Top tips: Surviving a job interview in Italy

Are you an expat looking for work in Italy? Don't let yourself be daunted by the prospect of a job interview in a foreign language. With the help of a recruitment expert, we’ve put together a list of do's and don'ts to help you along.

Top tips: Surviving a job interview in Italy
File photo: Bpsusf/Flickr

Congratulations, you’ve wowed an Italian company with your CV and now all you need to do is convince them in person that you’re the perfect person for the job.

Not so fast. As in any country there are cultural quirks and linguistic pitfalls which could mean the difference between acceptance and rejection.

In Italy it is particularly important to nail the interview because Italian employers tend to be more cautious, says Simonetta Saprio, a senior manager in the Life Sciences and IT division of Hays Italy, an international recruitment company. 

“Employers here are perhaps more careful, because according to Italian law you can’t cancel a contract without a specific reason,” she says. “So when you hire someone you have to minimize the risk of the candidate not being right for the job.”

With Saprio’s help, we’ve compiled a list of tips to get you through that all-important interview:

Transparency – Just like in any interview scenario, transparency in Italy is key, says Saprio. Above all, you should be clear about your motivation for applying for a particular role, whether it’s personal or professional. Although, she adds, “an economic motivation is not exactly a winning point.” And if you have a young family to support, don’t be afraid to underline the advantages of flexibility, says Saprio, “just don’t phrase it in terms of the working hours you will be missing.”

Meeting and greeting – You may be used to greeting your Italian chums with a friendly kiss on the cheek, but in a job interview context this is an absolute no, warns Saprio. A good old-fashioned handshake will do just fine. “Eye contact is also very important,” she adds.

Formal language – If your Italian is a little rusty it’s worth brushing up on this simple grammatical rule. Don’t forget that in Italy there are two ways of saying “you”: “lei” and “tu”. While it may be normal to address your Italian friends and family with the “tu” form, stick to “lei” in more formal scenarios. What if the interviewer is half your age? “It doesn’t matter,” says Saprio, “just assume that they are your superior – it’s a matter of business.” When addressing your interviewer you should refer to them as “dottore” or “dottoressa” (the formal title for someone with a degree) not “signore” or “signora”, she adds.

Dress code – “Italians pay a lot of attention to style,” says Saprio. “For a professional job interview it’s best to stick to a suit. Of course, this can vary depending on which sector you are applying to work in. For example, a job in IT might have a less formal dress code while consultancy is more formal.” Heavy makeup should always be avoided.

Keep hobby-talk to a minimum – While in England it is completely normal to talk about extracurricular activities, in Italy it’s best to get straight to the point, warns Saprio. “Certainly if they don’t ask about your free time then don’t say anything,” she says. Although, once again, this depends on context. “If, for example, you’re applying for a position where a person has to travel a lot then chances are they are not going to want to employ someone who spends their free time staying in and reading books.”

Punctuality – Italians may not have an international reputation for punctuality, but in an interview context it’s extremely important. “You should arrive on time and not more than ten minutes early,” says Saprio.

Simonetta Saprio is a senior manager in the Life Sciences and IT division of Hays Italy, a leading international recruitment company. 

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