond two minutes. Making sure that you practice in a ‘safe’ environment first is important, then perhaps with a colleague, or perhaps with a coach, then you can really practice being more focused in giving answers.
Here is a question about the technical aspect:
Q: What happens if the connection drops? What happens if there is a (power) outage?
A: In any of these scenarios, after ten minutes, e.g if there is an outage that lasts more than ten minutes, then EPSO will reschedule the interview or that phase of the competition. Where they couldn’t establish a connection with you.
However, if it’s less than ten minutes, and most technical issues tend to be resolved within that time frame, then they continue and add the time lost to the end.
Usually, best practice is that you have your internet at home, or wherever you want to sit the exam, and then there is a back-up line which is typically the phone, which also tends to have internet. Then you can switch to your phone or use your phone as a hotspot.
Actually where I am right now is our studio in Brussels at Ambiorix Square, which is a stone’s throw from the Commission’s headquarters, and this studio is available for anyone who would like to sit an EPSO online exam. We charge a small fee, and then you have proper lighting, sound, microphone, and everything else. Obviously, we make sure that we respect all the rules to the letter. We are just providing a silent, soundproofed space with a good camera, a good microphone, good lighting and good internet connection to help you perform your best at the competition.
Q: Is the SCBI needed for the AD5 competition too?
A: Yes, it is needed because it replaces the group exercise. I’m not sure exactly which AD5 you’re referring to, but as long as the group exercise was part of the Assessment Centre, and the exam has not concluded yet, then you will need to sit an SCBI because it replaces the group exercise element.
Q: Will there be an email informing us about when the Assessment Centre will resume? We’re a bit in the dark currently…
A: We are constantly monitoring all sources, resources, so we will definitely let you know as soon as a competition resumes, or whenever they launch the next phase, online phase. You’ll definitely hear from us. Normally, however, EPSO will let you know as well. Typically they post a message in your EPSO account and not necessarily send an email. Again, if you are signed up to our newsletters or Facebook groups then you’ll definitely hear it from us as well.
WHAT EPSO ASSESSORS WILL BE LOOKING FOR
The assessment is about behaviour and not expertise
- They will be looking at the way you react, rather than a deep knowledge of the assignment pack
- You will be assess on the following (classic) competencies:
- Analyses and Problem
- Solving Prioritising and Organising
- Learning and Development
- Working with Others
- Leadership Communication
- Hint: Make sure to carefully look at the competencies and have a good understanding of what each of them actually means (indicators)
TIPS TO SUCCEED
Read the assignment very carefully. Not just read it, you want to practice with it perhaps.
- Practice with someone in a virtual setting.
- If in doubt, ask the interviewer (at the actually live session). You can ask them questions, you are supposed to interact. For the sake of the role play, there should be a dynamic flow between you and the interviewer. You are even encouraged to ask them questions to clarify something. E.g. ‘Do you mean it from this perspective?’ or ‘Does the context allow the following things?’
- Do use information from other sources when answering questions. As we said before, in your preparation you can do some background reading, you can understand the context at a deeper level, you can use other information sources as well. But even the briefing states that you need to rely mostly on the background information, or framed within the context of the background information, but it’s not exclusive. Outside information can enter the conversation.So you can use a lot of common sense and other information.
- During the interview you can consult your notes and the assignment pack, but no external help is allowed. You can’t start googling, you can’t ask someone who’s standing in the door, obviously this is a serious exam where only your performance matters.
Ticiana: You mentioned someone being in the room. So, the interview itself, the SCBI is about 40 minutes. For the first ten minutes they will check your ID, they explain the rules and they also check the room that you are in. They will ask you to move your camera around the room and show that there is no one else there.
FOUNDATION OF AN ASSESSMENT CENTRE
We would just like to make a clear distinction for those who have not dealt with Assessment Centres before about:
COMPETENCIES VS. KNOWLEDGE
Knowledge is really anything you can typically google these days. Whereas competencies are something you inherently have - it’s a skill, an ability, a behaviour, for example your ‘communication skills’ - that’s a competency. Your analysing and problem-solving skills are considered a competency. The way you interact with others is a competency. It’s about the way you would react in a given situation. Now here are the examples given on the slide:
‘Please give us an example of a situation when you had to undergo a lot of stress.’ (on the left side of the slide) - this is a question from the classic competency-based interview, where they directly ask you about your competencies.
For the Situational Competency-Based Interview this all happens more indirectly where they ask you to react to a challenge, a problem or a question and within the lines is where they will assess your competency.
THE 7+1 COMPETENCIES TESTED
- Analysing and Problem-Solving
- Delivering Quality & Results
- Prioritising & Organising
- Learning & Development
- Working with Others
- Leadership (for AD only)
THE EPSO ASSESSMENT CENTRE MATRIX EXAMPLE:
This is changing because they are replacing the Group Exercise with the SCBI. This matrix will look somewhat different in the context of the online version of the Assessment Centre. But the bottom line is all eight competencies will be tested by two separate exams which are all part of the Assessment Centre.
Ticiana: It is an interesting point to note, that although the SCBI will be replacing the Group Exercise they do have some similarities. Because the Group Exercise, and this is good news, was really about how you interacted with your colleagues, how you analysed, how you prioritised, and was not about the result itself.
The SCBI is quite the same but you are just by yourself. But as you mention the SCBI is about the journey, the Group Exercise was also about the journey. There is a kind of connection between the two. Maybe it will be more comfortable to know that the SCBI is not out of the blue something completely new, and also that they are assessing the same competencies.
Andras: I’d like to quickly address two questions which I think are quite relevant. The first one is related to the point you just made.
Q: Is the Situational Competency Based Interview (SCBI) similar to the Situational Judgement Test?
A: Many candidates may know the SJT and may have already been subjected to it. For those of you who don’t know the SJT was a multiple choice computer-based test where they would present a situation in one paragraph and then you would need to find the most suitable / least suitable course of action.
Yes, they are somewhat similar. The SCBI, conceptually, is somewhat similar to the SJT. The big difference being that it is not computer-based, in the sense that the answer options are not limited. You are really free to come up with your own ideas and your own solutions. And you try to present the best possible solution, you won’t be offering your best idea and your worst idea (like in the SJT) because you want to solve the problem.
But the concept of being presented a situation and finding a good response is rather similar.
Q: Is the case study marked by people or computers?
A: Each Case Study is marked by two people. If the scores that they give you after evaluation are very different, I don’t know what that benchmark is, but if there’s a huge gap between the scores of one evaluator vs. another evaluator, then a third person will also evaluate the Case Study. It is human evaluation, and again, there are these safety measures put into place, where two people evaluate, and a third can be brought in.
EPSO CASE STUDY EXAM
- CURRENTLY STILL TAKEN AT TEST CENTRES
- EPSO CASE STUDY EXAM INSIGHTS - webinar recording
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- Have your completed Case Study evaluated by one of our coaches
EPSO CBI, SCBI, MI, OP EXAMS
HAVE ALL MOVED ONLINE (TEMPORARILY)
EXAM INSIGHTS WEBINAR RECORDINGS
- COMPETENCY-BASED INTERVIEW
- MOTIVATIONAL INTERVIEW
- Another exam we have not talked about, but the Motivational Interview is an important part of the Assessment Centre for almost all competitions. It has its own quirks and the kind of things you want to say, or the reasons you’d like to present on why you would like to work for the EU Institutions - you probably want to give it some further thought, and maybe even practice.
- ORAL PRESENTATION
VIRTUAL SIMULATION SESSIONS AVAILABLE FOR EACH TYPE OF TEST
Each two hour session focuses on one specific Assessment Centre test
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ONE-ON-ONE COACHING SESSIONS WITH AN EPSO EXPERT
These sessions are tailored to your needs
Ticiana and her colleague Jan are available as coaches and trainers for all aspects of the Assessment Centre, so it’s one-on-one. They also run the online simulation sessions for groups, so there are different formats for preparation with a coach available.
Ticiana: Yes, talking about the SCBI, the simulations are very helpful because the groups are limited to six or seven people and we discuss each page of the assignment. It’s very interesting because you see each other’s perspectives and sometimes learn about something you were not aware of as brought to the table by another participant, which makes it very interactive and dynamic.
My colleague Jan and I, In the individual and in the online simulation sessions, also cover the CBI, the Oral Presentation and the Motivational Interview.
Andras: Okay here is another question I just found:
Q: Do we need to understand the technical side of the SCBI assignment? For instance if the situation is set at a particular Directorate General, do we need to understand the nature of the work they do or the task? Or are the questions going to be really general and applicable to any field?
A: Ticiana: It is for any field. And they are very clear on the first page of the assignment where it’s stated that you don’t need to have any kind of expertise to solve the problems presented in the assignment. It’s really just related to your behaviours, or competencies, the ones that András showed us a bit earlier today.
Q: After the AD5 competition is announced how much time do we have until the examinations to prepare?
A: I believe you are referring to upcoming exams that are being planned for the next few months. How long do you have? Well, the Assessment Centre is definitely stag two. If there is a new competition announced then typically the first phase is the Computer-Based Tests - the Abstract, Verbal and Numerical Reasoning Tests, possibly one more, depending on the competition. Those of you who pass this first phase of tests will proceed to the Assessment Centre. Unless, there is a so-called Intermediate exam as well. Usually, you have quite a lot of weeks, a month or two even, between different phases while they announce the results and call you in for the next phase. You do have quite some time to prepare for these different parts.
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Q: Do you think that interviews, or the Assessment Centre may be organised before the Case Study / written test in the field to gain time before covid restrictions are over?
A: That’s a good question. If I had to guess, I would say no. Typically the Case Study precedes the rest of the Assessment Centre, therefore they would organise that first, and the subsequent parts - the CBI, the SCBI, the Motivational Interview, and all the rest - would come after. I think it’s about following a process and a sequence of the different steps. But again, that’s just my guess.
Q: How do you practice ‘being to the point’ using the STAR model and talking about Action, and the camera and timer is not yet enough?
A: Ah, okay. We talked about what methods can help you improve your ability to get to the point, and what if that is not enough.
This is related to the questions that we cannot practice beforehand. What to do with questions that are totally new during the SCBI exam? How do you practice for that?
Ticiana: Practice. To learn how to ‘get to the point’ takes practice. You can practice on your own, or with me, or my colleague Jan during a coaching session or a group workshop. Just practice. As András said, with a timer right beside you. Have someone asking you questions that you don’t know ahead of time. Do a simulation. This would be a good way to practice.
Try to focus on key words in their questions. Try to focus on that when you answer and then check your timing. If it’s too concise, then you can start adding more information. But first try to go straight to the point of the question.
Andras: Right. Generally, if you practice ‘getting to the point’ as a skill, it helps you with unexpected questions too. If you are preparing consciously, and you have discipline and self-awareness then your first reaction will be ‘Okay, I’m not sure what the answer is to this question but here’s how I would approach it.’
Another fairly good method is to try to come up with three steps, or three parts for any answer that you may give. You can even say it out loud ‘One, two, three.’, and it helps your thinking as if you were listing three bullet points for an answer because immediately it shrinks that information that you would like to share with the assessors.
This requires practice. It’s not like you can memorise it. You need to be on the ball in the situation. It is a skill that can definitely be improved over time with plenty of practice.
Ticiana: Also, think about feedback. It is good to listen to another person who is there with you because you may think you’re great and super to the point, or the opposite - ‘I’m not that great, I’m not straight to the point.’ But if you practice with someone, and get feedback then you can get information on how you are perceived by others.
Q: Is there more chance of being hired if we rank well?
A: For most competitions there’s no ranking. Once you’re on the Reserve List you are recruitable and you can get a specific job, but ranking doesn’t matter. For some competitions where there is a large number of candidates, they may do tiers, Tier 1, Tier 2, perhaps even more tiers, in that case there is a ranking and it counts, but that is rather the exception than the rule. Typically it’s your background, your availability, the languages you speak - those are the things that matter, and not so much on how you ranked in a given competition. As long as you are on the Reserve list then a different priority takes hold from the recruiter’s side where they are just looking at are you a candidate for the very specific job that they are planning to fill.
Q: The Motivational Interview - how much time should we consider for each question?
A: Ticiana: I think the three minutes max answer works here, same as we practice for the CBI. I would go for that. These EPSO competitions are really about being straight to the point, because they have so many people to interview and to keep to their agenda so they are very straight to the point with everyone. The more objective and succinct you are with your answers as possible, the better. And also it’s practice.
Andras: For the Motivational Interview, you kind of know what kind of questions to expect in advance. In this interview it’s not that difficult to really think it through and come up with a good answer because it’s not going to take you by surprise, whereas it might happen in the SCBI where it is a bit more dynamic and differs from one interview to the next.
Q: Is the Field-Related Interview also 40 minutes?
A: I’m a little uncertain, maybe 30, maybe 40? It’s around there, it’s a little bit shorter than the others maybe.
Q: SCBI - Is it the same scenario for all the candidates in a given competition?
A: Yes, the background file is identical for all candidates in a given competition. Whoever is enrolled will get the same briefing. Obviously, the questions can largely differ, but the background file is identical.
Ticiana: Yesterday the SCBI background material was released for Audit. It is a good idea to take a look, go through it, see what it’s about. The last one was 23 pages, now it’s 24 pages. There is a lot of information for you to analyse, prioritise and discuss. It’s a good idea just to take a look, even if it’s not your competition, to get the feeling, or flavour, of it.
Q: Does every competition have a Motivational Interview in the Assessment Centre?
A: Andras: Not necessarily, but most do. The vast majority of competitions do have it.
As a final point, all of this online testing, when you are by yourself is for the Assessment Centre. For the Computer-based tests, the Abstract, Verbal and Numerical Reasoning Tests, still happen in a test centre, not at home online.
With that we wish you a lot of success for this particular competition and obviously for the entire Assessment Centre!
Thank you so much for being here!