BEFORE the deadline passed, nearly 6,000 Slovaks had applied for a job with the EU.
photo: European Union
The campaign was launched at the beginning of January by the European Communities Personnel Selection Office (EPSO), which expected over 10,000 people to apply for the jobs based in Brussels and Luxembourg. Instead, organisers were overwhelmed by nearly three times that number of applications.
"Over 25,000 people applied and almost 6,000 of them were from Slovakia. Applications keep coming, even now," said Vladimír Grieger, head of the EPSO Enlargement Task Force, on January 15, five days after the deadline for applications.
Applicants may have been attracted by the relatively undemanding job requirements, which included only completed secondary education and proficiency in English, German, or French, in addition to a mastery of the mother language.
In Slovakia, another reason for the response was a massive media campaign informing the public about the opportunities.
"It was impossible not to notice the campaign. It was in the newspapers, it was on the radio - just everywhere. And the interesting thing was that the information about the recruitment was being presented in news reports rather than in advertising segments. Everyone knew about it, and most of my friends considered applying," said Alexandra Schmidtová, 25, a translator from Bratislava who applied for the EU jobs.
Grieger said that the media campaign was not planned, or even paid for.
"We did not pay anyone. Our three main information conduits were EC delegations, national parliaments, and foreign ministries, which then informed the media at press conferences," he said.
The thousands who reacted to the media message were drawn by the promise of better wages - the advertisements stated a salary of more than 2,000 euro a month - and the chance to expand their horizons.
"The EU is a good employer," said Schmidtová. "I had nothing to lose. It is good to have your CV on the Internet, because some opportunity just may find its way to you when it's out there."
Prospective candidates were first asked to visit the EPSO web site, where relevant information could be found. Then they had to fill in an application form related to their professional experience and preferences within a 20-minute timeframe.
"I printed out the application form so I could be prepared, but I nevertheless found the bureaucratic language of the application form difficult to understand and many of the categories seemed to repeat themselves. I also felt that if I made a small mistake in the way I submitted the information, like the proscribed phone number format, my application would not be processed," Schmidtová said.
According to Grieger, that was a valid fear, as the first stage in the selection process was fully automated.
"A computer accepted those people who filled in the application form properly and attached a CV in the required format," he confirmed.
"We will now go through all the valid applications we received and those that make it through our pre-selection will be included in a central database, which will be available to all EU institutions. Those institutions will select candidates who meet their requirements themselves," said Grieger.
Those that are selected in this round will be asked to attend personal interviews in their home countries or in the seats of the EU institutions.
"By the second half of February or in March the database of candidates should be available to EU institutions. Not all of them have the same time schedule [for further selection]," said Grieger.
Given the response to the recruitment drive, many of the country's employers are now having to deal with the knowledge that working for the EU is immensely appealing to Slovaks.
"I think Slovak employers have to accept the fact that they cannot offer talented young people the same opportunities that the EU can," said Zuzana Baníková, Schmidtová's boss.
But despite the initial reaction, not all applicants are determined to accept whatever is offered to them, so the number of people ready to pack their bags and head for Brussels may not be as high as figures suggest.
"I think these [500 auxiliary positions] will be mainly clerk jobs. I'm overqualified for those and they would bore me to death. But I hear that a further round of recruitment for more interesting positions is being planned already," said Schmidtová.
Further recruitment will take place through the usual EU "competitions" in 2003. Positions for translators are expected to be made available soon, and some time at the start of the second half of 2003 junior administrator jobs will also be advertised. Unlike those recently offered, these will be permanent positions.
27. Jan 2003 at 0:00 | Lukáš Fila