Developing and Implementing an Effective Interview Process

This document is based on Searching for Excellence & Diversity: A Guide for Search Committee Chairs, a guide developed by the Women in Science & Engineering Leadership Institute (WISELI) at the University of Wisconsin Madison.

(Pages 73‐102 in WISELI Book)


    • Allow the hiring department to determine whether candidates possess the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other attributes to be successful at BU.
    • Allow candidates to determine whether BU offers the opportunities, facilities, colleagues, and other attributes necessary for their successful employment.
    • Keep both of these aims in mind as you plan what to do before, during, and after the actual interviews to ensure an effective interview process and to enhance the quality of the overall hiring process.


  1. Together with your committee, articulate your interview goals.

Review and reflect on the desired qualifications of candidates; make sure that whatever interview design you develop will provide you with sufficient information to make your decisions.

  1. Develop a set of core questions to be asked of each candidate.

Some search committee chairs prefer to rely on unstructured interviews rather than a prepared set of questions. This is acceptable so long as you develop some system of guaranteeing that someone asks every candidate the questions that will be key to your evaluation and comparison of the candidates. Such questions might include those relating to the following areas:

    • Educational background
    • Research experience
    • Teaching experience
    • Publication record
    • Current and future research interests
    • Current funding and potential sources of future funding
    • Ideas for future publications
    • Experience teaching and/or interacting with diverse populations

If, despite your efforts to ask each candidate all the questions you believe will be relevant to your evaluation, your committee finds itself evaluating one candidate on the basis of a response to an issue not raised with the remaining candidates, consider follow‐up telephone conversations with the remaining candidates to solicit their responses and provide your committee with the ability to make comparisons.

  1. Circulate the candidates resume to all faculty who will participate in the interview.
  2. Be sure all interviewers are aware of what questions are inappropriate (see table on page 29).
  3. Consider who will interview the candidates.

Discuss how to raise interviewers’ awareness of potential for bias and prejudice. Discuss how to make sure that interviewers will not ask inappropriate questions. Discuss how to obtain and evaluate interviewers’ feedback.

  1. Determine the interview structure and schedule.

Be sure to provide breaks for the candidate. Be sure to permit sufficient time for the interviews. Build in some flexibility. Make the schedule meaningful to the candidate. Provide more than a list of names of people that a candidate will meet. Include information about the interviewers rank, field of study, relevant activities in the department, college, and university.

  1. Personalize the visit for each candidate.

Decide what events other than interviews the candidates will engage in (e.g., job talk, classroom presentation, tour of campus/city, meals, social events). Consider how you will learn about the candidates’ needs/interests.

  1. Provide opportunities for women and minority members of the department to meet all candidates—not just women and minority candidates.

You may not always know that a candidate belongs to a minority group. Events at which candidates can meet other minority members can help them feel welcome.

  1. Provide candidates with the opportunities to seek information about campus and resources from knowledgeable sources not directly involved in the search.

You might ask someone from your Dean’s office if they would consider meeting with each of your final candidates to provide them with information, referrals, or resources about diverse communities, university policies, childcare, etc. You can also contact the Associate Provost for Faculty Development for the University, or the Assistant Provost for Faculty Affairs on the Medical Campus, if your candidate’s has specific questions. If the candidate has no diversity issues/needs, the person they meet with can serve as a neutral source of information about the department, college, community, etc. It is important that this individual be uninvolved in the evaluation process and that all matters discussed be kept strictly confidential. Scheduling a meeting for all of your final candidates with someone qualified to discuss their diverse needs or refer them to relevant individuals and resources prevents candidates from having to address these needs with members of the search committee.

  1. Provide candidates with a detailed schedule that identifies by name and affiliation each person who will interview them and a brief explanation of why this person is interviewing them.
  1. Develop an information packet to share with all final candidates. This packet should include information about the campus and the community and should provide candidates with references and resources they can use to meet their needs without having to inform search committee members of these needs. These references and resources can include:
    • References to information about Child Care and Family Resources
    • Information about dual career hires
    • Information about the New England Higher Education Recruitment Consortium:
    • Information about Faculty Mentoring Program. Information about WISE if appropriate:
    • Appropriate maps
    • BU Facts
    • PROFILE: Boston and surrounding areas
    • BU Real Estate Firms & Services
    • Local school information or websites
    • Information about the department and college
    • Alumni magazine
    • The Provost’s Office has compiled a list of helpful links called the Quick Guide to Faculty Life at Boston University. Search committee chairs may direct candidates to the site or print the documents to be included with appropriate college and departmental level materials.


  1. Follow the plan established before the interview process and allow enough time for the interviews.
  2. Remind interviewers of what questions are inappropriate. Also remind them that the same questions that are inappropriate for formal interviews are also inappropriate at meals, social events, and other informal gatherings.
  3. Consider distributing a list of “inappropriate questions” to all faculty members and interviewers shortly before candidates’ visits.
  4. Make candidates feel welcome and comfortable. It is critical to treat all candidates fairly and with respect. If you have reason to believe an interviewer may be hostile to hiring women and/or minorities, don’t leave the candidate alone with this interviewer. If a candidate is confronted with racist or sexist remarks, take positive and assertive steps to defuse the situation.
  5. Encourage all faculty members to attend candidates’ talks/lectures. This is an important part of making candidates feel welcome and respected.
  6. Remind interviewers and faculty members to treat each candidate as a potential colleague and stress that in addition to determining the candidates’ qualifications for the position, you want every candidate to conclude their visit with a good impression of BU and its faculty. Point out that candidates who are not treated with respect and dignity can do lasting damage to a department’s reputation by informing others of how they were treated.
  7. Allow sufficient time for follow‐up questions, candidate questions, and breaks.
  8. Remind interviewers to complete evaluations.


  1. Meet with your search committee as soon as possible after the completion of the interviews. Review the faculty evaluations.
  2. Follow the agreed‐upon process for making recommendations—evaluate candidates for their strengths and weaknesses on specific attributes.
  3. Review the materials for Element III—Raise awareness of unconscious assumptions and their influence on evaluation of candidates. Consider whether any such assumptions are influencing your evaluation of final candidates.
  4. Check references following an agreed‐upon format. If phone calls are made, draw up a common set of questions to ask in all telephone interviews.
  5. Selecting a candidate to recommend to the Dean:
    • The BU Faculty Handbook states for the Charles River Campus: After reviewing all applicants and nominees, the search committee shall report its findings and recommendations to the full‐time faculty of the department. After faculty discussion and a vote, the chair shall report the outcome of the vote and the substance of the faculty discussion regarding a recommended candidate, or candidates, including any dissenting opinions. Together with the chair’s own recommendation, this report will be conveyed to the dean of the School. The chair shall also submit the names of all the finalists considered by the faculty.
    • The BU Faculty Handbook states for the Medical Campus: After reviewing all applicants and nominees appropriate for a given position, the search committee shall report its findings and recommendations to the chair of the department. The chair shall forward his/her recommendation of a candidate to the dean of the School, along with the names of all candidates recommended by the search committee, and a list of the candidates considered for the position(s) being filled. Should the dean concur with the chair’s recommendation, the chair will seek faculty approval of the recommended candidate through the appointment and promotion committee process set out in the by‐laws of the School.
  6. Communicate with both successful and unsuccessful candidates in a timely manner. It leaves a lasting negative impression if you fail to “close the loop” when the search has concluded. You must correspond with every unsuccessful candidate, to thank them once again for applying, and to let them know that they were not successful.
  7. Decide how to proceed if your recommended candidate is not accepted by the faculty or department chair or if the candidate turns you down. In many cases, your department will NOT “lose the slot” if you fail to fill it with an outstanding candidate. Settling for a lesser candidate because the department fears they will not be able to search again next year is a very poor strategy. Please have this discussion with your Dean at the outset of the search process.


Logistics for interviews; consider these elements:

    • Clarity as to whether candidate’s expenses will be reimbursed and/or whether direct billing will be used.
    • Airline tickets?
    • Hotel reservations? (state rates)
    • Transportation between airport, hotel and campus?
    • Campus parking?
    • Individual and group meals and hospitality?
    • Asked the candidate if there are specific people or groups they would like to meet
    • Who will greet the candidate?
    • Clarification to candidate about the type of presentation that is expected.
    • How do we ensure that candidates don’t run into each other?
    • Tour of the department, office, campus?
    • Refreshments for candidates and committees?
    • What printed information do we wish to furnish regarding the campus, city, state?
    • What do we need to tell the candidate about the interview activities, schedule, settings, types of presentations required?
    • Providing all members of the interview team(s) or search committee with pertinent information about the candidates, rating forms, and interview schedule.
    • Room reservations for interviews including AV equipment, flip charts, etc. needed for candidate presentations.
    • Consulting the Office of Disability Services for advice regarding visits to campus by candidates with disabilities.