The Linguist

The Linguist 54,3

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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22 The Linguist Vol/54 No/3 2015 FEATURES From reasoning tests to interview, Dónal Carey, Head of the English Unit, offers a step-by-step guide for translators planning to apply to the European institutions To get on one of the reserve lists from which European Commission staff are recruited, you need to enter an open competition. Many years can pass between competitions for a given language, so it is important not to miss the boat. At the moment, many translators in the English department are nearing retirement and, because of the relatively large size of the English, French and German departments (at the Commission in particular), they may hold competitions more regularly. The European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) usually publishes translation competitions for four or five official languages in June/July. It is important to read the notice carefully, especially the details of the profile sought and the eligibility criteria. Having a third level (bachelor's degree) is a strict minimum, although it does not have to be language-related (for a general guide, see TXT /PDF/?uri=OJ:C:2012:270A:FULL&from=EN). The test stages To enter a competition, you need to open an EPSO account ( _en.htm) and then successfully pass the three knockout stages: admission tests in verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning ('CBT tests'); two translation tests from two different source languages; and finally a day at the EPSO Assessment Centre in Brussels. I cannot stress enough how important it is to practice for the CBT tests. Only a small proportion of entrants progress to the translation stage, so you might comfortably pass them but still be ranked too low. If you have little or no experience of such tests, there are books and websites to help (google 'verbal/abstract/numerical reasoning'). If you progress to the next stage, your translations will be double-marked anonymously (or triple-marked in case of doubt) to ensure greater objectivity and fairness. The translations from both source languages need to be accurate and complete. The highest performers will be invited to the Assessment Centre. You will spend a day in Brussels being tested on important skills, such as analysis and problem solving, teamwork and communication (you can find out more in the notice of open competition). The day usually involves an interview with a panel, an oral presentation of some sort (by you) and group work, requiring you to perform some role or task alongside others. The personal assessment is the final stage of the selection procedure. There is usually a gap of at least two months until publication of the final reserve list. The entire procedure can last nine months or more. One piece of advice: you may be tempted to offer a source language such as Hungarian or Greek on the basis of a rapid self-learning course, thinking you'll improve your recruitment chances. Please don't. You are more likely to be successful in languages you know well, so do the competition in your two strongest source languages. You can always add languages once you are on the reserve list. If you already have additional languages, you should mention them on your CV (guidance is given when filling it in). Most Commission language departments translate outgoing legislative proposals that have been drafted in-house, mostly in English. So those departments need staff with strong English as a source language, as well as one other official EU language, usually French or German. By contrast, work in the English department primarily involves the translation of incoming documents from the Member States (and beyond). The department is therefore especially (but not exclusively) interested in recruiting candidates with less widely known source languages. How to get recruited Once selected, you will be placed on a shortlist from which you may be recruited. In the case of a permanent post, you may be invited for interview by several different EU institutions. However, being on a reserve list is not a guarantee of recruitment. When a vacancy arises, a unit head, such as myself, calls for interview individuals whose profile (CV, source languages and competition results) best match the particular needs of the unit and department. Given the range of languages the English department deals with, individuals with more languages than just their competition ones are of particular interest. It is a legal requirement at the Commission that we interview at least three individuals for any one post. So even a call for interview does not guarantee a job, but if you are not successful at interview, don't despair. There is a chance that you will be recalled for interview Competition insights

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