Recruitment up to 30th April 2004
Table of contents
In recruiting its staff, the Commission ensures that officials meet the highest standards of competence, performance and integrity and that they are selected from the broadest possible base of nationals from the Member States. For this reason, there are no national quotas at any grade in the Commission, i.e. no national fiefdoms. In addition, officials are selected without regard to race, political, philosophical or religious beliefs, gender or sexual orientation, and regardless of marital status or family situation. See Article 1 of the Staff Regulations (PDF).
Officials of all categories and grades (apart from the top grades A1, A2 and some A3 positions) are recruited exclusively via general competitions by the inter-institutional Personnel Selection Office (EPSO). To ensure all candidates are treated equally, these competitions are subject to the most rigorous criteria. First, candidates are required to provide formal proof that they meet the requirements for the competitions (e.g. qualifications, work experience, etc.). Those that do are admitted to a selection process consisting of several stages and involving various tests of knowledge and language skills. Throughout this process, candidates are known to the examiners by their registration number only. In a second stage, when this condition of anonymity is relaxed, the few candidates that remain are required to attend a face-to-face interview in front of a high-level selection panel. The pass rate for this interview is generally not much more than 50%.
By way of example, in the last major competition for administrators (category A), of the more than 30 000 applicants admitted to the tests only 825 made it as far as the interview, with just 470 of these finally being placed on the reserve list. Once on a reserve list, candidates can be recruited to a vacant post by any interested unit in the Commission. The success rate for that particular competition therefore was just 1.56% of the candidates admitted. If the applicants that were not even admitted to the tests are included, the proportion of all applicants actually recruited to the European civil service comes to less than 1%.
The extremely exacting tests are designed to identify the strongest candidates from the tens of thousands who apply. To succeed, therefore, candidates need to demonstrate outstanding levels of general culture and proven excellence in their specific area of expertise, allied to high levels of general flexibility, self-confidence and creativity. As well as a perfect command of one of the EU's official languages, competence in one other official language is a minimum requirement.
The emphasis in the recruitment competitions on proven ability ensures that the institutions attract only highly motivated candidates. Those lacking the necessary levels of commitment are weeded out by the long and demanding selection procedure.
There are also general competitions to the higher grades A4 and A5, but staff recruited at these grades are appointed not as unit heads but rather to a post in a unit under a unit head.
Specific recruitment competitions are also held for grade A3 middle management (unit head) posts (e.g. heads of representations in the Member States). Like the recruitment procedure for senior management and the handful of posts for other staff (in particular temporary and auxiliary staff), these competitions are subject to the standard recruitment rules, i.e. candidates submit applications in response to a published competition notice and potential recruits are called to interview. Special general competitions are held in advance of every enlargement of the EU, solely for applicants from the new Member States. Some of these may include general competitions for A 3 officials.