The Selection Process

NOTE:  As of Sept. 10, 2018, the University of Iowa has a new system for managing advertising, applications, and searches for staff and health care jobs, therefore, this Recruitment Manual for P&S and faculty searches will be revised to reflect the university’s transition to the new Talent Acquisition system (OTAC). Information in this manual pertaining to faculty searches is still applicable until such time as the faculty requisitions migrate to the new OTAC system. Please contact Talent Acquisition support ( in University Human Resources with any questions about the OTAC system.
  1. PDF iconReference Check List Candidates

The interview process serves two primary purposes: 1) to allow the search committee to assess candidates’ qualifications for the position and 2) to allow candidates to assess their interest in employment at the University of Iowa. Candidates’ impressions of the university will be influenced by the consideration, competence, and sincerity of each search committee member.

Best Practices:

  • Develop a patterned interview structure which allows the committee members to make an objective assessment of each candidate and minimize unconscious bias.
  • Conduct the interviews and be as consistent as possible for all candidates. Utilize the same questions, setting, time allotment, and interviewers to ensure that each candidate is treated fairly.
  • Develop behavior-based questions that focus on job-related experiences, behaviors, knowledge, skills, and abilities.
  • Avoid asking theoretical questions such as “How would you go about influencing those you supervise and work with on the benefits of diversity”? An example of a better question would be: “Describe a time when you influenced supervisees and/or colleagues about the benefits of diversity”?
  • Assess whether the answers to the questions, if used in making a selection, will have a disparate impact on applicants in protected classes and whether the questions are essential to judge an applicant’s qualifications for the position.
  • Resist the tendency to label any given candidate as “most promising”, as it can become more difficult for the search committee to give other candidates in the pool equal consideration.
  • Refrain from drawing conclusions on candidates prematurely; instead, use the entire interview as an opportunity to gather pertinent information.
  • Avoid making assumptions based on perceived race, ethnic background, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, marital or familial status, sexual orientation, political affiliation, genetic information or religion.
  • Ask only for information that can legally serve as a basis for the hiring decision. In the linked document below, are examples of legal and illegal interview inquiries.
  1. PDF iconLegal and Illegal Interview Questions and Inquiries

It is important that search committee members are familiar with what topics of discussions are/are not permissible topics to discuss with applicants.

  1. Personal Bias in Interviewing

Creating a fair and structured interview process will assist in minimizing personal bias that may overshadow the search committee's evaluation of candidates.  The insertion of personal bias can also have a negative impact on the outcome of the search for the hiring department/units and for the candidates being interviewed.

  1. Common interview biases and errors:
  • Halo Effect- refers to when a candidate possesses a positive attribute which then becomes dominant and is transferred to all other aspects of the candidate's background and/or qualifications by the interviewer.
  • Horn Effect-refers to when a candidate possesses a negative attribute and it is overemphasized and transferred to all other aspects of the candidate's background and/or qualifications by the interviewer.
  • Interviewer Identification with Personal Similarities of candidates-This bias refers to the tendency for the interviewer to select and hire individuals who possess similar attributes/backgrounds to their own.
  • Contrast Bias-Contrast Bias occurs when an interviewer compares candidates to each other or compares all candidates to a single candidate. For example, if one candidate appears to lack strong leadership experience; others may appear to be more qualified than they really are.
  • Stereotyping Bias-Stereotyping Bias occurs when the interviewer assumes a candidate has specific traits because they are a member of a group. If job requirements include lifting 50 pounds, an interviewer might inaccurately assume women cannot meet this requirement.
  • Generalization Bias-Generalization bias can occur when interviewers assume candidates’ mannerisms in the interview are part of their everyday behavior. For example, candidates who are nervous in the interview can be generalized as always nervous.
  • Cultural Noise Bias-Cultural Noise Bias occurs when candidates answer questions based on information they think will get them the job. Basically, they say what they think the interviewer wants to hear. For example, a candidate might say she/he likes working as part of a team if the interviewer stresses teamwork as a requirement.
  • Nonverbal Bias-Nonverbal Bias occurs when an interviewer is influenced by body language. A concerned look on a search committee's face and or an affirmative nod when listening to candidates answering questions can send incorrect signals.
  • Recency Bias-Recency Bias occurs when the interviewer recalls the most recently interviewed candidates more clearly than earlier candidates during the decision-making process.
  • Gender and Racial Bias in Hiring-It is important that hiring departments and search committees are cognizant of how personal bias can influence their judgment when screening and selecting applicants.  The following resources provide essential information to ensure that snap judgments are not made about applicants with insufficient job related information to support the search committee/hiring department recommendations.

Adapted from: Society of Human Resources Management

  1. Article entitled: Gender and Racial Bias in Hiring, By Shelley J. Correll and Stephen Benard


  1. Employer Tips on Interviewing Applicants with Disabilities

Employers are as perplexed by the social aspects of interviewing someone with a disability as they are by the legal concerns. Here are some basic guidelines for keeping a job interview focused on the applicant's qualifications.

When Interviewing an Applicant with Any Disability

  • Do ask job-related questions: "How would you perform this particular task?"
  • Don't ask: "What happened to you?" or "How will you get to work?"
  • Don't ask questions in terms of disability, such as, "Do you have a mental condition that would preclude you from qualifying for this position?"
  • Don't ask, "How often will you require leave for treatment of your condition?" However, you may state the organizations attendance requirements and ask if the applicant can meet them.
  • Don't start the interview by trying to elicit the applicant's needs for accommodation.
  • The interview should focus on whether the candidate is qualified for the job in question. Focus on the applicant’s Abilities. If there is a need for a discussion concerning accommodations, this should come later.
  • It is the applicant's responsibility to request accommodations. Don't ask the job applicant, "Will you need accommodations?" or "What kind of accommodations will you need?" However, if you have concerns over an applicant's ability to perform an essential function of a job, given the applicant’s obvious or disclosed disability, you can ask the applicant how they would go about performing that task.
  • Always offer to shake hands. Do not avoid eye contact, but don't stare either.
  • Treat the applicant as you would any other adult-don't be patronizing. If you don't usually address applicants by their first name, don't make an exception for applicants with disabilities.
  • If you feel it is appropriate, offer the applicant assistance (for example, if an individual with poor grasping ability is having trouble opening a door), but don't assume it will necessarily be accepted.
  • Don't automatically give assistance without asking first.

When Interviewing an Applicant Who Uses a Wheelchair

  • Don't lean on the wheelchair.
  • Get on the same eye level with the applicant if the conversation lasts more than a minute or so.
  • Don't push the wheelchair unless you are asked to do so.
  • Keep accessibility in mind. Is that chair in the middle of your office a barrier to a wheelchair user? If so, move it aside.
  • Don't be embarrassed to use such phrases as "Let's walk over to the plant."
  • When giving instructions or directions, proceed slowly.
  • Be patient, and repeat directions if necessary.

When Interviewing an Applicant Who has a Visual Impairment

  • Immediately identify yourself and others present; cue a handshake verbally or physically.
  • Use verbal cues; be descriptive in giving directions. (The table is about five steps to your left.)
  • Verbalize chair location, or place the person's hand on the back of the chair, but do not place the person in the chair.
  • Do not touch an applicant's cane. Do not touch a guide dog when in a harness. In fact, resist the temptation to pet a guide dog.
  • Don't be embarrassed to use such phrases as "Do you see what I mean?"
  • Don't shout.
  • Keep doors either open or closed; a half-open door is a serious hazard.
  • Offer assistance with mobility; let the applicant grasp your left arm, usually just above the elbow. Again, ask first, and do not be surprised if assistance is refused.

When Interviewing an Applicant Who has a Hearing Impairment

  • You may need to use a physical signal to get the applicant's attention.
  • If the applicant is lip reading, enunciate clearly, keep your mouth clear of obstructions, and place yourself where there is ample lighting.
  • Keep in mind that an accomplished lip reader will be able to clearly understand only 30-35% of what you are saying.
  • The best method to communicate is to use a combination of gestures and facial expressions.
  • You may also want to learn how to fingerspell, or, if you are more ambitious, take a course in American Sign Language.
  • Don't shout.
  • If you don't understand what the applicant is telling you, don't pretend you do. Ask the candidate to repeat the sentence(s).
  • If necessary, use a sign language interpreter. But keep in mind that the interpreter's job is to translate, not to get involved in any other way. Therefore, always face and speak directly to the applicant, not the interpreter. Don't say to the interpreter, "Tell her..."

Adapted From: National Center on Workforce & Disability website: See: Disability: The Basics; Dos and Don'ts; Employer Tips on Interviewing Applicants with Disabilities

  1. Assessing Diversity Leadership Skills in the Interview

Search committees can use the following methods to assess candidates’ diversity leadership skills, a required qualification for positions at a pay level 6 or higher in the non-organized professional and scientific classification, and for faculty appointments with significant administrative responsibilities.

These suggestions are not designed to probe a candidate's personal beliefs; rather, they are offered to help the search committee ascertain effective leadership and management style for an increasingly diverse and inclusive workforce.

Best Practices:

  • Avoid compartmentalizing questions about fairness, equity, and affirmative action as if they were separate from issues regarding effective management, leadership, and planning.
  • Make a conscious effort to share responsibility for questions regarding diversity ensures that diversity issues will be raised regardless of the gender and racial makeup of the search committee. 
  • Identify questions which address specific areas of concern for the department/unit such as retention, recruitment, or conflict resolution.
  • Identify quantifiable information about the candidates’ work in the areas of diversity and inclusion.
  • Solicit information from the candidate about specific studies, policies, procedures, or programs they have initiated to further develop the campus or workplace as a diverse environment, and ask for a statement of initiatives they would propose if appointed.

The following examples of open-ended interview questions are useful and appropriate for assessing a candidate’s diversity leadership experience and skills.

  • What do you see as the most challenging aspects of an increasingly diverse academic community?
  • What initiatives have you taken in your previous capacities to meet such challenges?
  • What is your sense of the complexities and leadership challenges related to these issues?
  • Provide an example of how you work with people under your supervision to foster a climate receptive to diversity in the workforce, in the curriculum, in faculty/staff meetings?
  • What programs have you developed and/or supported in the area of diversity?
  • Describe how you conceptualize the relationship between diversity and excellence?
  • What kinds of leadership efforts are needed to encourage a commitment to excellence through diversity?
  • In what ways have you integrated multicultural issues as part of your professional development?
  1. Recruitment Ambassador Program

The Recruitment Ambassadors Program, jointly sponsored by the Department of Human Resources and the office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity, supports the university’s strategic goals for increasing the diversity of our faculty and staff. Recruitment Ambassadors are current or former faculty and staff members who volunteer to help recruit diverse prospective employees.

Through personal contact and participation in campus-sponsored events, Recruitment Ambassadors familiarize candidates with the University of Iowa and the community, act as liaisons between candidates and the University, and showcase various outstanding attributes that make the University of Iowa an “Employer of Choice.”

Recruitment Ambassadors function independently of the search committee and offer a private resource for candidates to ask questions and gather information about the University of Iowa and the resources in the surrounding community.

The primary activity of Recruitment Ambassadors is to meet with candidates for faculty/staff positions while they interview on campus. Recruitment Ambassadors also participate in job fairs and distribute brochures about employment at the University of Iowa in their communities.

  1. Conducting Reference Checks

Reference checks can be conducted pre-or post-interview at the discretion of the department. For some high-level P&S positions it may be beneficial to conduct reference checks on candidates selected for on-campus interviews prior to bringing them to campus. This is particularly true in cases where the department will be paying travel expenses for the candidate and scheduling public forums for the candidate to address the campus. Reference check questions should focus on the candidate’s job-related experience, qualifications, and accomplishments. Download the PDF iconReference Check Template for Professional and Scientific Positions.