Participating in an EPSO* competition or concours is like buying the ticket of the national lottery. You know you’ll never win but still it’s worth giving a try.
The number of people who participate in the 2011 edition is scaring. I don’t know if this is due to the crisis or because everybody is eager to move to Brussels or for some other obscure reasons. What is known is that there were 41708 candidates for a total of 320 positions. The EU last year was looking for brilliant people in six different profiles spanning from legal experts to auditors. There was also a “general administrator” profile that has been the most popular one because no specific technical background was required. For this profile the chance of succeeding the concours and eventually get a euro job was around the 0,3 %. Very encouraging indeed!
Not surprisingly the majority of those “wanna be eurocrats” were Italians, Greeks and Spaniards. For Germans and Scandinavians EU careers seem not to be attractive enough. For Brits has mainly to do with the fact that they don’t normally speak anything but English and selection procedure require the knowledge of at least another EU language.
The way concours are organized has little to do with the real competences of candidates. I understand that finding the brightest minds in 27 different countries with a population of some 500 million people must be difficult and imply some hard choices. Nevertheless, the system chosen is rather bizarre. It’s basically a two-stage selection. People who will be eligible to sit the second stage of the exam are filtered on the basis of a series of multiple-choice questions that have more to do with luck than anything else. The test is designed to make sure that the successful ones can make quick calculations and understand what comes next in a sequence of circles, squares and dots. I always wondered why lawyers should be quick in calculating growing rates but in life is always good to be able to do a bit of everything.
The second phase is the so called “assessment center” where competitor candidates are asked to spend one and half day together, passing every sort of tests under the vigilant eyes and subjected to the unmerciful judgment of a bunch of senior eurocrats.
The funny thing is that having succeeded the concours is not enough to secure a eurojob and start your well-deserved eurocareer. This because successful candidates are not offered any job but simply included in “reserve lists” in principle valid for a year. It is then up to them to find their own chair in the EU Institutions. They need to be proactive, flood with emails the inbox of poor Heads of Units randomly picked on the Institutions web sites and if lucky sit other interviews. True that this is a once in a life process that nobody will dare to question anymore in the future, no matter what happen. Once you succeed you will be given a fancy badge that opens the doors of EU buildings and that you’re allowed to proudly show around Brussels and beyond!
Needless to say that only the best brains manage to go through all this without losing theirs wits.
* for non initiated this acronym stands for European Personnel Selection Office