01.03.18

Job Applicants at the EPO Disappointed, Reference Made in Interview to Slavery

Posted in Europe, Patents at 2:17 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Glassdoor

Summary: Working conditions at the EPO, as well as recruitment standards, have taken a plunge under Battistelli and Bergot as head of Human Resources (HR)

LIFE at the EPO is hard; salary may be better framed as “compensation” because for many workers there’s neither pride nor thrill in the job. It isn’t scholarly but more like a production line and stress levels are very high. Notoriously so; and it gets worse over time with growing ‘production’ pressure.

Someone has just left the following comment in Kluwer Patent Blog:

Please accept as new year gift one more Russian word for your list:

gulag.

This is how we feel. Emprisoned and powerless in our (golden?) cages. Blindly undergoing useless restructuring (for example, in the next 3 months everyone will be moving office room at the EPO), scared to speak out for fear of retaliation (every month a list of colleagues who “end service” for no reason is published on our intranet ). Everyone wanting to listen and possibly publish our incredible stories having been silenced anyway.

Counting the days left (180) until “le roi” is gone. Hoping that we don’t end up with an “o rei” at his place.

Like we said before, it’s hard to believe in “instant impact” when Campinos comes; much of the same management and policies shall remain in place. Undoing these policies probably won’t even be on the agenda.

We have meanwhile heard from a reader about declining recruitment standards at the EPO; the HR department, led by Bergot, is struggling. Standards deteriorate as people lose interest in joining the EPO and many talented workers are leaving. This isn’t a theory/hypothesis but something that many insiders privately and publicly (albeit anonymously) talk about.

One such person told us: “Here are some of the last reviews that some applicants gave on the site Glassdoor.de (a job hunting site) about EPO after they had their experience. This is at present all the information I’ve got: they try to recruit and to keep an attractive profile as an employer, but their culture is too crooked to not show for what it is at some point.”

The reviews are largely negative. Most of the relevant answers are in English.

“In the links to further answers you can find also people showing surprise for the negative descriptions,” the person added, “but some other (more) actually confirming they have no surprise about that type of behaviour from EPO. Most answers and reviews are in English; only the site (in my case at least) has most descriptions of paragraphs and entries in German. You can set the language…”

Here are three in English, starting with the old one:

Application

“The procedure took more than 2 months. It took plance in January 2008 at EPO Munich

Interview talk

Intial interview was asking how I would interpret a chemical structure, is it new or not. If a knew a few pharmaceutical ingredients. Read a text in French/German and understand it. My french was a bit weak, but got a second HR interview. This was also ok, usual questions. Then had to wait 1.5 months, until I phoned them, then they said on the phone no…..strange!

Maybe at the time they could afford to turn people down. But now, in late 2017, here are the two reviews that are listed:

Application

Procedure took 6 weeks, talk held in EPO Munich.

Interview talk

The EPO selection process has 3 stages. Online test for personality and logic. Apparently personality does not really matter at this stage. Then skype meeting to discuss patent with your future coworker. Then you skype with an external worker which test your personality. Beware if you are a little bit creative of have a little bit too much of personality. They are looking for malleable people to follow their direction.Finally you get to meet the people in persons. This is when they almost harassed me and I was saved by another person who was in charge to check the interview process was fair. This job has nothing to do with innovation, you will get to scroll down and read a certain number of patents per day. They also are looking for very diligent people who will stay forever with them and follow whatever direction they are told. In my case I was applying for a certain technical field for which I got accepted and got the technical interview in another technical field. I had prepared the technical interview for weeks by learning the relevant vocabulary in the 3 languages and had a technical interview which had nothing to do with that. They suddenly to change the field without letting me know in advance. To me this was truly unprofessional. I had the same feeling of lack of professionalism when they invite me to come to the interview a week in advance but gave me half of the money to pay a plane ticket. I had to request more money and it worked and I can imagine some shy individual would not do so. Please ask for them to reimburse the full cost of the interview. In my case I would have paid about 1000euros out of pocket to come.

Finally the real live interview was shocking with references to slavery as a joke about the job and pushy personal comments.

Read that last sentence again.

Also this:

Application

I applied personally. The procedure took more than 3 months. Talk held in March 2017 at EPO The Hague (The Netherlands).

Interview talk

Quite long, although admin at the interview stage was adequate. Well…maybe if they didn’t come and pick me up from the gate as security didn’t inform them of my arrival. Interview panel of three people of which one was staff association. Chairman at the end started eating (this is how much respect a candidate gets). Questions unrelated to the job, at least for an HR post would expect most competency…

Competency in HR? Led by a person who leaped many pay grades presumably owing to family connections?

The EPO has a pattern of threatening people to remove texts the managers don’t like, so we’ve preserved the above (excluding what’s in German as this isn’t a German-speaking site, unlike the original). The responses to these seem to include actual EPO staff, maybe even the HR department (for example here). Words like “fake testimony” are being brought up; welcome to Trumpist ‘logic’…

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