Department Resources: Conducting a Successful Employee Selection Process -
Basic Competencies


Doing a good job of conducting employment interviews and evaluating applicants takes more time than having an informal conversation. It requires training in the skills, techniques and requirements of successful interviewing.

The following information is designed to help you develop your interviewing skills, learn what you legally can and cannot ask, and prepare you for the employee interview situation. It will also provide a quick reference tool to keep at your desk. In order for you to achieve the best results in hiring good employees, you should take advantage of every opportunity to participate in training programs that will further develop your interviewing skills. [For further resources, see http://www.umich.edu/~hrd]

Preparing for the Interview

  1. Schedule a time and location for the interview
  2. Remove any desk or physical barrier between you and the candidate
  3. Make sure you have read all paperwork on the applicant
  4. Review the current position description and update it if necessary
  5. Make a list of interview questions that will help determine the information you need in order to make a decision. (See Interview Questions for Basic Competencies and 28 Tips for Selection Interviewing.)

Setting the Tone

  1. Help make the applicant feel at ease
  2. Establish rapport with a friendly attitude
  3. Make the applicant aware of what you do and how your position relates to the position for which s/he is interviewing
  4. Let the applicant know about the organization During the interview, the applicant's answers to your questions are a valuable source of information. You should ask open-ended questions so that the answers given will help determine the suitability of the applicant to a particular position.

Team Interviewing

In addition, it is a good practice to have more than one person interview the applicant. This will help you to better evaluate individuals and may, together with a consistent interview format, help prevent charges of discrimination. See Advantages of Involving Team in Employment Process, and Tips on Recruiting a Diverse Staff.

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Avoiding Discrimination

Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws and regulations, as well as many individual state laws, prohibit discrimination against applicants on the basis of age, race, color, religion, sex, disability or national origin. Any question you ask must be legal. Your questions should not offend and should be designed to help you establish the applicant's qualifications for the position. See Chart of Legal Questions.

Remember that position-related questions are the only legal means to help you determine skills and qualifications.

Interviewing Applicants with Disabilities

The American's with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990. It affects every employer with 15 or more employees as of July 26, 1994.

The intent of the ADA is to prevent discrimination against qualified people with disabilities. This law requires that employers no longer screen out individuals with disabilities during the hiring process. Organizations may no longer conduct pre-employment medical screenings (except drug testing) or make pre-employment inquiries into the nature of an applicant's disability. You must become aware of physical barriers in the work environment and should provide current and relevant position descriptions.

The interview must also be handled appropriately:

  1. Make the interview accessible to people with disabilities
  2. Do not automatically assume that the applicant needs assistance
  3. Ask all questions in a straightforward manner

Questions cannot be asked about:

  1. The nature of the disability
  2. The severity of a disability
  3. The condition causing a disability
  4. Any prognosis or expectation regarding a disability
  5. Whether or not the person will need treatment or special leave because of a disability

When interviewing applicants with disabilities, make the most of your interview by:

  1. Asking whether the person knows of any reason that he or she cannot perform the essential functions of the position
  2. Describing or demonstrating an essential position function and asking applicants whether or not they can perform the functions with or without accommodation
  3. Asking questions regarding ability to perform all position functions, not just those that are essential to the position. However, an applicant cannot be screened out because of his or her inability to perform marginal position functions.
  4. Providing information on the company's regular work hours, leave policies, absence policy and any special attendance requirements for the position. You may then ask the applicant if those work/attendance requirements can be met.

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Using Effective Interview Questions

It is a good idea to have a fairly structured format for interviewing applicants. This helps to ensure consistency and comparability of your information on each candidate. You will need to use legal, open-ended questions developed from your selection criteria to encourage applicants to supply more in-depth information. You should apply a uniform method of questioning to all applicants. (See Interview Questions for Basic Competencies.)

Do not try to fill silences during the interview. It is important to allow silence for thinking and reflection by the applicant. In addition, use a consistent interviewing format. This will help you to more accurately evaluate individuals and guard against discrimination and unfair hiring practices. (See 28 Tips for Selection Interviewing.)

Closing the Interview

  1. When ending the interview, give the applicant a chance to add anything else he or she thinks may be important for you to know in making your decision.
  2. Give the applicant an opportunity to ask you any further questions about your organization or the position.
  3. Make the applicant aware of the next steps:
  4. Will the applicant be asked to attend additional interviews, etc.
  5. Who will contact the applicant and in what time frame?
  6. Thank the applicant for his or her time.

Documenting the Interview

It is a good idea to take brief notes during the interview. Let the applicant know from the start that you will be taking notes. Your notes can be helpful in reflecting on individual applicants and in discussions with others who interviewed the same candidates.

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Making Reference Checks

The University has an obligation not to negligently hire. It is essential that we do not hire people who might endanger our employees or our students. Because people sometimes falsify their credentials and backgrounds, especially in times of economic hardship, it is important to check references. In addition, people sometimes interview well but have a record of not actually performing as well as they have led you to believe. Therefore, it is important to check out any areas in which you have doubts or uncertainties. Often reference checks will dispel these or give you information that will help you be a more effective supervisor of the new employee. Reference checks are also a form of insurance. The hour or two it takes to conduct a reference check is far less time than the time it will take to deal with performance, attitude or behavior problems.

If the selected candidate happens to be a university employee, ask your Human Resources Representative to pull the individual's personnel file for review.

For external candidates, it is usually best to rely on the Human Resources Service Center of the former employers only for simple "name, rank and serial number" information.

To get more detailed information about external candidates, you usually need to call:

  • Former supervisors,
  • People whose names the candidate has given as work references to establish the working relationship
  • People you know personally who have worked with the candidate
  • People recommended by any of the above who are said to know the candidate's work.

What to Do:

  • Identify yourself and your organization
  • Ask if the time is appropriate for a reference check
  • Say the candidate has applied for a position within your department
  • Gain the confidence of the reference person
  • Describe the position
  • Ask straightforward questions
  • Solicit opinions on candidate's ability to perform the new position
  • Ask for additional sources of referral
  • Thank them for their time
  • If a reference on a candidate is problematic, you should check with other sources to confirm. You want to ensure that one person is not purposely and perhaps falsely giving a poor reference

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