Conducting Interviews

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. 

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). 

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 (Interview Questions (Sample)). 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 (Lawful Inquiries During Interviews). 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.

Once interviews are conducted, the hiring official/search committee should evaluate the interviewed candidates (Faculty Interview Evaluation FormStaff Interview Evaluation Form).