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Working for the EU - 11/03/2010

EU overhauls selection procedure for civil servants, shifting the focus from formal knowledge to actual knowhow.

The European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) hopes the new methods will speed up the process and lure people with more skills and experience.

Every year tens of thousands of people apply for positions in the European civil service. They include interpreters, translators, lawyers, secretaries and administrators.

Previously the process could take up to two years, starting with a battery of tests. This discouraged candidates, putting EU institutions at a disadvantage as would-be employers.

"In an increasingly competitive job market, the European institutions have to be able to attract a diverse range of top-quality applicants," says Maros Sefcovic, the new commissioner for inter-institutional relations and administration.

"It's also important that we hang on to these people, which we will only do if they have the prospect of finding an attractive post without undue delay."

The new procedure will take just 5-9 months, partly because competitions for common jobs like administrators, assistants and linguists will be held annually - more frequently than before. And candidates will no longer have to memorise a multitude of general facts and figures on the history of the EU - at least not from the start.

The new procedure involves two stages. First applicants will be tested on their professional and thinking skills in their home country. Those who pass the pre-screening will be invited to Brussels. Only then will they be tested on their knowledge of the EU. During the second phase they will also be asked to perform job-related exercises demonstrating their ability in areas including problem-solving, teamwork and communication.

Candidates will receive more detailed feedback on their performance, and if they are judged successful, they will most likely be invited for an interview. Those who pass the evaluation but are not immediately hired will be placed on a reserve list valid for one year.

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