As we hear from our users, there seem to be two approaches when deciding to participate in an EPSO competition. Some people decide that they would like to work for the EU institutions and select a domain based on what is available at the time. Another group has very specific ideas about what exactly they would like to do at an EU institution and hold out for the ideal exam to be published.
Either way, it is worth considering the factors determining which domain to apply for. In the competitions to be announced in March 2010, the European Personnel Selection Office will be accepting applications for the following domains/profiles:
• European Public Administration
• Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
Let’s see some advice on how to choose the most suitable one for you!
1. Your Chances: If you are in a position to choose from multiple domains (because of your qualifications and the nature of the competition), you must also keep in mind the chances of success. Although everyone knows that competitions for EU jobs are fierce in general, it may be surprising to learn what differences there are between the domains. Consider these examples:
- In a recent competition for Bulgarian and Romanian Administrators (AD5) in the Public Administration domain, over 4500 people applied for 173 positions on the reserve list – that’s 26 people for one position! In the same competition’s Audit domain, the same ratio was only 8 people for one position.
- In another recent competition for Polish and Czech citizens (AD5), the ratio for the Public Administration domain was even tougher – 53 people (!!) for one position. Yet again, for the Audit domain only 5 people applied for one position.
As a general rule, we can say that the more specialised a competition is, the better the chances of success are. On the other hand, the Public Administration domain is almost the only domain where candidates with all kinds of educational backgrounds can apply. In a nutshell, if you have a specific qualification and you wish to make an EU career in it, it is highly recommended to apply for the more specialised domain. As a first step, you can always check the earmarked numbers in the Notice of Competition regarding available places for each domain’s reserve list.
2. Your Time: You need to consider timing: not every domain is offered at every competition, and no matter how much you would like to become a food safety inspector, unless you can wait years, you will have to settle for something else. Second, your field of interest must also be a factor: nobody wants to end up working on something that they do not care about or in a field that does not inspire them. Third, you also have to realize that different domains offer different chances of success – see estimations below!
3. Your Qualifications: Before you delve into ‘philosophical’ choices, you must first tackle the uncomfortable question of what you are qualified for. As a general rule, the more specialised a field is, the more specific the requirements are published in the Notice of Competition. For example, if you apply for the Law domain, you need “university studies of at least three years attested by a diploma in law” or any diploma with “a qualification allowing you to practise as a lawyer”. When it comes to the domain European Public Administration, however, any diploma will be accepted (as long as EPSO recognises it as EU-compatible).
4. Your Interests: Once you have cleared what choices you have (which domains can you formally apply for based on your education and experience), and you’re lucky enough to be left with more than one option, it is crucial to consider a subjective factor: what would you like to end up doing? If you have a specific area in mind, this might be an easy question, but if your intention is “simply” to work for the EU institutions, this is definitely something to think about. It is always a good idea to browse through the websites of, for example, the Commission’s Directorates General to identify which area seems appealing. The next step is then to try and figure out which exam domain will be the best match for that field.
5. Your Career: If you had to make a compromise because of the above factors (chances, qualifications etc.), and you succeed in a domain which is not something you would like to do forever, don’t despair – after some time in the service, you can always request a transfer to another Directorate or EU institution while keeping your salary.
6. Your Preparation: The last important thing to consider is the different preparation methods for various competitions, also reflecting the expected difficulty of the exam. Let’s see some examples.
- The first time you will face domain-specific exams is the Case Study exercise in the Assessment Centre. If you apply for the Public Administration domain, due to the nature of this profile, no specific professional knowledge will be expected, but you will have to prepare thoroughly and be up-to-date in a wide-range of EU topics, current EU affairs, initiatives, policies, and so on.
- If you apply for a more specialist-type of position (Economist, ICT, Audit, Law), a few years of professional experience can play to your advantage. Since exam tasks in these domains can concentrate more on specific skills (hence the concrete diploma requirement), your routine and studies might come in handy and make the preparation and the exam less daunting.
- Finally, there are positions or fields of interests where several qualifications converge or overlap. Let’s say you’re a lawyer interested in digital licensing law and alternative copyright mechanisms such as Creative Commons or Copyleft. If you decide to apply for the Information and Communication Technology domain to pursue this interest, it might be a good choice from a career perspective (it will be easier to find an interesting position once you’re ‘in’), but the domain-specific exercises can be very IT-focused - something you need to methodically prepare for.
When you make a decision about the domain to choose, make sure your selection is not random but carefully thought over: after all, it is always nice to have one less thing to worry about when preparing for an EPSO exam!