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Planning Your Career as the European Union’s Official

Brussels – the capital city of the European Union. The city offers many opportunities to young, well educated, and knowing their value, people. One of them is a career as the European Union’s official. Professional position, prestige, splendour, but also high remuneration are incentives effectively attracting the persons concerned.

The article contains information showing the course of procedure accompanying the recruitment on clerical positions in the European Union. The deliberations presented in it can be divided in two. First part is devoted to the tasks of the European Personnel Selection Office, operating since 2003, as well as values it is guided by when conducting recruitment procedures and presenting the characteristics of workstations in the EU institutions. Whereas the second one is a practical guide describing step by step the new recruitment process of the European officials[1] being in force since 2010.

In order to become an official of the European Union, one should undergo quite complicated and demanding procedure of the candidates selection carried out by EPSO. In the EU institutions it is possible to find employment on different positions (cf. table 1).

Table 1. Employees of the EU institutions and description of the job position


Description of the job position




Administrators (AD)

(groups of classification from 5 to 16, e.g. AD 5 is an official beginning work in the institution) while AD 16 – director-general

  • drawing up directions of the European Union policy;
  • implementing the European Union law;
  • preparing analyses in relation to specific situations;
  • performing the advisory function;
  • the official between grades 9 and 14 can be a department manager; the official between grades 14 and 15 can be a director; the official between grades 15 and 16 can be a director-general.

Assistants (AST)

(groups of classification from 1 to 11)

  • supporting administrators.

Contract workers

  • employed for a definite period of time depending on the character of the task assigned to them;
  • the division into 4 functional groups is corresponding with the qualifications (physical labours, secretarial work, editorial tasks, advisory tasks).


  • employed for a definite period of time (6 years at the most);
  • carry out tasks requiring know-how;
  • recruitments are carried out by specific institutions and EU agencies.

Employees hired through the temporary employment agency

  • employed for a very short period of time (up to 6 months)


  • traineeship in the EU institutions are offered for the period from 3 up to 5 months;
  • performing activities similar to the tasks of the administrators beginning their work in the EU institutions.

Seconded national experts

  • officials or other employees of the public agencies hired in the national institutions or international organizations;
  • cooperate with the EU’s officials;
  • have specific scope of responsibilities.

Source: own study based on the EPSO website, [02.04.2011].

During the procedure of recruitment of the new employees to the EU institutions EPSO is guided by values presented in graph 2.

Diagram 2. Values, according to which the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) operates

Source: own study based on the EPSO website,, [02.04.2011].

So if you are thinking about the career of the European official, if you think that such professional path is your destiny, I recommend reading the second part of the article which will show you, what steps you should take in order to fulfil your dreams.

"How to become a European Union’s official?" – a practical guide

This part of the article is devoted to a description of individual stages of the recruitment for a position of a European Union’s official.  It has informative character only[3].

The below table presents the individual steps of the recruitment process, whereas the further part concentrates on broader explanation of the issues concerning filling electronic applications in, computer examination and assessment centre.

Step 1

create your own EPSO account

The EPSO account acts as the information exchange point between the candidate and EPSO.

Step 2

Make sure you meet the requirements to take part in the competition

Read the competition notice, which you are going to submit to and the information included in the Guide on open competitions (2010 / C 184 and/ 01).

Step 3

complete the electronic application


Due to the need to enter the substantial amount of information, therefore one should earlier gather all essential documents (certificates, diplomas, certificates).

Check the EPSO account at least twice a week. You will find there information about the further competition procedure.


After the application approval there is NO possibility to introduce any amendments to the application. 

Step 4

computer examination

Test questions are selected by a computer for every candidate.

Through the EPSO account the candidate is informed about the number of scored points from individual parts of the test.

Step 5

assessment centre

If the result of the computer tests is successful, the candidate is invited to Brussels.

Tests are carried out in the second language of the candidate (English, French, German) and last about 1 day.

Step 6

Reserve list

It is usually valid for 1 year from the end of the competition or until the new reserve list of similar profile is published.


The electronic application consists of the following parts:

  • data required for the registration, 
  • motivation,
  • education and training,
  • professional experience,
  • language skills.

In the section "Data required for the registration" one should enter among others the competition number, for which a given person applies, pass one's personal data and the type of the identity document used for the candidate identification on the day of the examinations.

Filling the application in, one should particularly pay attention to the next section: "Motivation", because that is where we explain the reasons why we decided to apply for work in the EU institutions and why we are the best candidates for the post we apply for.

Here we answer questions such as:

  • To what extent does our education correspond with the description of the position which we are applying for? 
  • Why are we interested in working in the European Union institutions?
  • What will we contribute into functioning of the EU institutions and agencies?
  • We do the self-assessment of our achievements so far, choosing two of them and presenting their positive results for us and people around us.

Responding to each of the above questions, one should remember to fit in the limit of 4000 signs for each of them.

In the section "Education and trainings" we enter all information concerning completed studies and trainings we attended.  One should provide the exact address of the higher education institution, major (specialization as required), duration (in the format “from year/month/day to year/month/day”), main subjects, and skills acquired in the course of education. 

In the section "Professional experience" we provide the information concerning out previous employers.  In particular, one should specify the job position held, character and the scope of performed duties as well as the skills, which were improved or acquired during the employment period. 

The next section of the application regards self-assessment of the language skills divided into listening skills, reading, saying and writing. 

The last condition is submitting the statement, in which the candidate states that he has:

  • citizenship of one of the European Union countries;
  • full civil rights;
  • fulfilled military service obligations;
  • personality traits essential to fulfil duties assigned to them.

Within 48 hours from approving the application you will receive the information about the possibility to set the date of the computer exam in the preferred examination centre.  You can also choose any preferred date and time of the test in the given period of time. 


Depending on the selected competition, tests consist of the following parts:

  • reading for understanding test;
  • mathematical skills test;
  • abstract reasoning test;
  • situational judgement test verifying the candidate’s behaviour in given professional situations (regards especially the assessment of skills such as: prioritisation and work organization, analysing and problem solving, cooperation with other members of the team, the quality of work and achieved results).


The next stage of the recruitment procedure is an integrated evaluation (assessment centre), during which one should determine whether the given candidate has the skills crucial for the future European official (cf. table 2).   

Table 2.  Basic skills the European Union’s official should have



Analysing and problem solving

Seeing the most essential facts and finding practical solutions to complicated situations.

Communication skills

Communicating clearly and precisely both orally and in writing.

The quality and  efficiency of work

Taking responsibility for performed tasks, showing initiative, paying attention to high standards the work and applicable procedures.

Personal development and the ability to acquire knowledge

Developing and improving one’s competence, acquiring new skills.

Prioritisation and work organization

Demonstrating flexibility, building the hierarchy of tasks to do

Stress resistance

Adapting oneself skilfully to changing working conditions, demonstrating the efficiency of action.

Ability to work in team

Respect for the principles applicable in teamwork.

Leadership (skill tested among future administrators)

Ability to motivate people to action and development.

Source: own study based on the Guide to open competitions, European Personnel Selection Office, European Union Official Journal C 184 A, 8.7.2010, p. 3–4.

Depending on the kind of competition and position the candidate is applying for, tests in assessment centre consist of various components (cf. table 3).

Table 3. Tests in the assessment centre




  • case study in the field selected by the candidate;
  • teamwork;
  • oral presentation;
  • conversation on a specific subject.
  • language skills tests (practice);
  • teamwork;
  • oral presentation;
  • conversation on a specific subject.
  • professional skills tests (practice);
  • information hierarchisation task;
  • conversation on a specific subject.

Source: own study based on the EPSO website, [02.04.2011].

Candidates, who successfully passed all stages of the recruitment, are put on the "reserve list", out of which European institutions select their employees. 

I wish good luck to everyone making a start in competitions!

dr Anna Marszałek

[1] In total, the EU institutions and agencies hire 2321 Polish citizens, the institutions 87.7%, whereas the agencies 12.3% at present (state for 12 November 2010) Cf. Information about the level of employment of Polish citizens in the EU institutions and agencies, The Foreign Ministry,, [02.04.2011].

[2] Employed for 9-month probationary period, after the end of which the employer conducts a conversation with the employee. On this basis they are preparing a report, in which they recommend (or not) the assessed person for the position of an official. After employing one for a permanent period of time such talks are held regularly. Every year every official is granted a certain number of points, that summed up determine their promotion.

[3] The text is the result of the Author’s conversations with persons who underwent the new recruitment procedure in 2010, and information contained on the EPSO websites