Analysis of Assistants (AST 3) in the fields: 1. Operational security, 2. Technical security and 3. Occupational health and safety, a.k.a EPSO/AST/155/22 competition

Dear all,

Christmas is almost here but before we can enjoy that special time of the year EPSO brings its last competition before the long pause (until May 2023). On the bright side, EPSO has released a new competition offering 101 new positions in 3 different profiles Operational security, Technical security and Occupational health and safety. EPSO aims to close the year with style and offering new opportunities to all of you. Today, we’ll answer the following questions in our analysis of this competition: how many spots are available, languages used in the competition, criteria to be an eligible candidate, the different phases of the competition, as well as our estimated calendar of the competition.

How many spots are available? When does the process begin?

A good number of spots are available, 101 spots in total!!!, distributed in 3 fields. The bad news are that you can only apply to one single field. Be careful! The process began on the 17 November and it will be open for joining until 20 December NOON (let’s say 11.59 AM CET). Until then, you can fill in and validate your application. Approximately, you have been given one month +2 days , that’s more than enough but don’t fall asleep.

if you don’t believe us about the number of spots, just check the notice and do the math

What are the criteria to be a candidate?

The general criteria, as usual: Enjoy full rights as a citizen of a Member State of the EU (of the 27 Member States, sorry, UK is no longer an option), meet any obligations under national laws on military service, and meet the character requirements for the duties concerned.

Specific criteria – languages

Same thing than in the paragraphs but visible in one look. Also you have a similar table in pag 8 of the notice of competition ;-).

I.-LANGUAGE of the APPLICATION: You can choose among the 24 official languages of the EU and you should have, at least, the ability to write your application in that language. Ok, but the question is, in which language should I draft my application? should I do it English? French? Or my native language if it is none of the previous? You have the right to do it in your EU official (one of the 24) language but nobody guarantees someone from the board will be able to read it and, in such case, they would have to translate it. If so, will all the details of your application be properly captured by the translation? If you are uncertain of the answer, better to use a common use language in the institutions, such as English or French. Besides, the check of the CVs for eligibility criteria will be faster if there is a high number of applications in those languages (English and French). For Spanish and Italian speakers, the chances of having someone who can read them are high so the risk of using them is rather mitigated, for other languages, our answer is that you should verify the chances of having fluent readers of your language in the board of evaluators.

Also on languages, bear in mind that, as a candidate (= after you formally submitted your application) of this competition, EPSO will communicate with you (via the EPSO account or by email) in one of the languages that you have declared to have knowledge of at level B2 or higher in the ‘Ability to read’ section in the application. But if you want to complain about an error in the computer-based multiple-choice questions (MCQs) or do a requests for review you have to submit the requests or complaints in English or French. For other questions is any of the 24 official languages (again, the more spoken the language is, the faster they can deal with your communication)

II.-LANGUAGE of the Reasoning test (CBT) or Language 1: You can choose among 24 official languages of the EU (and different from language 2) and you should have, minimum, a C1 level. For your mother tongue, you should qualify yourself as C2 and be CAREFUL! Do not say you have a level below C1 for any language skill (listening, reading, oral communication, written communication…), otherwise you will be disqualified automatically. The computer-based tests or CBT (verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning) will be taken in that language.

III.-LANGUAGE of the ASSESSMENT CENTRE (or langugage 2) : ENGLISH or FRENCH (sorry, you can’t choose others, duty calls and EPSO explains it long and clear why in the notice). Here we need a B2 level minimum of English/French (no need to have a degree to justify it, the tests in the Assessment Centre will be done in this language and if you can work through them, then you will qualify as having the level required). Remember, when describing your level of English/French in the application, not to put any item (written, oral level, or any other) below B2 level. Of course, this language 2 can’t be the same as language 1.

Specific conditions – Work experience and studies or how to be an elegible candidate?

Let’s proceed profile by profile as each one has its own particularities, but before that…

Be careful! In the part «professional experience in the field or relevant» when describing your professional experience in the application (CV – work experience), you must clearly identify the experiences and activities equal or similar to those you are expected to do in the European Institutions and described in the notice twice (please check our table below): first in point 3.3 Specific conditions (do you need more hints?) and later in Annex I – Typical duties, so take a good look at the columns of our tables, explain your experience and keep calm! If you find this task difficult, perhaps one of our past webinars (click to see the recording) can be key to help you fill in your application.

Field 1 – Operational Security

First thing you need to check is the following table

This time, EPSO has prepared a nice table clearly statingthe criteria of what you need to apply

Let’s clarify, ‘a year’ of post-secondary education shall mean a minimum of nine months of effective education or training. Check on page 18 (annex II) onwards to see the corresponding post-secondary degrees by Member State. Also for secondary education you can check the table. Worst case scenario, you don’t have any degree of any type in the areas requested, you will need 6 years of relevant working experience. Knowing this, you can know how many years of working experience (relevant) you need to be eligible.

How to make my experience relevant?

This time it is up to you and to explain it clearly that you have experience in TWO or MORE areas described in the notice (see photo below on the left), by describing your experience on two or more of the areas listed within one of your credited work experience (we insist) and for it, also by using the key words of the task described as a requirement (annex I duties – also copied below on the right). Remember you will have to provide evidence (it must be uploaded before the assessment phase, not now) of all those experiences described (Check annex III point 1 b) to see what it’s accepted to prove it).

In this way, the responses of all the candidates are structured in the same way, which allows the board to make an evaluation (as objective as such a test allows) of the compared merits of all the candidates and see how many years of relevant experience they got. If you think we can be of help, check one of our past webinar (Also this can help especially with the areas of professional experience to be covered in the CV) where we focused on tips to fill in the CV experience and the Talent Screener for past specialist competitions.

Ahhhh!! Last but not least, for this competition, you need a valid security clearance or you will have to through the process to obtain one. And provide proof of successful fiream training or undergo a test for it. (check the notice for full detail)

Field 2 — Technical Security

You need to satisfy one of the following ((i) to (vi) options

Let’s repeat it, ‘a year’ of post-secondary education shall mean a minimum of nine months of effective education or training. Check on page 18 (annex II) onwards to see the corresponding post-secondary degrees by Member State. The table is contains info for secondary education too. Worst case scenario, you don’t have any degree of any type in the areas requested, you will need 7 years of relevant experience.

In your professional experience you need to explain clearly that you have experience in TWO or MORE areas described in the notice (see photo below on the left), by describing your experience on two or more of the areas listed (we insist) with the key words or actions covered in the list of duties (annex I duties – also copied below on the right). Remember that you will have to provide evidence (it must be uploaded before the assessment phase, not now) of all those experiences described (Check annex III point 1 b) to see what it’s accepted to prove it). Watch this video where we explain the mechanism of professional experience in a previous competition

Field 3 – Occupational Health and Safety

Same table as in the previous 2 profiles BUT…

They have added one condition – specialist training – How do I get that? Specialist training referred to in point 3.3.3.(a) (image above) will be taken into account if it amounts to at least 136 hours of cumulated training and is directly related to field 3. For example: prevention advisor or designated worker in either safety, ergonomics or psychosocial risks; radiation protection or safety coordinator, etc. For the purpose of this point, one day shall be equivalent to eight hours of training. So if you got a training that indicates it lasted 17 or more days, it means it had 136 hours or more so it will be valid.

Here the academic part becomes more specific, as the notice describes (point 3.3.3(b). picture below) which diplomas are considerer relevant. So if you have a diploma in one of the points (i) to (ix) below, you need max 3 years of experience. If you have a post secondary diploma in any other area different to those points (i) to (ix) below, you will need 5 years. Finally, in case you only completed secondary education, you will need 6 years.

In your professional experience you need to explain clearly that you have experience in TWO or MORE areas described in the notice (see photo below on the left), by describing your experience on two or more of the areas listed (we insist) with the key words or actions covered in the list of duties (annex I duties – also copied below on the right). Remember you will have to provide evidence (it must be uploaded before the assessment phase, not now) of all those experiences described (Check annex III point 1 b) to see what it’s accepted to prove it). Watch this video where we explain the mechanism of professional experience in a previous competition.

What are the tests that I have to pass? And the competition phases?

Based on the notice of competition + our experience, we split the process in 4 phases: 1) fill in the application, 2) CBT 3) elegibility checking 4) the Assessment Centre. The celebration after you have passed the competition is up to you. Before we continue, short advice, join our Telegram channel YSE to be updated in all the steps of this competition, also on EU-vacancies, our trainings and useful infos.

Phase 1 – Fill in the Application

You’ve got until 20 December (noon) to send your application and before that, fill it in with love and care. This is the first step of the process, and the moment to differentiate yourself from the other candidates and all their experience in relation with the six different profiles. So, keep it focused : Work experience + Academic records – these will be used to confirm your eligibility (= whether you have as many years of working experience in the relevant duties as required) so you need to explain your work experience according to the items described in the notice (central and right side column on the tables below).

Phase 2 – CBT – The reasoning test

For this competition, you can expect the reasoning test next year, January 2023- Yes, right after ending the period of application, usually about couple of weeks later, you can expect the time to book your computer-based tests (CBT) test will open but this time overlaps with Christmas, so expect all this to happen after the holidays, most likely the second week of January, then you will take the test either from home (most likely scenario after what has happened in the previous competitions) or from Prometric centers. This time the CBT’s bring an old concept within.

Pay attention, evil…we mean…the trap is in the details

You will have the usual distribution 20 verbal, 10 numerical and 10 abstract reasoning questions. To pass, you don’t need anything great!! right??? BUT, yes now it comes to the big BUT only those candidates who obtain one of the highest scores in the whole test will have their application checked for eligibility until they got positively checked 3 candidates per position and they will be invited to the assessment.

Phase 3 – Eligibility check

Here you can do nothing but wait. It is the task of the board to read first your CV to see if you have all the years of working experience required. It doesn’t matter if you have 20 or 6 years, once you have passed the threshold of having enough experience you go to the assessment. We remind you that the selection based on compliance with the eligibility conditions will be carried out only for those candidates who pass the CBT and by decreasing order in their overall result. You should therefore include all the relevant information in your application form. The best of all this is, after the evaluations, the number of candidates who will go to the Assessment Centre will be only up to 3 times the amount of openings. We are talking approximately 300 candidates in total and you are one of them because you have written a great application  🏆.

Phase 4 – Assessment Centre

Congrats! You are one of the candidates with the highest marks in the CBT, you have the required experience and you have been invited to the Assessment Centre. We have reached the final round, in which we will also have to present all our documents related to education and professional experience in digital format (they need to be uploaded into a platform before doing the Assessment Centre tests), so prepare them in advance to avoid a last minute rush with the bureaucracy.

Now talking about the other tests, the competition turns into a classic. You will have to face the following tests: Case Study and Situational Competency-Based Interview. Here you have 7 competences to be assessed (in AD competitions there are eight). Between the two tests you can gather a total of 70 points, with the particularity that you need an overall 35/70 to pass, but no minimum marks per competence. Don’t get over confident, do fine on these two and you will be fine for this part although the more points we get the better (we can help with that).

Some practice, some effort and a some guidance and it will be done 😉
When you see your name on the reserve list

Anyway, the key part is the field-related test where you will have to show your knowledge on the field, explaining, in detail, your relevant experience for this position. The Interview in the Field is also somehow structured but as it has a clear focus on your work experience, is much more interesting and rewarding, you can get up to 100 points in that test (we can help on that too), approx. 60% of all the available points.

Final Step – After a long process and passing the Assessment Centre, EPSO will check the validity of all your records and professional experiences (comparing them to the input of your application). For these, they will use the documents uploaded at the beginning of phase 4 – right before your first test of the Assessment Centre. So, keep your documents ready for upload once you have passed the eligibility check!!! Once you get the final OK for this part, you will see your name on the reserve list and ready to find a job as officer of the European institutions.

What is the timing of the competition? When will EPSO contact me?

All the situations under which EPSO will write you in your profile, not by email, although sometimes we may get a warning message.

The expected calendar for this competition is the following: after the closure date for the submission of the applications, end-december, you will have the opportunity to book your CBT slot, most likely mid-november, then taking the CBT end January or begining of February. After that, they will run the eligibility checks in Winter/early Spring, and then the Assessment will come end-Spring onwards. So get ready to confront the CBT very soon and the Assessment Centre in Spring 2023!!

Many of you ask about when EPSO will tell you that you have passed to the next phase, or have been invited to the Assessment Centre, or…. you read/heard rumors about the development of the competitions somewhere. Better to isolate yourself from that noise and focus on the real messages. EPSO commits itself (it’s in Annex III of the notice of competition) to communicate with you after the applications have been evaluated to inform you on the results and to invite you to the Assessment Centre. In the meantime, it can take weeks or months to receive any information or being notified that we have passed to the next phase of the competition, so keep calm. If you are feeling desperate for the lack of news, you can always contact EPSO too, as candidates you are entitled to do so but be careful, replies can be a bit cryptic or copy/paste from the notice.

How much will my salary be?

Table of the amounts of basic monthly salaries for each grade and step in function groups AD and AST referred to in Article 66 of the Staff Regulations, applicable from 1 July 2021

One of the most typical questions of the candidates is the salary that you will get. An AST3 (step 2) will join the institutions with a salary starting at 4.500 € and this can be higher depending if you have dependent family members and other conditions. To that amount, you will have to add 16% extra of expatriation allowance and subtract the cost of the taxes (you pay taxes to the European Commission), health insurance and pension, all them proportional to your salary, so expect around the same amount, 4.000 € in net salary. By the way, we refer to step 2 as any first entrant in the institutions can’t join above that step, it means you have at least 3 years of professional experience, what in this competition, is obvious. And if you are worried about life in expensive countries the basic remuneration is supplemented by an allowance linked to the living conditions prevailing at the place of employment, so don’t worry too much.

Can you help me?

Let share some useful links for this competition and any other.

List of useful resources

  1. El CBT o los test psicotécnicos (ES)
  2. The Assesment centre (EN)
  3. 10 free resources (EN/ES).
  4. YSE trainings (English and Spanish) :
    1. CBT (in Spanish)
    2. Assessment sessions – for all the Assessment test (Theory in English or Spanish. Practice can be done in EN,FR,ES)
    3. Application review (EN/ES/FR/IT/DE)
    4. CAST Sessions -have you been invited to a job interview? Do you want to improve your chances of being selected in a CAST process?

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