University of Vermont

Human Resource Services and Operations

R&I Guide: Interviewing

Recruitment and Interview Guide for Supervisors


Prior to entering into the crucial step of conducting job interviews, it is essential that the supervisor be familiar with certain guidelines that are determined by law or UVM policy.

Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)

The University of Vermont and State Agricultural College is committed to a policy of equal employment opportunity for all people without regard to unlawful criteria including race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age, positive HIV-related blood test results, status as a disabled or Vietnam-era veteran, or gender identity and expression.

Numerous civil rights laws and regulations govern employment practices. The laws that pertain to interviews and the selection process are generally intended to assure that employers use nondiscriminatory, directly job-related criteria in selecting a new employee. Be aware that you may not discriminate between candidates upon the following bases:

Pregnancy - You may not reject an applicant merely because she is pregnant. If the pregnancy would not prevent satisfactory performance of the job duties, you must give the candidate equal consideration for employment.

Age - It is unlawful to discriminate in employment against persons 18 or more years of age.

Reasonable Accommodation - Qualified applicants with physical or mental disabilities that significantly limit a major life function are protected from discrimination on the basis of their disability as long as they are (1) able to perform the essential functions of a job with or without reasonable accommodation and (2) do not cause a direct threat to their own safety or that of others. For more information, contact Dana Hutchinson, the Americans with Disabilities Act Liaison in the Division of Human Resources, Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at 802-656-0945.

Arrest records without convictions - An arrest without a resulting conviction does not serve as proof that the arrested individual committed an illegal act. An arrest is not relevant to that individual's ability or competency to perform a given job. Therefore, an employer should not inquire into records of arrest.

Arrest records with convictions - A conviction may or may not be relevant to the hiring process, depending on the particular job in question. The crucial question is whether or not the offense relates to performance of the particular job. For example, if you wish to hire a shuttle driver, you will carefully review an applicant with a history of traffic violations. If you wish to hire an accountant, you will avoid an applicant with a recent embezzlement conviction. These offenses are job-related. However, if the situations were reversed and the applicant with the traffic violations applied for the accountant position, and vice versa, the conviction would probably not be a disqualifying factor. Among the factors to be considered in reviewing the job-relatedness and relevance of convictions is the relationship between the offense and the job requirements, the remoteness in time of the conduct, and the seriousness of the offense.

Sexual orientation - It is the policy of the University of Vermont that a person shall not be subjected to employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Educational background - It has generally been considered discriminatory to require applicants to prove they have a high school diploma. Whether or not a college degree is required for a position is a question of fact to be decided on a case-by-case basis. Before you impose a degree requirement, ask yourself whether a person with certain practical experience could perform a job as well as a person with a college degree.

Gender identity or expression - It is the policy of the University of Vermont that a person shall not be subjected to employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression.

Guidelines for Conducting a Non-Discriminatory Interview

The following section notes questions you may want to include or exclude to keep job interviews consistent with guidelines and requirements. These recommendations offer examples only, and are not all-inclusive:

1. Treat questions as job-oriented as possible. Review the PD for help in determining what questions are pertinent to the job.

2. Thoroughly explain all of the duties and responsibilities of the job. Encourage the candidate to ask questions about these.

3. Fully discuss all education, training, and experience listed on the resume or application, especially in terms of how the person's background has prepared him or her for this particular job.

4. Ask for a review of former work, if necessary, to determine if the person has sufficient skills for the job.

5. Ask if s/he has had other training or experience, perhaps of a more informal nature, that might be related to the job.

6. Avoid personal questions that have little or no bearing on job performance. For example:

  • Don't ask if s/he is planning to be married, has or is planning to have children, if and how the spouse is employed, who cares for the children, or if the spouse plans to transfer
  • Don't ask a person's national origin
  • Don't ask a person's religion
  • Don't ask where or with whom a person lives
  • Don't ask if a person has friends working at the institution
  • Don't ask if a person has an arrest record
  • Don't ask about a person's financial status

7. If a position demands full-time regular hours with limited exceptions, or if it demands frequent weekend or evening work:

  • Clearly explain this in describing the job
  • Ask the person if s/he will be willing and able to make a commitment to such a job
  • Don't ask if s/he must take a vacation when the spouse and children do
  • Don't ask why the person has held solely part-time jobs, even if the record indicates this

8. If the position demands lengthy on-the-job training and orientation, and a fairly definite commitment to the job of several years:

  • Clearly explain this in describing the job
  • Ask if this is the type of job commitment s/he would be willing and able to make
  • Don't ask if the person plans to live in the area for a long time
  • Don't ask the person's age

9. If the position demands a high degree of personal interest in and commitment to a particular subject area, concern, technical type of work:

  • Explain this clearly in describing the job
  • Ask if this is an area of considerable long-term interest to the person
  • Ask why and how s/he became interested in the field
  • Ask what new aspects of the field s/he would like to learn about or be involved in

10. If personal information that would otherwise afford a basis for a claim of discrimination is offered voluntary, don't use this as an excuse to ask further questions of a personal nature. Instead, make an effort to guide the interview back to pertinent issues.

11. Two final considerations to keep in mind during all interview and hiring situations:

  • Try to treat all applicants in a similar manner when considering them for the position
  • Keep an open mind to hiring a "nontraditional" applicant for a position traditionally held by one predominant type of person

More information on legal and illegal interview questions can be found by clicking here.

Americans with Disabilities Act Guidelines for Interviewers

Title 1 of the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against any applicant or employee with a disability if the person is qualified and able to perform the "essential functions" of the job, with or without "reasonable accommodation." Employment practices covered by law include:

  • recruitment
  • compensation
  • hiring
  • tenure
  • promotion/demotion
  • benefits
  • discharge
  • other employment-related activities

Do's for ADA Compliance

  • Do review job descriptions and selection criteria to ensure that selection criteria are job-related.
  • Do identify essential job functions for all positions including physical/mental demands of each job.
  • Do describe or demonstrate essential job functions to applicants and inquire as to their ability to perform them.
  • If requested, do respond positively to a job candidate's request for assistance or accommodation during the interview process.
  • Do keep an open mind to making reasonable accommodations that will enable the job candidate to perform the essential duties of the job.
  • Do train employees with interviewing responsibilities as to what can and cannot be asked in job interviews.

Don'ts for ADA Compliance

  • Don't make inquires regarding a person's physical characteristics, health, or disability on either the employment application or during the interview process.
  • Don't make employment decisions based on perceptions about the individual's physical or mental abilities or disabilities.
  • Don't limit an employee's duties based on a presumption of what is best for the person.
  • Don't segregate employees with disabilities.
  • Don't refuse to provide requested accommodations during the pre-employment or employment process unless such accommodations would impose "undue hardship."
  • Don't use qualifying standards or employment tests unless such criteria are job-related.

Clery Act Compliance Requirements

Guidelines to the Clery Act require UVM to share police statistics with all interviewees for a position. With amendments to the Student Right to Know and Campus Security Act of 1990 (renamed the Clery Act), we publish our campus safety information for the university community via the World Wide Web. The University of Vermont's annual security report includes statistics for the previous three years concerning reported crimes that occurred on campus, in certain off-campus buildings owned or controlled by UVM, and on public property within, or immediately adjacent to and accessible from the campus.

The report includes institutional policies concerning alcohol and drug use, crime prevention, the reporting of crime, sexual assault, and other important information and resource referrals. You may obtain a copy of this report from the Department of Police Services, 802-656-2027.

Preparing and Conducting the Job Interview

Chances are you may be feeling constrained by what not to ask in an interview. The following takes a positive approach and looks at what you should ask in order to select the best possible candidate.

Just as a job candidate prepares for an interview, so must the interviewer. A selection interview should be as structured as possible, yet tailored to each applicant. As an interviewer, you should evaluate the same general criteria for each applicant. A selection interview that follows a general standard outline will produce more reliable and valuable information than an unstructured interview, and is less likely to run afoul of laws governing the selection process.

Preparing for the Interview

  1. Review the PD. You need to learn as much as possible about the requirements of the job to be filled - the specific demands of the work, salary level, and the working conditions - in order to elicit relevant information. Valuable information about the job can be obtained in an exit interview with the person who is leaving.
  2. Identify the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform the tasks. Based on the previous employee's performance, what qualifications were essential to success on the job? What did unsuccessful employees lack? How much did successful employees learn and develop while on the job?
  3. Write out your questions to make sure they are clear and comprehensive.
  4. Review each candidate's resume and application and note areas to explore. This should be done ahead of time so that this information will not have to be referred to continually during the interview. Interviewers sometimes make the mistake of interviewing from an application form. This type of interviewing simply duplicates what is already a matter of record. Contact the Employment Office or Affirmative Action for information on recruitment assistance, videos, and websites. There are many resources available to support a skillful, effective interview.

Based on these considerations, you should generate a list of questions structured around these headings:

  • Behavioral questions: These are questions that seek demonstrated examples of past behavior as the best predictor of future performance in similar circumstances. Questions are structured, open-ended, and designed to determine desired competencies.
  • Job knowledge questions: These questions assess job knowledge that is essential to job performance and must be known before starting the job. They often concern the technical aspects of the job or basic knowledge that is necessary to learn the job.
  • Job sample/simulation questions: It may be possible to have the applicant actually perform a sample task of the job as long as it is required of all interviewed candidates.
  • Worker requirement questions: These usually take the form of "willingness" questions such as whether the applicant is willing to work under various conditions, to do repetitive work, or to travel.

Conducting the Interview

  1. Establish rapport. If the applicant is apprehensive, it may be difficult to obtain useful information. The interview setting should be conducive to good communication. Ideally, you should use a private office. You should be able to talk in a conversational tone of voice and give the applicant your undivided attention. Forward your calls to voicemail to avoid interruption. Make the applicant feel at ease.

    The emotional climate the interview creates will be even more important than the physical environment. Your first role is that of host. A warm greeting and a suitable introduction will help establish rapport and create a pleasant atmosphere. Following the greeting, some small talk is usually valued. It relaxes the interviewer and the applicant and helps establish mutual confidence. A friendly exchange of comments creates an atmosphere that allows conversation to develop more freely and rapidly.
  2. Explain purpose. Set the agenda. This will help relax the applicant by letting him or her know what is about to happen. Also, it puts you in control of the interview by providing a "road map."
  3. Gather information. Your comments, questions, and careful listening are the keys to controlling the interview.

    A common error of interviewers is that they concentrate on the next question they plan to ask, and don't hear what the applicant is saying. If you listen closely, you will be in a better position to ask follow-up questions that probe deeper into a candidate's qualifications than you might otherwise. If you talk as much as 50% of the time, you're dominating the interview. Your job is to listen and evaluate.

    Many interviewers fail to recognize the value of comments and concentrate exclusively on questions, causing the interview to resemble an interrogation. By only asking questions, you are making the task harder. You are conditioning the applicant to answer questions rather than encouraging spontaneous talk about things that might be important.

    Avoid asking questions that require a "yes" or "no" answer. Instead, ask open-ended questions that encourage the applicant to express ideas and information and allow more freedom in response. For example, if you ask, "Did you like that job?" you might receive a yes or no as an answer. However, if you ask "What things did you like most about the job?" you may receive several responses that will contribute to your understanding of the applicant's motivation and interest. It will help to write some questions in advance. Words like "why," "how," "what," "describe," and "tell me about," will yield more complete answers than leading questions such as "Do you like to work with people?" The question "What type of work do you enjoy?", for example, will yield more information than "Do you like to work outdoors?"

    Avoid the use of leading questions. This tempts the applicant to slant answers to suit you. Your purpose in the interview is to obtain a clear, balanced picture of the applicant's qualifications without revealing the responses you hope to hear.

    Note-taking can be helpful, especially if you have several interviews scheduled. It helps ensure accuracy and demonstrates to the applicant that you are interested in him or her as an individual. Be sure to explain in advance what you're doing and why. One favored method is holding a clipboard in your lap instead of taking notes at the desk. Keywords or phrases can be jotted down. Try to maintain eye contact while taking notes and be sensitive that writing down responses may create tension for some interviewees.
  4. Describe the job and the organization. A detailed description of specific duties should generally be saved until the latter stage of the interview. By describing the job in detail before this stage, you may be inadvertently coaching the applicant on how he or she should appear and how to look as good as possible.

    An interview is a two-way process. There are things the applicant needs to know from you about the position and the organization. Provide sufficient facts, favorable and unfavorable, about the position, your department, and promotional opportunities in a direct manner so the applicant can intelligently choose whether the position is acceptable.

  5. Answer questions and allow the applicant to add information. This stage is directed toward the applicant's objectives - to gather information about the job and institution and to sell him or herself. You should provide the opportunity to accomplish both.
  6. Conclude the interview. Simply thanking the applicant for his or her time and outlining what will happen next is an honest and comfortable way to end the interview. Give the applicant an approximate date by which you'll make your decision.
  7. After the interview be sure that all opinions, evaluations, and additional information are recorded immediately.
  8. References. Since letters of recommendation often lack candid and specific assessments of work performance, we advise that you talk directly with previous supervisors. Such conversations allow you to raise questions and gain information that is not commonly included in letters of recommendation. Inform the candidate that you plan to do this. Further, performance appraisal and other job-related documentation maintained in Payroll Records may be accessed on University candidates. Speak to your recruiter for assistance.

BACKTable of ContentsNEXT

© 2011 Human Resource Services
University of Vermont, Burlington, VT

Last modified November 20 2017 09:52 AM