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Interviewing Candidates

While some questions may seem innocent, how they are phrased could present legal issues. The best practice is to confine the questions to essential job functions and ability to perform the job. defines discriminatory practices to include:

  • Employment decisions based on stereotypes or assumptions about the abilities, traits, or performance of a certain sex, race, religion, or ethnic group, or individuals with disabilities, or based on myths or assumptions about an individual’s genetic information.
  • Denying employment opportunities to a person because of marriage to, association with, an individual’s race, religion, national origin, or an individual with a disability. Title VII also prohibits discrimination because of participation in schools or places of worship association with particular racial, ethnic, or religious group.

For a complete list of prohibited questions that can be asked during an interview, please read the Guide to Pre-Employment Inquiries.

Types of Interviews

There are several types of interviews departments can use. OARS recommend more than one interview process for tenured-track and tenured positions with the campus visit being a final interview. All candidates must have the same kind of interview, even if it has to be conducted in different formats (zoom vs in person).

Types of interviews:

  • Phone Screen – Intended to screen out any unqualified applicants and to send those who are qualified further in the interview process.
  • Zoom – Interview over zoom. Can be done with one interviewer or multiple.
  • One-on-One Interviews – Interview with just one other person in some capacity (phone, zoom, face-to-face).
  • Lunch Interviews – Interviews conducted to a candidate over lunch.
  • Panel Interviews – Interviews with more than one interviewer at the same time.
  • Serial Interviews – A series of interviews on the same day.
  • Competency Interview – An interview where you see if the candidate has the skills to do the job (Example: a teaching demonstration).

Prepare Interview Questions

All questions must be related to the position and the selection criteria established at the Search Plan.

Some basic rules for questions are:

  • Ask for examples
  • Don’t ask leading questions
  • Get candidates to elaborate on accomplishments
  • Ask open-ended questions

Other types of questions are:

  • Behavioral
  • Competency – Based Questions
  • Situational Approach
  • Follow Up Questions

Behavioral Questions – Interview questions about past performances is the best indicator of a candidate’s future behavior. The panel can obtain an accurate picture of what a candidate has achieved up to this point.

Behavioral questions can:

  • Review candidate’s experience, personal attributes, and job-related skills
  • Ask how a candidate handled a particular situation in the past
  • Be pointed, probing, and specific
  • Have follow up questions

Example: Describe a situation in which you were able to convince someone to see things your way.

Example: Give an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to achieve it.

Competency – Based Questions – Aim to discover how a candidate performed in a particular situation. Like the behavioral questions, they can predict the future by looking at what the candidate did in the past.

Competency-based questions can:

  • Focus on skills needed for a position
  • Be pointed, probing, and specific
  • Give interviewers a sense of an applicant’s job performance and attitude toward work

Example: Tell me about a time when you had to encourage others to contribute thoughts and ideas on an issue. How did you get everyone to contribute? What was the end result?

Situational Approach – Gives a candidate a hypothetical situation so the interviewer can see how the candidate would respond. The situation should be relevant to the job, but not necessarily one the candidate has done in the past. This will reveal the thought process of the candidate.

Example: Your department has a disagreement on a process. How would you handle this disagreement? How would you define success to this situation?

Follow Up Questions – Many candidates will come to the interview with prepared responses to the more obvious questions that will be asked. A follow up question will show the depth of the understanding the candidate really knows, thus making the follow up question the most important question in the interview.

If a candidate answers in generalities to follow up questions, they most likely are embellishing their achievements.

Example: Why did you choose that strategy?

Example: What made you believe that XXX was the right answer?

Example: What steps did you take to make xxx more efficient?

Candidate Experience – During the Interview

During the interview process, the candidate is evaluating the university as well as being evaluated. Lasting impressions are formed on both sides.

By putting a candidate at ease, it gives a panel better opportunity to assess a candidate’s skills.
When you are in the candidate’s presence – whether in a formal one-on-one interview situation or in a casual social gathering – you are in “interview status” with the candidate. An appropriate, professional manner should be maintained.

The following are ideas for a good candidate experience during the interview:

  • Introduce everyone in the interview panel
  • Make good eye contact
  • Start with easy questions to get the candidate settled
  • Allow silences – give candidate’s a chance to form an answer
  • Treat candidates like consultants
  • Use good listening skills
  • Treat all applicants the same
  • Thank them for their time
  • Close on a positive note
  • Provide information to all candidates about the recruitment process, the schedule for filling the position, and when the candidate can expect the next communication from the department
  • Use the Partner Opportunities Programto inform top candidates of employment resources for spouses / partners

Spouse/Partner Situations

It would be inappropriate to directly inquire of the applicant if there are any spouse or partner issues that will need to be addressed if the applicant is proposed for the position. Consider these two options to identify and address potential spouse/partner situations:

After the Interview

Evaluate candidates equally and fairly against the selection criteria. The evaluation process for interviews and other means of finding candidates is a heavily scrutinized process. To avoid risks and ensure the most qualified candidate is selected, follow the following best practices:

  • Ensure hiring decisions are based on relevant credentials
  • Be objective in assessment
  • Be consistent in assessment
  • Assess based on evidence and not emotion

From this evaluation, determine if the candidate will be moving forward or not. Create a deselection/selection statement.

Selection/Deselection Statement

As Federal contractors, every hiring decision needs to be defendable. Decisions need to be made from real evidence and not selective criteria.

Interview panels need to send department analysts selection and deselection statements using the selection criteria established at the Search Plan.

  • Selection – why a candidate was selected for hire and what evidence was used to justify this decision?
    • Discuss the successes of the application and/or the interview
  • Deselection – why a candidate was not selected for hire and what evidence was used to justify this decision?
    • Discuss the shortcomings of the application and/or interview

These statements need to be non-comparative which:

  • Removes probability of biases from having an adverse impact on the recruitment
  • Allows the applicants to be measured to the selection criteria instead of each other
  • Defends the department against discrimination accusations
  • Supports the University’s diversity goals

There are some things that cannot go into a selection and deselection statement such as:

  • Protected information of the candidate
  • Stereotypes
  • Mixed messages from the selection and deselection statements
  • Copying and pasting the same comments for multiple applicants
  • Comparing and naming other applicants