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Assessing and interviewing candidates

This is an excerpt from Athletic Director's Desk Reference 2nd Edition With HKPropel Access by Donna A. Lopiano & Connee Zotos.

Step 6: Assessing and Interviewing ­Candidates Litigation surrounding search procedures is commonplace. A number of hard-­and-­fast rules related to assessing and interviewing candidates and communicating with references provided by candidates must be followed.

Preinterview Assessment Rules

  • Follow all affirmative action policies and procedures as provided by the institution.
  • Make certain that every­one involved in the search as well as employees who pro­cess applications understand that candidate information must remain confidential at all times, even ­after a se­lection has been made.
  • Make sure that ­every applicant has a file that is available to all approved readers and that ­every application file includes a rec­ord of when each document (resume, reference letters, and so on) arrived. A good practice is to send an e-­mail or letter to all applicants thanking them for their interest and letting them know that their materials have been received. In the interest of efficiency, consider informing all applicants with a standard response acknowledging receipt of their application that also lets them know that they ­will be contacted again only if they are selected for a telephone or on-­campus interview. This practice ­will cut down on the number of applicants who call to see ­whether the materials arrived. Form 6.6 found in HKPropel is a sample acknowl­edgment letter.
  • Create a rating sheet immediately ­after the job advertisement has been approved. The rating sheet should be based on the qualifications and job responsibilities listed on the job advertisement. Require ­every search committee member to complete a rating and mandate that the rating sheet must be used for ­every applicant. Form 6.7 in HKPropel is a sample rating sheet that is usable for all positions. For head coaches, ele­ments such as years of experience as a head coach, years of experience as an assistant coach, competitive level of experience, win–­loss rec­ords as head coach, and other impor­tant comparisons should be added to any general rating sheet.
  • Be diligent about checking references and give special attention to the most recent direct supervisors of applicants. Employers hire an astounding number of ­people for new jobs without ever calling the most recent supervisor or listed references.
  • Call only ­those references whom the applicant has provided. If the search committee wants to call other ­people who are not listed as references (e.g., a direct supervisor), the search committee chair should ask for the applicant’s permission to call that person and place the applicant’s e-­mail or signed fax approval of such consent in the applicant’s application file.
  • Keep the number of ­people making reference calls to a minimum and prohibit anyone ­else from ­doing so, even off the rec­ord. All ­people making reference calls must understand rules related to permissible and nonpermissible employment or demographic questions.
  • All references contacted should be asked the same questions to ensure the same breadth of information for all candidates. ­These questions should be collaboratively designed by the search committee or hiring man­ag­er, approved by a ­human resources staff member, and distributed to all ­those making reference calls if more than one person is making such calls.
  • When calling a reference, never ask a question that does not relate to the job or is personal in nature (e.g., marital status, sexual orientation, age, number of ­children, race, ethnicity). Never pose a question from a negative perspective such as, “I’ve heard this guy can be lazy. What do you think?” It would be better to ask, “On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest, how would you rate this applicant’s work ethic?” Remember, most ­people serving as references are likely to call the applicant immediately and relate all the details of the call, so care must be taken to remain impartial. An acceptable and recommended practice is to ask, as a standard reference question, ­whether ­there are any red flags related to the applicant that might compromise his or her ability to do the job.
  • Resist speaking to applicants who call about the job ­because getting phone time with the hiring man­ag­er can be seen as an advantage to the applicant who does so. Merely direct them to the application procedures.
  • If a deadline date has been set for submitting applications, it must be adhered to ­unless the search is reopened ­later. Therefore, applications that come in ­after the deadline may not be considered.
  • Search committee meetings to evaluate applications can take one round or several rounds depending on the quality and the quantity of the applicant pool. Require all search committee members to have their rating sheets with them at each meeting. Ranking of candidates should be completed on paper, confidentially, so that committee members ­aren’t swayed by other members’ rankings. Again, be diligent that the minutes of the meeting reflect the pro­cess used and the ranking lists that ­were derived.
  • ­After the search committee determines the final pool to be interviewed, the search committee chair should collect all the rating sheets. If an affirmative action officer or a ­human resources representative has to approve the finalists before interviews can be scheduled, he or she may want to review the rating sheets to see why some candidates ­were included and ­others ­were not. If that pro­cess does not exist, the search committee members may keep the rating sheets ­until all work is completed.
  • Before interviewing finalist candidates, the search committee should create a slate of questions to ask all candidates so that they are on a level playing field. In addition, answers can be compared across ­those interviewed. Remember to include this slate of questions in the meeting minutes.
  • The search committee should also create an interview rating sheet based on the questions, job requirements, and general demeanor such as poise, confidence, and enthusiasm.
  • If preinterview assessment rating sheets ­were collected, hand the rating sheets of the selected candidates back to the respective committee members so that they have their own notes in front of them for the interviews.

Interview Rules

  • ­After a finalist list of candidates judged to be qualified to advance to the interview stage of the hiring pro­cess has been determined, care must be taken to make sure that ­every candidate meets all the same ­people. Litigation risk is high whenever some candidates get to meet a dean, a principal, a board member, or another person in power while ­others ­don’t. At times, some search committee members may miss an interview. That member may not take part in any ranking of the finalists ­unless the person they failed to meet is excluded from a ranking list determined by the rest of the committee. Remember to reflect this situation in the meeting minutes.
  • Man­ag­ers have asked ­whether videotaping a finalist candidate’s interview is permissible if a search committee member is absent. This practice is not permissible ­unless all candidates had the same pressure of being videotaped during their interviews.
  • Be diligent about asking all the same initial questions of each candidate. As the candidate speaks, other questions may arise. That kind of questioning is permissible.
  • Never ask a candidate any personal questions (marital status, sexual orientation, age, and so on). Stay focused on the requirements of the job and the candidate’s ability to perform the job.
  • Allow time for the candidate to ask his or her own questions.
  • Never share the names of other finalists.
  • Never compromise the ­people who provided references by sharing information about ­those conversations with the candidate.
  • End interviews by telling the candidate that if for any reason he or she decides not to continue pursuing the job, the candidate should let the search committee chair know to withdraw his or her name. Conversely, if a candidate wants the job but in the meantime is offered another job, he or she should call the chair to find out where the search committee is in the pro­cess before accepting the other job.
  • The recruiting pro­cess often focuses heavi­ly on the applicant’s background and does not provide the applicant with a clear understanding of the job and the working environment from a micro and a macro perspective. The search committee should specify that time ­will be set aside during ­every interview for the supervisor of the position to communicate exactly what it means to be part of the program, covering program goals, expectations, ethical under­pinnings, and work climate. Applicants should be asked to reflect on how well their own aspirations, values, work be­hav­iors, and work style fit with ­those ele­ments. Inclusion of this interview ele­ment may cause some applicants to question ­whether the job is right for them and withdraw their names from consideration. But withdrawal is a much better alternative than hiring the person and finding out ­later that the person’s goals, values, or work be­hav­iors are incompatible with ­those of the department. Remember that many terminations are the result of bad fit rather than lack of skills or expertise. Assessing fit early in the pro­cess is imperative.

Postinterview Assessment Rules

  • Determine ­whether any search committee members missed an interview and if so, eliminate them from ranking candidates ­unless the person he or she missed interviewing is excluded from the ranking list created by the rest of the committee. If a candidate was unable to meet with a person of importance (e.g., president, hiring man­ag­er), another meeting should be arranged. The ­human resource department ­will have to decide ­whether a phone interview would suffice.
  • Similar to the preinterview assessment rankings, finalist assessments should be completed in a confidential manner and written on paper.
  • Meeting minutes should reflect the pro­cesses used, the ranking lists, and the final slate of candidates to move forward to the hiring man­ag­er or the final se­lection, depending on the role of the committee.
  • The committee should also discuss what-­ifs. What happens if our selected candidate turns down the job? Do we automatically go to the second candidate? If so, what happens if the second candidate turns us down? Do we reopen the search?
  • When the committee’s work is completed, all rating sheets must be collected and included in the search file. All meeting minutes must be included in the search file as well. This practice ­will help protect the institution if someone challenges the pro­cess soon afterward or years ­later.
  • As mentioned ­earlier, the hiring man­ag­er or chair of the search committee should complete Form 6.8 in HKPropel, which shows the reasons why all applicants ­were rejected, advanced to the interview stage, or ranked for the job offer.
More Excerpts From Athletic Director's Desk Reference 2nd Edition With HKPropel Access