Thursday, 21 February 2008


The more common set of successful candidates recurrent questions vis-à-vis job openings are:

  • How do I find information vis-à-vis job openings?
  • Why are the job positions not published externally?
  • Am I allowed to postulate for a job opening?

Please allow me to explain How the system of job openings works.

The job opening is an internal position, that is open to internal candidates (officials) which are due for mobility. This is the reason why job positions are not published externally (with the notifable exception of same senior management positions). Thus, successful candidates are not allowed to postulate for such job openings.

NB: The EU institutions apply a system of obligatory job rotation (normally every 5 years) for all sensitive posts in order to avoid among other things the building of "cliantele" relations.

The simplified version of the whole "vacancy" procedure is as follows:
  1. In anticipation of a vacancy for a (permanent) post, the unit decides to make a (first) publication of a job opening. Normally there is a period of around three weeks for officials from the same EU institution to submit their candidature.
  2. If following the first publication of a job opening, there are no (suitable) internal candidates (officials) from the same EU institution, then the unit in question, will most probably redraft the job opening and will shortly after re-publish it for a second time.
  3. If following the second publication of a job opening, there are still no (suitable) internal candidates (officials), then the unit in question, will most probably open the job for candidates from other EU institutions, thus transforming the post to an inter-institutional job opening.
  4. If following this third publication, there are still no (suitable) internal candidates (officials in any EU institution - even in a different country), then the unit in question, will most probably be given the chance of looking to the available reserve lists for suitable candidates.
  5. However, there is still the possibility that, i.e. the reserve lists of successful candidates of open competitions are depleted, so the unit cannot find any suitable person for the job opening. The unit may decide at that stage to opt for a short-term temporary contract in the form of a contractual agent contract from the CAST lists.

I hope that the above information will make the recruitment process of aspiring candidates a little bit more transparent.


sunflower said...

Hi Christos!
...what a depressing framework...

The Author said...

Dear sunflower,

I was wondering why you are describing the framework as "depressing".

I could have accepted heavy, bureaucratic or time consuming.

Personally I believe that the approach of the Parliament that publish the posts immediately at the inter-intitutional level is a little bit better than the Commission approach that normally utilises all the steps.

However, you should also consider the size of each institution (i.e. ~5000 in the EP versus the ~30000 of the EC), their internal culture (people tend to recruit their alike) and the need for internal grow (including job rotation and changes of interest after some years in the same place) of candidates.

sunflower said...

dear Christos,
sorry, I was too synthetic: when I said depressing, I was thinking on how much on bottom are placed the reserve lists.
By the way, on monday they told us the results of the AST competition for which I have asked a few things on the other page of your blog and I made it, I'm on a reserve list.

The Author said...

Dear Sunflower,

Congratulations on your success! Well done. At the end all the hard work has paid.

Reserve lists are at the bottom of the procedure just because they are "reserve lists". I have the impression that future-colleagues-to-be do not realise that fact. Most of the people I know as well as from discussions in other fora, people believe (unfortunately wrongly) that when their name is included in the reserve lists, they will be offered a job immediately. This is not true, because reserve lists are created with an horizon of approximately three years. That means that the EU institutions make provisions of new needs based on a multi-annual planning and subsequently EPSO organises the necessary competitions.

sunflower said...

Thanks, Christos!
I'm very lucky, because I had the chance to find this and other fora where I got prepared to this reality (reserve lists on the bottom), so I will be very surprised if they do call me.
But I had to try.
If you don't try, you'll never know.
In addition to this, the last AD competition in my field of expertise was done in 2001 (when I was still studying)and they have recently extended again the validity of the reserve list. So I don't know if I will turn grey haired before it will be done again.
I'll probably try also the AST3 competition, when it will come out.

Bye for now.

Anonymous said...

Dear Christos,

Thank you for your blog and your remarks. Finally, I have found something comprehensive.

I have been placed on a reserve list for an AD job now after finishing a competition which ended at the end November 2007. I have contacted many general directorates by email but the reply was very polite and no success.

Do you think is there any possibility to speed up the process being employeed at the EU institutions?
Thank you in advance.

The Author said...

Dear Zdenek,

Congratulations for passing the competition.

You mentioned that you contacted "many general directorates". It should not be the quantity but rather the quality as well as your personal proferences vis-à-vis a DG.

My only advice concerning speeding up the recruitment process is to be selective and focused. The approach of "I can work everywhere" usually does not work. People would like to find out what extra could you bring in.

sunflower said...

Dear Christos,
just a brief update: i must say i'm quite surprised, because since I finished on the reserve list of the ast competition, i was contacted several times ( even if I don't know yet if i will get a job) and yesterday I sit 4 interviews.
only one out of 4 was a unit that i had contacted.
I first was contacted by eurostat, but it was a unit in which i was not so interested. Until that moment I had contacted no one. i didn't even know if i was flagged or not.
Worried that that proposal could be the only one I wrote to 3 DGs in which I was interested.
One of these 3 invited me. For the other 3 interviews I had, they found me on the database (even I f i didn't have the chance to ask if it was on the eRL database or the civil service one).
I also had to the medical examination (but they repeated me twice "it is only to save money", just in case, but it does not mean too much...)and had to go also to DG ADMIN to produce all the papers I declared to possess on the application form of the competition.
All the interviews were about me, what I have done in the past, why I would like to change and also in each interview they explained exstensively, which were the functions and the work they do. No technical question on the work they do. People were all very nice to me and accomodating, I felt very at ease even at the first interview!
(But I must confess the night before I hardly slept).
Now let's cross the fingers again!

Anonymous said...

Dear Christos,

Referring to what sunflower said above, it seems that it is much easier for someone to be employed or at least get invited to a selection interview by the EU Institutions if he/she is on an AST reserve list rather than on an AD one. Being an experienced "insider",does this make any sense to you?


The Author said...

Dear Antonis,

I do not believe that your assumption is correct.

Who gets invited is related directly to the needs of the services both for the level (AD or AST), the language needs as well as the function (i.a. audit, IT, finance), ofcourse within the limits of the reserve lists.

Anonymous said...

Dear Christos,

Thanks for your prompt response. By the way, I followed your earlier advice and I have sent covering letters with my Euro CV to a selection of, HoUs in the Commission. In general, the response I got so far, in most of the occasions, was a very polite "thanks but there is no vacancy at the moment - we wish you good luck etc etc"; some others advised me to upload my Euro CV in the relevant online section of the DG Employment (something which I did already), and, finally, a handful (very few) of them informed me that they would keep my CV for future reference...Let's hope for some positive results in the (not so distant) future!



carla said...

Hi! very useful blog: thanks to the author!
I am on a reserve list for AD, published more than a year ago; so far, I was contacted several times, but the jobs were not reaaly interesting...
I was told that getting a job soon might be difficult, as there is a rolling system for national quotas: so people from new member states, under-represented in the civil service, are privileged. This means that candidates from old EU might not be invited to interviews, even if their profile is perfect for the vacancy ?! is that true? how does exactly this rolling system work? thanks for your answer

The Author said...

Hi Carla,

Thank you for your nice words.

Although there are officially no national quotas, nevertheless at the current state there is a slight preference from candidates from NMS (New Member States) in order to accomodate the service needs.

I.e.1. Assuming that we need to recruit an auditor. If you are a candidate auditor from an "old" MS you have better change if you i.a. speak the language of a "new" MS. This reflect only the needs of the EU institutions.

I.e.2. Assuming that we need to recruit an IT expert. If you can programme in Cobol, it is not considered such a good credential, as if you could code in i.a. Java.

Nevertheless, it is a fact that a couple of years following the assession of any new MS, there is a need to recruit firstly from that MS. This has been a fact of the past and it will be a fact for future asseccions.

So basically the hiring is done in relation with the HR needs during that period, but also by taking into account the geographical balance of the units/Directorate Generals.

See you in Brussels soon :-)

Anonymous said...

Dear Christos,
I am a successful candidate of the CAST 27 competition (Soc. sciences adviser) and I am waiting for an interview (hope so). The last months I ´ve been visiting several blogs and asking people who know few things about EU and they all told me that I need to wait (nobody knows for how long)and start lobbying. Well my questions are: How probable is it not to be ever called for an interview? Is my only option that lobbying? And usually how long does it take for an interview? (I'd like to tell you here that I don't have relevant to my field working experience-I have working experience in other fields).

Thank you very much in advance, and congratulations for your blog.

linkoneus said...

question to antonis:
"some others advised me to upload my Euro CV in the relevant online section of the DG Employment (something which I did already)",
where is that section exactly?do you have a link?

Frank said...

Dear Christos,
how is difficult to move from one Institution to another ? Is it common ?

The Author said...

Hello Frank,

It is not uncommon to move from one institution to another.

Things that affect this move are: the place and the size of the institution of arrival.

I.E. If you want to move to the Courts in Luxembourg, there is an open invitation from their parts.

I.E. Moving from a big institution like the Commission (where there are a lot of openings) to a small like the Parliament (where the opening are much less) is more difficult that the other way around.

My advice is to network in advance of postulating in order to have maximaze your chances.

Frank said...

Thanks Christos !! My partner has started in January to work in Ispra for the JRC as AST1, and I'll start in July as AST3 at the Council of the European Union in Bruxelles, so as you have written I'll have the possibility in the future to look for a position in Italy ?

Man of the Hour said...

Hi, I've just read all your comments about what's next once you've been placed on a reserve list, don't know if I should be optimistic or not...I just managed to pass a competition and I've been placed on an AD Reseve List.

Assuming that perhaps the more difficult part of the process begins now, I've some question about my options of being recruited:

- Am I able to apply to the internal vacancies? I have acces to them, but I just don't know if I have to be an EU official already, or it's enough being placed on a reserve list.

- Am I able to apply for a position that not equals 100% my competition? Let's say I just passed an Information Security Competition, and I wonder if I might apply for positions regarding IT: project management, infrastructure and services, and so on.

Thank you very much in advance,

Man of the Hour

The Author said...

Hello Man of the Hour,

You are "able (=allowed)" to apply to internal vacancies, but only seldom your candidature will even be considered, as internal candidates by definition have absolute priority (as well as been faster to recruit that externals).

You are "able" to apply to "similar" position to your field of competition. In the course of your career you would even sometimes encouraged to make such minor "career shifts" via the internal job rotation.

Good luck with your search.

Anonymous said...


I have been placed on the reserve list for an AST competition (Audiovisual/Web design). I appreciate it is still early days (the list was published less than a month ago), but I am wondering if you could answer a couple of questions:

- There's lots of talk of a recruitment freeze at the EU. Or at least a sort of one-in-one-out policy. Is this true? If so what would that mean for AST positions such as mine?

- Is it worth lobbying individual Heads of Unit? I know this used to very quite common, but now with the EPSO organised recruitment, does this still help?

Thanks for your help.

The Author said...

First of all congratulations :-)

In principle competitions are announced based on actual annual (bi-annual) needs. This the number of people on your list is sufficient to cover these needs over time. Technically, that means that they can offer a position right now or equally they can offer a position in one-two years time.

Lobbying individual Head of Units in the areas linked to your competition is useful only if there is an opening (immediate or in the next 3-4 months) in that unit. Overwise you will get the standard reply :-(


Anonymous said...

Hi Christos,

Thanks for your reply. Regarding the lobbying if there is an opening. How do I find out if there is an opening - as an outside? I don't suppose they list these somewhere?


The Author said...

Well, even if you are an "insider" you do not know if there is an opening, unless it is already published. This is an interesting fact of life that a lot of "outsiders" do not realise.

That's why I proposed "lobbying" and not "applying for a post" ;-) Since you work in advance, before the actual publication of the post. Of course the success level is low, but luck is in the side of the daring one.

Anonymous said...

OK, thanks for your replies, they've been very informative.