Supervisor's Toolkit: Staff Recruitment and Hiring
Guidelines & resources for hiring qualified candidates
Excellent recruiting and hiring practices help reduce turnover and ensure that the university is staffed with productive employees. The items in this section will help guide you through the various steps of the hiring process to help you find and hire the right employees.
(+) How Do I Fill a Staff Vacancy in My Department?
When a vacancy occurs, the hiring supervisor should schedule a time to meet with a Human Resources representative to review the Staff Recruiting Plan Checklist and make certain decisions before the hiring process can proceed.Hide
(+) Why Have Job Descriptions?
Job descriptions enable us to distinguish positions, delineate tasks, determine pay levels, establish performance requirements, recruit for positions, explore reasonable accommodations, and train employees. Without them, our best efforts to staff, develop, and evaluate performance are without direction. In short, a job description tells:
- Does what work
- When (or how often)
- Why (the purpose or impact of the work)
Most descriptions are the result of a joint effort involving the hiring manager and the Human Resources department. Job descriptions must conform to Drury’s established job description style. An existing description for a similar job may be used to “get started” or hiring managers may use Drury’s job description template.Hide
(+) Tips for Writing Job Descriptions
To the extent practicable, the job description writer should use action verbs with an implied subject (who) and explicit work objects and/or outputs (what).
Example of an entry from a specific and detailed job description:
(Implied subject) Evaluates (action verb) jobs (what) by assigning official title, occupational code and grade in accordance with the job evaluation system (how).
All job descriptions are summaries. The baseline objective is to provide enough information in the right format and language to be accurate, clear and useful. Although just a summary, the job description should: 1) contain enough accurate information to be useful, and 2) are not so broad that they confuse or mislead managers, employees, and/or job applicants.
- Write behaviorally. Begin each task-oriented sentence with an action verb
- Make certain the explanatory phrase adds meaning and clarifies the why, how, where, or how often
- Eliminate bias terminology by structuring sentences in such a way that gender pronouns are not required
- Spell out the acronyms. Avoid subjective modifiers or words that might allow for misinterpretations; words such as “sometimes”, “several”, “high level”, etc.
- Think broadly in terms of outcomes, responsibilities and accountabilities, rather than simply listing tasks and duties
- Cluster responsibilities into broad functions, such as project management, customer contact, supervisory responsibilities, etc.
- List activities or tasks underneath each broad function
Suggestions on How to Collect the Necessary Information to Write a Description
- Interview the incumbent or peers to clarify job details that would normally be included in a description.
- Review current or former incumbent performance appraisals to ascertain standards and what’s important in regard to knowledge, skills, and abilities. Categorize the results in terms of what is essential and nonessential.
- Review the organization chart, strategies, plans, objectives, reports and work projects the position is typically responsible for producing.
- Think STRUCTURALLY. It’s important to think about the position, rather than describing the unique qualities of the individual currently holding the position.
Job Description Template Sections:
Contains job title, department, supervisor, schedule, date, FLSA classification, and IPEDS classification
The broad function, scope, and purpose of the work to be performed
Essential Duties and Responsibilities
Itemized listing of the duties and functions essential to the successful performance of the job.
Minimum Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities Required
The requirements or minimum qualifications needed to perform the essential duties. Each specification sets an expectation or standard related to knowledge (education, certifications, training, etc.), skills (vocational, mathematical, reasoning, language, human relations, self-management, etc.), and abilities (level of experience, required equipment use, physical demands, etc.)
Describes who this position supervises and the type of supervision this position provides, i.e. direct or indirect.
Describes the specific types of physical demands of the position and their frequency, i.e. walking, speaking, hearing, vision, types of movement; regularly, frequently, occasionally, etc.
Job Descriptions and the Law
Because the employment provisions of the ADA focus on essential functions, all essential functions should be covered in the job description. A single job task may be essential. If so, it should be covered in the job description. If the essential task exists in the job by itself, apart from a “larger” essential duty (or function) that is described, then it must be expressed, not implied. Conversely, if it is an integral part of a duty (or function) that is expressed, then it may be implied. Another requirement of the ADA is that essential functions be distinguished from non-essential ones if the descriptions include non-essential functions. To meet this requirement, the description should indicate the time spent on each function (most, but not all functions that account for only a small part of the job are non-essential).
The general statement “Performs other duties as assigned” may be used to encompass duties not specifically listed, but is not suitable if they are considered to be essential functions. If it is essential, it should be described, either explicitly or implicitly.
Keeping Job Descriptions Current
Job descriptions (and other forms of job documentation) have the potential to become the subject of contention, including grievances or litigation. It is critical that accuracy of job descriptions be maintained. To ensure this, a position’s supervisor has primary responsibility for keeping the description current. Each employee’s description should be reviewed at least annually as part of the performance evaluation process. Some positions are dynamic, changing rapidly and extensively (due to technological or organizational considerations). Descriptions for these type of positions should be reviewed often. Other job change very little over long periods of time. These descriptions need not be reviewed often.
Our job description template includes a disclaimer to ensure it is clear that job descriptions are not meant to be all-inclusive and/or the job itself is subject to change.Hide
(+) Posting Staff Job Vacancies
The human resources office oversees the posting of and recruitment for staff positions. Postings for temporary and replacement positions must be approved verbally by the president. New or upgraded positions must be approved in writing via the appropriate requisition form: Requisition For New or Replacement Faculty or Staff Positions or theRequisition For Faculty and Staff Stipends, Increases or Upgraded Positions Form.
Hiring supervisors and human resources will determine the most appropriate form of posting(s). One or more or the following options may be selected:
The hiring supervisor may determine that he/she wishes to post the job vacancy only within his/her department. This is usually done when the vacancy represents a promotion opportunity for existing staff members with fairly specific experience, skills, or knowledge generally obtained by working in that particular department. The minimum time allowed for responses from department members is one week.
An internal posting is a job vacancy announcement which is sent to all staff and faculty on the respective listserves, but not posted on the HR jobs webpage. The minimum time allowed for responses is one week. This may be the method chosen if the department would prefer to hire someone who has experience specifically at Drury, rather than consider applicants who don’t.
Drury Webpage Posting:
The hiring supervisor requests that human resources post the position on the Drury website jobs page. The length of time the position is posted varies, but is a minimum of one week. This may or may not be done in conjunction with outside advertising.Hide
(+) Advertising Job Vacancies
The human resources office can assist you in determining where to advertise a position to help you attract a diverse pool of applicants, i.e. local newspaper, regional or national publications, various online recruiting websites. Their office can compose the ad for you or review and approve ad copy that you draft. Once the ad is final, HR will coordinate placement of the ads.Hide
(+) How to Respond if You Are Contacted by an Applicant
If you are contacted by someone who is interested in your department’s vacancy, you should make sure they understand that they cannot be considered for the position until they complete either the online or hard copy application. You can refer them to the online staff job application form or refer them to the human resources office. All applications and resumes that may be sent to you directly should be forwarded to the HR office, where applicant files will be maintained and reply letters or emails sent to each applicant.
You may want to inform them that their application will go through a screening process in human resources and that not all applicants will be called in for testing or interviews. Someone will contact them in the event they are eligible for further screening/testing or an interview.Hide
(+) How Are Candidates Referred to the Hiring Department
Once the posting period for a particular position is closed, the HR office will screen and evaluate all applications and resumes. In some cases, the hiring department and the HR staff may work together to screen applications/resumes to determine who will move to the next step in the process, such as skill testing. Not every applicant will be asked to participate in skills testing. Those who do participate who qualify to move to the next step in the process, based on the results of the skill tests, will then be referred by HR to the hiring department for interviews.Hide
(+) Screening Candidates
Human Resources will refer only qualified candidates – those possessing the required education and experience, and skill level (if skill testing is conducted) – to the department for consideration.
If you will be participating in the screening of resumes/applications, here are some steps to follow:
- Develop the list of criteria against which all candidates will be evaluated.
- Carefully review each candidate’s experience and knowledge, skills and abilities against your criteria.
Here are some things to consider and on which to evaluate:
- Neatness of printing and completeness of the application
- A well organized concise cover letter
- An organized presentation of facts
- Experience as it relates to the open position
- Skill competencies
- Career progression and development
- Any large gaps in work chronology
- Results orientation and accomplishmentsHide
(+) Use of Selection Matrixes
A selection matrix is a tool that lets you objectively compare an applicant’s qualifications to a job vacancy’s qualifications and functions, as well as compare applicants to one another based on established job-related criteria. It is a valuable hiring tool because it provides equal employment opportunities to all applicants and upholds the integrity of the university by ensuring that selection decisions are made only on lawful, job-related and non-discriminatory criteria.
How to Develop a Selection Matrix
In order to develop a selection matrix, you and/or your selection panel will need to thoroughly analyze the position’s required qualifications, preferred qualifications, and job functions. As you analyze these qualifications and functions, take the following steps to develop a selection matrix:
- Decide which technical and performance job skills you want to evaluate through the selection matrix
- Identify which qualifications you can see on an application, and organize them into general categories on the matrix, such as education, technical skills, and supervisory experience.
- Determine which qualifications/skills must be observed in an interview or discerned from responses to interview questions, and organize these into categories.
- Develop interview questions about the technical job skills and performance job skills that you can’t see on applications – this will let you structure the interview in a way that helps you fill in these gaps of information on the selection matrix.
- Create a numeric rating systems for the matrix
- Assign a range of rating points (normally 1-3 or 1-5 to each qualification and interview question
- You may also give a numeric “weight factor” to each qualification and interview question based on their importance to the functions of the job; for example, if 50% of the position is performing one specific task, you might weigh that qualification as three times more important than other qualifications.
How to Use a Selection Matrix
Because applicants must meet all of the position’s minimum qualifications in order to be considered, you’ll probably want to start by screening each applicant’s materials to determine if they meet the minimum requirements. You can then eliminate any applicants who don’t meet all the minimum required qualifications – this is an efficient way to avoid wasting time on selection matrixes for unqualified applicants.
Once you eliminate unqualified applicants, you can either proceed to testing and interview the entire applicant pool or you can use the matrix to help you select the top, most-competitive candidates for testing and interviews. Whether you start using the matrix before or after the initial interview process, you’ll want to use the selection matrix in the following way:
- Calculate an individual’s total points for each qualification and interview question by multiplying the rating points by the weight factor (i.e. the rating points = 3 and the weight factor = 10, the total points an applicant gets for that question = 30).
- Add the total technical job skill points and the total interview questions points together, and calculate a total point score for each applicant
- If there are any discrepancies or large deviations in scoring, handle them through consensus of the selection panel or have the hiring supervisor resolve them.
- Based on the total point score, decide who to recommend for final interviews.Hide
(+) Conducting Reference Checks
Reference checking allows you to ensure that you are finding the most qualified person who is also a good fit for the position and Drury.
Why perform reference checks?
These checks help you confirm information on the candidate’s application form and resume. You will also gain greater insights into the candidate’s skills, knowledge, and abilities from someone who has actually observed the candidate perform. Failure to check references can result in poor hiring choices that are costly in time, energy, and money.
Obtain reference names and contact information and the candidate’s consent
It is important that during the interview process, you obtain consent from the candidate to contact their references and ask employment-related questions. This permission is obtained when the applicant signs and dates the Drury staff employment application. A common mistake managers often make is asking candidates to choose their references. Instead, you should tell the candidates that you wish to speak to the people who actually supervised them. This information is also obtained on the employment application in the employment history section. It is good practice to speak to two or three work-related references. If their current employer does not know they are seeking work elsewhere, then go to their previous employers.
How to conduct reference checks
The Human Resources staff can conduct reference checks on your final candidate or you can choose to conduct them yourself. If you will be checking the references, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Identify yourself, your title, and tell them you are calling about a reference for a candidate you are considering.
- Ask if now is a good time to talk or whether they would rather schedule a call at a later time.
- Make sure they understand that you have the consent form the applicant and that responses will remain confidential.
- It is important to give a brief description of the role you are considering the applicant for so that they can comment in context.
- Give them time to answer your questions. Let them respond, and do not cut them off or put words in their mouth.
Prepare: Develop questions before making the call
Before making the calls, make a list of questions so that you are asking the same set of questions, giving you a consistent frame on which to base your decisions. The Human Resources office has a Telephone Reference Check form you may use. You may also add your own position –specific questions to this form. All questions should be job-related and legal. You cannot ask questions during a reference check that you are prohibited from asking during an interview. Determine how you are going to weigh information in advance, and weigh information in the same manner for all applicants – what disqualifies one should be the basis for disqualifying any other
- When possible, contact at least three previous employers
- Always check references before making a job offer
- If references were checked for some applicants, do not hire another applicant without checking their references
- Ask the same questions in each reference check
- Always verify basic data such as job title, functions, salary and dates of employment
Questions you can ask
While it is important to tailor reference check questions to Drury, the job and the applicant being considered, below are some common examples of questions that can be asked. Ask questions that are designed to bring out the supervisor’s observations of the applicant’s work behaviors.
- In what capacity were you associated with the applicant, and since what date?
- In what capacity was the applicant employed, and what were his/her job responsibilities and salary?
- Was the applicant successful in filling his or her duties?
- What was it like to supervise the applicant?
- Was the applicant a valuable member of the team?
- What unique skills did the candidate bring to your organization?
- What were his/her strengths?
- What were the weaknesses or areas that needed improvement?
- How would they describe this applicant’s absenteeism record in relation to other employees?
- Did you ever find it necessary to reprimand or discipline this person? If so, what were the circumstances?
- Considering the job being applied for, do you think the applicant is suitable?
- Why did he/she leave employment with your organization?
- Would you rehire the candidate; why or why not?
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
Document the Reference Check
The reference check questions and answers for each reference should be documented in writing. You may use the Telephone Reference Check form, or you may document them via your own written list of questions and answers for each reference.Hide
(+) Security Background Checks
Drury University conducts a security background check, which includes a criminal records check, on the finalist before a job offer is made. A driving records check is also completed for those finalists whose duties would require them to drive (either a university vehicle or their own vehicle) as part of their job responsibilities. The background check is initiated by Human Resources when the hiring department notifies HR that their final candidate has been identified. The Human Resources department will notify the hiring department when it has received the report and whether or not the department may proceed with the job offer.Hide
(+) Post-Offer Physical Exam and Drug Screens Required for Certain Positions
After satisfactory reference checks, to help ensure that staff members are able to perform the essential functions of their proposed job, and to perform these duties safely, physical examinations and drug testing may be required. Hiring supervisors should check with Human Resources to determine or confirm which positions require these types of exams.
After a conditional offer of employment has been made to an applicant entering certain designated job categories, these examinations and screenings will be performed at Drury University's expense by a health professional of the University’s choice. The offer of employment and assignment to duties is contingent upon satisfactory completion of the exam(s), which will measure the staff member's ability to perform the essential functions of the job. Job applicants may be asked to provide body substance samples (such as urine and/or blood). Information on a staff member's medical condition or history will be kept separate from other staff member information and maintained confidentially. Access to this information will be limited to those who have a legitimate need to know.
Once results of the exam and screenings have been received, HR department staff will notify the hiring supervisor whether or not they may proceed with the hiring process and establish a start date for the new staff member.Hide
(+) Announcing the Hiring Decision
Once all reference checking and required pre-employment exams have been completed, the hiring department may proceed with finalizing the job offer and start date with the finalist. The start date will be communicated to the HR department so the staff member’s appointment letter may be prepared.
The hiring supervisor should then prepare an announcement for the Drury community to publicize the appointment. Setting the tone for the arrival of a new member of the Drury community is the first step in a successful orientation and acclimation.
The communication can be electronic, by mail, or in Drury publications. For most senior staff positions, the announcement and publication should be coordinated through the University Communications office.
Always obtain permission from the new staff member before making a public announcement, so that he/she has time to notify their current employer and supervisor, whether at Drury or elsewhere.
The Human Resources office will contact all applicants for a closed position to notify them that a hiring decision was made and thank them for applying.Hide
(+) How to Respond to Phone Calls from Applicants You Didn’t Hire
If you get a call from an applicant who you didn’t hire, you may refer them to the HR office or inform them that the applicant whose overall qualifications most closely met the needs of the position and the department was selected. You shouldn’t provide any more information than this. If the applicant is not satisfied with your answer, please refer them to the human resources office.Hide
Successful interviewing requires preparation, attentive listening, and a thorough understanding of the job and the minimum required qualifications of candidates. This Interview Guide can help. Use the links below to select the information you wish to review.
(+) Goals of the Interview
- Assess the candidate and determine whether there is a good fit between the candidate’s capabilities and the position requirements
- Describe the job and working conditions
- Create goodwill for the organization, whether or not the candidate is hiredHide
(+) Goals of the Interview Questions
Interview questions should accomplish the following goals:
- Determine candidate’s qualifications and general character, in relation to the job
- Expose undesirable traits
- Clarify information
- Provide other job-related data
- Reveal inconsistenciesHide
(+) Elements of Good Interviewing
Meeting the interview goals requires the following on the interviewer’s part:
- Interpersonal skills, which put a job candidate at ease and elicit the most accurate responses
- Preparation helps an interviewer cover all job-related questions and avoid saying things that might violate antidiscrimination laws, create an implied employment contract, or misrepresent the job.
- Objectivity requires the interviewer to be impartial and unbiased. Interviewers must evaluate a candidate based on the factors that predict future job performance.
- Good recordkeeping supplies the information needed to compare different candidates and documents the screening process in case a rejected candidate challenges the hiring decision.Hide
(+) Structured Interviews
The interviewer(s) should approach the interview with an organized and well-planned questioning method while always staying on task. Some interviewers will ask the interview questions in a specific order while others take a more relaxed approach, though still addressing all of the pre-planned questions. Well-planned interview questions generally provide the interview(s) with the information needed to make the hiring decision. All candidates are asked the same questions, rather than tailoring the questions to target a specific individual or group of individuals.Hide
(+) Developing Job-Related Questions
Develop interview questions by examining the job description and determining job demands in each of these following areas:
- Skills and abilities, including technical skills, communication ability, analytical ability, and specialized training
- Behavioral factors: motivation, interests, goals, drive and energy, reliability, stress tolerance. Performance is a function of skills and abilities multiplied by behavioral considerations; skills and abilities determine whether someone “can do” a job. Behavior determines whether they “will do” a job. Both must be measured.
- Institution culture and job fit issues: team orientation, customer service focus, student-centeredness, and accountability, for example.
Interviewers should design questions to elicit information about the candidate’s job qualifications in each of the noted areas. These questions can form a standardized guide for each interview. To customize the questionnaire, interviewers should review a candidate’s resume for points covered on the questionnaire and individualize questions as needed.Hide
(+) Evaluating Candidate Responses
As important as it is that questions are job-related, it’s even more important to know how to evaluate the candidate’s response.
The interviewer(s) should not feel that a candidate’s first answer to any of the questions must be accepted as the only answer. When the interviewer feels an answer is lacking, the interviewer should ask layered questions until reaching an answer with a satisfactory amount of information.Hide
(+) Questioning Techniques
The best interviewers employ a flexible questioning technique to elicit pertinent, accurate information. Interviewers should vary the questioning technique according to the goals of the interview. For example, an appropriate technique in one instance may yield false, incomplete, or misleading information in another. The best interviewers use some combination of the following techniques as the situation demands.
Closed-ended questions are most commonly asked in interviewing and are the most commonly misused questions. The following is an example of an ineffective closed-ended question: “Can you work under pressure?” Only “yes” and “no” are the possible answers. The interviewer has no information and no way of evaluating any one candidate against another. However, a closed-ended question would be appropriate and useful as a questioning technique when looking for a commitment from the individual, for example: “Can you start on Monday?”
A closed-ended question also helps interviewers in an attempt to refresh their own memory or in verifying information from earlier in the interviewing sequence: “You were with Company X for 40 years?”
Interviewers may also utilize the closed-ended technique as preparation for a series of questions on the same subject.
Open-ended questions often yield better results than close-ended. Open-ended questions do not lend themselves to monosyllabic answers; instead, they question requires an explanation. For example, the following open-ended question requires a detailed answer: “How do you succeed in working under pressure?”
As a rule, open-ended questions are preferable to closed-ended questions because such questions require the candidate to speak while the interviewer listens. Open-ended questions often begin as follows:
- “Tell me about a time ……”
- “Describe a situation where …..”
The technique of asking behavioral questions has developed into a unique style of interviewing. Behavioral questions are based on the premise that past behavior is the best predictor of future performance.
Behavioral questions are open-ended and request specific examples of past behavior. Such questions elicit conversation and are usually prefaced with something similar to the following:
- "Share with me an experience when …..”
- "Give me an example of …..”
Used appropriately, behavioral questions make it difficult for the candidate to misrepresent past performance.
Interviewers often assume, albeit incorrectly, that a candidate who is strong in one area is equally impressive in all areas. This is not always the case.
To avoid this assumption, an interviewer may ask the following questions:
- “That is very impressive. Could you please describe an occasion when the situation did
not work out to your advantage?”
- “Additionally, please offer an example of an aspect in this area where you struggle(d).”
When interviewers have sought and found negative balance, they may feel content that they are maintaining their objectivity and move on or that an answer they receive may be disturbing enough to warrant negative confirmation.
For example, an interviewee tells the interviewer about a situation when the individual felt that it was necessary to go around or behind a supervisor to achieve a goal. A manager should be troubled because if such behavior is common, the person may not be desirable to hire. Consequently, negative confirmation should be sought with perhaps the following: “That is very interesting. Let’s talk about another time when you had to …..”
Successive examples will help interviewers confirm negative traits and perhaps save the employer from hiring a candidate unfit for the employment position. On the other hand, interviewers may establish that the negative situation was a peculiarity or one-time thing and nothing that would potentially disqualify a candidate.
Reflexive questions function to close a line of questioning and move the conversation forward. Reflexive questions help interviewers calmly maintain control of the conversation no matter how talkative the interviewee.
When a candidate begins to stray from the topic of the questions, the interviewer can easily interject with a reflexive question that will allow the interviewer to proceed with other topics.
An interviewer may accomplish this by adding phrases, such as the following, to the end of a statement:
- Don’t you
- Couldn’t you
- Wouldn’t you
- Didn’t you
- Can’t you
- Aren’t you
For example, the interviewer might say, “With time so short, I think it would be valuable to move onto another area, don’t you?” The candidate’s reflex is to agree, and the conversation moves on.
Mirror statements function as a subtle form of probing in conjunction with silence. To use the technique, the interviewer mirrors or paraphrases key statement made by the candidate and then remains silent while offering positive reinforcement through body language such as nodding, and looking attentively at the interviewee.
Interviewers should use mirror statements to fully understand a candidate’s answer and gain more insight through the candidate’s detailed explanation. For example, an interviewer would repeat the substance of an interviewee’s key comment in a question form, “Whenever you arrive two hours early for work, you then leave work two hours early to compensate yourself for your time?” Upon completion of the question, the interviewer would patiently wait for the interviewee to expand on the mirrored statement, without a further interjection from the interviewer. This technique allows the candidate to hear verbatim the words they chose as an answer and volunteer further details.
Loaded questions are inappropriate as they may lead to manipulation by the interviewer. Loaded questions are fundamentally problematic because questions require the interviewee to decide between equally unsuitable options. For instance, the following is a loaded question: “Which do you think is the lesser evil, embezzlement or forgery?”
Obviously, the interviewer should avoid absurd, loaded questions. However, carefully balanced judgment-call questions may have a place in a good interview. The technique may allow the interviewer to probe the interviewee’s decision-making approach.
For example, the interviewer may want to recall a real-life situation where two divergent approaches were both carefully considered and may do so by framing the situation as a question:
- “I’m curious to know what you have done when …..”
- “What has been your approach in situations where …..”
Half-right reflexives can be utilized to glean specific answers and determine an individual’s propensity for specific work-related incidents. To employ the technique, the interviewer must make a partially correct statement and ask the interviewee to agree.
With half-right reflexives, the interviewee has the opportunity to offer personalized and experienced insights in regard to workplace dilemmas and situations. However, the interviewee may also demonstrate a lack of experience or inability to perform required tasks of the job.
This technique creates enlightening insights. For instance, this example of a half-right reflexive always generates fascinating responses: “I’ve always felt that customer service should commence only after the bill has been paid, haven’t you?”
Leading questions allow interviewers to lead the listener toward a specific type of answer. Leading questions often arise accidentally when the interviewer explains what type of organization the interviewee will be joining. For instance, the interviewer might proudly exclaim, “We’re a fast-growing outfit here, and there is constant pressure to meet deadlines and satisfy our ever-increasing list of customers”, then ask, “How do you handle stress?”
In the interviewer’s statement the basic principles and requirements of the job are made clear and thus, the correct answer to any further question is a simple paraphrase of the interviewers own statement.
Leading questions are often useful, but like closed-ended questions, the interviewer must use leading questions appropriately. As information verifiers, leading questions encourage the candidate to expand on a particular topic, for example, “We are an organization that believes the customer is always right. How do you feel about that?”
However, leading questions should be used only after establishing a candidate’s belief or performance in a particular area. In any case, leading questions should not be used early in the interview or be confused with the half-right reflexive.
A good question poorly phrased will be ineffectual and provide the interviewer with incomplete or misleading information. However, question layering allows an interviewer to thoroughly probe and answer on many different levels. For example, when an interviewer wants to determine whether a candidate could work well under pressure the basic line of questioning (“Can you work under pressure?”) may prove to be the wrong approach because the question:
- requires only a yes or no answer, which fails to provide adequate information for the interviewer
- leads the interviewee toward the type of answer the individual knows the interviewer wants
Instead, interviewers can use a combination of all the questioning styles and techniques to examine the topic from every angle. For example, to examine all angles of a topic the interviewer may ask:
Similarly, the interviewer does the same by joining the closed-ended question with some of the other question techniques. The following sequence demonstrates how much more relevant information an interviewer can glean through question layering:
- Tell me about a time when you worked under pressure (Open-ended)
- So, it was tough to meet the deadline? (Mirror statement)
- How did this pressure situation arise? (Question layering)
- Who was responsible? (Question layering)
- Why was this allowed to occur? (Question layering)
- Where did the problem originate? (Question layering)
These questions illustrate several different angles to the same question, each revealing a different aspect of the personality, performance, and behavior of the candidate. The question layering technique makes the possibilities for questions theoretically endless, depending only on the interviewer’s thoroughness.
Additional Input Questions
Interviewers can use the following techniques to gain more information from a initial question:
If the interviewer wants to hear more – whether dissatisfied with the first answer or interested in obtaining more information – the interviewer could say, “Can you provide more detail about that? It’s very interesting,” or “Can you give me another example?”
The interviewer may hear an answer and then add, “What did you learn from that experience?” This is an excellent layering technique that can give insight into judgment and emotional maturity.
Perhaps the best technique for gathering more information is for an interviewer to simply sit quietly, while maintaining eye contact with the interviewee and saying nothing. If the conversation lulls, the interviewee may instinctually attempt to fill the silence and provide more information and/or details. Although an interviewer may initially find the silence difficult to manage, patience and allowing the interviewee to speak without encumbrance can be effective.
Interviewers should try to include questions that go beyond a candidate’s technical competence or knowledge. The interviewer should probe for qualities needed to succeed at the job:
- Organizational skill
- Willingness to put in the extra time and effort necessary to complete a project
Relevant and job-related questions might target the following:
- Incomplete information on application form
- Work experience or education
- Gaps in work history
- Geographic preferences
- Normal working hours
- Willingness to travel
- Reasons for leaving or planning to leave previous job
- Job-related achievements
- Signs of initiative and self-management
- Specialized knowledge or expertise
- Meaning of former job titlesHide
(+) Improper Interview Questions
Do not solicit information that employers are legally barred from considering in the hiring process. For example, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and similar state laws, hiring decisions cannot be based on any of the following:
- Sex, pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions
- Marital status
- National origin
Other laws prohibit questions about military background, age, disability, or union membership. Generally, do not ask about:
- Medical or mental health history
- National origin and citizenship status
- Height, weight, or physical characteristics
- Membership in any professional or civic organizations that would reveal national origin, race, gender, religion, or any of the other protected classes under fair employment practice laws.
- Military service history
- Marital status
- Sexual orientation
- Receipt of unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, or disability benefits
- Child care situation, family planning, or number of children
- Religion or religious beliefs
The following are samples of questions which should be avoided. This is not an all-inclusive list:
- What is your maiden name?
- Do you own or rent your home?
- What is your age?
- Where do you live?
- What is your date of birth?
- Are you married?
- Questions which tend to identify an applicant’s age as over 40
- The dates of attendance or completion of elementary or high school
- Birthplace of applicant or of applicant’s parents, spouse, or other relative
- Are you a U.S. Citizen?
- What is your citizenship or that of your parents, spouse, or other relative?
- Questions as to race, nationality, national origin, or descent
- What is your mother tongue?
- What is the language you speak at home?
- Applicant’s marital status
- The number of and ages of children or dependents
- Provisions for child care
- Pregnancy, childbearing or birth control
- Questions which indicate an applicant’s sex
- The applicant’s height and weight
- Applicant’s general medical condition, state of health, or illnesses
- Questions regarding HIV, AIDS, and related questions
- Have you ever filed a workers’ compensation claim?
- Do you have any mental or physical disabilities or handicaps?
- Have you ever been arrested?
- Applicant’s credit rating
- Ownership of a car
- Organizations, clubs, societies or lodges which an applicant belongs to
- Religious obligations that would prevent an individual from being available to work on Friday evenings, Saturdays, Sundays, or holidays
- Asking an applicant the origin or their name
- Do you speak (foreign language)? (Unless this is a requirement of the job.)
- Do you have any physical or mental disability/handicap that will require reasonable accommodation?Hide
(+) Sample Interview Questions
General Experience and Background
- What were the most important responsibilities in your most recent position?
- Tell me about a typical day in your job at _____________.
- What special skills did you utilize in your position at ___________?
- What achievements were you most proud of in your most recent position?
- How did you feel about your workload at ____________?
- Why have you changed jobs so frequently?
- What have you learned in the jobs you have held?
- Why are you interested in this position?
- Why do you want to leave your current position?
- What are you looking for in a job/position?
- What did you like the most/least about your last job (or your job at ______)?
- What other information should I know about you that would be helpful to me in making my decision? Is there anything else you’d like to tell me about yourself?
- How do you feel about the position?
- What interests you the most/least about the position?
- What can you offer to this position that someone else cannot? What special characteristics about you should I consider?
- What questions do you have about the job or the department?
- What qualities do you possess that would help you to be successful in this job?
(Also for applicants coming directly out of school)
- How did you select your major in college?
- What jobs did you hold in college? What was your biggest challenge in these positions?
- What has been your least and most valuable work experience?
- What extracurricular activities did you participate in? What did you learn from these activities?
- How did you stay organized in school? How did you prioritize in school?
- What subjects did you excel in at school? Why?
- What courses have you taken that are directly transferable to the job?
- What kinds of skills have you acquired as a result of your education?
- Tell me about a change that you have had to manage within your organization.
- Describe a time when you have had to respond quickly to something within a changing environment.
- Have you ever had to introduce a change into your department that was met with resistance? How did you handle the situation?
- Have you ever worked hard on something and then had your priorities change mid-stream? How did it make you feel? What did you do?
- How have you had to adapt your work style to fit the needs of others?
- Tell me about a difficult adjustment that you have had to make in a job/position.
- How often has your work been interrupted by unforeseen circumstances? What do you do when this happens?
- Tell me about a time when you’ve had to use your analytical skills to solve a problem.
Attention to Detail
- Give me an example of a time when you found errors in your work. What caused the errors? How did you correct your mistakes?
- Have you ever had to proofread or check detailed information? How well did you do?
- Tell me about how you make your work as accurate as possible.
- How do you manage details so that they don’t fall through the cracks?
- Have you had to handle a lot of details in your previous positions?
- Give me an example of something that you and your boss have disagreed about. How did you handle the situation? Have you ever disagreed with a decision that your boss has made? What did you do?
- Which one of your bosses managed you the best? Why?
- Describe the best boss you’ve ever had.
- Tell me about a time when you were reluctant to talk with your supervisor about something.
- When do you need help from your supervisor? Give me a recent example.
- What kind of direction do you like to receive from your supervisor?
- What kind of manager do you find most difficult to work for?
- What is the most creative idea you have ever come up with?
- Tell me about a time when you approached an issue creatively.
- I’m going to present you with a problem. Tell me what creative approaches you might use to solve it.
- Tell me about a challenging customer service situation and how you handled it.
- What does customer service mean to you?
- Who are your current customers (internal and external)?
- Give me an example of a time when you made an extra effort to service a customer.
- Tell me about the nicest compliment you’ve ever received from a customer.
- How many interactions with customers did you have in your position at _____?
- How did you ensure that your customers are satisfied?
- How do you decide the best way/method to sell something to a customer?
- What does good customer service mean to you?
- How do you handle difficult people over the phone? Tell me about a challenging situation that you have had to handle over the phone.
- What is the most difficult decision you have had to make on the job?
- What kinds of decisions have you had to make in your previous positions?
- Have you ever had to make an unpopular decision? Walk me through how you handled it.
- What kinds of decisions are most difficult for you to make?
- Describe a time when you had to make a decision under severe time constraints.
- Walk me through how you go about making an important decision.
- Have you ever had to make an important decision when your boss was away? What were the circumstances?
- Have you ever had to bend a rule to accomplish something? Please explain.
- Give me an example of a time when you weren’t comfortable making a decision. What did you do?
- How much decision-making power do you give to your employees?
- What are some examples of tasks, etc. that you consider inappropriate to delegate?
- What kinds of things do you delegate?
- What are some projects, tasks, etc. you would like to delegate but cannot?
- Do you think you delegate responsibilities as effectively as you should?
- Walk me through the process you use to delegate work to your employees?
- Who is in charge of your area when you are gone?
- Have you ever delegated something that you wish you hadn’t?
- What experience do you have giving presentations? What kinds of presentations have you delivered (i.e. on what topics did you present)? Did you present to large or small groups? What was the level and size of your audience?
- Tell me about a stressful time that you had delivering a presentation. How did you handle it?
- How do you typically prepare to deliver a presentation?
- Have you ever had a time where you weren’t successful in delivering a presentation? Why wasn’t it successful? What would you do differently now?
- Give me an example of a time when you’ve had to give a presentation to a group on very short notice. How did you prepare? How well was it received?
- Give me an example of a time when you had to work on a project under an immediate deadline. How did you handle it? Were you successful at meeting the deadline? Why or why not?
- How do you handle working under pressure and immediate deadlines? Please explain.
- What have you done in your position that demonstrates initiative?
- Tell me about a time when you went the extra mile?
- Is it ever necessary to go above and beyond the call of duty to get your job done? Give me an example.
- Have you ever suggested an idea that saved the company money?
- What are some examples of situations where you improved something in your department?
- If there was a decision to be made and no procedure existed for it, what would you do?
- Tell me about a time when you worked on a project that required you to interact with different levels within the organization.
- Have you had any interpersonal challenges? How did you handle them?
- Did you work alone much in your previous job?
- In working with new people, how do you get to know their work styles?
- What are your interpersonal strengths?
- Can you give me an example of a time when you had to work with someone who was difficult to get along with? How did you handle it?
- Tell me about a situation where you wish you had acted differently with someone at work.
- Have you ever had to deal with someone who is very sensitive or easily offended? What did you do?
- Describe the management/supervisory responsibilities in your most recent position.
- How would you describe your management style?
- How do you lead by example in your management style?
- How do you motivate your employees?
- Tell me about a successful negotiation that you’ve had.
- Walk me through the steps you use for successful negotiation.
- Have you ever had an unsuccessful negotiation? Why wasn’t it successful? What would you do differently next time?
- How did you learn to negotiate?
- If I was negotiating with you for _______, walk me through how you would handle the negotiation.
- Tell me about a time when you have had to compromise significantly during a negotiation.
Planning and Organizing
- How do you organize your day? How did you organize yourself in your position at _________?
- What kinds of tools do you use to stay organized?
- Do you believe more in planning, or in “diving in head first” and starting to work immediately? Why? Give me a example of when this strategy has worked for you.
- How far ahead do you plan? How has planning ahead benefited you in the past?
- Describe a time when you had carefully laid plans and things changed at the last minute. How did you react?
- Give me an example of a situation when you had to follow through on work being done by others. How did you do it?
- What experience do you have with scheduling and coordinating?
- It is almost the end of your day and your boss gives you a project that is due first thing in the morning. What would you do?
- How do you prioritize your work?
- Give me an example of a time when you have had multiple priorities, and explain how you handled them.
- You have several projects that are all “high priority”. How do you manage them all?
- Describe a time when you felt you were resourceful in solving a problem.
- What do you do when you’re having trouble solving a problem?
- How do you stay aware of problems in your work area?
- Describe a complex issue that you’ve had to resolve and tell me the steps you took to handle it.
- What sources of information do you use to solve difficult problems?
- What are the biggest problems you have faced in the last 6 months? What did you do to overcome them?
- Do you consider yourself a risk taker? Why or why not?
- What risks have you taken in your last few jobs, and what was the result of those risks?
- Tell me about a risk that turned out successfully. Tell me about a risk that turned our unsuccessfully. What would you do differently?
- What have you done to be more effective in your position? What are you currently doing to improve your overall performance?
- How do you stay current in your field?
- In what areas do you think you need to develop? What do you consider to be your weaknesses? During past performance appraisals, what have been cited as your developmental areas?
- What are your major strengths?
- When compared to others in your field, where do you excel?
- As you look at your qualifications for this position, what do you see as some of your developmental needs?
- What do you need to accomplish to feel successful?
- How do you know that you are doing a good job?
- Tell me about your most recent employee development success story.
- How important do you consider staff development?
- What are some ways that you’ve developed your staff?
- Do you concentrate on developing your employees’ weaknesses or strengths?
- Have you ever tried unsuccessfully to improve the performance of an employee? Why do you think it was unsuccessful?
- What are you doing to prepare a back-up for yourself?
- Do you focus on developing poor performers or outstanding performers?
- How would you handle an employee who has been performing his/her job successfully for 15 years and doesn’t want to develop?
- Have you ever had to develop an employee when you had no budget to do so? What did you do?
- Tell me about a time when you had to discipline an employee. Explain the situation and describe what you did.
- Describe how you make your feelings known to a group or an individual when you disagree with their view?
- What types of work situations frustrate you and why?
- Describe the most challenging employee discipline situation you’ve had to handle.
- Walk me through the steps you use when dealing with a difficult employee.
- How do you give your staff feedback? How often do you give your staff feedback?
- What was the turnover rate in your department over the last ____ years?
- Have you ever had to terminate an employee? Walk me through the situation and how you handled it.
- How many people have you hired? What steps do you take to make sure you hire effective employees?
- Tell me about typical issues that your staff brings to you. How do you handle these issues?
- Have you ever had to communicate information to your staff that you didn’t agree with? How did you handle the situation?
- Did you have responsibility for a budget in your department? How did you make budgetary decisions?
- Were you involved in long-range, organizational planning? Describe your efforts and the impact that you had.
- How many people reported to you? What were their titles and responsibilities?
- What type of employees do you work best with?
- What are some of the day-to-day problems you have faced when supervising others?
- How do you train your employees?
- How do you recognize positive result of your employees?
- What do you like most and least about managing others?
- How often do you meet with your employees? How do you track your employees’ projects?
- Give me an example of a time when working with others produced something more successful than if you had completed it on your own.
- We all have parts of our jobs that we don’t especially enjoy doing. Tell me about a situation when you were asked to perform one of those tasks.
- Have you ever needed to gain cooperation from individuals who weren’t in your department? Were you successful at getting their help? Why or why not?
- Tell me about a difficult group of people that you have had to work with. How did you resolve the situation?
- Tell me about the most recent success that your team has had. How did you help them to achieve success?
- Give me an example of a time when you pulled your team together under difficult circumstances.
- Have you ever had a team effort that wasn’t successful? How do you think you might have contributed to its failure? How might you handle it differently now?
- Have you ever had to lead a team on a project? How did you lead the team?
- What do you consider to be the advantages of working on a team? The disadvantages?
- Describe a specific time when you emerged as a leader of a group.
- Describe a time when you had to work on a project with people outside of your immediate work group. How were you successful in getting their cooperation?
- Tell me about a time when you time management skills really paid off for you.
- How do you manage your time?
- Tell me about an especially busy time on your job at ______. Explain how you made it through that time.
- How often are you presented with unexpected projects or priorities in your current job? How do you handle them?
- Walk me through an unusually crazy day for you? How did you manage everything?
- How do you handle interruptions at work?
- We’ve all had times when we couldn’t complete everything on time. When has this happened to you, and how did you handle it?
- Tell me about a time when you missed a deadline. How did you handle it?
- What systems, processes, procedures, etc. have you set up in your department to make things run more efficiently?
- What causes the most stress for you on the job? How do you manage this stress?
- Give me an example of a time when you felt excessive demands were placed on you. How did you handle the situation?
- How do you start a typical day?
- How do you manage paperwork?
- What kind of deadlines have you had to work under? How did you manage these deadlines?
- What percentage of time do you spend on the phone?Hide
(+) Conducting the Interview
The interviewer should be well prepared and knowledgeable on the university’s interviewing and hiring practices. In structuring the interview, interviewers may mistakenly use a job candidate’s resume as a guide for structuring the interview. Generally, the resume only provides information the candidate wants to reveal. Following the resume throughout the interviewing process allows the candidate to control the interview, not the interviewer. Interviewers must establish a set structure, to be applied consistently, for each interview to accomplish efficient and accurate interviews. The following outline should be helpful:
Establish Rapport -- Set the Tone
Interviewers may set the tone of the interview by first greeting then candidate and then engaging the candidate in casual conversation to create a calm and relaxed atmosphere. Comfortable and secure candidates may communicate more honestly.
- Help the candidate relax with brief, casual conversation
- Maintain appropriate eye contact
- Listen sympathetically
- Avoid direct criticism
- Reassure the candidate after an awkward disclosure by commending the openness, honesty, and willingness to face up to a problem
- Remain neutral; do not speak approvingly of questionable conduct
Interviewers may ask about the person’s hobbies, interests, travel, or city of residence. However, interviewers must remember to avoid sensitive areas like children, marital status, or church activities. The formal interview may then begin through a simple transition question, such as, “What do you know about the school?” or “How did you hear about this job opening?”
Control the Interview
- Keep the purpose of the interview clearly in mind
- Decide in advance what questions to raise in light of the job requirements and the candidate’s resume
- Keep to the planned agenda and allocate time appropriately
- Politely return to the original question if the candidate’s answer was evasive
- Persuade the candidate to elaborate on suggestive or incomplete responses by:
- Asking follow-up questions
- Repeating or summarizing the candidate’s statements in a questioning tone
- Maintaining silence
- Make smooth transitions from one topic to another
Provide an Overview
Interviewers should provide the candidate with an overview of the interview process. For example, how the interview will proceed and what will be covered – job experience, education, interests. Additionally, a comprehensive overview will explain that after discussing the candidate’s background, the interviewer will ask for information relative to the about the job, explain the organization, and answer any questions the candidate might have.
Discuss Work Experience and Education
In discussing a candidate’s work experience and education, the interviewer should ask prepared questions first, following up any responses that deserve further inquiry.
Good notes should be taken in regard to the discussion of job qualifications to document the screening process.
Candidate’s Interests and Self-Assessment
After discussing a candidate’s education and work experience, the interviewer may then ask a few questions about a candidate’s activities and interests to get a broader perspective. Candidates may also be asked to provide a self-assessment, summarizing personal and professional strengths, as well as “developmental needs” or qualities that the individual might want to change or improve.
Review the Job
Interviewers would be wise to not discuss details of the job until the interview has covered a candidate’s qualifications; otherwise, a candidate may exaggerate certain skills required by the position. An interviewer should review the organization, the job, the salary, location, and any other pertinent data.
Interviewers should be careful to limit comments to the specific facts about the job as it currently exists.
Close the Interview
In the final portion of the interview, the candidate should be given an opportunity to ask questions about the organization and the job. Interviewers should thank the candidate for the time spent on the interview and review the next steps in the hiring process.
Uniformity of Interviews
Interviewers must make sure all candidates for a position are given the opportunity to answer the same questions and that all questions are job-related and nondiscriminatory. Interviewers should not deviate from the prepared questions, but can ask appropriate follow up questions that may differ from candidate to candidate.Hide
(+) Interviewing Persons with Disabilities
Employers with 15 or more employees must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA protects persons with disabilities from discrimination in hiring and treatment on the job.
According to the EEOC guidelines, the following questions are acceptable questions during an interview:
- Can you perform the essential functions of this job, with or without reasonable accommodations?
- Describe how you would perform the essential functions of the job.
- Can you meet the attendance requirements of this job?
The following three keys facilitate legal interview questioning:
- Avoid inquiry or comment that requires an employee to reveal or talk about an illness or disability
- Focus questions and comments on job-related topics.
- Focus on the positive: “How will you perform ….?” as opposed to “Is there anything that prevents you from ….?”
The following questions may not be asked while conducting an interview:
- Do you have (name of disease)?
- Do you have a disability that would interfere with your ability to perform the job?
- How many days were you sick last year?
The following example illustrates both incorrect and the correct methods of eliciting information:
The candidate for a telephone sales job is obviously blind as reasonably deducted based on appearance and tools (walking stick and/or trained guide dog).
The interviewer MAY NOT SAY: “I imagine that with your blindness you’d have some difficulty filling in our call forms and keeping track of the results or your calls. In what ways do you think your blindness would interfere with your sales job?”
The interviewer MAY PHRASE THE QUESTION AS FOLLOWS: “This job requires that you ask questions from our telemarketing script and record the results of your calls. How would you perform these essential functions of this job with reasonable accommodation?”Hide
(+) Document the Interview
- Takes notes for reliable recall. Note points to follow-up on later in the interview
- Note dress, behavior, or facial expressions, if relevant
- Wait until after the candidate has left to write down evaluative comments
- Complete the Interview Rating Form
- Staple notes to the Interview Rating Form and turn in to HRHide