11.28.20

The European Patent Office’s Central Staff Committee: Office Cannot Recruit Fit-for-Purpose Patent Examiners Anymore

Posted in Europe, Patents at 5:13 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The EPO is an organization in a severe crisis, due to the destructive actions of the Battistelli Administration, and the inertia of the current one in mending what was broken. The dismal state of the recruitment process is yet another indicator pointing, like all indicators, in this very same direction.

The Glassdoor EPO overview

Summary: One third of EPO recruits are ‘locals’ (Germans), 0.2% are Swiss, 1% Scandinavian; the EPO as an employer became unattractive and it’s unable to attract the staff it needs (as was projected and planned when the EPC was agreed upon)

THE António Campinos-led EPO is a disaster. Their ‘news’ section is all fluff and noise, which boils down to little but dumb photo ops (showing that Team Campinos is unable to comply with social distancing regulations).

“Europeans need to know what’s going on, in ‘their name’ so to speak, inside the EPO.”Looking behind the curtain, we’re seeing the staff representation repeatedly warning about the demise of the EPO — contrary to what Campinos and his loyalists love to claim. A year ago, staff representatives released a paper on this subject, stating:

In this paper, we consider that the recruitment process at the EPO today, especially for examiner posts, is not fit for the purpose of carrying out this task.

The EPO wants to recruit examiners with technically-suited profiles, who are able to work in our official languages – yet at the same time reduces exactly the evaluation of those components to below the bare minimum.

On top, potential candidates are kept far away from their actual future working environment and colleagues, and cannot evaluate us as a future employer – and so they can only rely on what they find online, a picture that has become severely tainted in the last few years.

We have decided to publish this paper in full; Europeans need to know what’s going on, in ‘their name’ so to speak, inside the EPO.

Central Staff Committee

Munich, 04.12.2019
sc19177cp – 0.2.1/1.3.3

Examiner Recruitment – Not fit for purpose

EPO – Quo vadis?

Dear colleagues,

One of the most important human resources functions in any organization is the process of recruiting and selecting the right staff. For the EPO the definition of “right” is crucial, as the bulk of our recruitment is focused on Patent Examiners needing highly specialized technical and language skills.

We consider that the recruitment process at the EPO today, especially for examiner posts is simply not fit for the purpose of carrying out this task.

The current process is as follows: With HR in the driving seat and carrying out the pre-selection, the DG1 managers are essentially told who to interview with minimal input from their side. For potential Examiners, technical and language knowledge assessment is now limited to a single 45-minute Skype interview with a Senior Expert, often together with a Team Manager. This is the only occasion when staff are able to briefly meet their potential new colleague. Follow-up Skype interviews are exceptional, and only planned following a reasoned request. Face-to-face technical interviews – which used to form the backbone of our recruitment process – are a big “no-no” today.

Successful candidates are then invited to one of our recruitment events, where the hiring manager is present. However, the HR partner is still in the driver’s seat.

Staff Representatives, which used to be participating throughout the entire process, are now “optional” – read: we have not been invited anymore since staff were recruited under the 5-year contracts.

It seems that the EPO wants to recruit examiners with technically-suited profiles, who are able to work in our official languages – yet at the same time reduces exactly the evaluation of those components to below the bare minimum.

The procedure has become entirely opaque, there is no independent oversight ensuring fairness to both candidates and the Office.

By limiting the effort and involvement of examiners – the future colleagues, coaches, team members of a new recruit – in the recruitment process, the Office saves money in the short term. Yet what is the cost when we then encounter more problems during the probation year? Not only have we been paying our new recruits salary, removal expenses etc., we also organised training courses, and had one or more coaches at their disposal. On top, we have also potentially burdened them with the financial and human cost of having to move their lives, families and career for an unsuccessful experience.

Something else the Administration continues to overlook: Recruitment is a bi-directional process. Candidates are evaluating us just as we evaluate them. Do they feel at home with us? Is this the job they want? Is this the place they want to transfer their lives to, and to do so for a 5-year contract? The Examiners we seek are highly experienced and qualified, often with a PhD, they are internationally mobile, and are able to work in multiple languages. They already have a job or could quite easily get one. If we want to recruit the top candidates, we should positively stand out. Yet, potential recruits do not get to see our ‘normal working environment’. They do not get to see what our job actually consists of, they do not get to sit down and talk with an examiner, to see a patent application up close, they do not get the chance to sniff the social environment.

By keeping the candidates far away from their actual future working environment and colleagues, we deprive them from this all-important element in their evaluation of us – and so they can only rely on what they find online, a picture that has become severely tainted in the last few years.

No wonder the number of candidates for examiner posts is dwindling1, now less than one third of what we had just 3 years ago.

No wonder we see a lot of candidates drop out somewhere along the recruitment process – something which virtually did not exist a few years ago.

No wonder we see one in three, sometimes more, examiner job offers being refused, the 5-year contract prominently featuring as the main reason why.

No wonder we are mainly limited to recruiting young, fresh from university or PhD, and local to the places of employment.

Today, we are in a situation of overcapacity in many technical areas, so recruitment of examiners can function at a minimal level. But soon we will inevitably need to ramp up recruitment again, with much larger cohorts leaving on retirement.

To repeat, the recruitment process for examiners we have today is not fit for purpose – and the offer we make to the candidates is subpar, to put it mildly2.

The EPO is an organization in a severe crisis, due to the destructive actions of the Battistelli Administration, and the inertia of the current one in mending what was broken. The dismal state of the recruitment process is yet another indicator pointing, like all indicators, in this very same direction.

Your Staff Committee

_____
1 See the 2018 Social Report – table 12 on page 19
2 It is telling that from the last 1000 new recruits since 2014 only 11 were Scandinavian, 2 from Switzerland – yet 1 in 3 from Germany.

The Microsoft-EPO relationship reaffirmed in “technical and language knowledge assessment is now limited to a single 45-minute Skype interview”; so candidates must have a Microsoft (US) account?

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