You have now reached the stage where you want to bring your top candidates to campus; take the time to plan well. Showing up and asking questions is not interviewing, it’s just showing up and asking questions. There is an intuitive element to interviewing, but proper planning and execution, coupled with well conceived inquiry are critical to success in the interview stage of the recruitment process.
- Interviewing should be about 85% interviewee response to structured inquiry and follow-up from the search committee.
- The interviewee should be afforded a small period of time at the end of the interview to ask questions, but questions should not dominate the interview agenda.
- Questions to stay away from
- Interviewing persons with disabilities
- Behavioral questions
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The University as Interviewee
Be mindful that while you are interviewing the candidate, the candidate is also interviewing the university, the college, the academic department and his or her prospective colleagues. In short, candidates are asking themselves, “Is this the kind of place and are these the kind of people around which and whom I would like to spend the next 15-30 years of my professional life?” The quality of information provided to candidates and the quality of interactions with candidates will heavily influence the answer to that question.
When participating in the interview process bear in mind that you are an ambassador for West Chester University as well as your department. You want to make a good impression regardless of whether or not a candidate is selected for the position. Treat the entire time you are with a candidate as part of the interview process, not just the “formal” interview with the search committee.
Aspects of a search process which can strongly influence a candidate’s perceptions of you, the department, your College and the University include:
- The timeliness of correspondence
- Answering telephone inquiries promptly and politely
- Conducting phone or campus interviews in a timely manner
- Keeping promises (or put a different way, not making promises you can’t keep)
- Having campus visits which are well planned, well executed and well attended by University employees expected to participate
- Conducting sufficiently challenging and probing interviews (but avoiding them taking on the image of a thesis defense)
- Being highly efficient and considerate in making or assisting in the making of travel arrangements
- Assign one member of the search committee to serve as a candidate’s principal contact.
- Choose meeting locations in a space that is clean, private, well equipped for the purpose, and comfortable for the number of people who will be present.
- Make sure all search committee members are on time for a search committee interview (suggestion: send email reminders a day prior to interview).
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Information gathered in the search process must be kept confidential and shared only with those with a need to know. Resumes, vitas, letters of reference and cover letters are all confidential material to be used only in determining the “fitness” of the candidate for the vacant position. This material should not be used for any other purpose without the expressed, written permission of the candidate.
Privacy of applicants should be managed responsibly by the search committee. Breaches of confidentiality or privacy can seriously damage a search, and cause candidates to withdraw or decline employment offers. Losing top candidates due to breaches such as these are absolutely avoidable with proper planning and awareness of this very valid applicant concern.
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- A reference check must be done on all finalists prior to hiring.
- If there is a perceived need to contact someone who is not on the candidate’s reference list, the proper course of action must be followed: ask the candidate for permission and give the candidate the time to make contact with the reference. This allows the reference to know West Chester University will be contacting them and also gives them background on the position.
- Google and Facebook-types of searches by committee members or colleagues are a risk, in that mistaken identities have the potential of resulting in not merely lost candidates, but legal liabilities as well.
- Before calling the references, develop a general set of questions that you or the committee would like to ask of all references to ensure that you are collecting the same information for each candidate. Faculty Reference Check Sample Form
- A common problem in reference checking is making contact with references – the reference who has changed employers, the reference who does not respond to calls or e-mails. In instances like this, the best course of action is to call the candidate, inform him or her that the committee has had difficulty contacting the reference, and ask the candidate to make contact with the reference to inspire a prompt return of the reference call.
- Many times a search finds itself stalled at the end of the process because a search committee is waiting for a last reference to come back from a two week vacation or a hospitalization, etc. There is no absolute requirement to check all references a candidate may list. The search committee can certainly ask that the candidate submit an alternative reference, or it may even feel comfortable with the quality and breadth of the other references that the last one is inconsequential. In this case, it’s time to move on.
- E-mail reference checks, while expedient, can also be problematic. E-mail is a poor alternative to a phone call for a number of reasons. While it creates a written record, it disallows follow-up questions based on responses, and it does not have the same intuitive qualities as talking directly to the person.
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It is easier to avoid negligent hiring claims than it is to defend them. Under the concept of vicarious liability, employers may be held liable for harm their employees cause others or others’ property. If the search committee knew or should have known that a candidate was unfit for the position and they hired them anyway, and that employee’s unfitness for the duties was foreseeable and caused the injury to the third party, an act of negligence has occurred and liability for damages will attach to the employer. Simply put, the search committee must use due care in conducting a search, so as to avoid hiring unfit employees whose unfitness could result in injury to others, and liability to the university.
1. Good interviewing techniques, criminal background checks, and reference checks are all measures a search committee can use to identify applicants whose employment could result in unreasonable risks of harm to others.
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Academic Credential Verification
Academic credentials of the faculty are a measure of the quality of education they provide. The percentage of our faculty possessing terminal degrees is also a measure of annual performance funding from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). Beyond that, failure to verify the academic credentials of new faculty may create accreditation problems and even legal exposures for the University. The search committee should determine when and how educational degree verification should occur. Most search committees request that copies of degree transcripts be furnished by candidates to the search committee at the time of the campus interview visit.
Be aware that the office of Human Resources has the capability to quickly obtain terminal degree transcripts, if needed. The cost to the Office of Human Resources is the cost to the department requesting the service.
1. The best time to request transcripts is after you have identified the candidate as a finalist. Requesting transcripts as part of the initial application process may serve to constrain the number of applicants willing to express interest. Moreover, if transcripts are required for an applicant file to be complete, applicants who avoid furnishing them at that time risk being non-selected due to lack of completeness in the file.
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Criminal Background Investigations
In January 2009, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) established a Board of Governor’s Policy, entitled "Background Checks," which requires member universities, including West Chester University, to conduct pre-employment criminal background checks on all final candidates for employment. This includes all faculty new hires. This is another step in search committees meeting their legal duty of care in hiring. Questions regarding the criminal background checks policy should be directed to the Office of Human Resources.
- The verification of absence of a disqualifying criminal history for the final candidate should be a part all West Chester University announcements.
- The final candidate for all searches will be required to execute the West Chester University background check release form for them to continue their candidacy.
- A candidate with a criminal record is not automatically disqualified. The Provost, in conjunction with the Office of Human Resources, shall make that determination based on the risk in relation to the work performed by the position.
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