Fair Hiring Guide

Screening/Evaluating Applications

All routed applications will be screened for potential interview selection.

The objective of this stage of the process is to select the applicants who meet the criteria to qualify for an interview. Your screening process must be fair and inclusive to avoid unintentional barriers preventing all qualified applicants to be fully considered.

The hiring manager (HM) and/or the committee chair should communicate clearly to the search committee the competencies a strong 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 reading the application materials - don’t try to evaluate qualifications that can only be assessed by interacting with the applicant (i.e., verbal communication skills, interpersonal skills).

Determine whether some qualifications carry more weight and are more important, or urgently needed, than others. Explain this to your committee so they collectively understand how to assess and rate applicants’ qualifications cohesively as a group, and know what you are looking for in a successful candidate.

Narrow the pool to the applicants who meet the requirements for an interview. Keep in mind that all applicants who meet interview requirements must be invited for an interview.

If there are a large number of well-qualified applicants who meet the initial interview requirements, you may further narrow your pool by increasing the focus on the most important qualifications and raising the standards required to make the next cut. If there are not significant differences on the applications which allow you to screen your pool further, consider gathering additional information from applicants to assist you in selecting interviewees.

Additional screening methods to use with those who remain under consideration for interview:

  • Phone interviews (may be brief, 1-3 questions only); ask the same questions of all, and record their responses. 
  • Specific supplemental questions; must be job related, and help you learn more about the applicant so you can make an informed decision about their status.
  • Request a supplemental work sample; must be job related, and help you learn more about the applicant so you can make an informed decision about their status. Review the Supplemental Questions guidance provided in the Recruitment Planning section.
  • Pre-interview reference checks; this is a very rare step to take, but may be beneficial in the case of a Campus Only recruitment.

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 the committee members’ numerical ratings of a candidate), which may not result in selection of the best-qualified applicant.

After screening applications and selecting interviewees, it is recommended that all applicants no longer under consideration receive some type of communication updating them on their status as soon as possible. Make note of when and how you communicated to these applicants on the Applicant and Communication Disposition Log (ACDL) in the Recruitment Document Suite (RDS) on the google drive. The ACDL will include a tab listing the contact information for all routed applicants.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. Who should be involved?
    1. People who know the job well, such as people in the unit, people outside the unit whose jobs interrelate, constituents or customers who would interact with the position.
    2. People who have been through the Fair Hiring training (minimum requirement is that the Hiring Manager and the Committee Chair be trained).
    3. At least two people to look over each application, ideally members of the search committee.
  2. What’s the best way to get started?
    1. The HM and/or committee chair will decide which qualifications to use when evaluating applicants for interview selection. Use the document titled “Qualification Assessment Plan” in the Recruitment Document Suite (RDS) to record decisions about which qualifications will be used at each stage of the process. Interview selection is determined based on a review of application materials. Be sure to assess only using those qualifications that can be judged from reading the application materials, and not those which require interaction with a candidate (such as verbal communication skills).
    2. The HM and/or committee chair should assign weights to each qualification. For example, document which qualifications are more important in relation to others. Another decision to make is whether any qualifications are absolutely necessary, such that applicants who do not possess them would be deselected without further evaluation. These decisions would be documented on the Qualification Assessment Plan document.
    3. Discussion and debate of all applicant materials during the screening / evaluation process can clarify which skills, knowledge, experiences, and transferable skills meet the various requirements for interview selection.
  3. What screening/evaluation process works best?
    1. A process that includes at least one committee meeting where the HM and/or committee chair explains the evaluation process, followed by committee members individually evaluating application materials and selecting interviewees, followed by a safe group discussion of the individual evaluations when agreement is reached on the final interviewee selection.
    2. Most people find it easiest to do a quick screening to eliminate applicants who don’t have the qualifications that are absolutely necessary (as noted by the HM or committee chair), then take a more careful look through the rest. As extra assurance, have a committee member look through the “rejects” with the goal of identifying people who might have been overlooked because their background isn’t typical.
    3. Guidance provided by the HM and/or committee chair is used to make sure the evaluation of each applicant is done consistently with each qualification being used, and with a clear understanding of what the qualifications mean, how they relate to the job, and how to recognize when an applicant meets them. Use the screening matrix in the Recruitment Document Suite (RDS) to record which applicants meet which qualifications and how strongly they meet them.
    4. If there is a large applicant pool, it’s fine to split up the applications among at least two to three people, each group taking responsibility for presenting their findings to the full committee. Or, a subset of the committee may conduct a pre-screening of the applicant pool and eliminate those who don’t meet key qualifications required for interview selection (as identified by the HM and/or committee chair).
  4. How do we decide who to include in the final list of interviewees and alternates?
    1. Use the search committee to assess applicant qualifications through discussion and deliberation to select interviewees, rather than just averaging committee members’ numerical ratings. If debate is cut off too quickly, the benefit that different perspectives can bring to the sometimes difficult task of evaluating applicant materials may be lost.
  5. How should the process be documented?
    1. The HM or committee chair is responsible for ensuring that the group’s evaluations are recorded on the screening matrix in the Recruitment Document Suite (RDS).
    2. In addition, the HM or committee chair should document the screening process (who did what, when) and any notable decision points (e.g., “we decided to interview only people who had both the computer skills and experience with implementation of a new system”) in the Recruitment Planning Guide in the Recruitment Document Suite (RDS).
    3. All records generated during the recruitment, including interview questions, committee member interview notes, reference check notes, and copies of internal and applicant/candidate communications, will be retained by Talent Acquisition for four (4) years. Be sure to include these documents in the Recruitment Document Suite (RDS) folder when the recruitment work is concluded. For questions about these requirements, please contact your TAC or email hiring@ucsc.edu.
  6. How can you tell if people really have the abilities that they claim to have?
    1. At the application screening stage, assume that applicants have provided an honest account of their skills, experience and professional background. Ensure the interview questions will direct the conversation to cover the requirements of the job and promote dialog about the candidate’s suitability for hire, and allow time during interviews to probe on a candidate’s background using follow-up questions. And be sure to always check references. Keep the interview questions to job related topics only, and remember to be open to hearing about how others successfully perform their work in ways that may seem unconventional or unfamiliar.
    2. 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.
  7. What should I do if some of the applicants did not provide responses to the supplemental questions?
    1. Supplemental questions are an optional tool, sometimes used to gather additional information from applicants to assist with identifying qualified interviewees. Only those supplemental questions which ask for information about a Special Condition of Employment (SCOE) can be set up as required to be answered. For example, if to be hired, the selected candidates must possess a Medical Assistant certification, then the supplemental question asking if they possess this certification can be required.
    2. If an applicant appears to meet the requirements for an interview but didn’t answer the supplemental question(s), and it was not a required question, review the materials they provided and see if there is enough information to determine if they are qualified for interview selection. You can also ask them to provide more information via email if it is needed to determine if they are qualified for interview selection
  8. To what extent can one assess interpersonal skills from a written application?
    1. Interpersonal skills are best evaluated through personal interaction during interviews and also through reference checks. During application material assessment it may be that an applicant has done work that probably required those skills, however you cannot tell how strongly they meet this qualification without personal interaction.
  9. Does the recency of a person’s education or job experience matter?
    1. It may, but only in fields that experience significant change either routinely or in recent years. Remember that applicants may maintain important skills in various other ways, such as through volunteer work, or by maintaining contact with professional organizations and conferences, etc.
  10. When is more experience better?
    1. 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. However, it is critical to remember that years of experience alone is never an indication of the quality and effectiveness of job performance.
  11. Do we have to consider an obviously “overqualified” applicant?
    1. 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 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.
    2. 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. However, always assess each person’s qualifications for the position that is being filled. Don’t assume applicants who have held a higher-level job are experienced enough and qualified to successfully perform the work of a lower classified position.
  12. What is “equivalent” to a college degree?
    1. 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. And it’s the responsibility of the search committee to ask interview questions that will lead to an informed decision about how skilled or knowledgeable they are.
  13. Is it appropriate to make judgments about a person’s skills from what they submit in their application materials?
    1. 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 -- a great employee may be missed.
  14. How should patterns in a person’s job history be evaluated?
    1. 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.
    2. Progressively responsible job experience can be a positive indication of the applicant’s ability to adapt to new situations and grow within a job. But on an application it can look like job hopping.
  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?
    1. 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 possesses the strongest overall skills required for success in the long run.
  16. How do you evaluate transferable skills versus directly related experience?
    1. Think about the skills themselves, rather than the experience. Look for evidence of the strength of that person’s skills and the similarity of 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?
    1. Remember that having more evidence about a person’s qualifications doesn’t necessarily mean they are better qualified. 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?
    1. 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?
    1. Yes. The location of a candidate’s residence should never be used as a selection criterion. If an applicant from out of town is selected for an interview and unable to pay travel expenses, consider doing the first interview remotely, or asking the candidate to pay their own travel expenses if they prefer to meet in person.
  20. What if the applicant has a disability?
    1. It is illegal to discount an otherwise qualified individual because they have a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires the University take steps to reasonably accommodate individuals with disabilities so they are 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.
    2. It is important to ask all individuals invited for an interview whether they need an accommodation to participate in the interview. If an accommodation is requested, you are responsible for granting the accommodation. For guidance on accommodating interviewees contact the Disability Management Coordinator (831/459-4602).
  21. What if an applicant is a current or recent UC Santa Cruz employee you once worked with and you know more about them (positive or negative) than you know about other applicants?
    1. If you and the hiring manager and/or committee chair feel you should remain on the committee, no need to try to forget what you know about this applicant. Keep in mind that only reliable and verifiable information which you know from your own first hand experience about their actual job performance should be taken into consideration. Also, pay close attention to whether what you know is directly related to this position.
    2. You should evaluate the additional information you have 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 what you know, and how you know it, for the recruitment notes. If the verifiable information demonstrates the applicant is not qualified for an interview you should indicate the qualifications not met on the Applicant and Candidate Disposition Log (ACDL).
    3. You can also call a current or past UC Santa Cruz supervisor for a pre-interview reference check. If you have concerns about someone who is a top candidate for possible interview selection 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”?
    1. 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 the interview must always be avoided. Granting a courtesy interview to an unqualified applicant creates several problems; it calls into question the integrity of the overall selection process, can raise unrealistic expectations on the part of the unqualified applicant, and may result in a complaint of unfairness by others.
    2. 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. Feel free to give them guidance on the types of professional development they could pursue in order to become more qualified for such a position in the future. Also, share the My UC Career tool with our internal applicant as it can be very helpful.
  23. How many applicants should I select for Interview?
    1. The number of applicants you select for an 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 needs, 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 a manageable number.
  24. What should units do about affirmative action?
    1. 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.