Fair Hiring Guide

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Topic: Screening/Evaluating Applications


The objective of this process is to select the applicants who meet the qualifications for interview.

  • The hiring manager (HM) and/or the committee chair should communicate clearly to the search committee the competencies an ideal candidate would possess, which qualifications must be met to be considered for an interview, and which qualifications they consider most important for the position. The HM should be consulted at any point in the process if further clarification is needed.
  • Decide which qualifications can be evaluated from the application materials provided - don’t try to evaluate qualifications that can’t be assessed from the application materials alone (i.e., verbal communication skills)
  • Determine whether some qualifications carry more weight and are more important than others. Explain this to your committee so they understand what you are looking for in an ideal candidate.
  • Narrow the pool to the applicants who meet the requirements for interview.
  • If there are a large number of well-qualified applicants, you can further narrow your pool by increasing the focus on the most important qualifications and raising the standards required to make the cut. If there are not significant differences on the application that allow you to screen your pool further, consider gathering additional information from applicants that will assist you in selecting interviewees using one of the following tools:
    • Phone interviews (may be brief)
    • Specific supplemental questions
    • Request a supplemental work sample
    • Pre-interview reference checks
  • Try to resolve differences of opinion among search committee members regarding a candidate’s qualifications through discussion, rather than resorting to artificial means (e.g., averaging committee’s numerical ratings of a candidate), which may not result in selection of the best-qualified applicant.
  • The individual designated as the contact for applicant inquiries should retain all applications and screening documentation until the recruitment process is completed.
  • After screening applications it is recommended that all applicants no longer under consideration receive some type of communication from regarding their status. Make note of when and how you communicated to these applicants on your Applicant Selection Log (ASL).


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. Who should be involved?
    • People who know the job well, such as people in the unit, people outside the unit whose jobs interrelate, constituents or customers of the unit.
    • People who have been through the Fair Hiring workshop (minimum requirement is that the Hiring Manager and the Committee Chair be trained).
    • At least two people to look over each application, if at all possible.
  2. What’s the first step?
    • First, decide which qualifications you’ll use to evaluate all applicants for interview selection based on the application materials. Don’t try to evaluate qualifications that can’t be assessed from the application materials.
    • The HM should determine which qualifications are most important and communicate those clearly to the search committee.
    • Decide whether any qualifications are absolutely necessary, such that applicants not possessing them would automatically be eliminated. You may also assign weights to criteria -- e.g., decide that some are more important than others.
    • Discussion and debate of applicants’ materials during the screening / evaluation process can clarify which skills, knowledge, experiences, and transferable skills meet the requirements for interview selection.
  3. What process works best?
    • A process that includes both people evaluating application materials alone and people then discussing their judgments together to come to agreement on interviewee selection.
    • Most people find it easiest to do a quick screening to eliminate applicants who don’t have the absolutely necessary qualifications, then take a more careful look through the rest. As extra insurance, you can have someone else look through the “rejects” with the sole goal of identifying people who might have been overlooked because their background isn’t typical.
    • Use the criteria as a guide, to make sure you are consistently evaluating each applicant against the same criteria (your HM or committee chair may ask you to use a rating matrix to record which applicants have which qualifications and how strongly the meet them).
    • If you have a large applicant pool, it’s fine to split up the applications among pairs of people, who take responsibility for presenting their findings to the rest of the group. Or, you may conduct a pre-screening of the applicant pool and eliminate those who don’t meet key criterion required for interview selection.
  4. Deciding on a ‘short list’ (interviewees and alternates)?
    • Use your search committee to assess applicant qualifications through discussion and deliberation, rather than just averaging committee members’ numerical ratings to select interviewees. If you cut off debate too quickly, you waste the benefit that different perspectives can bring to the difficult task of evaluating qualifications.
  5. How should the process be documented?
    • The HM or chair is responsible for ensuring that the group’s judgment is recorded on the Applicant Selection Log (ASL).
    • In addition, the committee chair should record briefly what the process was (who did what, when) including decision points (e.g., “we decided to interview only people who had both the computer skills and experience with implementation of a new system”.)
    • All records generated during your recruitment, including screening processes, interview notes taken by all search committee members and reference check notes, will be retained for three years by Talent Acquisition. Be sure to hand them in when your recruitment work is concluded.
  6. How can you tell if people really have the abilities that they claim to have?
    • At the application screening stage, assume what they have stated about themselves is accurate. Write interview questions that will give you a better idea of a candidate’s suitability for hire or be sure to check references. If a person is hired and is unable to perform their assigned tasks because they lack the necessary qualifications, they can be released during their probationary period or through corrective action.
  7. What should I do if some of the applicants did not provide responses to the supplemental questions?
    • It is important to keep in mind that supplemental questions is a tool used for the purpose of gathering additional information to assist you in selecting qualified interviewees. If an applicant appears to meet the requirements for an interview but didn’t answer the supplemental questions, you may ask them to provide a response via email.
  8. To what extent can one assess interpersonal skills from a written application?
    • Interpersonal skills are best assessed through interviews and reference checks. During application material assessment you may see that an applicant has done work that probably required those skills, however you cannot tell how strongly they meet this qualification.
  9. Does the recency of a person’s education or job experience matter?
    • It may, but only in fields that have changed significantly in recent years. Remember that applicants may remain current in other ways.
  10. When is more experience better?
    • It depends, and you can’t always tell. More isn’t always better -- seven years of experience may indicate a person is significantly more knowledgeable and skilled over someone with three years of experience. Years of experience doesn’t demonstrate quality and effectiveness on the job.
  11. What should be done about an “overqualified” applicant?
    • There are good reasons why a person might choose to take a job with a lower level of responsibility than they’ve had in the past. If you are unsure about an applicant’s motivation, give them a courtesy call and make sure they understand that the job will not be offered at a higher pay or classification level than advertised.
    • Don’t assume that holding a higher-level job necessarily means that a person can do lower-level tasks. You need to assess each person’s qualifications for the position you are filling. If the person’s application suggests that they can do the job, UC’s policy is to hire the best-qualified candidate, even if they are overqualified.
  12. What is “equivalent” to a college degree?
    • Evidence of course work or work experience that would give the applicant the knowledge or skills typically obtained with a degree. It’s the applicant’s responsibility to explain or demonstrate they possess equivalent knowledge or abilities.
  13. Is it appropriate to make judgments about a person’s skills from the way they fill out the application (or other application materials)?
    • If the job requires a certain level of writing skills, including spelling and grammar and the application is filled with errors, they have demonstrated that they don’t have these skills. But don’t screen out applicants for trivial reasons just to reduce the pile -- you may be missing a great employee.
  14. How should patterns in a person’s job history be evaluated?
    • Be careful not to make unwarranted assumptions. People may have reasons for changing jobs or taking time off between jobs that have nothing to do with how valuable 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.
  15. 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 UC Santa Cruz experience over one with similar experience elsewhere?
    • This may be appropriate when it is just not feasible to let the person learn on the job (e.g. for a short casual job or one which requires complex knowledge they wouldn’t otherwise have). If it’s just a matter of learning something about UC Santa Cruz procedures or systems, it’s probably better to invest in the person who possessed the strongest overall skills required for success in the long run.
  16. How do you evaluate transferable skills versus directly related experience?
    • Think about the skills themselves, rather than the experience. Look for evidence of the strength of that person’s skills and the similarity of them to the skills you normally would see on the job. If they were successful in applying those skills to accomplish a different type of work, they are likely to succeed in applying those skills in your position.
  17. What should you do when you have more information about one applicant than another? -- e.g. if one person submits a lot of extra information with their application materials?
    • Remember that having more evidence about a person’s qualifications doesn’t necessarily mean they are better qualified. You can always take steps to get more information from applicants -- e.g. with a phone call or a request for more written information. Avoid giving an applicant an unfair advantage over others by doing this consistently for all applicants in the pool.
  18. How much weight should letters of reference be given?
    • Letters of reference that are general in nature should not be given significant weight. 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.
  19. Do I have to consider out of town applicants?
    • Yes. 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 remotely, or asking the candidate to pay their own travel expenses.
  20. What if the applicant has a disability?
    • It is illegal to discount an otherwise qualified individual because s/he has a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires the University take steps to reasonably accommodate individuals with disabilities so they be fully and fairly considered for the job. Keep the focus on whether the individual has the skills to perform the position, not on how they will perform the work.
  21. What if a current UC Santa Cruz employee applies for the job and you 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 their actual job performance, and whether it is directly related to this position, should be considered.
    • You should evaluate the information in terms of the qualifications established for the position. If the information influences your decision to interview or not interview the applicant you should document the information for the recruitment notes. If the verifiable information demonstrates the applicants is not qualified for interview you should indicate the qualifications not met on the Applicant Selection Log (ASL).
    • Keep in mind that you can also call a current or past UC Santa Cruz supervisor for a reference check, just as you would someone who works outside the university. If you have concerns about a candidate who remains among your top candidates after the initial screening, consider doing pre-interview reference checks on all your top candidates.
  22. What should units do with perceived pressure for a “courtesy interview”?
    • This can come up when an internal applicant who is not qualified expects an interview because they know the HM or a member of the committee. Interviewing an applicant who does not meet the qualifications for interview must be avoided. Granting a courtesy interview to an unqualified applicant creates several problems; it calls into question the integrity of your overall selection process, can raise unrealistic expectations on the part of the unqualified applicant, and may result in a complaint of unfairness by others.
    • You should offer an informal meeting with the individual to discuss their interest in the position and explain why they were not selected for an interview.
  23. How many applicants should I select for Interview?
    • The number of applicants you select for interview will depend on many things: how large the pool is, how qualified the applicants are, how many vacancies you need to fill, how quickly you need to conclude the interview stage due to organizational business need, etc. If you find that you have too many well-qualified candidates to interview, consider using the tools mentioned above to narrow them down to manageable number.
  24. What should units do about affirmative action?
    • You should try to maximize the diversity of the pool by advertising as widely as possible and making use of networking opportunities for positions where there is underutilization.

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