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A brief guide to jobhunting in Brussels
While four out of 10 salaried employees in Belgium are afraid of their job disappearing in the next 10 years as a result of automation, seven out of 10 companies say automation won’t lead to job losses but to a shift in the skills required. According to Isabelle Masset, associate director at recruitment consultancy Robert Half Brussels, that means “companies are looking for people who want to jump on the digital train, are open to change, able to adapt quickly and understand the need for lifelong learning.”
Languages are important on the Belgian labour market too, she says. “The more languages a candidate speaks, the greater their value to an employer, and knowledge of English is becoming more crucial,” says Masset. Besides digital and linguistic skills, nearly all jobs today require planning and organisational abilities, multitasking, analytical and problem-solving skills, and the capacity to work independently and under pressure.
While the job market may be changing, some things remain constant – including how to make a good impression on a potential employer. Masset’s advice is: be honest, be prepared and be curious. From the outset, be upfront about your expectations. Do your research into the organisation’s aims and culture and prepare examples of how you’d fit in. And remember the interview process is a two-way street: ask questions to ensure the job is the right fit for you, too.
There are more than 40,000 people currently working for the Commission, Parliament and Council; if you want to join them, you’ll have to go through the European Personnel Selection Oﬃ ce (Epso). The office selects a pool of candidates through a series of competitions, known as the concours, that are open to citizens of all the EU member states.
Applicants who pass the first round of multiple-choice tests are invited to an assessment centre, usually in Brussels or Luxembourg, to be assessed on their verbal and abstract reasoning ability, dealing with a simulated email inbox, language comprehension, financial understanding or IT skills. They might also have to take part in a group exercise or role play or give a presentation. Those who make the grade at this stage are put on a reserve list and may be invited to interview for jobs as they arise. Passing the concours doesn’t guarantee a job – and in most circumstances the lists are valid for just a year – but Epso says 50% of candidates are recruited within seven months.
Brazilian-German consultant Betina Kiefer is going through the selection process as the next step in her career. “It’s not my first time, so I’m used to the process. However, I’ve found it quite straightforward. There are just long delays at each stage,” she says. “I recommend taking a lot of practice tests so you get used to the questions and develop strategies. Cramming is really not a good strategy; starting a few months earlier and practising with increasing frequency is better. Practice is key, as knowing what the test is like is really helpful.”
This article first appeared in The Bulletin winter 2018. Pick up a copy in newsagents today or subscribe here...