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ECB ditches test used to hire hundreds after answers found online

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By Reuters
ECB ditches test used to hire hundreds after answers found online
FILE PHOTO: The headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Frankfurt skyline with its financial district are photographed on early evening in Frankfurt, Germany, March 25, 2018. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo   -   Copyright  Kai Pfaffenbach(Reuters)

By Francesco Canepa

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – The European Central Bank said answers to an online test it used since 2014 but had been warned about by staff were available online to job applicants, and admitted some candidates may have cheated.

One staffer said that, as the test was not monitored, some also pooled their answers with friends at “pizza parties” in front of a large screen, according to a posting on an ECB intranet forum.

The test, which is supposed to assess a candidate’s ability to process information, has been used by the ECB to sift mass applications for junior roles, most recently as bank supervisors.

The ECB told staff this month it would ditch the test’s provider, a UK firm called Team Focus, and discard the latest results after answers were found online.

Team Focus Managing Director Roy Childs did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.

“Recently we became aware that the answers to the online tests were posted in an Internet forum and may have been used to cheat in an ongoing analyst campaign,” the ECB said in an intranet posting on Dec 5.

“We regret to be in a situation in which the cheating behaviour of some candidates has an impact on (other) candidates.”

But this was more than two years after staff representatives first flagged a risk, including in a meeting with chief supervisors Daniele Nouy and Sabine Lautenschlaeger in January 2017.

Candidates could create fake accounts to gain access to the questions ahead of time, or get someone else to answer in their stead, the representatives said in a letter dated October 2016.

Emmanuel Larue of trade union IPSO told Reuters: “With this test cheaters were rewarded and that’s not a risk the ECB can take.”

The bank has been asking candidates to take a new test on its premises, the ECB said in the intranet posting.

A spokesman added the institution would now work with a different provider “using enhanced security features”.

The ECB has made no announcement regarding people who had already been hired using the test, nor did the spokesman say how many jobs were awarded using it.

The central bank hired 639 people on fixed-term or temporary contracts last year.

The contract awarded to Team Focus was worth between 800,000 euros ($915,240) and one million euros plus VAT, according to a notice on the ECB’s website.

($1 = 0.8750 euros)

(editing by John Stonestreet)