Selecting staff


This lesson is about job interviews. Industrias Montresor have decided which of the applicants they would like to interview for the job of Divisional Software Engineering Manager. We look at what happens at Carlos Vila's interview, and also at what happens after the interview is over and the successful applicant is chosen.


Joe Andrews
Pilar Soto
Carlos Vila


Vocabulary Careers and work experience; job titles and descriptions; money and the money market; computing.
Skills Interviewing someone; being interviewed; comparing two things; writing a c.v.; writing a letter; accepting and rejecting an applicant for a job; accepting a job; resigning from a job.
Structures rather/quite; comparing figures.
Documents A c.v.; a job advertisement; letters.

Interviewing and being interviewed

4.1 Listen and read

Joe Andrews and Pilar Soto have just finished interviewing someone for the post of Divisional Software Engineering Manager. Listen to what they say. Do you think Mr Schultz is likely to get the job?

PILAR Well, thank you, Mr Schultz. Goodbye! Well?
JOE He looks quite good on paper see the meaning.
PILAR I'm sure he's very sound, technically see the meaning. The thing is, we must have someone who can communicate.
JOE But the Software Engineering Manager isn't going to be meeting customers.
PILAR You never know. Anyway, he's going to be talking to us every day! Schultz didn't sound very confident in either Spanish or English.
JOE Well, let's have the next one in, and see if he's any good!
PILAR Ask Dr Vila to come in, please.

4.2 Listen and read

Joe Andrews and Pilar Soto now interview Carlos Vila. Listen to what they say. Do you think that this is a formal or an informal interview?

JOE Good afternoon, Dr Vila. Please sit down. My name is Andrews, I'm the Staff Controller, and my colleague here is Miss Soto, the Data Manager.
PILAR Good afternoon.
CARLOS Good afternoon.
JOE I think Miss Soto would like to discuss technical matters with you to begin with. Then I'll come in with some more general things. Pilar?
PILAR Thank you. Dr Vila, your c.v. doesn't go into details about the hardware you've been working with recently. Tell me about your present job. What's the set-up? see the meaning
CARLOS Well, we have a network of IBM PCs and compatibles see the meaning, which can operate as individual work stations or they can access see the meaning a much more powerful minicomputer.

4.3 Listen and read

Later in the interview Pilar and Carlos are talking in Spanish and laughing. Then Joe takes over. Listen to what they say. Is Joe impressed by Carlos?

PILAR All right! Now I'll hand you back to Mr Andrews.
CARLOS Thank you.
JOE Yes, Dr Vila. While you've been talking to Miss Soto, I've been refreshing my memory of your c.v. It makes interesting reading. Rather a mixed career so far. Suppose you do join our company. Where do you expect to be in five years' time?
CARLOS Well, a head of department - assistant head, anyway - in technical sales, or overseas marketing.
JOE I see. More on the marketing side? see the meaning You're quite sure about that? You think your track record will help you?
CARLOS Er, yes, I think it will.
JOE Hm. I'm glad you think so. You know what I think? I see a young man who may well be see the meaning smart but who really doesn't know where he's going.
CARLOS Why do you say that?
JOE Well, you tell me, Dr Vila. Why did you move from banking to printing, to computer consultancy and now you want to move into heavy industry? And perhaps I ought to mention global navigation? see the meaning

4.4 Reading for key words

Find the words or phrases in 4.1 and 4.3 that tell you the following:

1 Pilar has made her decision about Mr Schultz.
2 Pilar doesn't agree with Joe's comments on Mr Schultz.
3 Joe has been re-reading Carlos's c.v.
4 Joe disagrees with Carlos's view of his future.
5 Joe thinks Carlos is a bit too clever.
6 Joe is about to ask Carlos a question which he thinks will be hard to answer.
{tip Exercise 4.4::1 Pilar says 'we must have someone who can communicate', and
'Schultz didn't sound very confident in either Spanish or English'.
2 You never know.
3 I've been refreshing my memory of your c.v.
4 I'm glad you think so.
5 a young man who may well be smart...
6 Well, you tell me, Dr Vila.}Key{/tip}

4.5 Listen and read

Carlos Vila is answering Joe Andrews's criticisms. Listen to what they say. Does Carlos succeed in changing Joe's view of his career?

JOE And perhaps I ought to mention global navigation?
CARLOS Because all those things are my career! In every position that I've had, I was developing my knowledge of computer systems. That knowledge I can apply equally well to banking, or machine automation, or image recognition - anything you like.
JOE I see. Well, maybe you have a point. But taking a year off to go sailing, at the start of your career, when you've just got your PhD. Wasn't that a year wasted?
CARLOS It depends on how you look at it. It was an adventure, of course, but we also carried out a research programme for computer-aided satellite navigation. So actually I think it was quite useful. Anyway, would you turn down a chance like that?
JOE Hm! OK, Dr Vila. Are there any questions you want to ask us?
CARLOS Well, yes. I'd like to know a little more about the group I would be working with.
PILAR It's been very interesting talking to you, Dr Vila. However, we still have one more person to interview.
{tip Exercise 4.5::Yes, he does succeed. Carlos explains how his career changes have helped to develop his computing skills. He also offers a different interpretation of his trip, starting with 'It depends on how you look at it'.}Key{/tip}

4.6 Reading for key words

Find the words or phrases in 4.5 that tell you the following:

1 Joe agrees with what Carlos says about his frequent changes of job.
2 Carlos shows that he understands Joe's point of view.
3 Carlos refers to the scientific work that he and his friends did on their voyage.
4 Carlos is correcting Joe's wrong opinion.
5 Pilar wants the interview to end.
{tip Exercise 4.6::1 maybe you have a point.
2 It was an adventure, of course.
3 we also carried out a research programme for computer-aided satellite navigation.
4 So actually I think it was quite useful.
(We often use the word 'actually' to show that we are correcting the other speaker's mistake.)
5 It's been very interesting talking to you, Dr Vila.}Key{/tip}

4.7 Speaking practice: at an interview

Listen to this conversation. It practises some of the structures and phrases you have heard in this unit. Then listen again, and speak the part of the man.

INTERVIEWER Are there any questions you want to ask us?
APPLICANT Yes. I'd like to know more about the people I'll be working with.
INTERVIEWER Well, this is a new post. We're not quite sure which department it will be in - Marketing or Technical.
APPLICANT The thing is, I see my career developing more towards marketing.
INTERVIEWER Marketing's rather a big jump. After all, as an engineer, you won't be directly involved in selling.
APPLICANT You never know! Anyway, I'm certainly going to be involved in product development.
INTERVIEWER Well, maybe you have a point there. It depends on how you look at it.
APPLICANT OK, let's say I'm going to be on the marketing side. Perhaps you can tell me who I'll be working with.

Matching and comparing

4.8 Document study

Another applicant who is being interviewed is Angela Robbiani, from Italy. This is an extract from her c.v. When you have read this, start to fill in the form from 3.7 with details of Carlos and Angela. You will find more details about Angela in 4.12. Add these to the form.

May 1984 - July 1987
Assistant Data Services Manager, Globe Insurance Brokers (London) Lid.

The Data Services Department had a staff of ten, out of a total staff in the London office of 150. The company had a turnover, in 1987, in the region of US$20m. I was responsible, under the Data Services Manager, fora staff of seven and for the functioning of all data processing services within the company and all data communication. In 1987 I also planned and supervised the installation of new equipment and software, and organised training courses for all employees.

Salary at time of leaving, approx. US$45,000 plus company mortgage, car, health insurance, pension scheme, etc.

August 1987 - present
Computer Manager, del Conte Financial Services, Geneva.

Del Conte is a small, but successful, firm of financial and investment consultants. There are six partners and about seventy support staff, ten of whom report to me. We have clients in most European countries. North America and Japan. I am responsible for maintaining the firm’s data processing system, which is in contact throughout the day and night with the world's major stock exchanges and money markets. I also maintain the software which processes portfolio values, clients' accounts, etc.

Current earnings, about $90,000 including bonuses, plus company accommodation and allowances.

{tip Exercise 4.8::Carlos and Angela have very similar qualifications: a degree in computing, at least three years' work experience, fluent in Spanish and English, under 35. Carlos doesn't have management experience, nor experience of the chemical industry, but he does have some industrial experience. Angela doesn't have a postgraduate qualification or any industrial experience, but she does have experience of middle management.}Key{/tip}

4.9 Listen and read: making comparisons

Joe and Pilar have just finished interviewing Angela Robbiani. They now have to decide who to appoint. Listen to what they say. What words do they use to make their comments stronger?

JOE It's been most interesting talking to you, Miss Robbiani, thank you very much!
PILAR Well! Quite impressive. I could tell you were impressed.
JOE Let's have another look at the job advertisement. How does she match up to that?
PILAR Rather well, I think. And, Joe, she didn't waste time sailing around the world, like Carlos did.
{tip Exercise 4.9::Joe says 'most interesting', 'thank you very much'. Pilar says 'Quite impressive', 'Rather well'.}Key{/tip}

4.10 Structure practice: rather and quite

Re-read the dialogues in this lesson (4.1, 4.3, 4.5, 4.7 and 4.9) and notice how the words 'rather' and 'quite' are used. It might also help to listen to the dialogues again. 'Quite' has two meanings. Before some words, it means 'to some degree':

'What do you think of the new manager?' - 'Oh, I quite like him. He seems quite good.'

Before other words, 'quite' means 'completely' or 'exactly':

'Are you sure?' - 'Yes. I'm quite sure.'
'You're quite right. I had made a mistake.'

'Rather' also has two meanings. It can mean 'to a large degree':

'Can I have a word with you?' - 'Well, I am rather busy at the moment. Is it important?' - 'Yes, it is rather.' 'I thought she did rather well.'

'Rather' can also mean 'to a small degree':

'I'm rather surprised that he decided to sail around the world like that.'

4.11 Document study: writing your c.v. - 2

Look again at the extract from Angela Robbiani's c.v. in 4.8. These career details are important. Carlos could have put a lot more information in his c.v. than we showed in 3.11. This is what he might have written under 'Education'.
You should now write his descriptions of his three previous jobs yourself, from the information given below. You can use Angela's c.v. as a model.
1985-87 I carried out a research project in systems engineering. This related to the day-to-day handling of large financial databases. I also assessed existing data systems in use in various financial institutions. I attended a series of training courses in these institutions.

1 Carlos's first job was as a systems analyst with the Franco-ltalian Bank in Milan. Use the table below to write sentences describing what he did there.

    carried out   several
a number of
I { undertook } { } research projects.
These { were in connection with
related to
} the bank's { day-to-day
} business.
{ In addition, I
Also, I
I also
} { reviewed
was responsible for
} { existing data systems.
the bank's systems.
the data-processing operation.
Finally, I { took part in
} { a series of
a course of
} { one-day conferences.
staff training courses.
{tip Exercise 4.11.1::These are model answers; there are many possible ways of writing these sentences and paragraphs.
1 I undertook several research projects. These were in connection with the bank's routine business. I also assessed existing data systems. Finally, I organised a series of staff training courses.}Key{/tip}

2 2 Next, the details of his job at Imprimerie Ledoux. This is what he said to Joe Andrews and Pilar Soto during his interview. His words here are informal, but you should be able to work out what he wrote:


Yes, I was just a member of the team to start with - there were five of us, actually - we had to make sure that everything worked OK, not just the office computer but also the system that controlled the printing machines and the typesetting - it was all linked together - everything was automated, in fact my biggest job was actually to show the staff there how to use the machines properly, I think that was why they made me a supervisor.

Rewrite it in the more formal style:


3 Finally, his job with Topdown Software. This is the advertisement which led him to apply to Topdown, though he did not get this job straight away; he was promoted after working for nine months as a Client Consultant. The advertisement gives a good description of the job, but the language is not entirely suitable for a c.v. Rewrite it in the more formal style of a c.v.

We are the tops in software!

Senior Software Development Engineer

We are seeking a dynamic individual to lead one of the brightest development teams in the country. He or she will be asked to -

  • develop the systems of the future to meet our clients' specifications
  • maintain our enviable reputation for customer service
  • set up conferences and courses aimed at generating new business

Apply with full CV, to
The Personnel Controller
Topdown Systems Ltd
Unit 37
Medomsley Road
Co. Durham
DU11 5AE

{tip Exercise 4.11.3::3 This is a leading software development company in the north of England. It develops computer systems to meet its clients' specifications. I was a Senior Software Development Engineer and was responsible for leading a team of software engineers. We worked closely with our clients and set up conferences and courses aimed at generating new business.}Key{/tip}

Changing jobs

4.12 Listen and read

In the interview room, Pilar and Joe must make a decision. Listen to what they say. Do they find it easy or difficult?

PILAR Under thirty-five. Currently holds a post of responsibility at middle management level, fluent in Spanish and English.
JOE Yes, but not as fluent as Vila.
PILAR She speaks English as well as he does, if not better.
JOE But, unlike Vila, she doesn't have a postgraduate qualification.
PILAR Look at their current salaries! He's making half what she is! I suppose we'd have to pay her twice as much as him!
JOE Considering the field she's in, 90K {tip 90K::ninety thousand (dollars); K or k is now often used informally to mean 'thousand'.}see the meaning{/tip} isn't all that great. She was getting 45K in Britain five years ago. It's taken her five years to double her earnings. What really bothers me, though, is that her experience has been totally in the area of finance and banking.
PILAR Yes, the lack of {tip the lack of::Pilar means that Angela does not have enough industrial experience.}see the meaning{/tip} industrial experience is rather a drawback. How about drive, ambition, motivation? How do you rate Robbiani on that - compared with Vila, I mean?
JOE Well, in spite of what I said to Vila, I really feel he has the edge when it comes to {tip has the edge when it comes to::is slightly better at.}see the meaning{/tip} motivation. That appears to me to be the essential difference between them. He's much more ambitious than she is!
PILAR Yes. I think that, when we weigh them both up, we have to give it to Vila. His experience is more varied than Robbiani's. And, as you say, he's more highly motivated. And I get the impression that he's better at working with people.
JOE What makes you say that?
PILAR That boat trip. Can you imagine it? Living for months in a tiny boat with five other people? I'd go crazy. But when he talked about it, you could see that it was more important to him than anything else he'd ever done.
{tip Exercise 4.12::Joe and Pilar find the decision difficult. They use lots of words and phrases comparing Carlos and Angela: 'not as fluent as Vila', 'as well as he does, if not better', 'unlike Vila', 'making half what she is', 'compared with Vila', 'he has the edge', 'essential difference between them', 'much more ambitious', 'weigh them both up', 'more varied', 'more highly motivated', 'better at working with people'.}Key{/tip}

4.13 Figure practice: comparing salaries

The figures below give some details of Angela's and Carlos's earnings over the past five years (all in US dollars). Use the figures to help you answer the questions. Write a word from the box, or a figure, for each gap. Re-read dialogue 4.12 to help you.

doubled half more twice
1 Angela and Carlos - how do their salaries compare at the moment?
Her salary is almost (a) as much as his.
2 How much does he earn, compared with her?
He earns just over (b) what she does.
3 Between 1987 and 1992, what did Angela's earnings do?
Her earnings (c) between 1987 and 1992.
4 Between 1989 and 1992, how much did Carlos's earnings rise?
Carlos's earnings rose by (d) percent between 1989 and 1992.
5 How much did he earn in 1991, compared with 1989?
In 1991 he made about (e) per cent more than in 1989.
6 If Montresor appoint Angela, will they have to pay her more than they would pay Carlos?
Yes! They'll have to pay her about (f) what they would pay him.
7 Judging from these incomplete figures, has she always earned more than he has?
Yes, it looks as if she's always made (g) . Her salary has always been about (h) his.
{tip Exercise 4.13::a twice b half c doubled d 50 e 25 f twice g more h twice}Key{/tip}

4.14 Document study

These are some of the letters that were written after the selection interviews. Are these formal or informal letters?

21st February 1992

Dear Miss Robbiani

Thank you for coming here for interview. I regret, however, to have to tell you that on this occasion your application was not successful.
We are grateful for your interest in our company, and we wish you every success in your career.

Yours sincerely

21st February 1992

Dear Dr Vila

On behalf of {tip On behalf of::Joe is making the offer from the company, not from himself.}see the meaning{/tip} Industrias Montresor, I am pleased to offer you the post of Divisional Software Engineering Manager, subject to the conditions specified in the enclosed contract. {tip subject to the conditions specified in the enclosed contract::Carlos must also agree to everything in the contract that was sent with the letter.}see the meaning{/tip}
The starting salary will be US$4750 per month, payable in local currency. There will be a probationary period {tip a probationary period::the time during which you are assessed to see if you can do a job, before you are allowed to continue; at the end of the probationary period you may be dismissed.}see the meaning{/tip} of six months, at which time the position and the salary will be reviewed. Thereafter the salary will be reviewed annually. Reasonable relocation expenses will be met. {tip relocation expenses::money paid to help you change to a new job, usually to help you move, buy a house, etc.}see the meaning{/tip} You will be entitled to a company car. Further particulars of salary scales, fringe benefits {tip fringe benefits::extra things that you get with the job; often a car, travel tickets or luncheon vouchers, etc.}see the meaning{/tip} and conditions of employment are enclosed.
If you wish to accept the post, please let me have your acceptance in writing within seven days.
I look forward to welcoming you to Montresor in the near future.

Yours sincerely

J Andrews
Staff Controller

Miss J F Matthews
Personnel Department

28th February 1992

Dear Miss Matthews

I am writing to tell you that I have decided to accept an offer of employment with another company. I am therefore giving you my notice in accordance with the terms of my contract.

Yours sincerely

Carlos Vila Monterde
cc Mrs Tomlinson, Industrial Clients Department

2 March 1992

Dear Dr Vila

Thank you for your letter of 28 February. In accordance with company policy, you will be paid for one month from the date of handing in your notice, but I must ask you to vacate {tip vacate::leave completely and not come back}see the meaning{/tip} your office, remove your personal effects {tip personal effects::things that belonged to Carlos; they might be photographs, plants, books, etc.}see the meaning{/tip}, and hand in all keys and identity tags {tip identity tags::cards with a photograph showing who you are.}see the meaning{/tip} before 1700 hrs today, 2 March. Security staff have been instructed not to admit you on site after check-out procedure has been completed.
On behalf of the company, I wish you success in your new post.

Yours sincerely

(Miss) J F Matthews
Assistant Personnel Manager
{tip Exercise 4.14::They are all formal letters.}Key{/tip}

4.15 Writing practice: a letter of acceptance

Carlos telephones Joe Andrews at once to accept Montresor's offer, and confirms this with a letter to him. The letter is brief and formal, but Carlos should show that he is pleased to get the job. Write the letter for him.


4.16 Writing practice: explaining a decision

All the papers about the appointment of the new Divisional Software Engineering Manager are stored in a file in the Personnel Department. Before the file is put away, Joe Andrews writes a note, in the form of a memo, as a record of the selection board's decision. Write his note.
You should give your note a title, and say who the members of the selection board were. Explain that four applicants were shortlisted, but only two were seriously considered after the interviews had taken place; give their names. Give the reasons why Carlos was appointed. Re-read the dialogues in this lesson for help with this exercise.


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