Fair Hiring Guide

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Topic: The Interview

1. Before the Interview

To get the best information from interviews, adopt the strategy that you want every applicant to be able to present his or her qualifications as thoroughly and as positively as possible. You can start by making sure that all applicants have the same expectations about the interview and that interview questions are well thought out in advance.

  • When you call to invite an applicant for an interview be sure to share how to get to the interview location, who will be involved in the interview, and what process will be followed (see Frequently Asked Question #1). Give the candidate an opportunity to ask questions.

  • Be cautious when leaving messages for a candidate that you are unable to reach in person in order to maintain confidentiality and to avoid jeopardizing their current employment.

  • When scheduling the interview, ask every candidate whether there is anything they’ll need for the interview (e.g., disability accommodation, a map to the interview location, parking information, etc.).

  • If a candidate requests a disability accommodation you don’t know how to provide, contact Disability Management Services for information and assistance. For more information see number 4. Disabilities, below.

  • Schedule all interviews in fully accessible rooms.

  • Consider providing the candidate with a copy of the interview questions 15 to 30 minutes prior to the interview. This will allow the interviewee time to formulate responses and may relieve some pre-interview stress and allow the interviewee to be at their best.


2. Developing Interview Questions

  • Develop a standard set of questions to be asked of all interviewees, based on the requirements for the job. A good way to start is to write one question for each qualification or skill set. This ensures you learn enough from the interview to make informed decisions about how well interviewees meet the qualifications. You can eliminate areas you already have adequate information on from the application materials and focus on those qualifications you need to learn about in the interview.

  • You may also note any particular questions you have about an interviewee’s application, e.g. “We couldn’t tell from your application whether you actually resolved customers’ complaints, or just received and recorded them for someone else to resolve.”

  • The following are illegal to ask:
    • Age or birthdate
    • Maiden name or prior married name, marital status
    • Birthplace, nationality, race
    • Religion
    • Financial status (e.g. loans, bankruptcies, garnishments), or whether they rent or own a home
    • Arrest record
    • Current salary or salary history
    • Number and age of children, childcare arrangements
    • General medical condition, state of health, history of illnesses
    • Record of receiving Workers’ Compensation benefits
    • Dates of military service, type of discharge

3. During the Interview

  • Try to put the interviewee at ease. Introduce everyone and provide water. It’s O.K. to chat a bit, and it’s O.K. to smile and be friendly.

  • If the interviewee gives very short answers, ask follow-up questions, rather than just noting “gave short answers.” Remember, this is your opportunity to learn all you can from your interviewee.

  • If the interviewee misunderstands a question, try saying it again in a different way.

  • If it is clear after the first few questions that the person isn’t a good candidate for the job, continue the interview and try not to let it show. When it’s obvious to a candidate that they aren’t being taken seriously, it’s easy for them to conclude that the process isn’t fair, possibly resulting in a formal complaint.

  • Leave time for an important last question: “Do you have any questions you’d like to ask us?” Interviewees feel more engaged when you allow them to interact.

  • Plan to close the interview by thanking the candidate, describing the rest of your process, and telling them when they can expect to hear from you. Remind them of who they can contact in the future if they have questions or desire an update on their status.

  • Interviewees who aren’t being offered the job appreciate it if you call and tell them. At minimum, you should notify them by email or letter immediately after the selected candidate has accepted the offer.


4. Disabilities

Ask about a person’s abilities, not about her or his disabilities.

  • You may ask all candidates, “Can you perform this task, either with or without accommodation?”

  • You may ask all candidates to describe or demonstrate how they would perform a task.

  • You may ask whether a candidate can meet the attendance requirements of the job.

  • Don’t ask questions about the nature or severity of a disability.

  • Don’t ask questions about how much sick leave a person used in prior jobs.

  • Don’t ask candidates whether they will need accommodation in order to do the job.

  • If a candidate raises the issue of needing accommodation, simply confirm it is the university’s policy to provide employment accommodations, and if they’re the successful candidate, you will discuss their needs and plan the appropriate arrangements before they start work.

Advice for interviewing applicants with visible disabilities:

  • If a candidate is missing a hand or arm, follow their lead: shake whatever they offer.

  • Talk directly to the candidate, even if the candidate is using a sign interpreter or has an attendant present.

  • Look directly at the candidate, even if they are blind, because it will direct your voice in the right direction.

  • If a candidate appears with a guide dog or helper-dog, remember that it’s not a pet, but a working dog. Don’t try to interact with the animal.

  • When talking to a candidate in a wheelchair, try to be at their eye level, and choose to sit if possible.

  • Ask if a person needs assistance before assisting.

  • If you’re not sure how to assist, ask what kind of assistance would be helpful.

  • Speak in a normal tone unless requested to do otherwise.

  • Allow ample time for responses from candidates with speech disorders (never assume a speech impairment means the person has a mental impairment).

  • If you do not understand what an applicant is saying, don’t pretend you understand. Ask him/her to repeat what they said.


5. Cultural Bias

Bias in Interviewing – Cross Cultural Misperceptions

Culture consists of learned and shared values, beliefs and behaviors. We all come to interviews with preferences for certain culturally defined behaviors, values and norms. Being aware that we bring these personal inclinations to interview situations allows us to become more inclusive of individuals who are culturally different than ourselves.

  • Cultural programming influences how we interpret what we hear and the behavior that we see during job interviews. We interpret what we see and hear through our own cultural lenses.
  • Be aware of UC Santa Cruz “culture” and how interviewees from certain ethnic and other groups may not share the values and norms prescribed by UC Santa Cruz culture, or may simply be unaware of them.
  • The structure of the interview itself is a construct of UC Santa Cruz culture that reflects certain values and expectations for behavior. Even though we may have explained the interview process to each candidate, we cannot assume that everyone we interview will be familiar with the subtle hierarchy of values and expectations that govern our interactions during an interview.
  • Be aware that sometimes what we consider to be appropriate or desirable qualities in a candidate may reflect more about our personal preferences than what is actually needed to perform the job. Being culturally inclusive requires a willingness to see differences as possibilities rather than obstacles.

To Avoid Being Sabotaged by Your Own Cultural Programming

  • Understand how powerful culture is and have a generosity of spirit about differences. Learning a new culture is very difficult and takes a lot of effort. The adaptation process is even more difficult in stressful times (such as when you’re in an interview) so we often resort to familiar and comfortable behaviors.
  • Expect that the people you will hire will be reshaped by being part of UC Santa Cruz and in turn, UC Santa Cruz will change. The process is positive and reciprocal – adaptation goes both ways.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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

    • Explain how to get to campus and to the building and room and what the parking arrangements are (meters, parking permits), if driving. Mention the closest disability parking spaces.
    • Give them a general description of the interview process, and how many people will be interviewing them.
    • Advise them if they will need to arrive early to complete or provide missing information on an application and if they should bring a list of references. Consider providing them with a copy of the interview questions 15 to 30 minutes prior to the interview to help ensure you have an informative interview.
    • Give the candidate your name and contact information  in case they have to contact you about the interview. In addition, give them an alternate contact name and phone number to use one the day of the interview in case you are not reachable.
    • Remember to ask if they will need anything else for the interview and if they have any questions.
  2. What if I can’t reach a candidate to schedule an interview or what if they will not be available during the timeframe established for interviewing (e.g., they are on vacation)?

    • While it is important to be as flexible as you can in scheduling interviews for your top candidates 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 a candidate for interview but you are unable to conduct an interview because of scheduling conflicts, you should indicate the candidate was unavailable for interview on the  RMS Worksheet: Job Offer - Open/Campus-Only Recruitments.
  3. Do I have to ask each applicant the same questions?

    • The same standard questions should be asked of each interviewee. In addition to your standard questions you may ask non-standard questions in order to clarify a response they gave, ask for examples or to elaborate on an example given, or to ask follow-up questions about an interviewee’s specific work history.
  4. What are the best kinds of interview questions?
    • The best interview questions are simple and direct, asking about a person’s ability and experience with respect to the requirements of the job, e.g. “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?”
  5.  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 designated. 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.:
        1. What were your responsibilities at your last job?
        2. What kinds of software have you used? For what kinds of tasks?
        3. 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.:
        1. Tell us about your current job your primary responsibilities
        2. 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 solving problems, e.g.:
        1. What would you do in a situation in which …?
        2. 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 be very effective, e.g.:
        1. Think of a time you had to make a quick decision, and describe it for us.
        2. 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 to clarify information on their application materials or a comment they made in the interview, e.g.:
        1. Could you explain more about what you mean by “student-oriented leadership”?
  6. How can I assess multicultural competence? Don’t assume, ask questions such as:
    • What have you done that required communicating with people whose first language was not English? What do you think is important to be aware of in 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.
  7. Can I ask hypothetical questions?
    • It’s fine to ask hypothetical, or situational, questions, e.g. “What would you do if ...,” but remember many people’s actual  behavior may differ than the behavior they describe during an interview. You are more likely to get accurate behavioral information if you them to describe their actual experiences and how they handle various situations, 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?”
  8. What are common mistakes 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. E.g., we may immediately like a charismatic candidate and not notice they lack specific qualifications for the job. Or, you may decide right away that the candidate is unsuitable and tune out for the rest of their interview (creating the danger that the person will notice they aren’t being interviewed seriously and assume the worst).
    • Halo Effect - Over generalizing: being so influenced by one striking characteristic of a candidate that you ignore all others, e.g. rating someone high overall because that person seems to be articulate, or rating someone low overall because they are quiet.
    • Contrast Effect - The tendency to evaluate someone in comparison with something other than the criteria -- e.g., evaluating a candidate too highly because they were interviewed right after a very unqualified candidate, or because they are most unlike your last unsuccessful employee.
    • Negative Information - When trying to distinguish among well qualified candidates, 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.
    • Fleeing to Objective Indicators - When faced with difficult decisions among well-qualified candidates, the tendency to search for any information that appears to be "objective" -- e.g., number of years of experience -- when it may not be a valid predictor of a candidate’s performance.
    • The "Similar to Me" Effect - Being influenced by some way in which the candidate shares an experience or characteristic in common with you -- e.g., where a person is from, what school they went to, etc. A similar dynamic is the impression that a person is a "UC Santa Cruz kind of person."
    • Deciding who will “fit in well" based on an assumption that they are like us and therefore must be a good fit. This results in screening out diversity of all kinds. Important to try to distinguish a valid criterion of "interpersonal skills" from prejudiced judgments of personal style. Dangers to watch for: individual differences in dress, accent, type of eye contact, degree of formality in an interview, assertiveness, etc., 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; tentative and friendly women may be more impressive to men than to women. Make sure your judgments are job-related and watch for personal bias.
    • Inferences about Motivation - Assuming that we can know something about a candidate’s motivation by inference from his or her life circumstances -- e.g., that a candidate who "really needs a job" will be more highly motivated than one who isn't dependent on the income, or that a candidate who is currently commuting to a job "over the hill" is just looking for a way to avoid the commute. Related: "overqualified" judgments, i.e., that a candidate who has more than the required qualifications "will be bored with the job" and will leave as soon as a "better" job is available.
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