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Print 05 Sep 2011 Confessions of an EPSO candidate (Part IV.)

(This guest blog post was written by Joanne Fry in her private capacity. 3rd part is here)

Success at the EPSO Assessment Center for EU Careers For the whole of July, I had been gingerly logging in to my EPSO account every single day, waiting for the little red flag to say that I had ‘1 new email’. Well, the end of July came and went, with no sign of the assessment centre results. Just as I was about to start harassing the EPSO team and inundating their inbox with emails of complaint, I logged in to my account on Monday early August and there it was.

Without a second’s hesitation, I clicked into it, like ripping off a plaster to get the pain over quickly; all I saw was the first line of the letter – “I am pleased to inform you…” and immediately shouted out “YEEEEEEES!!!!!” I had done it! I’d passed the assessment centre and got on to the reserve list!

My mind was a complete blank for the rest of the day; I felt dazed. I’d been preparing myself for bad news, trying to reassure myself that it wouldn’t matter if I didn’t get through, and resolved to start my preparations for the next round of competitions. I was so surprised that it was good news that I couldn’t quite process it.

The following day, once it had sunk in that I had succeeded, I decided to read through the detailed breakdown of my performance at the assessment centre, which is known as a ‘Competency Passport’.

The competencies measured were: Analysis and Resolution of Problems, Communication, Quality and Results, Learning and Development, Prioritisation and Organisation, Resilience and resistance to Stress and Working with Others. These are all marked out of 10, based on combined scores from the interview and the inbox exercise.

It’s worth pointing out at this point that the comments on the inbox exercise are generic and automated, based on the score you got. Therefore, in my opinion, the interview comments are more important because they genuinely describe what the panel thought of your answers.

Overall, I scored 74/100; this is made up of a score of 50/70 for the competencies and 24/30 for technical skills (drafting exercises). Pretty good, not perfect, but easily over the minimum requirements, which were 15/30 for technical skills and 40/70 for the competencies.

Although I felt very pleased with my scores and in particular the comments about my interview, I realised that effectively, the part of the process that I had the most control over was finished.

So, what would be the next step?

How would I go about finding vacancies, getting interviews and ultimately securing a job? Whilst there is a fair amount of information about the testing stages of this recruitment process, there is almost no information about what happens after that.

The letter from EPSO explained that the Competency Passport would be sent to the European Institutions, along with the details in the online application form, and that EPSO would send the reserve list to the European Institutions. The letter then referred candidates to the recruitment website at, so I had a look.

Apparently, it would seem that all there is for a candidate to do after getting on to a reserve is sit tight and wait, and keep checking their status on the reserve list via their EPSO account. There is a ‘flagging’ system which is all explained on the website, and this, in theory, is how institutions will notify candidates if they wish to call them for interview.

Yeah right.

As if, having got this far, I (or any of the other candidates) am going to be happy to just cross my fingers and wait for that magic ‘flag’ to appear. This whole process needs to be a lot more open, transparent and accessible.

I don’t have a strategy at this point, but I’m sure there must be something I could be doing to improve my chances, and when I find out what that is, I’ll share it!! 

(to be continued....)

Questions? Comments? Post them below!


About Joanne: It has always been my ambition to work on a European level; during my MA studies in Public Policy and public Administration I found that the area I was most interested in was European Integration; the role of the Commission in European Public Policy is fascinating, and is the subject of great debate. I would relish the chance to work in such a fast-moving political arena. European Integration formed part of my MA Public Policy degree and I have written several Master’s level essays on the subject. In terms of having a familiarity with the European Union and its institutions, I worked in the European Parliament in Strasbourg for a year during my undergraduate degree, which gave me some insight and first hand experience of the way EU politics works. 

By: Joanne Fry

By Monica | 19 Jul 2013

Hi everyone! Joanne, we are sharing the same experience! I was very excited when I first saw the communication stating that I passed the last exam of the long selection process! Now, 9 months later, nothing is moving towards a job offer within the Institutions, no flag in the reserve list...I'm discouraged to apply for other suitable competitions, got the feeling that the European Institutions do not find my profile interesting...Like you, I'm also wondering if there is a way to make myself more visible according to HR policies of the EU.

By Phil | 03 Mar 2013

Hi Joanne,

thanks for the insights you gave us so far!

How did actually prepare for the concours? And especially with which material or websites?

All the best,

By Online_EU_Training | 11 Jul 2012

Dear Tunde,

Joanne will answer to your question soon, in the meantime please find below our suggestions.

We kindly recommend you to contact the heads of unit of the departments where you would like to work at the Commission or European Parliament. We suggest sending them your CV with a cover letter by email or by post explaining in short why you would like to work at that unit. Make sure to mention the EPSO exam that you passed and the reserve list that you can be recruited from if they are interested in you.

For the heads of unit, please kindly check the official directory of the European Union at

If you happen to know anyone already working in the institutions, you can ask him/her to send you the list of internal vacancies where you are also eligible to apply.

We wish you the very best of luck.

By Tünde | 10 Jul 2012

Hi Joanne, thanks for your account. I have been put on the reserve list recently and wondering what's next. Could you tell us how your story continued? Thanks!

By Andrew | 02 May 2012

Hi Joanne, I'm half way into a competition and I was wondering how it went for you after being placed on the reserve list. Plus, any advice you can give on the assessment centre tests?

By Brusselsblogger | 04 Nov 2011

Having been through this process, I agree that the process is not well designed once you reach the reserve list.

But I can certainly recommen to simply call HR departsments of Commission / Council / Parliament DGs that you would like to work for. You can also contact directly Head of Units of units that you think that you fit best in a DG. They are normally helpful and can direct you to other open posts.

Plus, have a look at this site (hope you can access):

By joanne_fry | 26 Sep 2011

Hi Marie,

Yes this was my first attempt, and it has been a very steep learning curve!

By Marie | 14 Sep 2011

Hi Joanne,

Thanks for sharing this with us, your story is really motivating!

Was it the first time you presented the concours? If not, how many times did you presented it?

All the best,


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