The University of Arizona logo

Guide to Successful Searches

Recruiting and hiring people to work at the University of Arizona is one of our most important shared responsibilities. This web page has a variety of materials to help you conduct complete, competitive and effective searches. The Guide to Successful Searches provides a comprehensive look at the search process and important background information regarding laws, regulations and policies that inform best practices. Appendices A-G provide more detailed resources, such as a checklist you may use to plan a search process, sample letters to candidates, and sample questions for interviews and reference checks.

Guide to Successful Searches

INTRODUCTION

Overview

Nothing strengthens or differentiates an organization more than its people.

Because each new University of Arizona hire represents an opportunity to shape our collective future, exceptional care must be taken each time we seek to add new members to our academic community or to promote individuals from within it.

Search committees play a critical role in shaping the University of Arizona’s future by identifying promising candidates likely to increase the University’s success. To support search committee members in their important and challenging roles, this guide has been developed to:

  • clarify search committee roles and responsibilities;
  • provide strategies for developing diverse and qualified candidate pools;
  • offer guidance about effective screening and selection criteria and methods;
  • describe strategies for effectively communicating with candidates, constituents and the University of Arizona community; and
  • suggest protocols designed to protect the University of Arizona against unnecessary liability.

This guide and the related appendices are designed to support University excellence. Appendix A: A Successful Search Checklist is a comprehensive tool that can guide each committee through the steps in the search process.

A Few Words About Equal Employment Opportunity, Affirmative Action and Diversity

The University is committed to creating and maintaining an environment that is diverse, inclusive, and free of discrimination. By accessing the full breadth of talent available, the UA is best able to build a qualified, dynamic, and competitive workforce, meet the needs of students to engage in a rich, interactive learning environment, more successfully produce high quality graduates, and better serve Arizona and beyond.
Before beginning a search, it is helpful to understand the difference between the concepts of “equal employment opportunity,” “affirmative action,” and “commitment to diversity.”
Equal employment opportunity means that all individuals must be treated equally in all employment decisions, including hiring. Each candidate must be evaluated on the basis of his or her ability to perform the duties of the position without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation and gender identity. (See the University’s Nondiscrimination and Anti-harassment Policy) This policy also explains the University’s commitment to applicants and employees with disabilities.

Affirmative action requires that additional efforts be made to increase employment opportunities for women and members of underrepresented groups when there is underutilization in a job classification. Affirmative action also requires an organization to demonstrate a good faith effort to recruit, employ and advance in employment qualified individuals with disabilities and veteran status. These efforts may include expanded efforts in outreach and recruitment to increase the pool of qualified women, people of color, individuals with disabilities and veterans.

Diversity is a broader, more inclusive concept. An organization committed to diversity welcomes, values and engages people heterogeneous in background, perspective and experience. An organization committed to diversity builds a community in which people feel included, understood, and appreciated. An organization committed to diversity recognizes the power of difference and creates opportunities to build on the strengths of a rich and varied community of committed individuals. We recognize there is power in diverse perspectives and experiences and seek to build and sustain an inclusive community. Therefore, a commitment to diversifying our community is imbedded in the strategies described in this guide. We demonstrate this commitment by extending beyond federal equal opportunity and affirmative action requirements.

The Benefits of Complete Recordkeeping

Hiring processes are subject to federal and state regulations, and Arizona Board of Regents and University policies. Search committees are charged with developing and maintaining information about the decisions made at the different steps in hiring.

If a hiring decision or hiring process is challenged under one of these requirements, such as a discrimination allegation, this documentation is key for the University to successfully defend its hiring processes. Records can support that the process focused on job-related requirements, skills, and abilities, and that the process was managed in a professional manner. In addition, high quality search materials may be a foundation for use in future searches.

All members of the search committee must be prepared to retain all search-related documents (search committee notes, evaluation matrices. email correspondence, copies of advertisements and publications, copies of correspondence, email and letters sent to candidates etc.). At the conclusion of the search, the committee chair collects all the documentation and forwards it to the hiring department representative for retention. The department must retain the compiled search file for three years after the calendar year in which the records were created. Upon expiration of the three year retention period, the materials should be destroyed confidentially, such as confidential shredding.

Human Resources retains online employment application materials and job postings.


SEARCH COMMITTEES

The Chair’s Role

The search committee chair acts as the committee's facilitator, official spokesperson, budget manager and liaison to the hiring authority. In most cases, the chair should not be the local representative of the hiring authority (i.e., the unit head) because that constitutes a conflict of interest. The unit head is the representative of the hiring authority that provides oversight over the search. In this role, the chair must:

  • communicate the committee’s charge;
  • articulate expectations for committee conduct;
  • monitor the committee’s budget;
  • coordinate outreach efforts;
  • manage communication with the University community, press, potential leads, and potential and actual candidates;
  • ensure compliance with state and federal laws and Arizona Board of Regents and University policy; and
  • mediate conflict.

In addition to past search committee experience, a search committee chair should be a person of integrity who is recognized for his or her commitment to diversity and ability to lead under potentially difficult conditions.

Committee Size and Composition

Establishing a strong and credible search committee is essential for a successful search process. Because decisions are made most effectively and efficiently by groups no larger than 5-7 people, search committees should be limited in size. Search committee members must be respected within the University community and their respective disciplines or professions. When possible, a majority of the members should have experience participating in successful searches and should be open-minded, committed to diversity and fair process, able to negotiate conflict to achieve group results, and knowledgeable in the area/field/responsibilities of the advertised position.

A diverse committee is more likely to withstand public scrutiny and to generate diverse candidate pools and finalist lists. Individuals from outside a hiring department or the University may be invited to serve on a search committee to share insights, challenge assumptions and bring lessons of experience from other perspectives, disciplines and organizations.

Committee Roles and Responsibilities

Effective search committee members are well-connected, available to participate fully and consistently, and comfortable engaging in rigorous debate in order to effect the best outcome. The most effective search committee members share the following characteristics:

  • protect confidentiality of candidates and the decision-making process;
  • draw upon connections to support recruitment efforts;
  • participate fully and consistently;
  • challenge conventional assumptions;
  • treat all candidates in a thoughtful and respectful manner;
  • set aside biases and preconceptions in order to fully consider all those who may be qualified to assume University roles;
  • give fair consideration to all candidates; and
  • act promptly to ensure that top candidates are not lost to organizations who move quickly to hire top talent.

Decision-making

“What are we deciding?” This is a key question for search committees (e.g., the hiring authority has requested the top three candidates in ranked order; the top five candidates unranked but with comments about strengths and weaknesses, etc.).

“Deciding how to decide” is the search committee’s next task. Will the committee vote, try to reach consensus, use negative voting, or provide majority and minority opinions? Contrary to what many believe, there is no one right way to make decisions and there are advantages and disadvantages to each approach. For example, while many committees believe in secret ballots, the anonymity that supports difficult decision-making may inhibit productive discussions about candidate strengths and weaknesses. The consensus approach feels friendlier, but sometimes results in a finalist list of mediocre candidates. When there are no clear finalists, the chair should have a conversation with the hiring authority about appropriate next steps.

A note about scoring matrices: Quantifying candidate qualifications through a scoring matrix is an appealing approach, but don’t be fooled. The individual with the highest score is not always the best candidate. Scoring matrices are best used as a way to organize impressions of candidates in order to have broader conversations with other committee members (e.g., “I ranked her a 5, but you gave her a 1. Why is that?”).

Confidentiality

Confidentiality is the foundation of a credible search committee and trustworthy search process. The importance of maintaining strict confidence throughout the process cannot be overestimated. A breach of confidentiality threatens a successful outcome in three ways. First, it may result in the immediate termination of the search, a serious loss of time and money and potentially viable candidates. Second, it may cause the most qualified candidates to withdraw from the search, fearing that a premature disclosure of their candidacy will jeopardize their current positions. Third, a breach in confidentiality, by its very nature, is bound to become more widely known, and may undermine the University’s ability to attract candidates in the future. In short, confidentiality is an absolute requirement to be understood and honored by everyone on the search team, from the first meeting until the conclusion of the search. (Also see Confidentiality of Candidate Names)

Communication

An external communication plan should be discussed early in the search process. In general, it is best to designate one individual (usually the chair) to communicate with candidates, constituents, the press, and others who may inquire about a search process.

A committee communication plan should also be developed. Because written documents may be subject to public records requests, judicious use of written and email communication is recommended to protect candidate confidentiality and the integrity of the search process.


POSITION DESCRIPTIONS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS

Assessing Department Needs in Order to Create a Position Description

Each hiring opportunity presents a department with the opportunity to position itself for the present and the future. The position description is a comprehensive document that outlines responsibilities, essential functions, expected outcomes, reporting relationships, and required and desired qualifications. Rather than updating existing position descriptions, the search committee should partner with the hiring authority to develop a list of responsibilities and qualifications likely to meet department and University needs and to attract the broadest possible candidate pool. To ensure that all who are qualified feel eligible to apply, care should be taken to describe expected outcomes rather than ways in which work should be accomplished, e.g., “disseminate information” rather than “deliver speeches” if verbal ability is not absolutely required or “travel to offsite locations” rather than “drive to remote sites” if sight and the ability to drive are not required for position success.

As the job description is developed, consider what methods will be used to assess a candidate’s qualifications. Sometimes, these discussions also help to develop related interview questions. (See Appendix B: Library of Interviewing Questions)

Qualification Requirements

The stated requirements, both preferred and required, must accurately match the needs of the position. Expectations must be clearly stated and there must be no “unwritten rules.” Everything that will be used as criteria in the selection process should be accounted for somewhere in the qualification requirements.

Beware of overly narrow or indefensible requirements. Is ten years of experience really more impressive than eight? Must someone currently be a dean in order to be considered for a dean position here? Is experience in a Research I University truly required? Is an MBA really required, or might a solid liberal arts degree with finance-related experience be acceptable? Is a degree in computer science required, or could significant network systems experience substitute? Committee members should challenge each other about the merits and necessity of each qualification statement in order to attract the broadest pool of qualified candidates.

Here are some sample qualification requirement statements that support the University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion:

  • experience using a variety of teaching methods and/or curricular perspectives to respond to the needs of a diverse student body;
  • previous experience engaging diverse communities in college outreach efforts; and
  • proven accomplishment in diversifying a department or college.

Operational Definitions and Evaluation Strategies

Rigid selection criteria limit search committee flexibility and may unintentionally eliminate excellent candidates. When developing a list of selection criteria, the search committee should differentiate between “must haves” and “wouldn’t it be nice to haves.”

The committee should also develop operational definitions for each required qualification and be prepared to determine whether and when these criteria can be evaluated. Here are some examples.

CRITERIA

EVALUATION STRATEGY

An earned doctorate from an accredited university

Evaluated by statement on CV and later verification through University admissions office. (Evaluating the “quality” of a University -- e.g., “ivy” vs. state school, etc., may unintentionally eliminate qualified candidates)

Record of scholarly achievement

Evaluated by CV review; defined as a minimum of 10 peer-reviewed articles in the last 3 years

Strong oral communication skills

Evaluated by first screening via telephone/video interview; final screening during an on-site visit

Commitment to creating an inclusive classroom

Evaluated by reviewing the written teaching philosophy statement requested of our first group of finalists and observation during a guest seminar

The Position Announcement

The position announcement is used to advertise the opening. Drawn from the more comprehensive position description, it used to “sell” the opening and promote the University of Arizona. An announcement sent to potential candidates will likely be more comprehensive than an advertisement placed in a journal. Careful attention to tone and content will make the difference between an intriguing announcement and an uninspiring one.

Diversity Commitments

The position announcement should include language strongly expressing the University’s commitment to diversity, specifically describing requirements to meet the diversity commitments of the department. This language sends a powerful message about our commitment to a diverse and inclusive University community and may result in a larger, more diverse candidate pool.

The University is required to provide public notice of its status as an equal opportunity and affirmative action employer on all recruitment materials, including bulletins, announcements, publications, and application forms. In those cases where advertising costs are a critical consideration, position announcements must minimally include one the following statements:

“The University of Arizona is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Employer- M/W/D/V.”

or

“The University of Arizona is an EO/AA employer-M/W/D/V.”

Because this statement inadequately expresses the University of Arizona’s commitment to creating and sustaining a diverse and inclusive community, the recommended language for position announcements is more comprehensive.

“As an equal opportunity and affirmative action employer, the University of Arizona recognizes the power of a diverse community and encourages applications from individuals with varied experiences, perspectives and backgrounds. M/W/D/V.

Application Materials

When asking for application materials, search committees must ask for enough information to evaluate candidate viability, but should guard against overburdening candidates with complex application requirements. For example, asking for the names of 3-5 references is preferable to requesting 3-5 letters of reference – those can be requested AFTER the first cut. Requesting that journal article reprints be included with application materials can make it expensive to apply. Attracting the broadest possible pool requires that we make applying for employment as painless as possible. Outstanding individuals are actively sought by multiple institutions. We will have greater success in attracting them by making the application process relatively straightforward. Letters of reference and expanded dossiers can be requested once a search committee determines an individual is a serious and viable candidate. At some point during the search process, candidates may be asked to provide additional application-related materials:

  • descriptions of scholarship, teaching and work experience, and disciplinary background desired in the position;
  • a letter of application, curriculum vitae, and other pertinent materials, such as copies of articles, samples of course syllabi, and letters of reference; and

a personal statement describing the candidate’s experience in working with diverse students, diversifying a department, or demonstrating success in increasing a sense of academic inclusiveness.


RECRUITMENT AND ADVERTISING

Developing the Recruitment Plan

Generating a diverse and qualified pool of candidates requires significant energy because we want to reach those looking for new opportunities in addition to capturing the attention of outstanding individuals who are not “on the market”. The recruitment plan design should be completed during the initial search committee meetings. Here are some techniques and sources that may create a foundation for the recruitment plan.

Technique/Source

Action Plan

Ask current department members to identify potential candidates.

 

Network with people who “know people” in the field (who may be called upon to nominate individuals).

 

Identify journals read by people in the discipline/profession.

 

Identify Professional associations for people in the discipline/profession.

 

Identify websites that are visited by people in the discipline/profession.

 

Identify the relevant professional or community organizations, caucuses, etc. that respond to the needs of women, people of color, people with disabilities, etc.

 

Identify where people in this discipline/profession congregate (professional meetings, concerts, lecture series, etc.). Explore how to recruit at these venues.

 

Identify where the best people in this discipline/profession work (strong departments at other universities, etc.).

 

Identify the names of people who are publishing interesting research, giving strong presentations nationally, etc...

 

Consider placing the announcement on the hiring department’s website. (Ensure that the website is accessible to all who may try to access it).

 

Identify affinity groups and placement offices at other Universities and institutions and the best way to share the recruitment with them.

 

Identify ways we obtain nominations from alumni, and members of the University and Tucson communities.

 

Writing, Marketing and Publishing the Advertisement

Writing Position Advertisements

Publication Resources


APPLICANT SCREENING

Committee Participation

Is it acceptable for a subset of the committee to review application materials? Is it acceptable to divide the materials in order to reduce the amount of review required by members? The answer to both questions is NO.

Search committee members are held accountable for the committee’s selection decisions. As such, they are expected to actively participate in each step of the review process.

Analyzing the Diversity of the Applicant Pool

Through the Career Track system, search committees can see and analyze demographic information about the aggregate applicant pool. This analysis may help the committee determine if it should engage in additional recruitment and advertising in order to obtain a more diverse pool. If you have questions about this process, please contact the Office of Institutional Equity at 520-621-9449.

Paper Review

The first step of the screening process is called the “paper review”. During this process, committee members review all application materials, including résumés, CV’s, cover letters and any required documents to assess whether candidates have the minimum qualifications required for the position. Documenting why a candidate has been screened out during this process is essential. Comments such as “lacks Ph.D.” or “teaching experience is in pathology rather than toxicology” will be valuable if the search process is challenged and an investigation is conducted. The UA Career Track candidate tracking system has several pre-defined codes used to document the committee’s reason for screening each candidate. (See Appendix D: UA Career Track Codes/Reasons) Once a candidate is determined to meet the minimum qualifications, committee members are likely to rank candidates based on preferred qualifications or the strength of their experiences.

Narrowing the Field

Once the paper review is complete, search committee members must narrow the field of potential candidates. Asking each committee member to propose and defend his or her “top 10” candidates is one way to assess candidate viability. Often, committee members will agree on several candidates and can debate the merits of candidates selected by fewer committee members. As in the paper review, documenting why a candidate has been eliminated from further consideration is essential.

Designing the Interview Process

A well-developed interview process can reveal a great deal about a candidate. Rather than “winging it” when a candidate arrives, committees are advised to develop a basic set of interview questions in advance.

Use the position description as the guide when developing the basic set of interview questions. Questions should be related to the work described in the position description and the qualifications and competencies required to be effective in the role. Remember that past performance is often the best predictor of future success.

Include questions that target specific issues relating to the candidate’s "fit" within the hiring department. For example, a position in a department comprised of fast-paced, outspoken individuals might call for an assertive staff member with the ability to quickly manage multiple conflicting demands. Appendix B: The Library of Interview Questions is structured to help identify job-related questions in key areas.  Appendix C: Questions to Avoid - Don’t Risk It! identifies topics that should be avoided.

Ask all candidates the same questions, not only to ensure fairness, but to give you a consistent basis for evaluating and comparing the candidates’ qualifications. A consistent process enables a committee to effectively evaluate one candidate against another. Using the same set of questions for each candidate also makes it easier to defend hiring decisions, should there be a challenge to the results.

In addition to basic questions, the committee is encouraged to prepare personalized questions for each candidate, based on particular experiences identified in each application package. Ask for clarification about gaps in employment, particular jobs or experience, or candidate materials that are unclear. During the interview, it’s recommended to ask broad follow-up questions if the initial response is unclear. (“Please tell us more about that.”) Make notes of additional questions you may want to add to the personalized questions.

Determine how the committee members will pose the questions, e.g. if sections/topics will be assigned to each member, or if members will rotate asking questions. When the committee has asked all the questions, allow some time for the candidate to ask questions of at the end; decide in advance who will answer the candidate’s questions.

Interview Logistics

Off-site Candidates

Telephone interviews are an inexpensive way to assess the qualification of several candidates and to narrow the field to a shorter list of individuals for on-site visits. Consider using a current Internet-based conferencing technology available to the University community, such as Skype, Live Meeting and Elluminate. Check with your business office or the 24/7 IT Support Center.

On-site Candidates

Provide candidates with interview information such as directions to your office, names and positions of those who will be at the interview, the job description, a point of contact at your office if they have questions and/or are running late for their interview. Provide the opportunity for candidate to request disability-related accommodations.

All Candidates

The interview should be free from interruptions and distractions. Forward your phone calls, turn off your cell phone, and close the door. Establish rapport by welcoming the candidate, introducing yourself, and describing your position and what you do. Introduce the other members of the search team in the same way, or have them introduce themselves. If available, offer the interviewee a drink of water, or a cup of coffee or tea.

Explain that the purposes of the interview are:

  • to acquaint the interviewers and candidate with each other;
  • to learn more about the candidate's background and experience; and
  • to help the candidate understand the position and organization.

Give a brief overview of your department, college/division, and the UA. Provide a brief description of the job responsibilities. (If you speak too much about the job at the start of the interview, before you have gathered the information you are looking for, the candidate might slant responses to match your description.)

Interview Documentation

Committee members are encouraged to make notes on the answers to all questions and to submit them to the committee chair for inclusion in the search file. Brief notes that capture the essence of each response can be especially helpful if a search process is challenged. Investigators may not have to involve committee members in an investigation if search-related documents are comprehensive and explain the rationale behind selection decisions.

A Note About Legalities

Sometimes candidates volunteer information about themselves that, by law, should not be considered in making an employment decision. For example, a candidate might mention dropping a child off at day care. Don't acknowledge or make a note of this information. Don't ask, “How many children do you have?”

While it may be interesting to learn about a candidate’s hobbies, country of origin, age, or family life, if it’s not directly related to a position’s requirements, it’s better not to ask. And remember, presentations, community forums, meals and social events are ALL part of the interviewing process. Questions such as “What does your spouse do?” or “Were you born in the U.S.?” are no more appropriate over dinner than they are in a more formal setting. Inappropriate questions can and will be used against you or the University. DON’T RISK IT. (see Appendix C: Questions to Avoid - Don’t Risk It!)

Conducting the Interview

Interviews yield the best results when everyone on the search team understands the job competencies and capabilities needed, arrive with prepared questions, and stick to the agenda. By the end of a well-executed interview, the interview team will have assessed the candidate's level of knowledge and skills, interest in the position, and likelihood of success. Also, bear in mind that while you are assessing the candidate, he or she is assessing the position, you, and the University. Ideally, the candidate will walk away feeling fairly treated, adequately informed about the job, clear about the next steps in the hiring process, and holding a positive impression of the UA. Here are some other interviewing tips.

  • Paraphrase what the speaker said to make sure you understand correctly what you are hearing.
  • Take notes on a sheet of paper separate from the candidate's CV/résumé. Write down the key points.
  • Record the candidate's statements that reflect qualifications for the job, and those that evidence past accomplishments and experiences.
  • Observe and listen to candidate responses.
  • Pay attention to the candidate's body language and facial expressions. Body language can be an important indicator of what may be behind the words you are hearing. We're not asking you to play armchair psychologist, but if the candidate tells you that building relationships is important, with arms are tightly folded and eyes cast downward, these are signals you should consider as you evaluate what you hear.
  • Ask probing questions if the answer is vague or seems questionable. To probe more, you may want to ask:
    • “Can you tell us what you mean by that?”
    • “Please give us another example.”
    • “Please tell us more.”

Close the interview by explaining the next steps in the hiring process, including when and how the candidate will hear from you. (Later on, when the hiring decision has been made, be sure that you follow the communication process you described during the interview.) Thank the candidate for taking the time to meet with you.


COMMUNICATION

Applicant Communication

Each search presents an opportunity to tell the University’s “story”, A well-managed search will reflect well on the University, while a poorly managed search has the potential to damage the University’s reputation and hamper the success of future searches. Applicants who feel that they were treated in a courteous and respectful manner during the search process are less likely to be angry if not selected and less likely to file a complaint about the decision or process.

In recognition of the time and effort required to pursue University employment, search committees must treat all candidates in a respectful manner. Communicating efficiently and effectively is essential. As such, the search committee chair must ensure that candidates:

  • receive acknowledgement that their materials have been received and are informed of the decision-making timeline;
  • are informed as soon as they are removed from consideration (though be cautious about notifying “second tier” candidates who may eventually move to the “first tier” of consideration); and
  • are informed of delays in the search process.

(See Appendix F: Sample Letters to Applicants and Candidates)

When a candidate interviews in person, but is not advanced to the next stage, a phone call rather than a letter sends an important message about our appreciation for the candidate’s time and effort. If a candidate inquires about why he or she was not selected, the inquiry should be forwarded to the committee chair. A detailed explanation of why the candidate was not selected is neither required nor advised, though a telephone conversation during which you provide specific guidance about the search committee's impressions about the individual's strengths and weaknesses may be appreciated. For help in preparing for these conversations, the Provost’s office and the Division of Human Resources Consultants may be of assistance to the search committee chair.

Search Status Communication

It is important to maintain on-going communication to the University community regarding the status of key searches. Such “progress reports” may be distributed through the normal channels used to communicate to campus constituents such as UAnnounce and listservs. Progress reports should be drafted by the chairperson at the following key points in the search:

  • after semi-finalists have been identified and selected for pre-interview (not to include actual names of candidates);
  • after the finalist list has been identified, notify the candidates who are no longer being considered;
  • prior to the on-site visits of final candidates, including the schedule of on-site meetings or open forums; and
  • when a candidate has been selected and has accepted an offer.

Open Forum Invitations

Engaging the University community in the search process to fill a key position can provide the search committee with valuable feedback about candidate viability and give the candidate an opportunity to assess the University’s climate. To engage the broader University community, search committees are encouraged to announce the schedule of open forums and invite a wide range of constituent groups to attend including students, staff, faculty and interested members of the Tucson community. After the finalist list has been made public, the curriculum vitae of each candidate should be made available for public review. Evaluation forms should be provided to all parties involved and responses should be included in search committee discussions. Open forums should be held at an accessible location.


REFERENCE CHECKS

Overview

Two words: DO IT. Checking references and verifying credentials is a critical step in the screening process.

For out-of-state candidates, reference checks in advance of an on-site visit can reduce potential embarrassment and unnecessary expense for both parties. While poor letters of reference may be considered damning, strong letters of reference should not be considered proof of candidate excellence. Let’s face it; it’s not that hard to obtain three strong letters of recommendation.

The Reference Check Interview

Like the interview process, reference inquiries should be related to the position description and consistent for all candidates. The reference check interview should not be done “on the fly”, so committee members are advised to schedule appointments with prospective references to ensure that there is adequate time to conduct a comprehensive conversation. Include specific questions related to a candidate’s circumstances, such as a gap in employment, without soliciting protected information. (See Appendix C: Questions to Avoid - Don’t Risk It! and Appendix E: Reference Check Questions.)

When references respond with, “I’m not the right person to ask,” those who are conducting reference checks should ask, “Then, who is?” or “Please direct me to the appropriate person”.

When those questioned begin to share information with the caveat, “This is off the record, but…” stop the conversation by saying, “I can’t accept off the record comments. Who will speak with me on the record about your concerns?”


CANDIDATE VISITS

The on-site visit is an extremely important part of selecting the ideal candidate. Communication and interaction with the candidate should represent the University in the most positive and favorable light possible. Just as search committee members will be evaluating the candidate, the candidate will be evaluating the University of Arizona to determine if the position and the organization are a good “fit” for him or her. The candidate’s early impressions of the University will play a major role in the decision-making process.

Campus Visit Preparation

Schedule the on-site visit so that the majority of the search committee, potential key colleagues, and the hiring authority are all available to meet the candidate. Coordinate all travel and lodging arrangements with the candidate. When possible, pay for travel arrangements rather than reimbursing the candidate after the trip. Arrange for some to greet the candidate at the airport and take him/her to the hotel. Allow the candidate the opportunity to request disability-related accommodations (lodging and meetings at locations with elevators) and dietary preferences (vegetarian, vegan, etc.). Assure that all locations the candidate will visit are accessible for all attendees, including the committee, key colleagues, and the University and Tucson communities.

Preparing the Candidate

Taking the time to prepare a candidate for his or her visit sends an important message about the University of Arizona as a potential employer. These items should be sent to each finalist candidate prior to the visit.

  • Letter of welcome confirming the day and time of the visit, travel and lodging arrangements, list of expenses that are reimbursable and contact information.
  • Itinerary for the visit including a complete schedule of events and the names and titles of individuals the candidate will meet. Provide the opportunity for the candidate to request disability-related accommodations and dietary preferences.
  • Brochures and information about the department, the University, benefits of UA employment, diversity efforts, the University’s relocation services provider, Above and Beyond, and the Tucson community.
  • Confer with the candidate about technology needs for presentations, i.e. handouts, hardware/software, microphone, etc. and arrange for equipment to be in place and operating.
  • Departmental mission and goals.

Welcoming the Candidate

  • Arrange for the finalist candidates to visit the University on different days.
  • Arrange for someone to meet and greet the candidate at the airport and take the candidate to the hotel. Arrange for someone take the candidate to the airport after the visit.
  • Allow time for the candidate to recover from travel before beginning the on-site visit, interviews and forum.
  • Arrange for a host to give the candidate a tour of the campus and to accompany the candidate to and from all scheduled events, including interview, open forums, meals, receptions, and University events.
  • Schedule open forums within an accessible location and invite students, staff, faculty and interested members of the Tucson community.
  • Prior to the on-site visit, confer with the candidate about technology needs for presentations, i.e. handouts, hardware/software, microphone, etc. and arrange for equipment to be in place and operating.
  • Pace the events over the period of the visit to allow for the candidate to eat meals and take restroom breaks. Provide the candidate with adequate water to stay hydrated in our desert climate.
  • Provide bios of the search committee and name tents during meetings so the candidate has a sense of his/her audience.
  • Arrange for the candidate to attend campus events during the visit, if possible.
  • Consider scheduling a meeting with Human Resources to discuss benefits, life and work resources, relocation services and dual career employment assistance for a spouse/partner.

PUBLIC DISCLOSURE

In the course of conducting a search, the issue of public disclosure of search-related information or documentation may arise. The University of Arizona’s release of public records policy is to be as open as possible while protecting legitimate privacy or confidentiality issues.

Much of our work as a public institution requires public transparency. Job descriptions, job advertising, job announcements, and the search committee membership are public information. Interview and reference check questions, and candidate names and their related information are not public information, and must be kept confidential in order to maintain the integrity of the search process.

Search Committee Membership

The names, titles, academic degrees and facts of past or present University employment information of search committee members are public information under ABOR Policy 6-912.

Confidentiality of Candidate Names

It is the intention of the University to maintain the integrity of search processes by protecting candidate confidentiality. To encourage applications from those reluctant to “go public” with their interest in UA employment, the names of candidates should be only be released to the University community or to the general public when a candidate becomes a finalist and confirms his/her intention to proceed with the selection process.

When inviting the finalist to interview on-site, be sure to inform the candidate that his or her name will be made public and that his or her curriculum vitae shall be open for review. If a candidate has reservations about going public, allow the candidate a short, but reasonable, time to decide to withdraw from consideration.

(Note: Under Arizona State law, names and other information concerning those interviewed may be subject to disclosure to third parties upon request. For assistance in how to deal with a specific request, the search chair should contact the University’s Office of the General Counsel at 520-621-3175.)

Confidentiality of Search Documentation

Documents prepared by University employees while performing work-related duties are, with some exception, public records. Search-related reports or records produced during the search process such as screening matrices, interview questions and committee notes should remain confidential among search committee members and other key individuals on a need-to-know basis. Under no circumstances, should members of the committee, or other departmental personnel, release search-related information or documentation to unauthorized individuals. Requests for documentation or reports under the State’s “Release of Public Records” statute should be forwarded to the Office of the General Counsel.


WRAPPING THINGS UP

Compiling and Retaining the Completed Search File

At the conclusion of the search, the committee chair collects all the documentation and forwards it to the hiring department representative for retention. The department must retain the compiled search file for three years after the calendar year in which the records were created. Upon expiration of the three-year retention period, the materials should be destroyed confidentially, such as confidential shredding. Human Resources retains online employment application materials, and job postings.

It is recommended that search committees hold a final “post-search” meeting to share lessons learned. When appropriate, these lessons may be shared with the cognizant hiring authority, dean or vice president and/or with the Office of the Provost and the Division of Human Resources. Strategies to improve the University’s search process are welcome and the Office of the Provost and the Division of Human Resources appreciate opportunities to streamline processes and increase resources for future search committees.


APPENDICIES

Appendix A - A Successful Search Checklist

Appendix B - Library of Interview Questions

Appendix C - Questions to Avoid - Don’t Risk It!

Appendix D - UA Career Track Codes/Reasons

Appendix E - Sample Reference Check Questions

Appendix F - Sample Letters

Appendix G - Relocation Resources