Interview Process

Screening

Here are some tips on screening candidates’ qualifications. For specific information, contact Recruitment staff at jobopps@syr.edu

  1. Review all materials presented by the applicant. Often a resume provides more detail than an application and may highlight or contradict what is contained in the formal employment application.
  2. Check the internal consistency of the information.
  3. Be careful not to make unwarranted inferences. For example, a high school diploma is not necessarily evidence of satisfactory business writing skills.
  4. Sort candidates. Remember that it is almost impossible to make fine distinction between applicants on the basis of application/resume information alone, since the data on the form is limited and may be subject to distortion. At this stage of the selection process, it is best to group applicants into only a few categories such as Group A (qualified), Group B (meets minimum qualifications), and Group C does not meet qualifications. This determination is based on an evaluation of the job requirements and each applicant’s qualifications.
    • Applicant pools are generally reviewed and interviews are scheduled
    • Thorough telephone interviewing is a speedy and effective way of screening candidates
    • To minimize their liability for acts of discrimination in the pre-employment selection process, employers must ensure that all questions asked of prospective employees are strictly job-related.
    • Affirmative Action Guidelines

Interviewing

Departments may call applicants directly to schedule interviews, or they may coordinate with the responsible employment specialist to schedule interviews. Here are some guidelines for when you contact the candidates:

  • When setting up the interviews, allot the same amount of time for each applicant.
  • Schedule interviews at least 15 minutes apart to allow time to assess each applicant after his or her interview and to permit applicants to come and go without overlap.
  • Contact the interviewees to advise of the time, date, and place for the interview, the expected length of the interview, parking availability, and the interview process.
  • Ask the applicant to arrive 10 minutes before the interview to allow them time to read over the position description and any other materials you feel are important, such as an organizational chart.
  • You may also want to ask each applicant to bring any additional job-related information, such as reference letters or samples of work.

Questions should be formulated to reveal and provide specific information concerning skills, knowledge, and abilities required for a new employee to be successful in the job. Listed below are general guidelines for interview questions and examples related to specific desirable competencies:

Types of Questions

  • “Yes” or “No” Questions should be avoided.
  • Direct Questions allow the applicant to provide very specific information. Example: “What accounting courses have you taken?” They are valuable for questioning applicants in depth or on topics raised by candidates’ responses to open-ended or situational questions
  • Open-Ended Questions encourage applicants to express ideas and information they feel are important. Examples:
    • Tell me about your supervisory experience.”
    • Can you give some examples of innovative ways you have achieved cost advantages and/or improved service?”
  • Situational/Behavioral Questions pose job-related situations which applicants will have to deal with on the job. They are used to evaluate an applicant’s ability to recognize the important aspects of situations or problems, analyze them, and provide reasonable options. Example: “What would you do in a situation in which…?” In designing such questions, be sure they consist of actual job situations and are sufficiently complex.

Creativity – Applying new ways of thinking; creating new ideas.

  • Describe what you have done to make (your job, a departmental process, etc.) easier, more effective, more efficient.
  • Describe the most creative thing you have done in your career.
  • Think of a time in your past when you took a risk. Give me a quick overview of the situation and then walk me through your part in it.

Vision – Having an awareness of the work group’s critical success factors, understanding the context needs of the boss.

  • Have you ever been assigned to take the lead on a project? How did you define and establish the group’s sense of purpose?
  • Give me examples of what information is important to pass on to the boss, what information would be nice for him/her to have, and what information is unnecessary and tell me why.

Influence – The ability to impact others; convincing them to perform certain activities; garner respect; inspiring them to work toward organizational objectives.

  • Think about a time in your past when you established credibility with another work unit. What were the factors involved and why did they accept your advice?
  • Describe your approach to making decisions and solving problems. What are the inherent strengths and weaknesses in your approach?
  • If you were to recommend that a functional responsibility be transferred away from one unit and given to another, what factors would you consider?
  • Why do people respect you?

Entrepreneurship – Having an appreciation for the role of customer; the perception of the work unit by others in and out of the organization.

  • What activities have you engaged in to assure other units in the organization view your work group/department as a positive resource?
  • Think of a time when you anticipated the needs changing in a group you serve. Describe the situation and what you did about it.

Organizational Design and Development – Having an understanding of group dynamics and how to use them to increase effectiveness; the ability to stimulate others to work together effectively; to create symbols of group identity, pride, and trust which represent team effort.

  • How do you personally build consensus within a group?
  • Tell us about a goal that you or your organization needed to achieve through teamwork. Tell us how you designed that team.
  • What behavior do you use to encourage team members to speak openly?
  • Why do people trust you?
  • What are some of the factors that you believe constitute a strong team?

Communication – Having the ability to use symbolic, verbal, and non-verbal behavior to reinforce or interpret the content of a message and to ensure presentations are clear and convincing.

  • How do you ensure your presentations will be effective?
  • Can you think of a time when you had to present a new (idea, concept, process, procedure, etc.) to (someone, your boss, a group, etc.) and you felt unsuccessful? Give a quick one-minute overview and then walk me through that situation, telling me about your part in it.
  • What factors do you use to select the issues to be communicated?
  • Think of a time when your listening skills were particularly useful in solving a problem. Give me a quick one-minute overview and then walk me through the situation.

Understanding Oneself and Others – Having accurate, realistic, grounded view of oneself, caring about and building close relationships, attributing results to personal strengths and weaknesses.

  • What are your major strengths and weaknesses? Describe a situation in which one or more played a significant role.
  • Think of a time in your past when you were in a very uncertain situation, outcomes were uncertain, there was a lot of change taking place. What did you do? What did you feel? How did you handle it?
  • Tell me about the most stressful situation you have been in and how you handled it.
  • Think of a time when you were personally confronted, challenged by someone. Give a quick one-minute overview and then walk me through that situation, telling me about your part in it. What did you think/feel? What did you do/say? What was the outcome?

Development of People – Seeing helping others as an essential part of the job; adopting a role of coach or helper; having the ability to provide feedback in facilitating self-development.

  • What activities have you pursued in the last two years to enhance your skills? Why these particular activities? Why did you focus on these skills?
  • In your current position, who is responsible for employee development?

Performance Management – Having an understanding of one’s role in maximizing effective performance, including motivation, delegation, and clarity and specificity of expectations.

  • Given a chance, people will “sluff off” and “produce less”. What would be your reaction to this statement and why?
  • What do you believe are the critical elements of effective performance? Describe the role each plays.

Program/Process Management – Having an ability to invest appropriate resources (time, financial, and human) and optimize the utilization of those resources.

  • If you were assigned a brand new project which will result in a tangible product, how would you go about planning for it to bring about the desired results?
  • What approach do you use to solve problems?
  • You need others outside of your direct control to produce essential elements of a project. How do you make sure this happens?

Staffing – Having the ability to appropriately staff an organization with people who have the right skills and abilities including identifying and accurately describing needs, attracting appropriate candidates, and selecting the best.

  • When you have a job opening, how do you determine the qualifications you will require and desire to fill the position?
  • Think of a time in the past when you hired someone to work for you and the person did not work out. What went wrong?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of interviews by committee? Which do you prefer, one-on-one or committee?
  • What factors do you consider and what activities do you engage in when you have a new employee starting work?
  • What does workforce diversity mean to you?

Compliance/Ethics – Having a personal compass composed of clear principles and values, and having the flexibility to balance between literal adherence to rules and the use of policy as a guide.

  • What is the difference between honesty and integrity?
  • What role do policy and procedure play in an organization?
  • You have two employees of long service and their attendance has been terrible over the last year, to the point that they have used all accrued sick leave. You have counseled, coached, etc., but the problem continues. Finally, you ask one of your supervisors to investigate and learn that one employee’s absences are a result of being repeatedly jailed for child abuse while the other is caring for a terminally ill spouse. What do you do?

General Questions

Previous Job Experience/Performance

  • What are/were your responsibilities and accountabilities?
  • Describe three instances when you feel you’ve done your best work.
  • Describe three instances when you were unsuccessful in accomplishing your goals
  • How were you most effective in your previous organization? Be specific.
  • Why did you leave?
  • What are the essential functions of your current job?
  • What do you spend the most time doing in your present/past positions?
  • Describe the working environment in your present job.
  • What has been the hardest or most difficult part of your present job?
  • Describe the most creative work-related project that you have carried out.

Expectations for This Job

  • What type of work setting motivates you?
  • Why did you apply for this position?
  • Why should you be hired for this position?
  • Based on what you know about the position, which aspects of it would be most attractive to you? Least attractive?
  • How would you describe your past performance in a similar position?
  • What do you think are the most important qualities we should look for in someone to fill this particular position?
  • What is important to you in a job and why?

Management Attitudes

  • What in your opinion is the most important function of a manager?
  • What kind of direction do you prefer from a supervisor?
  • What do you consider to be important attributes of a supervisor?
  • What kind of supervisor do you enjoy working for most? Least?
  • Give an example of a specific occasion when you conformed to a policy with which you did not agree.

Decision-Making/Problem-Solving/Analytical Skills

  • Describe a specific time on the job when your problem-solving skills were tested. What did you do?
  • Give an example of a time when you had to make a quick decision.
  • Give an example of a time when you had to use your fact-finding skills to get information to solve a problem – then describe how you analyzed the information to come to a decision.
  • Give an example of a problem you faced on a job and describe how you solved it.
  • What are some examples of important decisions or recommendations you were/are called upon to make in your past/present position?
  • Most of us can think of an important decision we’d make quite differently if we could do it over. Any examples from your experience?
  • Give an example of a difficult decision you had to make at your last job. How did you solve it? Why did you choose that method instead of another solution?
  • What has been a stubborn or recurring problem you would like/have liked to solve in your current job, but haven’t yet?
  • What process do you follow in solving problems?
  • What methods do you use to make decisions? Please give an example of your approach.
  • What kinds of decisions do/did you have authority over? Which ones do/did you have to check with your manager before making?
  • What information or technical support has helped you succeed on the job? (For example, policy and procedures, standardized forms, goals, etc.)
  • Have you ever had to make a decision before you had all the data you wanted? Give an example. What did you do?

Interpersonal/Communication Skills/Conflict

  • Describe how you would endeavor to convince your boss to grant you additional funds for a purpose you have in mind.
  • Describe some projects you worked on that required strong writing skills. What was the level of your responsibility?
  • Who was the primary audience?
  • How would you characterize your written and oral communication skills?
  • Name one recent success you’ve had in dealing with an unhappy student (customer), co-worker, vendor, etc. How did you accomplish it?
  • How do you persuade others to get what you want? In a past job, when did you find it necessary to disagree with your supervisor? How did you approach him/her and what was the result?
  • What would you do if your supervisor asked you to perform a task you did not feel competent to handle? If you knew you were competent to handle it but thought it more appropriate for someone else to do it? If you believed yourself able to perform the task, considered it appropriate for you, but didn’t want to do it?
  • Assignments may be ill-defined and may require quick response. How would you respond to a request that you consider vague or unreasonable?
  • What role do you usually take in a group meeting or discussion?
  • When you have started new jobs, how have you established good relationships with your co-workers? With management?
  • Have you ever had a situation when you found it necessary to confront someone at work? How did you handle it?

Motivation/Goal Orientation

  • Give an example of an important job goal you have set in the past and tell about your success in reaching it.
  • Give an example of a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty to get a job done.
  • Describe how your work history reflects your job objectives and abilities.
  • Why did you choose this profession? What reward does it give you?
  • When has your morale been the highest at work? Why?
  • Please describe how you set and measure work goals.
  • How do you monitor the progress of assignments and projects?

Overall Job Performance

  • How do you typically handle yourself in a fast-paced environment?
  • How would you describe the pace at which you work – fast, moderate, slow, or if it varies, under what circumstances?
  • What are your strengths and/or weaknesses?
  • How do you handle a heavy workload with many deadlines? In all jobs there are heavy periods and light periods. What do you do in such cases?
  • You are given several rush projects to be completed in a short period of time. How would you establish priorities? Why?
  • How would you describe your organizational abilities? Attendance and punctuality habits? Work habits?

Initiative/Creativity and Innovation

  • What ideas did you contribute to your department/company? What were the results?
  • Give an example of something you recommended that was adopted.
  • What have you done to make your job easier or more interesting?
  • Give an example of a project you were responsible for starting. What did you do? How did it work out?
  • When have you had to produce results, without sufficient guidelines or information? What did you do?
  • Describe the most creative thing you have done in a past job.

Ability to Learn

  • Give an example of a situation at your previous employer when you have had to keep up with the changes in technology, terminology, or information in your field.
  • What is the fastest you have learned something new for a job? What did you have to learn?
  • How soon could you learn this job well enough to become productive? If time did not permit a training period on a new job, how would you go about learning the things expected or required of you?

Dependability/Flexibility

  • In a past job, did you have to alter your standards to meet your company’s? When? Why?
  • If we hired you, what could we count on you for without fail?
  • What results were you expected to accomplish in your last job? How were they measured?
  • Have you worked in an organization that changed its policy or procedure frequently? How did you deal with that?
  • Give an example of a time when you were given tasks to accomplish without advance warning.
  • Has a policy or directive come down with which you really disagreed? What did you do?

Organization/Attention to Detail/Use of Time

  • Would you rather formulate a plan or carry it out? Why? Give an example of a plan you have implemented.
  • Describe an experience when you were responsible for coordinating several small tasks to accomplish a large job.
  • How do you keep track of your paperwork, schedules, etc.? Please be specific.
  • In your last job, if something wasn’t due for several weeks, when and how did you approach getting it done?
  • Describe how you handled the details of your last major project.
  • Describe a way you have improved the organization of a system or a task at your last/present job.
  • How do you organize your daily tasks? How do you prioritize them or decide what you should work on next?

Cooperation

  • What did you do to support your co-workers in your last job? Please give a specific example of a time when you helped or supported a co-worker.
  • Give an example of a time when you had to take the lead with your work group to get a task done. How did you get cooperation?
  • How do you get cooperation from co-workers, other departments, etc.?
  • Which problems do you believe are appropriate to bring to your manager? Give an example. How do you usually approach a manager with a problem?
  • What do you require from a supervisor?
  • Would you rather work on a team or on your own?

References

References are checked for three basic reasons:

  1. to verify employment;
  2. to verify what you have learned during the interview; and
  3. to obtain employment recommendations.

Before checking references, develop a list of job-related questions to ensure consistency and fairness to all applicants. Departments may conduct their own references checks. If you need assistance with reference checking, email jobopps@syr.edu and an employment specialist will assist you.

Job Offers

Once you have successfully completed the interview and reference checks, the next step in the process is making a job offer to the final candidate.