This article was published on 1 April and its content should be considered accordingly
We have just learned that the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) is seriously considering to launch brand new selection tests and exams from January 2014. Online EU Training is the first to report on the planned changes below.
Why a new EU selection system is being considered?
Several candidates have voiced concerns about the current pre-selection tests, and we have also regularly heard from our clients that "verbal reasoning is easier in English than in my mother tongue", "abstract reasoning is like interpreting a Kandinsky painting" and "numerical reasoning is rather for computer geeks than for everyday people". On a more serious note, trade unions inside EU institutions, which are considered rather influential, have also been critical of the current methods and procedures.
After various inquiries by the European Ombudsman concerning the EPSO selection methods, it seems that the Executive Board (which includes representatives from all EU institutions) is now ready to reform the system launched in 2010 and replace the tests with completely new type of exams.
What happens to ongoing EU exams?
Competitions and selection procedures that have already been launched will still be processed under the current system that includes, in most cases, abstract, verbal, numerical reasoning, situational judgment test and the assessment centre. For those EU competitions that have been announced in EPSO's forward planning, the new system will only be applicable if there is final agreement by the Executive Board before 1 June 2013 and only for those exams which are announced after 1 January 2014.
Regarding the assessment centre, all exams that are currently underway will continue on the basis of the Notice of Competition in which the detailed rules of the competition were announced, so even if the assessment centre is happening after January 2014, the current approach, scoring, competencies and evaluation will prevail.
The new EU selection system after January 2014
According to our information, EPSO is considering various new selection and recruitment methods and it is yet undecided which one is going to be used or the combination of which is going to be the final choice.
What is certain is that the following selection methods have been shortlisted as the most likely ones to be applied in the new system based on which future Europen Union officials are chosen.
Green card system: given the large amount of candidates applying for generalist posts, EPSO would apply a computer algorythm that randomly selects a certain number of candidates, e.g. 10 times the number of places available on the reserve list. Those selected by the computer will then be allowed to take a verbal and numerical reasoning pre-selection test similarly to the current system, but no abstract reasoning or SJT is required. Given its similarity to the US Green Card system, which is essentially based on a lottery, this method is considered fair yet it helps with the workload of EU institutions and especially that of the companies providing technical and logistical assistance to administer EPSO tests. This system would not be applicable to specialist exams.
Social recommendation system: partly based on the latest research and trends in personnel selection, EPSO would select specialists and linguists on the basis of peer recommendation. This means that a candidate would first need to prove his or her formal eligibility is confirmed (citizenship, diplomas, etc.), and once this is approved, (s)he would need to present 8 recommendations in their EPSO profile. A unique link would be provided, and the candidate shares it with others who will then be requested to provide a recommendation directly online. Should any of the recommendations contain a negative remark or the invited person refuses to provide the feedback in the given timeframe, the candidate will be considered ineligible. Moreover, there is a special weighing provided for each recommendation, given the referrer's social ranking on the basis of a combined metric of the person's online activity in various social networks.
Trivia system: though EPSO is still convinced that testing lexical knowledge (such as "What was real the reason for Commissioner John Dalli's resignation?") is not a suitable tool for selecting EU officials, a serious consideration has been given to the applicability of various multinational companies' unique selection tools, such as Google's (in)famous riddles and trivia. These include for instance questions like "How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?", or an adapted version would include "Explain what comitology is in three sentences to your eight-year-old nephew." The main issue with this system, however, is that it is very hard to automatise it and therefore assessors and selection board members would need to spend disproportionately large amount of time screening through the answers and scoring them according to a pre-established grid. Nevertheless, if presented in a multiple choice test format, this can be a valid substitute for the current pre-selection tests.
New age system: though recruitment experts are somewhat divided about the scientific reliability of these methods, EPSO seems to have endorsed a study that proves these are much more effective than the current pre-selection tests. This system includes a number of tools, such as graphology (only after the applications have been submitted, mostly for specialist exams), creative input (candidates are requested to submit a non-conventional piece of work, such as a painting, an artistic video, physical object they crafted etc., which is evaluated on the basis of originality and uniqueness) and club-approval (only existing EU officials can "invite" a new candidate who is then interviewed by an independent EU panel of 4 officials). This system excludes the possibility of a candidate actively preparing for the selection exam, thereby creating a level playing field for all.
EU committment system: according to this method, each applicant will be attributed a special scoring grid which includes elements such as the level of support for EU integration by the candidate's country of citizenship (based on the most recent Eurobarometer results), the country's ranking in the latest Transparency Interenational surveys, the candidate's self-proclaimed enthousiasm for European integration, and the candidate's track record in protecting EU institutions' reputation via student organisations, newspaper articles, blog commenting or by any other means.
Next steps and what to expect
As mentioned above, EPSO's Executive Board will soon have a meeting to decide which system, or the combination of the above systems, will be applied as of 1 January 2014. Our analysis shows that EPSO will likely choose the "trivia" and "green card" systems for Assistants and Administrators, the "social recommendation" system for Scientists and Specialists (instead of the current "talent screener"), and the "new age" system for CAST exams, Translators and Interpreters. The EU committment system, given the decreasing support for the European project even among EU officials, will be horizontally applied for everyone.