Brussels wants you to apply: The European Union has abolished its archaic test

If you're a British graduate with an interest in languages and policy, you should consider crossing the Channel in the direction of Brussels, the capital of Belgium. At a time when job opportunities for graduates appear bleak in the UK, the European Union wants new recruits to work in the "capital" of Europe where there are scores of other young people and plenty of cafes and restaurants, not to mention large quantities of good beer and chocolate as well as delicious mussels and snails.

Brussels is home to a range of EU institutions, but while the UK makes up around 11 per cent of the EU population, only five per cent – 1,289 – of those working at the European Commission are UK nationals. Many British graduates don't consider working abroad, yet as EU citizens they can just pack up and go without worrying about visas or work permits.

"We want more British candidates to apply to the EU and there has never been a better time than now," says Huw Davies, head of communication at the European Personnel Selection Office in Brussels. This is because the EU has revamped its Europe-wide selection procedure. No longer will you have to take the feared test, which required a broad knowledge of EU matters that most Britons don't have. Instead, the idea is to recruit on future potential.

Davies says the new application system will be something British graduates will be able to tackle. "We've got rid of the outdated test that had specific questions, about EU laws, for example, because we don't think it tested people's ability to do the job."

There are now two stages to the recruitment process. The first is a multiple choice, computer-based pre-selection test done in the candidate's country of residence. This covers verbal and numerical skills and abstract reasoning and might mean analysing a table of statistics, or understanding a paragraph of text. But while this might sound straightforward, it has to be done in a candidate's second language, which for British applicants means French or German – and here lies the stumbling block for a nation not known for its linguistic skills.

However, EU translator Charles Gittins says there is no reason why British graduates can't catch up with their colleagues abroad. "I refuse to believe that the British are genetically incapable of learning languages," he says. "It's just we haven't been trained with that in mind."

Once you pass the pre-selection test, it's off to Brussels for an assessment, which includes group exercises, a presentation, and an interview. The whole process takes seven to nine months, whereas in the past it could take two years.

The jobs on offer are split into administrators, assistants and linguists. There are now three recruitment cycles a year – administrators in March, linguists in July and assistants in December. "Administrator" is not a dogsbody role; instead it's to do with policy development or project management. The job could mean inspecting fishing fleets in member states, developing a scientific research programme, or drafting a decision of the European Court of Justice. The entry level salary is €4,200 a month.

Assistants play a supporting role in internal management, covering budgetary and financial affairs, personnel work, computing and document management. Then there are the linguists, such as Gittins who works at the Directorate-General for Translation. He translates documents from seven languages into English, which at the moment means translating reports on agricultural products and food safety.

At school, Gittins learnt French, Spanish and Italian, but had no career plan. "The thought of working abroad was always in my mind. But if I'm honest, what I thought about was a UK job with lots of foreign travel." He studied modern languages at Oxford University and sat the old-style EU linguist assessment in French and Spanish. Since he's been in Brussels, he's also learnt Greek, Swedish and Estonian.

So, what's it like to live and work in the city? According to the press officer, Giles Goodall, it's a relaxed place and the concentration of young graduates of different nationalities makes it unique.

The standard of living is far better than at home, says Gittins. "Property prices in Brussels are a quarter of what they are in London, and I now have disposable income. There are definite material advantages to living abroad and working for the EU."

To apply, see

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvSpoiler alert: It has been talked about for months
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones actor Kit Harington
Almost one in 10 of British soliders fall victim to serious psychiatric side-effects after being prescribed Lariam.
CHRISTMAS APPEALThis is how one charity is using that 'waste' to feed Britain's war heroes
Life and Style
Facebook has apologised after a new feature inviting users to review a collection of their 2014 highlights caused some to be confronted with pictures of their recently deceased family members and friends
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: 1st Line IT Support - Surrey - £24,000

£20000 - £24000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Graduate IT Support Helpd...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Audit Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Audit Graduate Opportunities ar...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing Exec (SEO / PPC)

£18 - 24k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing...


£20000 - £30000 per annum + OTE £50k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 bus...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?