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EPSO review: how to improve the CAST exams?

This article was first published on the Online EU Training blog


EPSO certainly wishes to attract a large pool of candidates for its contract agent (CAST) exams, but the way information is presented seems quite inefficient. Here are some pain points I suggest improving:


Call for Expression of Interest’ : would an average candidate know whether this is a simple indication of interest or an actual application for a selection exam? Would be worth clarifying what each term means already on the main page in one bullet point so that prospective applicants can have a quick overview


CAST or cast: the expression ’CAST’ is not specified anywhere: would an EU citizen know that it does not refer to the cast of EU elites but it’s actually an abbreviation for ’Contract Agents for Specific Tasks’?
Menu mix: on EPSO’s website in the ’Apply here’ menu, there are separate items on ’non-permanent posts’ and ’CAST selections’: would an average candidate know or understand why these two are different? Why not merge them or at least link from the non-permanent posts’ page to the CAST


Little info upfront: an interested candidate wants to do a quick pre-screening of the exam description, salary expectations, job profile and deadlines, but all this is hidden inside the PDF without any real substance revealed on the website. In the internet age, people don’t want to click or download documents to find out basic information, you need to show as much as possible upfront: a click is already a sign of committment while EPSO should attract interested candidates before requesting any steps from them


Application link hidden: it is very strange that the application link is hidden inside the PDF and not shown on the website; this is so simple to do (even if candidates were required to tick a box of having read all conditions before applying) that it is hard to understand why it has not been done yet to encourage applications
Appeal to prospects: the number of potentially available posts is only mentioned in the PDF after careful studying its contents; if EPSO really wants a sufficiently large pool of candidates, it should do everything to appeal to them by emphasizing the number of places (the highest ever, more than 1000!), providing some sample jobs that successful candidates will be able to do (not just a generic description but a life-like, concrete, lively sample such as ”Childcare worker for creches: an example for this post is working for one of the European Schools dealing with children from all 27 EU Member States with their international backgrounds where you can experiences the EU’s United in Diversity motto in a special setting with a very beneficial salary arrangement” etc.)


Attract or deter candidates: the PDF description’s language is apparently written by lawyers and not marketers or recruiters as it contains the word ”disqualified” four times while almost no encouraging, positive, appealing message is provided; it seems to approach the process from a perspective that candidates are obviously motivated and devoted, so why bother sending out some positive signals (e.g. just an introduction such as ”Working for the European Union as a contractual agent is an excellent work experience in an international environment where you get to deal with 500 million European citizens while doing a challenging job and using your multiple talents. We are very interested in your application – please read this information carefully to make sure the job suits your expectations as well.”) – it doesn’t take much effort to write, but the entire tone of the document would be completely different, i.e. postive instead of ”we will disqualify you for millions of reasons so be careful”.


EPSO has taken some important steps towards marketing its vacancies and trying to re-brand itself as a cool and modern employer; this has been a good first effort but it’s far from being a done deal: it must understand that everything it does is part of its marketing efforts, including the usability of a PDF job description for the CAST exams, a hidden link that candidates cannot find, a negative language about repeated grounds for disqualification without a positive message, a messy webpage, legal jargon, lack of information or any unclear communication.


Spending on newspaper ads to raise awareness may be important, but once the prospective applicants land on the EPSO website, they need to be convinced that it’s worth their time and effort to apply for an EU job as, despite all assumptions, it is not so obvious at all. I hope this small summary can contribute to a better communication and improve EPSO’s efforts to find the best talents. Good luck!


Posted in Online EU Training

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