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by Alice Alessandri

In the absence of official guidelines from Human Resources department, the selection interview for new personnel is almost always left to a director of functions who will rely on experience and improvisation. Hiring an employee is an important investment for the company and must be managed with extreme care: this process starts with the selection. This article is for anyone who wishes to conduct the selection interview with competence and method, searching for the hidden talents of a candidate, for that special mix of professional abilities and human skills that make him or her perfect for the role.

selection interview

Preparing the interview

Any effective selection will be based on clarification of what the requirements of the position are, in terms of:

  • necessary professional abilities; such abilities may be acquired later with theoretical and practical training, so there is room for flexibility here
  • essential human skills for the role; the specific qualities of the candidate that may be more difficult to ascertain

Prepare a specific list of at least 5 professional abilities and as many human skills, to use as a guide throughout the selection interview.

Now, take time to prepare the layout of the room where the meeting will take place. In the article “You can tell a man by where he sits: the meeting room” we investigated the influence of an environment on the quality of relationships. Choose a quiet place, make sure you will not be interrupted and minimize distractions. I suggest that candidates and interviewers sit opposite each other (with no desk between them), or in a position that stimulates dialogue and allows the interviewer to better observe the candidate’s body language.

The areas to be analyzed during the selection interview


Once you have established the list of requirements, prepare the questions needed to investigate them. Remember not to take anything for granted but delve beneath the apparent attractiveness of “titles and qualifications”: consider not only the professional but also the person you are interviewing! The marketing motto “Real, not perfect: marketing has moved on since the ’90s” certainly applies to the selection interview: bring out both the strengths and weaknesses of the human being in front of you to better evaluate the risks and benefits of employing them in your company. While maintaining the list of requirements as your guiding light, I suggest splitting the selection interview into 4 areas of analysis.

1. Education – together with the candidate, go through the choices made, the results obtained, participation in school/college activities, the relationship with fellow students/teaching staff, any odd jobs done while studying. Here are some sample questions:

  • What motivated you to study …?
  • What did you learn from your period of education?
  • Of which result are you proudest?
  • If you had the chance, what would you do differently?
  • Was there any educator who gave you an important lesson for your life?

2. Work experience – try to identify the thread running through the candidates’ job choices, their awareness of results obtained, lessons learned, and the skills acquired, with questions like:

  • What did you do in the company …?
  • What results did you obtain and what did you learn from this experience?
  • Have you ever failed and what lesson did it you learn from this?

3. The person – dedicate time to investigating the candidates’ human skills and their self-awareness:

  • What passions do you cultivate in your life?
  • Do you do any sports? And what do you like about this activity?
  • What compliment do you receive most frequently?
  • What defects do you think you have?

4. Motivation – this is the most delicate part of the interview and must be handled carefully to understand why the candidate wants to come to work with you, what would inspire him/her to give their best and above all what would keep them loyal to the company:

  • What is missing in your current job position that you hope to find with us?
  • What do you know about our company?
  • What interests you about this role? Why did you apply?
  • What qualities do you look for in an organization and in a boss?

Asking and listening: the perfect combination in the selection interview

man wearing the tie

For the selection interview to be effective, it is necessary to know how to conduct it through a careful use of your questions.

If something is unclear, explore furtherWhat exactly do you mean when you say …? What exactly happened …? – or check the meaningSo what you are saying is …?Do you confirm that …? -.

This must not sound like an interrogation, so explain to the candidate why you may be asking some more personal or sensitive questions – I’m asking this because … –

As far as possible prepare original questions that will surprise your interlocutors and force them to improvise and express themselves with greater sincerity. The only way to get to know someone is to let them talk; all too frequently the interviewer monopolizes the conversation. Active listening allows you to avoid being swayed by prejudice and to gather all the important information needed to make a correct assessment. Commit yourself to checking the consistency of the candidate, studying not only “what she says” but “how she says it”. Pay attention to body language (posture, handshake, breathing, facial expressions, eye contact, head movements, …), to voice modulation (speed, tone, volume, …) and to the choice of words.

The selection process works both ways: we choose the candidate and the candidate chooses us! In addition to the appropriateness of the skills and abilities relative to the position, bear in mind the atmosphere of the meeting and the relationship created during the selection interview. Each of us gives the best of ourselves when we are in a pleasant environment, so to “discover” the hidden gold in the person you are interviewing, firstly make them feel welcome and appreciated.

| partem claram semper aspice |

Did you like this post and want to learn more about the topics? Check out our tips below for continuing your education!

Insieme ad Alberto Aleo e Riccardo Trevisani, brand strategist che ha lavorato con alcune tra le più importati realtà italiane, impareremo a dare forma all’identità del nostro business, capirne il valore differenziale, individuare gli elementi che rendono coerenti immagine, scopi e comunicazione dell’offerta. Nuovo Corso - Scopri di più

Alice Alessandri

Consultant and professional trainer, I define myself as an "odd computer scientist": I graduated in Computer Science and immediately opted for the sector of interpersonal communication. In over a decade of experience as an entrepreneur, I laid the foundations for what would become my most important project, Passodue: a consulting and training company that combines profit and ethics, professional success and happiness. Together with Alberto, I help companies to take their second step towards a success based on ethics and sound relationships.

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