Step Six: The Interview

Step Six: The Interview

First Impressions

  • The interview is one of the most important parts of the evaluation process. It is often the first opportunity for the candidate and the committee to interact. The interview allows the department or search committee to evaluate the candidate, while the candidate is assessing the committee, unit/department, and the University.
  • Interviews should be designed with the comfort and needs of the candidate in mind. A designated host should be chosen to escort the candidate to each meeting. The committee should create an atmosphere of openness during the interview. All committee members should greet the candidate when he/she arrives at the interview site, and each candidate should be treated with respect and courtesy.  
  • Candidates, whether hired or not, are likely to talk with hundreds of colleagues over the course of their careers. Even if the search committee is not interested in a candidate, it is important that all contacts remain professional. Ideally, every candidate will leave the interview with a positive view of the university even if not selected, having had a good experience. All candidates should be treated equally during their interview and on-campus visit. 

The Process

  • After deciding which candidates to interview, provide each one with information about who will participate in the interviews, an itinerary, length of interview, and any other pertinent information. The more the candidate knows what to expect, the better he/she can prepare. 
  • Prior to the interview, committee members should review the position description, candidate’s dossier, transcripts (if available), and evaluation form. 
  • All members should be familiar with the candidate’s formal qualifications, accomplishments, letters of recommendation, and reports of telephone conversations with references (if they have occurred). 

What to Ask?

  • The committee should agree on issues to discuss during the interview, and, when appropriate, assign specific questions to particular members. Because questions to be asked of a candidate are important, the committee should develop a set of core questions based on job-related criteria by which candidates will be evaluated. These same questions should be asked of each candidate. Follow-up questions in response to pre-determined questions will vary. Pre-determined questions will provide comparative data and important information. 
  • All committee members should be aware of inappropriate lines of inquiry . The committee should examine questions to make sure none will have the effect of screening out or discouraging women, racial minorities, protected veterans, and/or individuals with disabilities. 
  • A well planned interview has the added benefit of minimizing unconscious biases. It may be useful for the search committee to print questions on a form and provide space to record notes from the candidate's responses and the interviewer's reactions. Written remarks aid in the evaluation of the candidates supporting the committee’s recommendation to the hiring official. Blanket statements such as “the finalist was the most qualified” are insufficient. Specific experience, expertise, or characteristics of the finalists should be provided. 
  • Once committee members have completed their necessary questions, the chair should give the candidate an opportunity to ask questions. The quality of the candidate’s questions may be revealing as to his/her thoughts about the position. The candidate should be told when he/she will next hear from the committee. 
  • As part of the interview process, candidates often meet with members of the unit/department, the department head, appropriate administrators, deans, and vice presidents. If a faculty appointment is involved, the department head should discuss with the candidate criteria and procedures for promotion, salary considerations, benefits, and tenure policies. 
  • Women, racial minorities, protected veterans, and/or individuals with disabilities may find it reassuring to have an opportunity to visit with others in their demographic. There is no need to limit candidates’ interviews or meetings to individuals in their field. A block of time may be set aside during which candidates have an opportunity to meet with other faculty, staff, and students. 
  • In these situations, it is important to avoid asking illegal questions or making inappropriate comments, directly or indirectly, such as those related to race, the derivation of one’s name, ethnic origin, religion, marital or parental status, disability, sexual orientation, age, political affiliations, or other protected categories or personal matters not related to performance of job duties. 
  • Committees usually request that a faculty candidate teach a class or seminar or make a presentation to a group of faculty and/or students, providing an opportunity for students and faculty to judge the candidate’s ability. Each candidate should be offered a similar opportunity for evaluation and should be told who will attend their job talk. If the candidate is asked to teach a class, the students’ current knowledge of the course materials should be included in information provided to the candidate. Timely faculty attendance at the candidate’s presentation and interview is expected. Every interviewee should be treated with respect and interest. Committee members, along with others in the department, should attend all events scheduled for each interview.

Reference Checks

  • Reference checks are important in making a final decision, but can be troublesome if not done correctly. A consistent and equitable process should be used for all reference checks. The committee may request professional and/or personal references. The advertisement must state whether letters of reference or contact information for references are preferred.  Only contact provided references.
  • Letters of reference should be sent directly to the chair. Personal reference letters from individuals should not carry equal weight as letters from professional peers. It is important that recommendations be read carefully, as some may appear to be glowing recommendations, but contain hidden concerns. 
  • If a reference is contacted by written correspondence, include a copy of the position description and the “Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action Statement” (This Statement can be found in the Appendix) along with questions from the committee. The correspondence should also include a strong statement emphasizing confidentiality. 
  • The hiring official/search committee may prefer telephone interviews with the references as they can be a valuable way to gather information. Specific job-related questions should be developed for the telephone interviews and asked of all references for each candidate. If it is impermissible to ask a question of the candidate, the same is true for references. Notes should be taken during the phone conversation and be included in the candidate’s search file. 
  • If the committee decides to contact other individuals about a candidate’s qualifications, the candidate should be informed prior to contacting the individuals. Occasionally, search committee members will receive unsolicited calls about a candidate. When this occurs, request the caller restrict his/her remarks to job-related issues. The committee is to keep records of all individuals who have provided information about a candidate.

What about Social Media?

  • The University of Arkansas (“University”) has established the following guidelines are used to clarify how best to enhance and protect the University when participating in social media while conducting a search or hiring to fill a position.
  • As a general matter, the same policies and expectations that apply to a person’s interactions or traditional communications also apply to her or his interactions with the online community. The guidelines are subject to all other applicable policies of the University of Arkansas. The guidelines apply to all employees, units, and affiliates of the University who are involved in conducting a search or hiring to fill a position.
  • “Social Media” includes websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking. Examples include, but are not limited to: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Flikr, SnapChat, Yik Yak, iTunes U, and Google+.
  • Hiring managers or search committee members shall not view the social media profiles of actual or potential employment applicants for the purpose of becoming aware of protected information including, but not limited to, applicants’ age, race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, political affiliation, genetic information, and religion.
  • Never ask for an applicant’s social media usernames or passwords. Hiring managers or search committee members shall not view any applicant’s social media materials that are not available to the general public. Applicants shall not be asked to change their privacy settings during the hiring process or to “add” University faculty/staff to their social media contacts as part of the hiring process.
  • Social media may be used to fact-check any statement made by an applicant.
  • During the hiring process, hiring managers or search committee members may review publicly available social media pages of candidates in order to discern information for the purpose of further vetting applicants. Generally, hiring managers or search committees may consider information that is materially inconsistent with responsible professional conduct or that might be materially harmful to the educational mission or reputation of the University. Examples of what hiring managers or search committees may consider include, but are not limited to, the following:
    • Whether social media illustrates that the candidate has lied on his or her job application or resume
    • Whether the candidate is, or was previously, clearly engaged in illegal activity
    • Whether the candidate has a history of violent behavior
    • Whether the candidate engages in the use of illegal drugs
    • Whether the candidate exhibits a specific bias against a protected class of people (e.g. Facebook page of candidate contains posts by candidate that exhibit clear bias against a certain ethnic or religious group)
    • Whether the candidate exhibits behavior that is inconsistent with the responsibilities of the position (e.g., Facebook page of candidate for faculty position that shows recent pictures of candidate doing keg stands at a student party or smoking marijuana with students would demonstrate a lack of discretion in interactions with college students)
    • The age of any material posted online (e.g., material posted many years ago, prior to a successful professional record, may be less relevant to the consideration of the candidate)
    • As a best practice, hiring managers or search committees are encouraged to use a consistent approach with regard to use of social media information in the course of the search process and to maintain screenshots or a similar written record of material which factors significantly into a decision whether to interview or hire an individual.

Background Checks

  • Effective July 1st, 2010, the University-wide Administrative Memorandum 470.1, Policy on Background Checks and Use of Criminal Record, Financial, and Substance Abuse-Testing Information in Employment Decisions will be implemented. In response to the memorandum, Fayetteville Policy and Procedure 402.1, Background Check and Substance Abuse have been developed.   
  • Review the University-wide Administrative Memorandum 470.1 and the Fayetteville Policy and Procedure 402.1, Background Check and Substance Abuse policies to determine if a position requires any check or test. 
  • The background check process should be Initiated In Workday.