Recruitment in the new career structure

What if we talked about the effects of the current career structure on recruitment?

A career at CERN is determined by several factors. First of all, the starting block is fixed with the classification at which the person is recruited within the CERN salary scale. The career will subsequently develop following promotions and advancement, which are proportional to the classification. The duration of the career at CERN, moreover, will depend on whether or not, after the first period of employment, one obtains an extension of the Limited Duration contract and/or a contract of Indefinite Duration.

Regarding the recruitment, the Organization has undertaken to offer, for equal functions and experience of the newly recruited staff, the same level of salary as under the old career structure (i.e. before 2016). And this is appreciated.

Concretely this means, for example, that a technician previously recruited at a salary corresponding to level Ca0, will be hired with the same salary in the new career structure at grade 3. Since this is eminently personal data (recruitment salary), it is impossible for us to verify whether or not this commitment is respected. We will therefore publish data as soon as made available by the HR department.

Another important development in the new career structure has been the increased emphasis on the functions assigned to the individual, known now as the 'benchmark job'.  Indeed, the new recruitment policy is supposed to be more flexible, "modernized", and based on the ability of the person recruited to fulfil the functions of the vacancy post, with diplomas no longer being a determining factor.  Thus, expertise and experience are now better valued. We are the first to recognize that, after several years of experience, the expertise thus acquired and relevant to the functions can compensate for the absence of a diploma corresponding to the functions.

This change, which seems positive both for the Organization and for the individuals concerned, might have, however, very serious consequences.  This flexibility, in fact, can work both ways: the Organization would profit from hiring, for example, highly experienced technicians directly to work as technical engineers in the relevant benchmark post.  Inversely though, it is now possible to hire a young engineer (Master's degree) to work as a technical engineer.  This possibility deeply shocks us and presents several risks that could be detrimental to the proper functioning of our teams and our Organization.

  • How can we avoid getting frustrated when people with the same level of qualification find themselves working in different benchmark jobs but within the same team?
  • How can we stay motivated when our functions do not correspond to our level of expertise?
  • How can we guarantee a certain equity of treatment in selection committees and in obtaining an indefinite contract when technicians have to compete with engineers?


This practice, commonly used by some private employers, whose values and missions are far different from ours, is inappropriate at CERN. In the private sector, a young person hired at a discount, but producing quality work, would be promoted quickly, or would leave to look for work elsewhere. This is the law of the market. However, at CERN, our current system of promotion, even if performance is described as exceptional every year, will never make it possible to change from the initial recruitment level.

Reducing the recruitment salary would constitute a double penalty (reduced entry salary and promotion) for future staff and it would represent a major risk to the attractiveness of CERN, which recruits with difficulty in some of its member states.

It is regrettable that a scientific organization such as CERN adopts practices that no longer recognize the academic level achieved by its employees. This intention was expressed in the following scheme presented at the TREF tripartite forum of 13/10/2015.  It also led to the deletion of Annex R.A.1 of the Staff Regulations and Staff Rules which was specified the diplomas required for access to the different career paths.



That was also the last five-yearly revision!

So why raise this subject today? Quite simply, because we do not want that this practice (which is possible today, let's remember) gets firmly established at CERN, and we are counting on the common sense of the recruiting managers to not abuse it.

We will analyse in detail the results of the MERIT, promotion and recruitment exercises and the many associated HR processes. We will not miss to come back to inform you of the lessons learned from this analysis.

by Staff Association