So I won’t be a Commission official

The results of the concours for administrators are now out, and – surprise, surprise – I did not manage to pass. Here’s the extract of the letter:

The selection board for the above competition has now finished marking the pre-selection tests in which you participated. I regret to inform you that although the marks you obtained in these tests were above or equal to the pass mark, you were not amongst the top 630 candidates.

Point B.1 of the competition notice stipulates that only those candidates with the 630 highest marks in the pre-selection tests would be asked to submit a full application with a view to their possible admission to the competition.

Your marks are as follows (1):

Test a): 38.333 /60 (pass mark 30)
Test b): 15.263 /20 (pass mark 10)
Test c): 30.769 /40 (pass mark 20)

Total: 84.365/ 120

For your information, the candidates who obtained the 630 highest combined scores had at least 92.611 points.

I would add that the Selection Board’s decision does not preclude you from taking part in any future competitions organised by the European Personnel Selection Office.

It’s beyond me how one can get 15.263 / 20 when there were 40 questions, but anyway, c’est la vie. All the best to all the geeks who know who won the Sakharov prize in the year X or other equally useful everyday facts.

FILE DOWNLOADS
Blog commenter ‘viking’ has made some new test files available for download, and he had also supplied the manual for electronic Reserve Lists. Some additional test files have been provided by Sorina (see comment #1003) – download 342kb, ZIPped. Enjoy!

SOCIAL NETWORKS
If anyone is a member of Facebook there’s the ‘So I won’t be a Commission official’ Facebook Group, and the EU Integration Traveler IQ challenge (you need to add the Traveler IQ Facebook application) – a more fun way to revise for the concours…

NOTE
Due to such an enormous number of comments here I have had to divide the comments function. The latest few hundred comments are below, and all the older comments are archived here. All should work technically now.

1,548 thoughts on “So I won’t be a Commission official

  1. By and large government administrations, the services industry, etc. recruit more univeri
    sity-level candidates than they did 40 years ago… off course they cannot keep up with the rampant degree inflation ou there and this creates feelings of disenfranchisement. Anyhow, I cannot judge whether a PHD in under-water basket weaving from Tittyville College is more prestigious than a lowly Bachelor’s in Mathematics from Oxford.

    Bottom-line: too many degrees, too many different flavours.’Tis all in pieces, all coherence gone… let a battery of tests sort ’em out.

  2. Hi there,

    has anyone already been to the Assessment Center? (“new” competitions, AD/177/10) Would be great if you could share your experiences! Thanks!

    Pedder

  3. @Breach: what you’re saying makes sense once you´ve already been selected from the RL and called for an interview. But, apart from sending a good motivation letter when applying for a vacancy you know of, what are the key competences that would make one´s CV stand out when HR ppl are looking in the RL?

  4. What about the AST position and their qualifications and study? Do the assistant tend to be overqualified? Do the assistant tend to have Master Diploma?

  5. Regarding the AD5 and the issue of overqualification – Well, due to the current recruitment procedures ALL general European Public Administration (EPA) posts are starting from AD5 level irrespective of your age, previous experience or high qualifications. Is it fair that lets say a 35 or a 45 yo with 20 years experience and a PhD would start his career from the bottom ? of course not, but thats the way it is. If that persons wants to work for the Commission, there is no other choice. On the other hand, most of the time there is no difference between the tasks given to an AD5 and an AD10 . Here we have even some Assistant policy officers who are holding a PhD (temporary contract). Of course, this practice of highering well experienced and overqualifyed people for entry level positions is affecting one way or another the level of motivation of the respective people, especially since the salaries are no longer as high as before 2004.

    Further on the motivation issue, if you are recruited from a reserve list, most probably you will not be offered a position in a field of your specialisation but whatever is available …so we have former diplomats working for DG Employment, or RTD, former social scientists working on Galileo Program or Chemical Industries and arts history experts working for DG trade. All these people and accepting these positions in the hope that later on they will move to work for a subject within their area of expertise.

    I guess the Commission can afford to keep this recruitment policy since there is such a high demand for working there but it clearly has an impact on the motivation of the people.

  6. @curious1
    A great candidate is someone who can convince you they are the perfect person for the job. 😉 Demonstrated attitude also matters greatly – both in a personal sense and towards the position. Standard tips apply – read about the position up front as much as possible, do your background research, find out what the Unit does etc. This demonstrates a real interest towards the position. Speaking too many languages is ALWAYS an advantage and never a disadvantage. Profile-related experience is a key advantage too of course. Ph.D. for AD5 may cause some inquisitive interest, but in principle it’s not a problem provided you don’t give the impression you’re intellectually overqualified and might quickly develop a disinterest in the job. In principle we look for motivated, and enthusiastic individuals as we are a high pace environment and can’t afford risking ever so precious posts. The key questions after an interview are ‘is this person motivated enough?’, ‘does he fit what we expect from him/her in terms of prior experience and qualifications?’, ‘is he/she going to handle the job’, ‘does he have the energy and interest needed to convince us he’ll be a positive and productive team member?’ Then you have all the secondary questions – how soon can he/she start, administrative constraints, etc. Good luck!

  7. BTW, could someone, please, shed some light on workings of Institutions’ HR Departments?
    – what makes a great candidate? well crafted CV? related jobs in past? specific competencies, languages?
    – are there over-qualification hurdles for outside/inside applicants, e.g. Ph.D. for AD5 positions, or MA or BA for AST? Speaking too many EU languages? etc.

    I think about everyone has an idea as to how HRs work in the outside world, but HR in the institutions remains shrouded in mystery for many of us …

  8. I am an “external” so my information is “second hand”. However, I have heard that temporary agents can participate to internal competitions. Contract agents and SNE cannot do it.

  9. For Ida – the TAs can participate to EPSO internal competitions for AD posts while the CAs cannot

    For Miss Anonymous – yes, the more interesting DG and Units get a lot of applications, sometimes 50-70 for one internally adverstised post – most of these posts are for AD5-AD14 – which actually reflects a sad reality: an AD5 can have a similar experiene and expertise as an AD14 but they are separate by some 30 years in terms of career advancement …

    as for the “much, much ” better conditions than the outside world ..it used to be like that until the 2004 Reform …now the entry salary is barely at a “confortable” level ( around 4200 E net) – we are taling about highly prepared professionals usually in their 30s …so ..anybody is free to judge

  10. Wow – that is a lot of interest for one AD post. Can I ask was it an entry level or more advanced? So the salary and conditions inside the EU are muchmuchmuch better than outside in the “real world” ? Or is everyone so keen for some other reason?

  11. If you are a CA (or a TA, or and SNE), and apply for a permanent official post, you are considered an external candidate. So from that point of view it doesn’t bring any extra benefits.

    Of course, if you are in, it’s easier to find out about open posts, and make contacts which may be useful later.

    I agree that in some DGs, outside applicants have no chance to get a permanent post. The unit of a friend of mine published an AD post recently – 13 internal applicants (i.e. those who are already permanent officials) and 44 external ones. Obviously, none of the external ones will even get an interview, as it 100 % sure that at least one of those internal ones will be qualified and suitable.

  12. @michel – if you are a CA, do you come under the internal candidate category? I thought that internal meant existing official…

    @curious1 – there is no career path from CA to official. Of course, if you pass the concours you can imagine it would be an advantage in terms of contacts.

  13. Concerning the last question of curious1, I have already made my mind. I have been on an AST reserve list for 9 months and sent so many applications with the same reply: we have to give priority to internal candidates, we can’t consider your application, bla bla bla… Permanent positions are more and more difficult to get. I am not going to wait for months till somebody may call me… You’ll get more opportunities if you are already working for the EU institutions, even as a contractual agent, than if you are waiting peacefully at home for an hypothetical call. At least this is my point of view.

  14. well, another question for insiders … would you recommend someone whose objective is becoming a permanent official to become a CA – if only to “improve” their CV and get an experience working in the Institutions … or is this a wrong idea?
    (leaving aside the fact that it is not all that easy to get a CA contract if living far from Brussels …)

  15. contract agents = cheaper than fonctionnaires + no career prospects. you are there to be used and abused by the institution.

  16. Always thought concept of CASTs was a bit dodgy (lots of laureates in proportion to posts available). Seen from the inside, cannot say my first impression was wrong.

  17. @Elated
    That means I start getting worried 🙁

    @Michel
    There is a nice calculator for CA salaries available here http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/jrc/downloads/ec_calculator_contract_en.xls
    Kindly provided by our colleagues from JRC, it takes into account various factors (grade, place of employment, allowances, deductions etc. etc.) so it can serve as a good indicator. If the direct link does not work, it is available on the bottom on this page: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/jrc/index.cfm?id=3740

  18. Could anyone tell me how much is the pension, social security and community tax deductions in % aproximatively? I have been proposed some contractual posts and I can’t figure out how much am I going to earn all deductions deducted… Thank you for your help!

  19. Another question I hve been considering: Do you think it would make sense for aspiring laureates to set up a fake residence in Brussels? Nowadays it is not that difficult to get, say, a legal address in Brussels as well as a Belgian phone number while living and working hundreds or thousands km away – and should an (in)formal interview offer arrive, paying a flight ticket to Brussels is not a huge problem anymore …
    I know it sounds pretty complicated, and one would risk losing the expatriation allowance if hired, but perhaps it might still pay off?

  20. @ Contractagent,

    Not a joke… we are urging our contractual colleagues (at least the ones we want to keep;) ) to get the paperwork for their next contract in motion asap as we are sort of expecting a freeze any day now.

  21. good news, indeed …
    I can’t figure out what will be happening in reality – whether there will be tougher cuts or rather some little show to please Member States but actually business as usual …?
    And wonder if there may be a link between prospectives of staff levels at the Commission and the Reding vs. Sarkozy dispute …

  22. Elated, pls don’t terrify me. It is not nice to make nasty jokes at the expense of contractually disabled colleagues like poor old me…

  23. Latest rumour has it “da Portugeezer” promised Member States to chop some heads at the EC, starting with contractuals no longer getting prolonged. This spells trouble for all people seeking recruitment next few years.

    End game is upon us, boys ‘n girls.

  24. julie – no worries its brussels. you think on 1st september mr. fonctionnaire is going straight back to process your application? no, he is going to make himself a big looong coffee and empty his inbox, pay some online bills and surf the internet for at least a couple of days. look on the bright side, even if there are no mega-salaries any more, there are still mega-holidays that you will soon be enjoying.

  25. Julie,

    Nothing moves from end July to early September… no big deal, business as usual, just a tat disrespectful toward people having to arrange notices of leave, etc.

  26. Dear Julie,
    when I came – I submitted my papers on 1 Aug, I supposed to start on 1 Sept, received the offer a week later. I accepted it with a starting date of 15 Sept and get the confirmation for the second date on 13 Sept. I was able to move here so it caused no problem. Don’t worry, it is normal:))

  27. I would like to ask you if anybody know how long take for DG HR (ADMIN) to produce the job offer.

    I delivered all my paper in the end of July and I am still waiting for the job offer. However, my head of unit considered nice to start the 1 September … we are the 7 September and nothing happens.

    Has anybody the same experience?

  28. @jepson

    My _impression_ (I have no insider information) is that every RL is supposed to have a validity of at least 1 year … Then it depends – EPA competitions are expected to take place every year, so the RLs will not be extended much beyond 1 year whereas in other fields with not so frequent competitions, RLs should last till a new RLs are created, for some years …

  29. Any news about the reserve lists which should expire at the end of 2010?
    Many of them refer to very recent competitions, …it would be really a shame for those who struggled and for the waste of public money. Thanks in advance for every info. J

  30. You must look back some posts on this blog to see about the book name you should buy. It has many questions jury might ask. It even tells what to say to say at the end. You must thank the jury and say that if ever you were so lucky to be selected you would be truly very delighted to work in EU. Post says author was acting jury member last month so is reliable source of good information which you must pay 15€ if you want equal information with other people who also pay 15€ to buy and since in the book it says 10000 copies printed so this make 150 000 € that people spend to be equal. Equality is a great thing so it is worth to spend money to be equal. It is legal in EU law for jury member to sell book like this. If you have some more money and want to be even more equal you can spend on training course where EU law says ok for jury member to train candidate. Training course where EU law says ok for jury member to train candidate cost about 300€ but sometimes if not in staff association then not allowed to pay 300€ to be equal. Too bad. Sorry to be cynical. I must honestly tell you that yes the book is worth buying and I wish you good luck. Some day people will look back and wonder why EU recruitment was allowed to continue like this for so long.

  31. @ Outsider

    By no means was I saying it’s fair, it was a mere observation on how the system works. To be honest, for quite a while I was very naive to think all I have to do is get on the RL, and all my hard work will be recognised and rewarded and I will be called for an interview when a vacancy fitting my profile arises.

    It took a lot of research, reading through forums and blogs (like this one) to have some light shed on how this all works. Now I’m still confused, but at a higher level.

  32. Hello,

    I have been invited to the oral exam for translators.

    Can anyone give me any tips for the questions? Are they general EU, or translation-related…?
    Thanks a lot in advance!

  33. well, my appeal to the Ombudsman was mostly based on the precious information I found here (and “Elated aka Frustrated” was one of the most valuable sources)
    How do I feel? actually I was not expecting a lot from the appeal, I simply believe the explanations I got are quite funny, as many people know they are not true…simply it is not possible to prove that!
    however since I (finally!) got access to internal vacancies I am keeping record of all the replies from HoU or HR that consider normal a laureate has access to SYSPER 2…just for record and for fun, I have quite a good job in the private sector and the main outcome of all this mess is that I (and I guess many others) turned from Euro-enthusiastic to euro-disgusted

  34. It’s sad really, the Italian plaintiff’s story is nothing short of the truth (the HoU that got the ball rolling for me indeed was under the illusion all laureates had (equal) access to those “internal” vacancies) and some MS indeed take “better care” of their laureates.

    I wonder how this person feels now….

  35. Congratulations Lisa for succeding the EPSO tests and being on a reserve list.
    But I do not agree a laureate should accept it is just luck if they know someone to get the list of vacancies and also help them make the informal contacts needed to get a job. I think it is a form of cronyism if a laureate who knows someone can more easily be recruited than a laureate who has not the right friends.
    This is especially bad, because the EU Institutions do big talking about equality.
    When someone complains, like the Ombudsman report above, the Commission and the Ombudsman just point out their system is not illegal in EU law. But this does not mean their system provides equality for all in recruitment. It does not provide equality for all in recruitment. The final stage is much based on cronyism. This is not right if it is accepted equality should be provided in recruitment.

  36. You’re welcome 🙂

    The issue of working inside or having friends there to send you the list is… a matter of luck. Not to be cynical, but I remember once hearing an HR person (from the corporate world) saying that when they received too many applications, they used a very interesting method of selection. “I don’t want unlucky people to be working for me” – and threw half the CVs away – those whose CVs made it to the bin were simply unlucky. Maybe the Commission only wants lucky or well-connected people to be working there 😉

    The EP has a different “avis de vacances”, including also openings with the political groups. And I imagine it’s the same for the Council.

  37. Ah very interesting, thanks for the link Lisa. But I think the decision misses part of the issue, which is that some candidates can apply to SYSPER 2 vacancies (by being TA/CA or friends of officials) whilst others can’t. But I guess that is not exactly maladministration by the commission? Anyway interesting to see if they decide to start publishing the vacancies from now on. Does anyone know is SYSPER 2 only for the Commission? What about EP and the Council?

  38. I’m wondering if this issue of laureates access to internal vacancies has ever been taken up with the ECJ or the European Ombudsman? Strikes me that some principle of free and open competition, non-discrimination etc has been breached through this anomaly? Any EU law people know more about it? After all it seems crazy that EPSO go to so much trouble to be fair and inclusive (tests in different languages, test centres in different countries etc) only to have the process fall at the last hurdle.

  39. Elated sums it up pretty well. I would also add “patience” to the list. And being in Brussels, as this will far more easily land you opportunities for informal interviews. As far as I understood, it is quite an administrative hassle to invite someone from abroad for an interview and there could also be budget restraints for that.
    In my opinion, the real problem is that there is no apparent strategy how to absorb/take people in from the reserve lists, the non-availability of the famous vacancies to “outsiders” just being an indicator for that.

  40. Personally, the emailing HoUs did (indirectly) work out for me. I just kept mailing the HoUs that commented “no job op right now, but interesting profile” and got an informal meeting with one… the guy had no job for me, but did some internal PR after having seen me and I got contacted months later by another HoU in another DG. This eventually resulted in a job offer after some more interviews.

    The epso folder in my private mail-account must contain about 300 mails (most of them sent mail without reply). Depends on how bad you want it + profile (which includes, alas, nationality as a factor) + sheer luck. And yes, they should finally give laureates access to those vacancies. This travesty has gone on long enough.

  41. Thank you for the answer, Ida. Now.. what you’ve said about the DG’s or unit’s popularity makes perfect sense, but how would one assess that? It’s easy to imagine that RELEX, let’s say, it’s very popular, I would think that DG COMM, ELARG, COMP are also quite appealing, but that’s just a hypothetical guess from an outsider. I came across some figures on the no. of applications received for the traineeships, but I guess from the inside, the popularity rankings of DGs might be a bit different.

  42. lisa, if the DG you are interested in is one of the more popular ones, it will be very difficult to be hired directly from a list of laureates. Every time a post opens, they have to publish it internally. Then they have to consider all the internal applicants (i.e.those who are already permanent officials of that grade – AD or AST), and only if every single one of them is unsuitable, can they take someone from a list of laureates. If it’s a popular DG or unit, there may well be close to 20 internal applicants, so it’s very unlikely that none of those would be suitable. So from that point of view I would agree with Concoursman that it might be an idea to try to get any permanent post, from any DG. After being there for two years, you can move on, and will of course be an internal applicant at that stage, which will make it a lot easier.

    About e-mailing to the HoUs – this most likely will not work. It would work only if the unit in question happens to have a post open at that exact moment your e-mail arrives (and of course, if they don’t already have loads of internal applicants). If they don’t have a post open, they, according to the data protection rules they are supposed to follow, are not even allowed to keep your CV and application on file, they must be destroyed. I don’t think the rules are followed that strictly in practice, but still, it is very unlikely they would remember your application if a post opens some months down the line.

    So the best way would be to find someone already working in the EU institutions, who would be willing to forward you the internal post publications. That way you can target your e-mails to units that actually do have an open post.

    It is unfortunate that these still are not available to laureates; they definitely should be. As it stands, the system favours wards those who are lucky enough to know an “insider”.

  43. @ Concoursman

    Thx for the advice! I am still a bit puzzled on what to do – it seemed reasonable to have a consistent and focused approach and to try to contact the DGs that matched my experience, but I guess luck and “right time, right place” are more important than logic here.
    My question was also in the line of: is it inadvisable to write to a certain DG, esp. when given the “don´t call us, we´ll call you”? Will they put me on a spam / black list? 🙂

  44. @ lisa
    Congratulations for the results of your competition!
    My advice is to send spontaneous applications to every DG… even if it is not your favourite DG. As you know, the most difficult thing is to become official, so in my opinion it would be better to send e-mails with your cv and motivation letter to all possible HoU that could be interested in your profile. Once you are “inside”, it is easier to move to another DG.

  45. @concoursman
    Thanks … I had a feeling that typically, only 1 appeal is filed even if there are more grounds for it, but did not know it is legally necessary.

  46. Un acte faisant grief ne peut faire l’objet que d’une seule réclamation, introduite à son encontre par le fonctionnaire concerné. Lorsque deux réclamations ont le même objet, seule l’une d’entre elles, à savoir celle ayant été introduite en premier, constitue la réclamation au sens de l’article 90 du statut, tandis que l’autre, introduite ultérieurement, doit être considérée comme étant une simple note réitérative de la réclamation et ne peut avoir pour effet de prolonger la procédure. La décision de rejet de cette prétendue seconde réclamation est dès lors seulement confirmative et donc non susceptible de recours.

    Arrêt du 29 septembre 2009, O / Commission (F-69/07 et F-60/08) (cf. points 45, 48)

  47. Hello to all!
    After reading through almost half the comments here (and it does make for quite a reading), this seems the best place to ask for some advice.

    Just received the news that i’m on the RL (yay), and already started to send a few emails to HoUs with a DG in the Commission that i would like to work for, stating my interest for a vacancy. Their reply? A standard email saying that “most posts at the European Commission are reserved for winners of EPSO competitions (for permanent officials’ posts) and EPSO tests (for contract agents’ posts). For these positions, should there be no suitable internal candidate, we recruit persons from the reserve lists” and that it is not “advisable” to try to contact them further.

    They could have at least bothered to draft another refusal for laureates… Well, nevermind that – my question is: should I stop sending them emails? I am really interested in the DG, and I think there might be little chance for them to contact me otherwise. What would you advise me?

    Thank u all.

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