Working at the EU’s institutions

You must complete an open competition in order to apply for a permanent job at an EU institution. The open competition contains a number of different tests that are conducted in different stages.

If you pass the open competition you are placed on a reserve list. The reserve list is used by all EU institutions for the recruitment of officials. 

The European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) is responsible for the recruitment process to EU institutions. Detailed information about the various open competitions is continually updated on EPSO’s website.

Who does EPSO want to recruit?

EPSO is looking for the best staff from throughout the EU. If the following statements sound like you, you should definitely consider a career within the EU’s institutions: 

  • I want to work for the EU and have an effect on the lives of the 500 million people who live here.
  • I’m analytical, well-organised, and am good at communicating and adapting to new environments and people.
  • I want to see results and can work effectively in a multicultural team.
  • I want to learn and to develop my skills and expertise.
  • I want to use and develop my language skills.

EPSO is looking for people with the appropriate formal qualifications and personal qualities.

What is the recruitment process?

EU officials are divided into two categories: administrators (AD) and assistants (AST). In general, administrators work on developing strategies, enacting EU legislation, performing analyses and providing advice. There is a wide range of potential careers for graduates, in areas such as administration, law, finance, economics, communication and research.

The open competition for recruiting staff to EU institutions differs depending on the category of staff. These categories are usually divided into the following three categories for the open competition:

  1. AD administrators (degree required)
  2. AD translators, interpreters and lawyer-linguists (degree required
  3. AST assistants (completed upper-secondary education required).

More information about the various types of professions at EU institutions is available on EPSO’s website.

What is included in an open competition?

Below you find a short description of the various parts of a general open competition for AD administrator:

Computer-based selection test

The open competition starts with an introductory, computer-based selection test that has four parts. It is called the CBT test and its purpose is to evaluate cognitive ability (“verbal and numerical reasoning test”), logical thinking (“abstract reasoning test”) and how well applicants could function in the multicultural environment of EU institutions (“situational judgement test”). You can choose the EU member state in which you would like to take the CBT test.

E-tray test

The next stage of the process is an E-tray test. This is designed to test your ability to solve problems, prioritise and organise information, as well as to communicate and deliver results under time pressure. The test is designed to simulate an actual work situation; you are to manage an e-mail inbox and rank incoming e-mail according to various options.

Structured interview 

If you satisfactorily complete the first two tests, you will be called to the Assessment Centre. In this part of the open competition you will undergo a structured interview and your work-related skills will be evaluated through various types of written and oral exercises. The introductory parts of the tests that are part of the Assessment Centre are conducted in the country where you sat the CBT and E-tray tests. The final part of the Assessment Centre is always held in Brussels. It includes three parts: an oral presentation, a structured interview and a group exercise.

Results from a passed competition

Your results from a completed and passed open competition are valid as long as the reserve list is valid, which is usually about twelve months. Institutions may decide that the period for the reserve list should be extended. All the candidates on the reserve list are given good notice that a list will be closed.

Who may apply?

The competitions for employment at the EU’s institutions are open to all EU citizens. However, the prerequisites are different depending on the type of job you want to apply for.

Anyone with upper-secondary education can apply for AST concours (assistant), but it is often necessary to have one to three years' work experience in the relevant field. A degree is necessary for AD concours (administrator/translator/interpreter/lawyer-linguist). To be able to take an open competition, you must:

  • be a citizen of an EU member state
  • be entitled to full rights as a European citizen
  • have competed national service, where required
  • have excellent skills in one official EU language and satisfactory skills in another.

In addition to these basic criteria, EPSO may make other demands depending on which open competition is being advertised. More information about who may take open competitions is available on EPSO’s website.

How do I apply?

EPSO, which is responsible for recruitment to EU institutions, continually publishes detailed information about the various open competitions on its website. You must have your own EPSO account to be able to register for an open competition. 

Registering and sitting an open competition (a concours) is free of charge. You may take the open competition as many times as you like. EPSO’s website has all the necessary information about the open competition and recruitment process. It also has links to previous tests (the information is available in English).

Last updated: 21 April 2016