Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Type of interviews

Dear Readers,

I would like to invite you to share your fears and your experiences vis-à-vis the oral examinations that you have passed or are preparing for.

An important point that needs to be clarified is the difference between a job interview and an oral examination.

A job interview will try to align the specificities of a job to the competencies of a successful laureate, whereas an oral examination will try to see the possible fit of a candidate to the administrative culture of the EU institutions.

Preparation for the two different interview types should be focus at different issues.

Please note that oral examination type of interview is more common to open competitions, whereas the job interview type of interview is more common to the Contractual Agents competitions (aka CAST).

Happy to discuss your views.

83 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Christos,

how good of you to open this topic!
I've been invited for an oral examination which will take place within a few days in Brussels. My prime concern, I guess, is that I will still be asked factual questions of the type that featured in the previous rounds, that one can never adequately prepare for! I had originally hoped that this would be about assessing the way the candidate comes across in person, rather than effectively another round of tests...
I am also not sure what use will be made of the EU CV we have to fill in (and in fact what is the best way to fill it in - every bit of relevant information, or parsimony)?

Thank you for your blog...

levelek

The Author said...

Dear Levelek,

First of all I wish you all the best for the oral examination.

You should not be afraid of the process , since you already master the required by the jury body of knowledge. Indeed the main question that you will have to answer (inplicitly) is that you could be a good future colleague :-)

Concerning the EU CV, think creatively and prepare a CV that make sense, i.e.

- Include only the issues that are relevant to the specific competition
- Present the truth, but do not be naive
- Explain all holes in your CV
- Remember that a "lengthy CV" is not always equal to a "good CV".

P.S. Do not forget to come back to this blog to report of your experiences/feelings vis-à-vis your oral examination.

Florent said...

Christos, this is indeed a great topic. I passed CAST 27 and will have a job interview on Friday. What I was wondering is whether Heads of Units are trained on those or not. In the company I currently work for, there is an extensive training program on behavioural interviewing that I used to even teach. I am wondering if for this specific one (so not the oral examination) there will be a pattern against which I will be matched or if the Head of Unit is free to conduct any free form interview he likes...

Cheers, Florent

The Author said...

Hello Florent,

Thanks for your nice words.

Concerning your question on "recruitment-specific" training for Head of Units, I could mention that all managers have training on HR issues. In addition, in the interview panel you also have colleagues from the HR services as well as staff representatives.

Finally all job interview are conducted against a specific job description. In theory, you should get a copy of it in advance of your interview.

Good luck.

P.S. After your interview, I would be glad to read your comments.

Furthermore, since you seem to have a knowledge and an interest in the issue of interviews, may be you would be interested in reporting on the way behavioral interviews works. I am sure that it will be extremely interesting reading for all users of this blog.

Anonymous said...

In january i will have the oral examination for an AST competition.
I have several questions:
-do you think that the fact I hold a master degree will put me in a difficult condition at the oral examination?
-if we think positively, that I pass the exam, and even more positively, that I get a job: do you think as an internal I could get the chance one day to win a place and work as an AD (already having title and experience necessary).
BTW, I applied to the AST competition especially because a real AD competition on my profile it's not published since late 90's and i do not know when it will come out.
Any suggestion is more than welcomed.
Thnx in advance.

The Author said...

Hello anomymous colleague-to-be,

Holding an master degree and sitting an AST competition is not considered a disadvantage :-) Some of my AST collegues had and/or gained a Master degree during the time they were officials. However, you should be ready to reply the question: Do you considered yourself overqualified? and subsequently Will you be happy with the type of job that you will doing in the future in that category?. In your posting, you have already given a possible argument on why I am sitting this competition?. Just try to elaborate a little bit further.

Concerning your second question, on possibilities for internal advancement between grade categories, I do confirm that this is a possibility. There are established internal procedures for advancing from AST.C (secretariat) to AST.B (assistant administrator) to AD (Administrator). Nevertheless, there is always the option of sitting an external open competition :-)

Good luck with your oral exams.

Anonymous said...

Dear Christos,
thnx for your reply. It is probably, that getting near to the date (we still don't know when in it will be), I'll contact you again.
sunflower

anyone said...

Dear Christos,

Thanks for your comments!

I also having job interview this week in commision. To be honest I am nervous a bit. I have practise only in private sector and althought I am sure that I would be able to do the job, not sure how to convince the head of Unit... Its obvious that I have no experience in public sector (finance) and if there will be someone who has it, I will be out...

Florent said...

Hi - just a few words to share my experience as I believe it might be useful to others and the previous poster 8^)

I have completed my first job interview process after the CAST27 competition. I may even say successfully, since the Head of Unit will request a formal hiring procedure. Here is how it went and my comments to potentially help. (I have as per Christos' suggestion sent him some details on behaviourial interviewing but that would be too lenghty to post in a comment here.)

My first interview took place with the Head of Unit and the "hiring manager", that is the person who I would work for if hired. Both my mother tongue and the Head of Unit's being French, most of it was conducted in this language. There were very few questions actually: after a presentation of the Unit and the job, I was asked to present myself and my CV as well as why I would be fit to the job. I was very seldom interrupted for follow-up questions. Then I was asked why I wanted to work for the European Union - that was conducted in English. Two other questions: "What makes you believe you are better than other candidates we have for this job?" and "We know your qualities now, tell us about your defaults." My advice would be to be thoroughly prepared for those questions. There are very few and the flow of the interview can give you an edge since you can control time somehow. You may not have the exact relevant experience for the job but you can have the ability to learn it and proved it through your CV - that's what I tried to voice.

The second interview was a week later and with the Deputy Head of Unit. This one was a little bit different: the only common questions were why I applied to CAST27 and what my defaults were. The rest was more situation questions: "what do you think you could do if you were asked this?". Again, it cannot be said enough, if you do not have the exact relevant experience you need to answer of course, but sometimes it is not bad to say that you don't know. Well, at least I did, or I said that in a specific situation I'd seek advice from other colleagues since one cannot know everything.

I found the atmosphere of interviews friendly and professional with occasional humour. Pretty enjoyable. I don't know if I'll accept the job in the end - I really need to understand the monetary implications for my situation and it seems I can't know that before getting a formal offer. But those interviews were pretty similar to some private sector ones.

Cheers, Florent

anyone said...

Dear Florent,

Thank you for taking your time and sharing your experience! You are great!!! Congratulations!
I will also try to share my experience after an interview.

Best wishes to all!

Anonymous said...

Dear Florent,
Thank you for having shared with us your experience.
May I ask you something on your background?
Are you already working as an assistant or did you take a course in that profile?
I was interested to know if they asked you "do you think you are overqualified for this position?" and evntually how did you answer.
Thanks in advance.
Sunflower
p.s.:what do mean for "details on behaviourial interviewing"? To whom did you sent them?

Florent said...

I actually have a managerial position within a multinational company. I did not take a course but I did read Christos' advice thoroughly in this site and other forums. The "overqualified" question was indeed a subset of the "why you want to join us" one. The way I answered was just being honest: I am ready to make some trade-offs (but not too many - which is why I said I need to have the formal proposal before accepting) to have a job I like better in an organisation I like better. You will understand that I can't post more details on a forum like this 8^)

For behaviourial interviewing, this is more a general knowledge subject, so nothing to really worry about - see my previous posting on this same board and Christos' answer.

Anonymous said...

Dear Florent,
First of all, thank you for your reply.
Please, let us know, how your situation develops, I'm in a situation similar to yours...
On my side I like very much the job I'm doing, but I have very bad contract conditions & no guarantees at all. (Christos, so you get other aspects of my situation).
Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Dear Christos,
I have another question for you:
knowledge of third and fourth language can be tested during AST oral test?
Thanks in advance.
Sunflower

The Author said...

Dear Sunflower (what an inspiring webnickname)

Knowledge of third and fourth language can be tested during AST oral test, only if it explicitly mentioned in the OJ.

For most of the normal competitions, this is not the case. The only possible exception to this rule seems to be the Translators exams, but these are normally at AD level.

However, they are allowed to ask questions like `Where did you learned your third language` or `Do you really speak at excellent level four languages`.

Good luck with your exams and do not forget that the collective wisdom will make us all stronger. Please do share your thoughts before and after your exams with us all.

Christos

Florent said...

Maybe a process-related comment on job interviews for CAST 27. It seems that after my interview with the Head of Unit and the Deputy Head of Unit, the unit found out that the Director should see me before any formal recruitment can be made trough the DG Admin. Seems quite a tedious process for just contractual agents, but the Director interview was pretty short and based on me explaining CV and him asking brief questions on my managerial and technical experience.

Anonymous said...

Dear Christos,
Thank you for your reply. I apologize in replying so late, but in the last two weeks my dsl line didn't work at home and I couldn't check the website at work.
I will certainly both come back to make other questions during my preparation and share my experience after my oral exam.
My greetings for the coming holidays,
Sunflower

Maria said...

Dear Christos,

I am now at the stage of preparing for the oral examinations for Translators, which will be held in 2 months in Athens. Of course, I will prepare my answers on the most common questions concerning my CV, character and reaction to certain situations but the issue that concerns me most is the knowledge questions. We have already passed the MCQ Test at the first stage but the third stage will last 45 minutes and I assume we will have to give lengthy answers on EU issues.

I would like to have your opinion and your experience (if possible for Translators' Oral Exams):

- Do I have to prepare thoroughly for EU issues questions (institutions, policies, history)?

- Are the oral exams for AD Translators focused on EU knowledge or candidate fit in the EU working environment?

- Do you have any experience on how specialised will the questions be?

- What will the language test questions be about? (e.g. "what kind of speech is the following word?")

- I have ordered your book from a Brussels bookshop but since I assume it will come delayed, do you know, if I could find it here in Greece without ordering it?

I know I ask a lot of questions but I hope you have understanding, since I want to prepare appositely and not lose precious time.

Any information on the oral exams will be extremely appreciated!

Thanks for you blog, it is very helpful, especially for the psychological preparation of the candidates!

Kind Regards,

Maria

The Author said...

Dear Florent,

Please note that a contractual agent (CA) is just a slim-down version of an official. The only difference is the time limit of three years for CAs.

To this extend CAs and officials make the same job and have the same obligations.

It is common practice that all Administrators (and assimilated CAs) are to be seen (screened) by "high" (Director) management, while Assistants are normally paying a visit to a "middle" (Head of Unit-HoU) management, such as the HoU for human resources.

I hope that the above info makes the process a little bit more transparent.

The Author said...

Dear Maria,

Please find some answers to your questions

- Do I have to prepare thoroughly for EU issues questions (institutions, policies, history)?

Yes, because it is the essence of the work that you will be dealing with.

- Are the oral exams for AD Translators focused on EU knowledge or candidate fit in the EU working environment?

The answer is yes for both questions.

- Do you have any experience on how specialised will the questions be?

Typical questions are: What is the difference between an interpreter and a translator? or What do you know about machine translation?

- What will the language test questions be about? (e.g. "what kind of speech is the following word?")

In the past it was translating a specific text i.e. from a newspaper.

- I have ordered your book from a Brussels bookshop but since I assume it will come delayed, do you know, if I could find it here in Greece without ordering it?

Please email me (Profile "The Author"/Contact/Email) for more info.

Good luck with your preparation.

Maria said...

Dear Christos,

thank you very much for all the information, it is very helpful to know approximately what to expect and what to be prepared for.

In case my book does come with great delay, I will contact you.

Warm regards and Merry Christmas,

Maria

florent said...

Christos - hi and a Happy New Year! Thanks for your note, it is interesting to note that you say it is "common practice" rather than a rule. It seems the Unit I saw was told to proceed with a Director interview by DG Admin. For the end of the story - after checking many details on CA jobs and compensation with the recruiting Unit I have decided to stop the recruiting process myself before receiving the formal offer which would have taken some more weeks and that I would probably have refused. But I have learnt a lot during the process, also thanks to your insights through this blog.

fedino82 said...

Dear Christos,

I have read your books and you give some good hints on how to prepare. I would also like to ask you some more, if it is possible. I will have an oral exam for an AST position:
- do you think the questions on EU will be very specific or that they will be more general? (are they going to ask me about financial perspectives, CAP, or XY agency located where and why?)
- as concerns the language of the examination. My competition is for Italian assistant. Will the oral exam be done in English (my main language, that of the pre-selection tests) or all in Italian and knowledge of the main language as well as of other additional languages will be assessed at the end of the competition?

Thank you for your help and your advice!!!

The Author said...

Dear fedino82,

Concerning the questions that an AST official-to-be could be asked, are like the one's that follows:
- What are the financial perspectives and why we need them?
- What did you know about the Lisbon treaty and what are the main differences with the Constitutional treaty

Even if you have termed them as "general", they are indeed rather difficult to answer correctly.

Finally I do not believe that questions of the type: XY agency located where and why? are likely to be asked.

Nevertheless your feedback following the oral exams will be highly a prreciated from all readers of this blog.

Concerning the linguist regime of your examination, I suggest you to thorough read the OJ as well as the invitation letter to the oral exams [it is normally mentioned on the top left side of the letter usually inside a box] in order to clarify this issue. This issue is rather important because you will need to prepare yourself according (i.e. present your CV in language X).

Good luck with your exams.

Thalia said...

Hi,

My general impression about the oral test, especially the EU-related part, was that they wanted to see if the candidate really understood and is able to make some connections between issues and not only memorised facts, definitions and so on.

Thalia

RALUCA said...

Dear Christos,

I am really happy to see that an EU functionnaire is ready to give advice about EU competitions.
That's an admirable initiative!

Hopefully, I will enter soon as well the European Commission as AC, but I want to obtain later an AD position on the basis of a concours.

Actually, my dream was DG Trade, but for the time being this was not successful :(.I have been there to 2 interviews for the same position, one with the HoU and Head of Sector, and the other one with the Deputy HoU and Head of Sector. My impression was that they were very happy with my profile, but finally they decided to take an insider...I was a bit disappointed, but that's life :). I'll continue my professional fight.

Have an excellent weekend,
Raluca

antonis said...

Dear Christos,

First of all, I wish to congragulate you for the excellent book about the EU oral exams. It, indeed, helped me a lot in passing the AD/53/06 exam.

So, the obvious question is what next? I was informed by EPSO that my name has been allocated to the Commission, and I suppose, quite humbly, that this is good news...ofcourse, they warned me that it might take several weeks to several months until somebody call me from the Commission...

Is there anything that I should do in the meantime? Should I wait for the Commission to call me? And what should i study for the interview if / or when the time comes?

Thanking you in advance,

Antonis

Anonymous said...

Dear Florent,

I am now in the middle of the recruiting process for CA and have some doubts as regarding the final offer. So would very appreciate if you could share some information you have and why finally you decided to stop? I know that the obligations of CA and officials are the same, just remuneration is much less and of course the lenght of the contract.

Thank you!

sunflower said...

As I promised, I came back to share my experience.
I had my oral exam yesterday (AST competition).
They were all very polite, nice, accomodating. I felt very at ease.
1st part --> first language; 2nd part-->2nd language.
They didn't ask me about the other languages, because, for other things that came out during the interview, it was evident I need to use them often.
They insisted a lot why I wanted to do the secretary, even if I could apply for higher positions.
What else...? A lot of questions on work and EU, but not so difficult to answer.
Good luck to the others, thanks to Christos for this space of exchange.
Sunflower

The Author said...

Dear sunflower,

Thank you for the feedback.

For the sake of helping other colleagues-to-be, I would be glad if you could elaborate a little bit more on the work related questions that you were asked as well as on your reasoning for applying in a secretariat position, even though you had higher qualifications.

Good luck with your results,

Anonymous said...

Dear Christos,

I am a candidate in the translators' competition and I have an interview in mid-February. I just found your useful blog and I am interested in reading your book on EU interviews. Where can I find it in Athens?
I don't see your e-mail anywhere on your profile page.

thanx
yannis

The Author said...

Dear Yannis,

Unfortunately the Greek edition of my book is not ready yet, since my Greek publisher is a little bit late with the publication.

However you could get either the English or French edition, from the following online bookshops:

- www.libeurop.be/search.php?auteur=bezirtzoglou,%20christos
- www.eurocomment.eu/product_info.php?cPath=270_271&products_id=1020

If you click on the "email" word in the Contact page, you get an instance of your mail programme opening with my email "c.bezirtzoglou@vip.gr" in the To line.

Good luck with your preparation.

vascodagama said...

hi,

could you please tell if the commission does phone interviews? i got a message from them on my answering machine and have to call them back. if so, could tell what it would be like?

thanks a lot

The Author said...

Dear vascodagama,

Normally it is not common practice to have a phone interview for the original recruitment.

However I know people who were offered a position following an application for job rotation only based on a single phone job interview.

Phone interviews are tricky for both sides, because on an extremely limited time frame, on a possibly bad communication channel and using exclusively oral skills, two sides have to evaluate each other and form a qualifying opinion.

I personally do not believe that you are going to have a phone interview. Most probably they will contact you to ask you if you are willing to work to this site and which dates would you be available for a formal face-to-face interview.

Please do not forget to feedback your experience :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi to all of you,
Could you please help me...I am invited to a writen test and an interview next week. It is not a permanent possition. Does anybody know something about these kind of interviews??? I was trying to find something in Internet but unfortunately I couldn't find anything.
Thank you in advance to all, who answer me.

Anonymous said...

Dear Christos,

Thank you so much for all the info!
I've passed the competition CAST 27function IV, but I'm not sure how to apply for the vacancies. Is there a website with a list? I also heard you are supposed to start lobbying. Is that true? If so, could you give any tips?

Many thanks in advance,

Anna

Anonymous said...

Dear Christos

I had my oral examination for the translators' competition. A lot of specialised questions testing knowledge on various topics were asked: EU institutions and policies, geography, international politics, etymology and meaning of language expressions.
What stroke me was that -contrary to what I had been expecting and to what you describe in your book- there were no questions at all on motivation, personal expectations and professional aspirations. Is that common practice? Do you know if candidates have to take a pass mark from all the members of the Committee or is it just the average that counts?

thank you

Anonymous said...

I also had my oral examination for the translation concours……as the previous reader just noted, too many questions about etymology, history, general issues, geography-even mythology! And not at all about personal plans etc etc….as far as the EU questions, they are trying to see what you have understood from all the things u have studied so far, by asking for examples….I am not at all satisfied with myself as I had never thought it would have been so stressful trying to form a plausible and coherent answer (from things that u are sure u know!) in front of 6-7 persons!
Good luck to all of you

The Author said...

Dear Anonymous colleagues-to-be,

Thank you for your feedback. Indeed the translators competitions are, as all specialised competitions, a little bit special. This is the reason for having questions on etymology and meaning of language expressions.

Please note that the questions in my book try to cover the whole spectrum of possible areas where questions would pop up. Nevertheless, in the next edition of my book I plan to include more domain specific questions.

In principle, candidates have to take a pass mark from all the members of the Committee, since decisions are normally made on a consensual basis.

Try not to be harsh with yourself, since a lot of candidates who said that they where not happy about their performance, they have passed with flying colour. However, the opposite is also true.

My advice to people who have done the oral examinations is to write down to a sheet of paper and/or to their favorite blog :-) all questions and the answers they gave. having this as input, they should elaborate (in collaboration with other fellow candidates) the perfect answer. This way, firstly it will be possible to objectively grade themselves and secondly, it could serve them as preparation material for forthcoming competitions.

Good luck with the results.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your answer Christos...I hope you are right and I hope my feedback will help other candidates

Anonymous said...

Dear Christos

thank you very much for your feedback and your support concerning the transators' competition.
Do you know what are the delays for the publication of results/notification of candidates after the oral exam?

thank you

Anonymous said...

Dear Christos,

I have just been informed that my name has been placed in the merit class number of the list of suitable candidates in the translators' competition. Do you know what this means? Is there a priority in the reserve lists, based on the results? What are the next steps to be taken?

Thank you for your guidance

The Author said...

Dear anonymous,

The timing for the publication of results/notification of candidates after the oral exam varies a lot depending on the total number of candidates.

You could do some calculation based on the following assumptions: a) maximum number of 6 candidates per day, b) the jury will work for 4 days per week and c) you give them a couple of extra weeks for verifications.

The Author said...

Dear anonymous,

Congratulations for having your name included in the reserve list.

In the letter you received from EPSO, they mention that you are placed to merit group 1 to 3 (rarely 4), which correspont to a decenting order of merit.

However the merit groups are not linked to a specific priority, even though people will normally try to recruit laureats from higher merits.

The next steps to be taken could be to do some focused networking/lobbying.

Anonymous said...

On the contrary I have just been informed that my name has not been put in the reserve list for the translators' competition, as my mark for the oral exam was below pass mark. too bad. Anyway, congratulations to the colleagues who have passed.

Anonymous said...

Dear Christos

the letter from Epso doesn't mention in which merit group my name has been included, only that "your name has been placed in the merit class number of the list of suitable candidates".

When is usually the reserve list published after completion of the competition?

Thank you

The Author said...

Dear anonymous (that you did not pass),

Now it is the time to take stock of why you had this low grade for the orals.

I strongly believe that such exercise could help you in your future career irrespestively if you are pursuing more open competitions or if you are preparing for job interviews elsewhere.

The Author said...

Dear Anonymous,

You definitively got an "interesting" reply. Normally colleagues are giving their merit groups. So either there is an error or it is a new procedure.

Eventually, if you are really curious, you could email EPSO to ask which is your exact merit group. Although I believe that whichever merit group you are will not change your chances for securing a position.

For the publication of the list you should allow around one month, even though it is often faster.

Anonymous said...

Dear Christos,

What is the "average" period for the recruitment of a laureate by the EU Institutions? I have read some horror stories about people being on the reserve lists for up to 3 years...is that really true?

The Author said...

Dear anonymous colleague-to-be,

Please note that there is no "average" period for the recruitment, since this depend on a series of factors, such as quotas, nationality, languages combination, speciality(ies), the size of the reserve list, the existence of other reserve lists, etc.

A friend of mine was offered a position (driver) after 10 years, while another one was offered a position (actually she received several offers) in the month following the publication of the reserve list.

A speculative average could be anything between 6 months and 2 years.

The Author said...

Dear Antonis,

I believe that I have not personally reply to you earlier.

Congratulations for having pass the competition which is the first step for becoming an EU official.

Although the EU institutions will eventually call for interview all the people for the reserve lists, it is not a bad idea to be a little be proactive.

So, yes, I advocate to do some "focused" networking-lobbying.

Please pay particular attention to the "focused" element, since the majority of laureates are engaging in an "extremely aggresive and dispersed" lobbying activity (i.e. by emailing their CVs to everyone in the institutions) which most of the times have just the opposite or at best neutral effect.

Thank you for your nice words for my book.

Anonymous said...

Dear Christos,

Thanks very much for your advice, which I intend to follow. However, the general feeling I get as far as the succesful EU laureates are concerned, through visiting various sites on the internet, is that there is too much frustration around as regards the employability of these people who spent too much time and effort trying to pass the EU exams...they consider that EPSO does not do enough to help them secure a post in the EU institutions...some of them even believe that they, effectively, wasted their time going through these tedious exams, accusing the EU institutions of crypto-nepotism, and double-standards.I sincerely hope that this is just not true.

Regards,

Antonis.

Anonymous said...

Dear Christos,

I will have an interview (Cast 27) by videoconference. Do you or does someone have specific advices ?

On the other hand, I am searching an answer for defaults but I don't know how to consider this question.

Thank you for your help.

Maria

Anonymous said...

Hi Christos,

I accidentally found your blog and i have to say i am very glad.

I passed Cast-27 FG III, however i have no idea of what i am going to do from now on!!! Do i need to send some applications? Do i need to wait them for calling me? I really do not know what i have to do. Another question, a potential interview will be held in my mother tongue (greek) or second (english)? i asked because even though i am very good at knowleadge i don`t think my english is fluent and therefore i am bit worried.

Thanks in advance Christos and greetings from Greece

The Author said...

Dear anonymous Greek CA-to-be,

Congratulations for passing the Cast-27 FG III.

You face the classical dilemma: being pro-active (and running the risk to be anoying) or being reactive (and risk waiting a long time before a interview call). Nevertheless, it is a personal decision, since people think and act differently in different cultures. My only advice is to be as focused as possible in your search in order not to make a lot of people loose time but mainly in order to find an interesting position for yourself.

Concerning the linguistic regime of the interview although it varies, mainly deeping on the nature of the tasks that you are going to be given. Please keep in mind that the vast majority of cases you would need to work exclusively (read, write and speak)in a language different than your mother tongue.

The Author said...

Dear Maria,

The advice for a videoconference interview is the some as any other face-to-face advice. Be serious and professional.

Everyone has defaults, also known as not so strong points. Normally the weak points are the "twin brothers" of the strong points. So if you are introvert, probably you are not so much a team player, since introvert characterises people who, in principal, prefer to work alone. The idea is to show that even your weak points are not "defaults" in the classical meaning but rather strong points of your character. I.e. One default would be that you are "stuborn" like a mule, but you could turn it to a strong point, if you mention that you channel the energy to excel and achieve even the toughest goal. However, a small word of advice: Do not lie about your capabilities, since the interviewer will discover it for sure.

Best luck with your interview.

P.S. Do not forget to post your thoughts after the videointerview, since I am sure that other candidates could be in a similar situation.

Anonymous said...

Hi Christos,

Thank you for creating this knowledge resource for all dreaming at European jobs.

I have been invited for an interview in August for a contract agent in an European agency. The job is very technical in the IT area, but it supposes managing a project team and interactions with staff from all the science and administration departments. The main requirement is project management qualification along with ability to work with people with very different professional/educational/national backgrounds. The interview will take only 30 minutes.

My question is: will the questions cover technical matters (IT and/or project management)? Are the EU-related questions relevant for this position? What else the selection commission may ask?

Do you think it is wise to ask the same questions to the person who invited me for the interview? She is a co-national and despite I have avoided to use our native language, she finally did it when dealing with administrative matters (flights, accommodation, etc).

Thank you,
Gabriel

The Author said...

Hello Gabriel,

I assume that the agency you are talking is the ECDC in Stockholm and that the position you apply for is Project Manager Intranet.

Find out who are the possible internal (units of the agency, external cotractors) and external stakeholders (users of your website), since they have different needs.

Check also the web related standards. Have a look on the current site and locate areas for improuvements. Etc etc.

The EU questions are both related to the agency in question (read the establishing regulation) as well as more general (what is the position of the EU in the areas of competence covered by this agency).

Finally, try to reply to the following question: Why you want to work for the EU institutions and in particular for this agency.

Good luck with your interview and do not forget to report back your experiences.

Anonymous said...

Dear Christos,

I am one more to be added to the list of those trying to pass an oral examination. In this case for AST in IT. I will have the oral examination at the end of september or october, not known yet the exact date.

Me, in addition with some other colleagues, who are in the same situation are wondering what kind of preparation to do, what to study, typical questions, EU related and so on.

We would be very proud if we could give us any hint on how to prepare for the coming test and luckily be on the list in the future.

All Best and thanks for this blog
F.

The Author said...

Dear F.,

Thank you for your praise.

First of all, I believe that you need to buy my book asap in order to organise enough quality time to study and to follow it's more specific details.

Nevertheless, here goes the quick and dirty tips:

1. Check what policies/tools the EU institutions are using vis-à-vis your specific domain (i.e. for the IT domain, you could found out things about the security policy, or the problems with working in a multicultural environment).

2. Check the EU institutions website and in particular the Directorate General that are closer to the domain of your competition.

I you be glad to write a new entry in my blog based on feedback I will receive from candidates in specific domain. If you are interested, please send me an email.

Good luck with your preparation.

sarazen said...

Hi Christos,
I just passed an AD concours in communication. I am now thinking about doing a focused networking/lobbying. I am therefore wondering what the best approach would be. Should I start by simply sending my Europass CV to a selected number of HoU with a nice and motivated cover letter? Or, together with the CV, should I also directly propose an interview to present myself face-to-face to them? Moreover, would it be more efficient to start from the HR units of the selected DGs or should I directly address those units which better match my profile/interests?
Thanks!
S
P.S. I found your book very interesting, with a lot of useful tips!

Lux said...

Hi everyone
I'm preparing for an oral exam in the field of Communication & Information (AST level). I haven't been able to find many theme related questions for that specific domain to practice on.

Christos (or anyone recently attending the same exam), i'd be grateful if wanted to share with me some useful hints. thanks in advance,
Lux

Anonymous said...

Dear Christos,

I passed last week the oral exam for AST3 on Financial Management. It was easiest that I thought but I worry because I have arrived 10 minutes later (more traffic jam than expected), of course I apologies to the jury but I'm still worry about.
Do you think that I risk failing for this reason?

Thank you for your blog...
Dodo

The Author said...

Hello Sarazen,

Congratulations on having passed the oral exams. I am also really happy that the tips from my book helped you.

In reply to your questions, I would like to emphase the focus approach to the head of units in the department that you want to work. If there is an opening and your CV matches the requirements of the post, then it is normally the head of unit how contacts the HR department in order to initiate the hiring process.

Of course you can make yourself available for a short interview, but most people will decline this offer, mainly for anti-discrimination reasons. I would not like to give more opportunities to people who live near Brussels and/or who can affort to pay the price to come to Brussels in relation with the rest of the laureats.

Finally, I would like to invite to share with us, some elements of your oral examination process, such as issues/questions you studied, books you read, the more strange/difficult questions that you had to deal during the interview.

See you in Brussels :-)

The Author said...

Hi Lux,

My suggestion for all exams is to read damn well the OJ and in particular the part on the "Nature of Duties".

I.E. In the nature of duties it mentions that you need communication skills in the area of web design.
So the type of questions, to ask is "How can I design a website in such a way that I will maximize the communication effect?"

If you work in a similar way, you will generate plenty of questions to study.

Good luck.

The Author said...

Hi Dodo,

Of course that was a bad thing to do, but we should not cry over spilt milk.

For me the question to ask myself is: Irrespectively of my delay, did I perform well? Did I answer correctly the questions?

Finally, was the interview timetable shorthed because of your late arrival?

As a general remark, you should note that the jury is very professional and the fact that you were delayed should not play a role in their assessment. It is your performance that counts.

Again I would like to invite you to share with the other readers of this blog the experience from your oral examination, especially since you have a special situation to present ;-)

Anonymous said...

Dear Christos,

Thank you for answering me.

My interview took 25 minutes instead of 30, so it wasn't much shorter. I think I answered well to the questions, but not how I could do it normally, I run it to arrive ... So, I'm not very happy about my performance, especially that the exam seems easy for me, anyhow easiest than expected.
So, we will see the results in november, till then , just hope...

Dodo

Anonymous said...

Dear Christos,

I come back with news about my "wrong" oral exam of October, when I was late. In fact I passed it and I became official already starting with mid of December.
I will pass another oral exam in begin of February , for a grade higher (AST4) and I hope this time to do beter, at least ariving in time. Wish me good lock!

Dodo

The Author said...

Hello Dodo,

This is good news for you, but also an interesting lesson for all wannbies officials. At the end it is up to you, your performance in the oral exams that will make it or break it. Apparently you performed well in an adverse situtaion (even if it was based on your fault). Your situation shows also that the jury really tries to find the most competent people going beyond appearences :-)

Good luck or better "efficient and effective studying" for your next competition.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I am now as well on the reserve list in merit group 3. There is a lot of different information on the meaning of the merit groups. Does it have something to do with the years of experience or only with the amount of points gained in the competition?
You said earlier on that it is descending. Does that mean that merit group 4 is the best? And then 3,2,1 subsequently?

Thank you so much for your answer.

The Author said...

Dear Anonymous,

Merit groups are created in order to give an indication of the performance level of the laureates

Merit group 1 = excellence marks
Merit group 2 = very good marks
Merit group 3 = good marks
Merit group 4 = pass mark

Congratulation on your success.

Anonymous said...

Dear Christos,
I have been successful in an AST 3 competition and placed in the reserve list group merit one.
Because of personal reasons I would prefer not to be contacted immediately, but to delay the process for a certain period of time. I understood that within the flagging system there is the grey flag which includes also the circumstance that the laureate is at the moment not available. How does it work?
can I ask not to be available for a certain period? Will this have an impact on future possibilities of being called? When my personal reasons will clear up can I be still put under a green flag?
If I am called for an interview and I do not like the job offer, can I decline it and still be available for other job offers, also in the same institution?
Will the institution I have declined the offer put me in a sort of " black " list?
is it common to refuse?
I hope you do not misunderstand me: I have very happy and proud of having passed the " mythical" EU competition and to be one step away from being finally an EU official...is just a timing question, but of course you cannot have al in life.
Thank you for your kind answer and for this unique blog

The Author said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for your nice words and congratulations for making it to merit group one.

> How does the grey flag work?
You have to ask EPSO. I think that there is also a brief tutorial on the flagging system in the EPSO website.

> can I ask not to be available >for a certain period?
I think if you contact EPSO they can make a note on your file. An alternative solution would be to include this information in your CV.

> Will this have an impact on >future possibilities of being >called?
I think no.

> When my personal reasons will >clear up can I be still put under >a green flag?
I think yes, but better ask EPSO.

>If I am called for an interview >and I do not like the job offer, >can I decline it and still be >available for other job offers, >also in the same institution?
I understand that you can decline any position, without any consequences. However, too many (i.e. more than two) negative answers could make people wonder why.

>Will the institution I have >declined the offer put me in a >sort of " black " list?
In principle, the HR departments do not use these techniques.

>is it common to refuse?
Well, assuming that you are a very good secretary. The HR department of one DG summons you to Brussels. When you arrive, you realise that four other DGs have requested an interview. The result could be that at the end of the day you have five concrete offers. In that case, we will have to refuse four offers :-)

>is just a timing question, but of course you cannot have al in life.
Timing is indeed very important. But try also to keep in mind the long-term benefit for you (either with an EU or non-EU job).

Think wise, act prudent.

Mino said...

Dear Christos,

I am also on the reserve list for AST3 competition, on merit group 1, and I started to be "proactive" as it was suggested on several forums. I already sent my CV together with a cover letter to HoU-s from 2 different DGs, but all I received were emails from those DGs human resources departments, telling me that is useless and "not advisable" to contact people, and all I have to do is to put my CV on the Commission's database, which I already did...
So, I am really confused, because I don't want to upset or annoy anybody with my application, but on the other hand, I don't want to miss an opportunity because I'm not proactive.
What shall I do?

Thank you in advance.

Mino

The Author said...

Hello Mino,

I would proceed as follows:

1) Put your CV on the Commission database
2) Activate my professional network inside the EU institutions. Put the word out that you are available and that your specialities are in such and such areas.
3) Keep sending focused spontaneous candidatures to DGs, but pay attention to their wishes (i.a. if one DG said that it is not advisable to send them CV, then do not insist)

Good luck with your search.

The Author said...

Hello Mino,

I propose the following:

1) Put your CV on the Commissions' database
2) Put the word out that you are "hireable". Activate your prefoessional network.
3) Continue sending focused applications to DGs that they do not mind.

Keep thinking positively :-)

Anonymous said...

Dear Christos,

I am invited very soon to the oral examination and since your book La voie de reussite (my examination is in French) seems to be the best option to prepare myself, I ordered it more than a week ago from http://www.eurobookshop.be/, where it appears to be in stock.
To cut it short, they have not yet processed my order. I wrote even them an e-mail in this respect. No answer. Additionally, I leave in Romania. There is no chance to get the book in 3-4 days as of the date they process my order.
I know there is nothing you can do about it, but I am just a little bit frustrated about this situation and felt like telling to someone.
Thank you for your time.

The Author said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for your comment.

My comment vis-à-vis the available on-line bookshops is to compare prices and eventual availabilities, before ordering.

Nevertheless, you can continue studying and consolidate your knowledge after receiving and reading my book.

Good luck

Anonymous said...

Dear Christos,
I ordered your book several months ago from Brussels and I was very happy with this choice :) since the book is really useful and gives good tips, I also find this blog really really good and practical. Im a successful candidate in the reserv list for AST 1 competition and now I have been invited to an interview next week. I didnt take contact by myself, they contacted me. I cant understand the flagging system, since I dont see any flag on my EPSO profile, I didnt get any message on my EPSO profile that I was invited, I just got an email from the institutions secretariat.

Can you advise me what to expect from the interview,actually I have several ones + medical tests. I have heard that in this phase they dont ask that many EU related questions, but they will put more emphasis on the previous work experience and studies. Is that true ? I also have noticed when reading different sources that this is no guarantee for a job offer. What do you think, how many competition do I have, how many people do they normally invite to those interviews? What are the most common questions they ask etc?


If possible, can you answer as soon as possible, since Im leaving already tomorrow :)

Thank you again for the book and the blog !

Anonymous said...

And do you also might know if there is a description of the Nature of work for AST 1 competition.

Thanks!

The Author said...

Dear Anonymous colleague-to-be-soon,

The difference in the job interview with the oral examination is that the head of unit will test whether your competences do much the specificities of the job on offer.

I recommend to request the job description that will reveal what qualities should the ideal candidate have.

Good luck with you interviews and do not forget to report back your experience.

Anonymous said...

Dear Christos

I am preparing for an oral interview (45mins) for an AD post and I have found your book realy excellent.

My query relates to the opening "ice breaker" question - tell me about yourself, cv, experience etc.

In your book you say to allow 15 minutes for this part of the interview.

I am preparing on the assumption that I will be allowed to make an opening statement of say 10 minutes followed by some follow up questions from the panel (5 mins)

Would this be normal practice?

Will I be interupted during my opening statement?

Thanks in advance

William

The Author said...

Dear Willem,

I think that it's wise to expect to present yourself for 5 min and to wait for follow-up questions for 10 min. Nevertheless, you should follow the instructions given by the president of the jury.

It can happen that the jury interrupts you, when you are clearly "dragging your feet" with a reply to a question.

All the best with your exam.