Human Resources

Guidance for members of interview panels

The recruitment and selection process is two-way: it provides a chance for candidates to decide if the University is a place where they wish to work, as well as a chance for the University to select the most appropriate candidate for the job.

There is increasing competition for good staff in the local, national and international markets. The University is therefore striving to be an “employer of choice” for future candidates.

Bear in mind that unsuccessful candidates:

  • are potential candidates for other jobs the future.
  • are potential students (UG, PG or community students)
  • are friends, relatives, colleagues or teachers of potential staff and/or students.

How the recruitment and selection process is carried out will affect the image of the University that candidates take away with them. The selection interview is a key component within the recruitment process and time should be taken to ensure that it is organised and well managed.

Preparation before the interview

Several days before the interview you and the other panel members will be provided with an information pack which will include: The job description and person specification for the post, the application forms and any supporting statements, and all available references. Please ensure that you:

  • read all the information carefully before the interview and make notes on each candidate, analysing the candidate’s previous appointments in some details and noting any omissions or points on the application which you wish to query.
  • where candidates have unfamiliar qualifications, seek advice from the HR Manager, e.g. for international or specialist/professional qualifications.
  • arrive as agreed with the Chair (at least 15 minutes before the first candidate is due to arrive for interview), to ensure that you have time to read any late arriving references, that you and all the panel members understand your roles, that you each have an agreed area of questioning and that you are working to an agreed set of criteria.
  • have a list of core questions for all candidates based on the job description and person specification.

Questions

It is not unreasonable to ask different candidates different questions based on information in their application form, or in response to a previous answer. You should not however, ask male and female candidates different questions based purely on assumptions about their home circumstances, their family relationships, their sexuality, etc. or ask ethnic minority candidates questions based on ethnicity.

However, if the job requires the candidate to be on duty beyond the University’s core hours, it is perfectly acceptable to ask all candidates : “Do you have any responsibilities which would prevent you from working some evenings and some weekends?”

Your questions should include behavioural questions, i.e. questions which require the candidate to describe their past experiences rather than questions which require their thoughts on how they might respond in a given situation.

Here are some examples of selection techniques.

Tips on questioning style

  • Help the candidate to show themselves in their best light. Do not let a robust questioning technique drift into bullying.
  • Listen carefully to what the candidate says and allow them thinking time to respond to questions.
  • Try to ensure that your tone is consistent for all candidates, i.e. that you are not more familiar or more aggressive with some candidates.
  • Avoid leading questions or ones which call for ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers.
  • Use open questions to encourage the candidate to talk, eg “Tell me about a time when …”.
  • Use probing questions to gain detail, especially if the candidate is being evasive eg “Can you explain exactly what your role in the project was..”
  • Close the discussion down or move on if the candidate is not providing useful information, eg “Thank you but I’d like to move on now to ask you about…” or “I’m sorry that’s the end of my questioning time I’d like to pass you over to my colleague….”
  • Use language carefully, especially when dealing with candidates who form a minority with respect to the department eg in terms of gender or ethnicity.
  • Unless you are very sure of your ground, take care with humour, as much humour is based on stereotypes.

Candidates requiring additional support

If any candidate has declared a disability, the Human Resources (HR) Department will provide you with specific advice. Be aware that some candidates may not have English as their first language, so try to keep your language simple, avoid colloquialisms, local cultural references or University of Bath-specific terminology.

References

Do not be over-influenced by references before you meet the candidate. Be aware that references are a reflection of the person who wrote them and their organisation as well as the candidate. Some companies have a policy of providing factual references only, e.g. job title, start and end date of employment. Do not interpret such references as a negative reflection on the candidate.

Note taking during the interview

It is important that each member of the interview panel records notes on each candidate during the interview. If a candidate challenges a decision which results in an Employment Tribunal, interview notes can be required as evidence in court. Notes will be kept by the HR Department for 6 months after the post has been filled. They will then be shredded.

Notes can aid comparisons between candidates. Do not take notes which are not relevant to the job or the criteria, eg notes about physical appearance.

Reaching a decision

When all candidates have been interviewed, the chair of the panel will encourage you to discuss each candidate in turn, assessing each against the agreed criteria. Please ensure that:

  • You are not over-influenced by references.
  • You always compare the candidate to the criteria drawn from the person specification and job description. It is not helpful to compare candidates directly with each other, as this runs the risk of appointing eg the best qualified candidate but not the most suitable or in the case of a poor field, appointing a candidate who does not meet the required criteria.
  • It is advisable to use a standard grid and scoring system to mark candidates against the agreed criteria. For example each candidate can be scored 1-3 (or *, **, ***) for each criteria. However, decisions cannot be made purely on a numerical basis; scoring systems should be used to support the decision-making process not rule it.
  • The panel decide which, if any, candidates are not appointable where they don’t meet the minimum criteria and then rank the appointable candidates.

When the job market is very tight, you may discover that none of the candidates meet the required criteria. In this case it is usually better in the long term to interview other acceptable candidates or re-advertise rather than appoint someone who is not capable of doing the job (despite the inevitable short term problems this will cause).

When the successful candidate has been chosen the panel should decide the next most suitable candidate in case the offer is declined. The chair of the panel will complete the Interview Outcome Form and return it to the appropriate member of the Human Resources Department.

Feedback

The panel should also decide who is to provide feedback to candidates if requested or if there are internal candidates. Feedback would normally be given by the direct line-manager for the post. We recommend that all unsuccessful candidates be offered feedback.

Internal candidates should be informed in person either by the line manager or by a member of the Human Resources Department whether successful or not.

Confidentiality

At the end of the process, please hand your interview packs, notes and scoring grids to the chair of the panel who will ensure they are handed to the Human Resources Department for filing and then shredding when appropriate.

Please remember that details of an individual’s performance at interview, test results and the contents of references should all be considered as confidential. Details should not be disclosed to or discussed with any one other than panel members and the HR Manager. The contents of references should not be disclosed to the candidate.

Job offer

A verbal job offer from a member of the University and a verbal acceptance constitutes a contract. The Human Resources Department will make the job offer and will agree the starting salary (liaising with the department) to ensure equality of reward across the University. The University's policy on starting salaries is usually at grade minimum.