Department Resources

Hiring Guide

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Screening Applications

 

What if I only want to consider internal candidates?

A Job Requisition is still required for jobs that will be filled internally.

 

Can I use a degree as a qualification?

A degree requirement must have a significant relationship to successful job performance or there must be some other business necessity. Since a degree requirement may disqualify members of a protected group at a substantially higher rate than non-protected group members, the HM [Hiring Manager] should consider the use of an equivalency.

 

When writing qualifications, can I specify that applicants must have recent experience?

The recentness of a person’s job experience may matter in fields that change constantly or rapidly. Keep in mind that an applicant may be able to remain current in many different ways, such as volunteering or certifications.

 

Who should be involved in the hiring process?

The HM [Hiring Manager] is ultimately responsible for the hiring process. The HM [Hiring Manager] may seek the assistance of others who know the job well, such as other members of the department, constituents, or customers.

 

What is the best way to tell if an applicant is the best qualified?

In the Recruitment Planning phase the HM [Hiring Manager] should ensure that the qualifications and the job description reflect the job requirements. An applicant’s resume/application should be reviewed against the job description. At the Application Screening stage, you have to take an applicant’s word. You may get a better idea in an Interview or a Reference Check. If an applicant is hired and is then unable to perform assigned tasks from a lack of necessary qualifications, he/she can be released during his/her probationary period, or through corrective action.

 

What should I do if no applicants provided responses to supplemental questions?

It is important to keep in mind that supplemental questions are a tool used for the purpose of gathering additional information, to assist you in selecting the best-qualified candidates to interview. Options for using the supplemental questions in screening include:

  • Doing an initial screening of all applications based on the available information (including responses to additional questions), and selecting the best qualified to interview.
  • Contacting those who did not provide responses and providing them an additional opportunity to respond.

 

To what extent can I assess interpersonal skills from a written application?

At best, you may see that an applicant has done work that probably required those skills; You cannot tell how good the applicant’s skills are. Interpersonal skills are best assessed through Interviews and Reference Checks.

 

Does the recentness of an applicant’s education or job experience matter?

Only in fields that have changed significantly in recent years. Remember that the applicant may have kept himself/herself current in other ways.

 

When is more experience better?

It depends, and you can’t always tell. More isn’t always better. Twenty years of experience may mean a person is extremely knowledgeable and skilled, or it may mean the opportunity didn’t present itself to allow the person to move out of his/her job.

 

What should I do with an “overqualified” applicant?

There are good reasons why an applicant might choose to take a job with a lower level of responsibility than he or she has had in the past. If you find yourself making assumptions about the applicant’s motivation, clarify at the interview —or call before to make sure he/she understands— that the job will not be at a higher level than advertised.

Don’t assume that holding a higher-level job necessarily means that an applicant can do lower-level tasks. You need to assess each applicant’s qualifications for your position. If an application suggests that the job can be done, it is the University’s policy is to hire the best-qualified person.

 

What is “equivalent” to a college degree?

Evidence of course work or work experience that would give the applicant the knowledge or skills you need. It’s the applicant’s responsibility to explain or demonstrate that he or she has equivalent knowledge or abilities.

 

Is it appropriate to make judgments about an applicant’s skills from the way the application (or other material) is filled out?

If the job requires good spelling and grammar and the application is filled with errors, it’s appropriate to assume that the applicant doesn’t have these skills. But don’t screen out applicants for trivial reasons just to reduce your pile —you may be missing a great employee.

 

How should patterns in an applicant’s job history be evaluated?

Be careful not to make unwarranted assumptions. People may have reasons for changing jobs or taking time between jobs that have nothing to do with how good they are as an employee. When checking references, check whether the reason for leaving stated on the application is consistent with that given by the reference.

Progressively responsible job experience can be a positive indication of the applicant’s ability to adapt to new situations and grow within a job.

 

When is it appropriate to favor an applicant who has done very similar work over one who has done less similar work (e.g.: to favor a person with UTD experience over one with similar experience elsewhere)?

When you absolutely can’t afford (in time or other resources) to let an applicant learn on-the-job, e.g.: for a short casual job or one which requires complex knowledge he or she wouldn’t otherwise have. If it’s just a matter of learning something about UT Dallas procedures or systems, it’s probably better to invest in the person who will be able to do the best job in the long run.

 

How do I evaluate transferable skills versus actual experience?

Think through whether the experience the applicant has acquired includes the same sorts of skills that you will require. Look for or try to obtain evidence of the strength of that applicant’s skills to help you assess how successful he or she might be in applying those skills in your job.

 

What should I do when I have more information about one applicant than another (e.g.: if one applicant submits a lot of extra material)?

Just remember that having more evidence about an applicant’s qualifications doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is better qualified. You can always take steps to get more information on applicants (e.g.: with a phone call or a request for more written information) as long as you don’t give anyone an unfair advantage.

 

How much weight should I give to letters of reference?

Letters of reference should not be taken at face value. Letters of reference which speak to an individual’s specific accomplishments can generally be given more consideration. Remember that a letter of reference does not replace the need for a Reference Check, should that applicant be selected.

 

Do I have to consider out-of-town applicants?

The location of a candidate’s residence shouldn’t be used as a selection criterion. If you are unable to pay travel expenses, consider doing the first interview by telephone or asking the candidate to pay his or her own travel expenses.

 

What if the applicant is currently making a higher salary than I am able to offer?

If you are concerned that, if selected, an applicant may not accept the position because of salary limitations, you may mention your concern about a potential salary issue and reiterate the salary range when you contact him/her for an interview. This allows the applicant decide whether he or she is still interested in the position.

 

What if the applicant has a disability?

It is illegal to discount an otherwise qualified individual because he or she has a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that the University take steps to reasonably accommodate individuals with disabilities so they may perform the essential functions of a position. Keep the focus on whether an applicant has the skills to perform the position.

 

What if a current UT Dallas employee applies for the job and I know more about them (positive or negative)?

You don’t need to try to forget what you know, but only reliable information (not rumors or reputation) about an applicant’s actual job performance is appropriate to use.

You should evaluate the information in terms of the qualifications established for your position. If the information influences your decision to interview or not interview the applicant, you should document this in your own recruitment notes. If the information is negative and causes you not to select the applicant to interview, you should indicate the number of related qualifications in your interviewer notes.

Keep in mind that you can also call a current or past UT Dallas supervisor for a Reference Check, just as you would someone who works outside the University. If you have concerns about an applicant who remains among your top candidates after the initial screening, consider doing pre-interview reference checks on all your top applicants.

 

What should I do when, after screening on the criteria, there are too many well-qualified applicants to interview?

It may not be to your advantage to screen out applicants based on small qualification differences. You should always focus on the most important qualifications. If there are not significant differences on the application to allow you to screen your pool further, consider gathering additional information on the best-qualified applicants by using one of the following tools to assist you in selecting interviewees:

  • Brief phone interviews
  • Pre-interview reference checks
  • Supplemental application
  • Work sample request

 

What should units do with perceived pressure for a “courtesy interview”?

It is important to apply the criteria selected for evaluating applicants consistently to all applicants. Interviewing someone who is not as qualified as other applicants on a “courtesy” basis can raise unrealistic expectations on the part of the interviewee and may form the basis for a complaint of discrimination by other applicants. This includes internal applicants that you know are not qualified based on personal prior knowledge of that applicant’s performance.

You may wish to offer an informal meeting with the individual to discuss his/her interest in the position and explain why he or she was not selected for an interview.

 

How many applicants should I select for an interview?

The number of applicants you select to interview will depend on many things: how large the pool is, how qualified the applicants are, how much time you can make for interviews, etc… If you find that you have too many well-qualified applicants to interview, consider using the tools mentioned above to narrow them down to a manageable number.

 

What should my department do about affirmative action?

You should try to maximize the diversity of the pool by advertising as widely as possible and making use of the outreach program for positions where there is underutilization. When screening applications, you will not receive information on an applicant’s gender or ethnicity since you may not use an applicant’s gender/ethnicity as a basis for selection to interview.

 

When I call applicants for an interview, what kind of information should I give them?

Explain how to get to campus, including the building and room of the interview. Explain what the parking arrangements will be (meters, parking permits, disability parking spaces, etc…) if the applicant will be driving in.

Give a general description of the interview process, (e.g.: “People will take turns asking you questions; They’ll be taking notes to refer to later”). and how many people will be participating.

Advise an applicant if he or she will need to arrive early to complete or provide missing information on an application or needs to bring a list of references. Consider providing him/her with a copy of the interview questions a few minutes prior to the interview.

Give the applicant your name and telephone number, to call in case he/she has to contact you about the interview, and give an alternate contact name and phone number for the day of the interview.

Don’t forget to ask if he or she will need anything else for the interview, and whether the applicant has any questions.

 

What if I can’t reach an applicant to schedule an interview or what if the applicant will not be available during the timeframe established for interviewing (e.g.: on vacation)?

While it is important to be as flexible as you can in scheduling interviews for your top applicants to ensure that you get the best-qualified person for your position, you must balance this against your need to fill your position in a timely manner. If you have selected an applicant to interview and you are unable to hold that interview because of issues related to availability, you should indicate that the applicant was unavailable to interview on your interviewer notes.

 

Do I have to ask each applicant the same questions?

During the interview, while the same standard questions should be asked of each applicant, you do not have to ask exactly the same questions of every applicant. You may deviate from your standardized questions by asking for clarification, asking an applicant to give examples or more description, or asking follow-up questions about one applicant’s specific work history.

 

How can I use my interview time most effectively?

Interviews are best used to gather information about an applicant’s past work experience, knowledge, and potential to be successful in the position. They’re poorest when trying to get material to make indirect inferences about an applicant’s motivations or hidden character flaws. For example, if you’re tempted to ask a “if you were a color, what color would you be?” question, ask yourself what that has to do with job performance.

 

What are the best kinds of interview questions?

The best interview questions are simple and direct, asking about an applicant’s ability and experience with respect to the requirements of the job. For example:

  • Have you worked with UNIX before?
  • Would you please describe what you did?
  • What other kinds of computers and software have you used?

The best predictor of future performance is past performance: ask applicants about what they’ve actually done, in specific behavioral terms whenever possible. For example, instead of asking, “Are you a good employee?” ask for specifics:

  • What kinds of documents did you prepare?
  • What kind of volume?
  • What kinds of decisions were you asked to make?
  • How often were you asked to do a form over again? For what reasons?
Examples of Kinds of Interview Questions
  • Questions of clarification that you might ask one person and not another, e.g.: We couldn’t tell from your application whether you designed workshops yourself or just conducted workshops that other people had designed. Could you tell us exactly what you responsibilities were?
  • Direct questions are easy to understand, and are more likely to yield concise answers and specific information. Ask what you want to know, e.g.:
    • What were your responsibilities at your last job?
    • What kinds of software have you used? For what kinds of tasks?
    • What kinds of decisions did you have authority to make on you own?
  • Open-ended questions allow the candidate to decide how to present an answer, and may therefore reveal something about speaking skills, ways of organizing information, and the way a candidate thinks about things, e.g.:
    • Tell us about your job.
    • What do you think is the best way to develop leadership skills in students?
  • Problem or situational questions require a candidate to analyze a situation and can tell you something about how they approach a situation, e.g.:
    • What would you do in a situation in which …?
    • When you evaluate someone’s performance, how do you handle areas in which the person is not performing adequately?
  • Questions that ask candidates to recall their actual past behavior in a situation can avoid some self-report problems, e.g.:
    • Think of a time you had to make a quick decision, and describe it for us.
    • Tell us about a time when you disagreed with your supervisor. How did you approach him/her, and what was the result?
  • Probing questions ask the candidate to tell you more or clarify, e.g.: Could you explain more about what you mean by “student-oriented leadership?”

 

How can I assess multicultural competence?

Don’t assume, ask questions such as:

  • What, if any, has been your experience working or living with people of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds?
  • What have you done that required communicating with people whose first language was not English? What do you think is important to know when communicating with non-native speakers?
  • We’d like you to think of a time when cultural differences came up in a job you held. Please describe the situation as well as how you dealt with it.

 

Can I ask hypothetical questions?

It’s fine to ask hypothetical questions (e.g.: “What would you do if…?”) but remember that many people turn out to behave differently than they claim. You are more likely to get accurate information if you ask an applicant to describe actual experiences (e.g.: “We’d like you to think of a time in your past work experience when you had to deal with a conflict with a customer. Would you tell us what the conflict was, and how you handled it?”)

 

What are common problems in making interview judgments?

First Impressions

Forming a favorable or unfavorable impression of someone in the first few minutes of the interview, and filtering or distorting information that comes later. For example, we may immediately like a charismatic person and not notice that he or she lacks specific qualifications for the job. Or, we may decide right away that the person is unsuitable and tune out for the rest of the interview, creating a danger that the applicant will notice that he or she isn’t being interviewed seriously and assume the worst.

Halo Effect

Over-generalizing: being so influenced by one striking characteristic of a person that we ignore all others. for example, rating an applicant high overall because that person seems to be articulate, or rating an applicant low overall because he or she is shy.

Contrast Effect

The tendency to evaluate someone in comparison with something other than the criteria. For example, evaluating an applicant too highly because he or she was interviewed right after a very unqualified candidate, or because he or she is most unlike your last unsuccessful employee.

Negative Information

When trying to distinguish among well-qualified applicants, searching for any negative information to disqualify a person, and therefore giving undue influence to a negative factor that may not make that much difference in later performance, or just might not have been obvious on another person’s application.

Fleeing to Objective Indicators

When faced with difficult decisions among well-qualified applicants, the tendency to search for any information that appears to be “objective” (e.g.: years of experience) when it may not be a valid predictor of a person’s performance.

The “Similar to Me” Effect

Being influenced by some way in which the applicant shares an experience or characteristic (your home town, your alma mater, etc…) A similar dynamic is to consider whether the applicant is “a UTD kind of person”.

Stereotyping

Using common social stereotypes to make assumptions about a person based on group membership (Asians are attentive to detail but not assertive, men won’t take orders from women, etc…) We each also have personal stereotypes, based on past experiences (e.g.: a woman who would wear pants to an interview will have bad judgment dealing with people; or overweight people don’t care about themselves and will not care about their work; or people with Southern accents are ignorant, but people with British accents are intelligent).

People Who “Will Fit in Well”

Feeling most comfortable with people like us, and thereby screening out diversity of all kinds. It is important to try to distinguish a valid criterion of “interpersonal skills” from prejudiced judgments of personal style. Dangers to watch for include: individual differences in dress, accent, eye contact, degree of formality in an interview, and assertiveness; which can have a very different meaning in different cultures and subcultures. Also watch for sex differences in evaluating “style” (e.g.: confident women may be more impressive to women than to men, while tentative and friendly women may be more impressive to men than to women). Make sure your judgments are job-related.

Inferences About Motivation

Assuming that we can know something about a person’s motivation by inference from his or her life circumstances. For example, thinking that a person who “really needs a job” will be more highly motivated than a person who isn’t dependent on the income, or that a person who is currently commuting to a job “over the hill” is just looking for a way to avoid the commute. Also related are “overqualified” judgments, such as thinking that a person who has more than the required qualifications “will be bored with the job” and will leave as soon as a “better” job is available.

 

How many references should I check?

More than one. If you get inconsistent answers from the first two, you may want to check more than you ordinarily would.

 

What if I encounter resistance from references?

Some organizations have a policy of not releasing information. Try another approach:

  • Ask for advice on how best to manage the person to bring out her/his abilities. If you’re not getting answers to standard questions, try painting a picture of your work culture and its unique pressures, so that the supervisor can give a realistic evaluation. For example: “We’re a high-volume customer service office. The phones don’t stop ringing, the paperwork is endless, and we’re considering Ms. Smith for a position in our unit dealing with our most demanding customers. Is that an environment in which she would excel?”
  • Sometimes references are uneasy about determining someone else’s fate. Try to downplay their role. For example: “I want you to know that I’m not burdening you with the responsibility of judging this person’s past. We’re just at the evaluation stage right now. There are several candidates in contention for the job, and we’re just trying to determine who would best fit into the unit.”
  • Give the reference a structure for responding. For example: “Some people constantly look for new ways to reinvent their jobs and assume responsibilities beyond the basic job description. Others adhere strictly to their job duties and ‘don’t do windows,’ so to speak. Can you tell me where Ms. Smith fits on that continuum?”

 

What if a reference won’t give any real information?

If a reference refuses to cooperate, put it in perspective. If other employers are giving rave reviews and one supervisor refuses to provide information under any circumstances, the silence shouldn’t necessarily disqualify an applicant. But if a string of past supervisors are “taking the 5th” and refusing to share information, this should raise a red flag.

If you cannot get good reference checks on an applicant, you may also —

  1. Inform the applicant that you have been unsuccessful and will not be able to consider their application further.
  2. Ask the applicant to encourage the reference to talk.
  3. Suggest that the applicant sign a release to permit references to speak to you, and/or ask the applicant to provide additional references.

 

What if a reference check reveals negative information?

You may choose to inform the applicant that you have received negative information and give him/her a chance to refute it, although this is not required. Be cautious about relying on information of which the reference has no personal knowledge and which may be no more than unsubstantiated rumor.

 

Can I use negative information that a reference check has given me in confidence?

The only way to keep information completely confidential is not to record it, and then it can be problematic to use in making a hiring decision. You have an obligation to try to verify the information, if you can. If you are unable to verify the information, you should contact Human Resources for advice.