joi, 22 martie 2012

Brussels – the place where “HR signals” make a difference

For about 5 years, I teach courses on EU Communication Techniques in Belgium, Italy, and Romania. The strength of the course is in the presentation of ‘actors’ in the so-called ‘private sector of European Affairs’ – and not in the EU Institutional world of Brussels.

The most interesting and catching part of the course is about communication and EU actors, and especially how the private sector plays a role in EU Affairs. Being in constant contact with private sector companies, and considering there are lots of training possibilities for the EPSO competitive examination (to become an EU public servant); I launched a product that provides coaching on this topic. There is practically no other training for the approximately 50.000 jobs available in the private sector (of the 100.000 people working in EU Affairs in Brussels)!

Practically, those interested in finding a job in Brussels will learn about the 'EU job market', industry federations and unions, from corporate to consultancy firms, and from regions to NGOs - in one training day. In order to offer a complete package, there is a Human Resources (HR) expert, to explain concretely how to: write a good CV and letter of motivation, prepare an interview, but also how to act during an interview and how to follow up after the initial recruitment phase, all focused on the Brussels job 'environment'.

The aim of this message is not to advertise the next training, but to present some of the following tips which mainly come from this training. There is a fantastic pool of expertise in Brussels, with a 'pile of diploma’s and skills', but it is a pity that they understand little of the market surrounding them.

The private sector of EU Affairs is very superficially presented in higher education (as opposed to the institutions and their possibilities). This creates the situation that young graduates from prestigious universities in Europe do not 'see' the 20.000 jobs to be found in for example the EU federation sector. An even more frustrating and ridiculous picture: statistics show that 5.000 of these jobs (incl. starter- mid- and high level jobs) are available every year, due to the dynamics of the Brussels EU job market.

Yes, Brussels is a very atypical market, but full of sense when you start to understand it. If you want to work here, you need to understand the 'market of the employers' and their needs and requests.

It’s a paradox, but 95% of private sector recruitment is done by people who have no training or professional experience in terms of HR. There are Secretary Generals, Directors, and Consultants who lead small companies (most of them with a team of less than 10), also taking care of the recruitment process. But whether it is good or bad: it's reality!

Given the particularities of the employers and the intercultural environment, the issue that often is very confusing is which 'signals' can you give that make the difference in the majority of cases. ‘He studied law’: means that he understands legal mechanisms; ‘she did an MA in London’: means she is perfect in English; ‘he was an MEP assistant’: means that he has good political connections’; ‘she was active in NGO as a student’: means she knows how to work without too many comments and questions.

These are thoughts that can occur in a 30 second time-frame when a CV is read, or rather: is scanned. A person will not spend more than 2 minutes looking at a CV; a 5 minute delay to a meeting can even shorten this time and can be fatal to your application. There are mental filters making selections, which eliminate CVs, in order to have the ‘best’ in the micro-system that is Brussels.

Dan LUCA / Brussels

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