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prospective faculty image1. Defining the Job: Identifying Skills Needed to Succeed

Conducting multiple levels of screening is common in the search committee process, but all procedures should share one goal: job performance. First, the search committee should define successful job performance according to their academic discipline by answering the following questions:

  • What tasks and projects does a successful faculty member need to complete?
  • What are the knowledge, skills, abilities, and orientations (KSAOs) faculty members need to possess to successfully complete the most important tasks and projects listed?

2. Comparing Applicants Using Rubric-Based Scoring

Once the committee has defined the critical KSAOs, a scoring sheet (rubric) should be derived to compare applicants on each of the KSAOs.  Members of the search committee then score all or some of the applications using the KSAO criteria defined earlier in the process. We recommend that applicants who score high on the most pertinent KSAOs be invited for first stage (skype, conference, Google hangout, airport, or hotel) interviews.

3. Asking the Right Questions: Interviews

Interviews with no pre-defined questions do not treat each candidate equally, and can be biased towards women and minority group members.

Search committees should develop structured interviews with set questions aligning to the knowledge, skills, abilities and orientations developed from step 1. For instance, if your committee wants information about a candidates’ statistics expertise, you may want to ask them to describe a complex methodological challenge they encountered in their research and the behavior they engaged in to address the challenge.

Note that questions that ask about specific past behaviors tend to be better predictors of job performance than generic questions or questions that ask what one “would do” in a hypothetical situation.

Ideal interviews should contain 5-10 questions that capture the KSAOs and map those skills onto important job performance components (research, teaching, service, ethical conduct, etc.).

Search committee members should score each applicant’s answers individually and then create an aggregated, final score. This approach again limits bias against minorities and women applicants (who tend to be rated less favorably when overall judgments of interview performance are used in contrast to decomposed judgments).

campus image4. Organizing Site Visits: Present a Positive Environment

Campus visits are a critical step in the evaluation and selection process for the hiring department and in the decision-making process for candidates. Therefore, it is important to make the interview experience as positive as possible.

In a competitive recruitment environment, it is important to consider the following aspects of the candidate’s visit:

  • Accommodations;
  • Transportation;
  • Free time to see the campus and community;
  • A well-scheduled interview day;
  • Well-attended seminar;
  • Pleasant meals; and
  • An opportunity for them to get questions answered about UH research and teaching programs, as well as the city of Houston.

With thoughtful planning, a campus visit can provide adequate opportunities to gather information about and provide information to the candidates.

Site visits serve as an opportunity for the candidate to evaluate UH just as much as the university evaluates them. Departments should utilize a combination of structured and unstructured interviews for the site visits. Again, scoring sheets and standardized interview questions should be used for the structured interviews, which serve a selection function. No structured questions and no scoring rubrics need to be used for the meetings (e.g. meals) that serve a recruitment function – the goal is to provide the candidate with relevant information, research discussions, and community resource information that will enable him/her to make an informed decision as to whether they would ultimately like to join UH.

Information gathered in structured interviews should be scored and scores should be aggregated across faculty members who interact with the candidates. We recommend faculty members complete scoring sheets for each interview, and scoring sheets for the candidate’s research presentations.

Key Takeaways:

  • The evaluation of applicants should be objective and equitable, based solely on the qualifications that are noted in the position description and the job performance definition.
  • The utilization of a KSAO rubric to ensure that all candidates are subject to the same evaluation criteria, and to ensure that members of search committees apply selection criteria consistently. *Listed below are rubric templates that the committee can modify as necessary for their own use.
  • All candidates should be asked the same initial questions, with follow-up questions as needed to clarify the applicant’s experience or qualifications as related to the initial question.
  • Everyone participating in the interview process should be made aware of interview questions that are either illegal to ask, or otherwise raise a risk of creating a legal claim.
  • All interview methods should be consistent for each candidate that the committee screens.
  • Provide applicants with the opportunity to ask questions about the University of Houston, the department and Houston as a city and place to live. However, information gleaned from these questions should not be accounted for in scoring the applicant’s interview performance.
During interviews or interactions with department chairs, applicants should have the opportunity to discuss issues that may prevent them from accepting a UH job offer (e.g. a spouse who may also be seeking a position, need for child care, need for specific community, religious, or medical services). A good way to inquire about these needs is for the chair to ask whether there is anything the department would need to know about the candidate’s situation that could or would prevent him/her from accepting a job offer.


Campus Visit

Campus visits are a critical step in the evaluation and selection process for the hiring department and in the decision-making process for candidates. Therefore, it is important to make the interview experience as positive as possible. In a competitive recruitment environment, it is important to consider all aspects of the candidate’s visit: the accommodations; transportation; free time to see the campus and community; a well-scheduled interview day; well-attended seminar; pleasant meals; and an opportunity for them to get questions answered about UH research and teaching programs, as well as the city of Houston. With thoughtful planning, a campus visit can provide adequate opportunities to gather information about and provide information to the candidates.

Appropriate and Inappropriate Interview Questions

Rules to Remember

  1. Ask only what you need to know, not what you would like to know.
    • Need to know: affects the day-to-day requirements of the job.
    • Like to know: does not pertain to the job, usually personal in nature.
  1. If you have any questions about the appropriateness of the question, don’t ask it.
  2. If you ask a question to one candidate, you must ask the question to ALL candidates.





Questions about age, dates of attending school, dates of military service, request for birth certificate.

Questions about age are only permitted to ensure that a person is legally old enough to do the job.


Questions about arrests, pending charges and convictions that do not relate substantially to the job.

Example: Have you ever been arrested?



Any question about citizenship.

Examples: Are you a U.S. Citizen? Where were you born? Are you an American? What kind of name is that?

May ask about legal authorization to work in a specific position, if all applicants are asked.


Questions about disability are not appropriate.

Examples: Do you have a disability? What is the nature or severity of your disability? Do you have a health condition? Do you require accommodations?

Questions about ability are appropriate.

Example: Are you able to perform the essential functions of this job with or without accommodations?


Any inquiry about marital status, pregnancy, children, or child care plans.

Questions about whether an applicant can meet work schedules or job requirements if asked of all candidates, both men and women.


Any question about health.

Examples: How is your health? How is your family’s health?



Questions about national origin, ancestry, or prior marital status.

Examples, What kind of name is that? Is that your maiden name?

May ask about current legal name.

Example, Is additional information, such as a different name or a nickname necessary in order to check job references?


Any questions about national origin or citizenship.

Examples: Are you legally eligible to work in the U.S.A.? Where were you or your parents born? What is your native language?

May ask if legally authorized to work in this specific position, if all applicants are asked this question.


Inquiries about membership in organizations that might indicate race, sex, religion, or national origin.

Inquiries about membership in professional organizations related to the position.


Questions about complexion, color, height, or weight.



Any question about sexual orientation.

Examples: Are you gay? Why do you wear an earring?



Source: Fine, E., & Handelsman, J. (2012). Searching for excellence and diversity: A guide for search committees. WI: WISELI. (p. 98-99)

Veteran’s Hiring Preference

In compliance with Texas State Senate Bill (S.B.) 805, the University of Houston is committed to providing a preference in employment to eligible veterans, disabled veteran, surviving spouse of veteran and orphan of veteran applicants who meet minimum qualifications and any special qualifications for the position to which they apply.  The required preferences do not compel the University to appoint a veteran, disabled veteran, surviving spouse of a veteran or orphan of a veteran.  However, they do require that those who meet the veteran preference eligibility be appointed when their application assessment, combined with the veteran's preference, is equal to, or higher than that of a non-veteran.

Who's covered?

A person who served in the active military, naval, or air services (including Air National Guard and National Guard) and who was discharged or released under honorable conditions only or who later received an upgraded discharge under honorable conditions, notwithstanding any action by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs on individuals discharged or released with other than honorable discharges. 

  1. a veteran with a disability whose disability is service connected;
  2. a veteran; 
  3. a veteran's surviving spouse who has not remarried; and
  4. an orphan of a veteran if the veteran was killed while on active duty.

Is there a special interview process for veterans who qualify for this preference?

An individual who qualifies for a Veteran's Preference in Employment is entitled to a preference in the interview process over other applicants for the same position who do not have a greater qualification. However, the Veteran's Preference statute does not guarantee the veteran (or those who qualify) a job. Positions at the University of Houston are filled with the best qualified candidate as determined by the hiring manager. 

Also, please note that all offers of employment are tentative and based upon successful completion of a background check.  As such, all individuals who qualify for a Veteran's Preference and are extended a job offer will be required to provide a copy of his or her DD214 (or equivalent certification from the Department of Veterans Affairs) as part of the background check. 

For more details or questions regarding the Veteran's Preference in Employment, please contact our Veteran's Employment Liaison in Human Resources: 

MJ Jackson