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Interview Process

Interview Guidelines

A set of interview questions must be developed and asked of each applicant. Questions should seek information related to the applicant’s knowledge, skills, and ability to perform the job. Questions that are not job-related or that violate EEO standards are not permissible. Interview questions may not include questions about past criminal convictions.

Interviewers must document applicants’ responses to questions to assist with their evaluation of each candidate’s qualifications. This information should be retained with other documentation of the selection process. Documentation by interviewers is subject to disclosure to the applicant interviewed, in accordance with FOIA guidelines.

Once you receive approval from HR and are ready to schedule candidates for in-person interviews, please be sure to select dates and times that all interview committee members are available to participate for all candidates. You may want to select different days and times to provide some flexibility to the candidates. The interview chair may assign a committee member(s) to assist with coordinating interviews.

As you reach out to the candidates, either via phone or email, be sure to provide them with relevant information regarding the interview and what they can expect. For instance, include information regarding the position they will be interviewing for, where the interview will take place (location, where to park, a link to a campus/office location map), anticipated duration of the interview, interview format, and what to bring (portfolios or writing samples) if applicable.

Interview Questions Guide - Be sure to utilize this guide when coming up with interview questions.

NOVA is committed to an inclusive work environment, and we provide the opportunity for qualified candidates to request reasonable accommodations so they can fully participate in the hiring process. Accommodations for candidates may include, but are not limited to, an accessible interview location for candidates with mobility impairments, a sign language interpreter for a candidate who is deaf to facilitate communication, a reader for a candidate with visual impairments, and modified testing for a candidate with a learning disability.

If any candidates require accommodations during the hiring process, please contact the HR Employment team at employment@nvcc.edu or contact your HR Consultant directly for assistance.

For additional information regarding the hiring process, we highly recommend you review the MVP HR Policy & Law - Employee Selection Procedures training module available in NOVA Academy/COVLC. Please be sure to access NOVA Academy/COVLC using a web browser with the most recent version of Adobe Flash to view all slides and complete the assessment. The Adobe Flash update can be critical. If you need assistance with updating this software, please contact the IT Help Desk.

Conducting the Interview

  1. Opening – Establish rapport with the candidate and help the candidate relax and feel welcome. The rapport between the interviewer and the applicant contributes substantially to the effectiveness of the interview. It is particularly relevant when using a selection committee, as interviewing with several people can be intimidating. Following the greeting, a friendly exchange creates an atmosphere that allows communication to develop more freely and rapidly than it would otherwise.
  2. Agenda – This puts the interviewer in control of the interview by establishing a road map.
  3. Body – Obtain necessary information about a candidate’s education, experience, aptitude, and attitude needed to make a hiring decision. Here is where the skills of listening, probing, reflecting, summarizing, and evaluating come into play. The interviewer’s job is to listen and evaluate, ideally talking no more than 25 percent of the time.
  4. Job and Organization – Provide sufficient facts about the position, department, and organization in a straightforward manner so that the applicant can make an informed decision on the acceptability of the position. In discussing the details of the position, topics regarding specific salary, promotional opportunities, tenure, or other job security are to be avoided.
  5. Questions – Allow the applicant to gather additional information about the job and institution and to sell himself or herself.
  6. Closing – Ensure the candidate has all the information necessary to make an employment decision. Thank the candidate for coming in and inform them about the next steps in the process.

Post-Interview Procedure

First Impression – This problem results in the candidate being evaluated during the first minutes of the interview. Thus, the evaluation is based upon first impression data (smile, eye contact, handshake, etc.).

Contrast Effect – This is a problem when comparing two or more people. If an interviewer sees a very weak person first, the second candidate the interviewer sees, who is average, may be rated higher than average due to the contrast between candidates.

Compatibility – This is a tendency to give a higher rating to people whom we find pleasing of manner and personality. For example, those who agree with us or have pleasant verbal and nonverbal skills may get better ratings than their performance justifies.

Blind Spot – Occasionally, an interviewer may not see certain types of defects because they are just like his/her own. For example, the interviewer who ‘thinks big’ may not appreciate a detailed-oriented person.

Halo Effect – If a person is very strong on one dimension, he/she may then be viewed strong on all dimensions of evaluation.

Leniency Effect – In this situation, the interviewer is unrealistically nice and sees everybody in a positive light.

Toughness Effect – In contrast to the leniency effect, the interviewer’s expectation level is so high that he/she is often disappointed and rates all applicants lower than deserved.

High Potential Effect – In this situation, the interviewer often judges the applicant’s credentials rather than his/her past performance, experiences, or behaviors.

Interview evaluation information, in conjunction with other information gathered during the selection process, should form the nucleus for the final selection. Be sure to evaluate candidates only against selection criteria.

A formal job offer should not be made until references and credentials are verified. For classified positions, a minimum of two former supervisor references and one professional reference should be contacted. For P-14 positions, two former supervisor references should be contacted. If a candidate provides references that are not willing to disclose information, you should go back to the candidate, explain the situation, and ask if they can provide additional references.

Hire Paperwork

Prior to extending a formal offer to the candidate, all associated paperwork must be completed and approved. You can talk to your candidate of choice and inform them that you are recommending them for the position, but you cannot extend a formal offer until the hire package has been approved on NATs.

Finally, it is a courtesy to send a brief note to the candidates who were interviewed, but not selected. This is not a requirement, but if you choose to send a note to the candidates, please send a copy of the letters to HR. Appendix A is a sample letter format.

Date: _______

Dear _______:

Thank you for taking the time to interview for the position of __________________.

While your background and credentials are impressive, we have selected a candidate who more closely matches our selection criteria.

Thank you again for your interest. We wish you success in your job search.


[Interviewer/Hiring Manager]

Northern Virginia Community College

cc: Human Resources

Please check our SharePoint Interview Guidelines Site for additional information and guides.

Please note: Sharepoint only works from within the College (computers physically located at the College or from Remote Desktop and VPN connections).

Legal Obligations

Federal law regulates the types of questions that can be asked during an interview. For example, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, color, national origin, and religion. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits questions about a person’s age. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, among other things, protects qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination in employment.

Questions relating either directly or indirectly to age, sex, race, color, national origin, religion, or disabilities should be avoided. If the information that you need about an applicant potentially infringes on any of the above categories, be sure that the question relates to a bona fide occupational qualification. One overriding principle should be remembered during an interview, “What is the purpose of the question?” If an interviewer focuses solely on information necessary to reach a decision, the interviewer greatly reduces the chance of a lawsuit.

Employers, unions, employment agencies, and joint labor-management committees controlling apprenticeship or training programs are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, or national origin by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Title VII prohibits discrimination in any employment condition, including hiring, firing, promotion, transfer, compensation, and admission to training programs. Title VII was amended in 1972 and 1978. The 1972 amendments strengthened enforcement and expanded coverage to include employees of governments and educational institutions, as well as private employers of more than 16 persons. The pregnancy amendment of 1978 made it illegal to discriminate based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions. The most critical portion of Title VII ia Section 703(a), which states:

It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer...

To fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation terms, conditions or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

To limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

Under the Americans with Disability Act of 1990 (ADA), an employer may not ask disability-related questions and may not conduct medical examinations until after it makes a conditional job offer to the applicant. This helps ensure that an applicant’s possible hidden disability (including a prior history of a disability) is not considered before the employer evaluates an applicant’s non-medical qualifications. An employer may not ask disability-related questions or require a medical examination pre-offer even if it intends to look at the answers or results only at the post-offer state.

Although employers may not ask disability-related questions or require medical examinations at the pre-offer state, they may do a wide variety of things to evaluate whether an applicant is qualified for the job, including the following:

Employers may ask about the applicant’s ability to perform specific job functions. For example, an employer may state the physical requirements of a job (such as the ability to lift a certain amount of weight, or the ability to climb ladders), and ask if an applicant can satisfy these requirements.

Employers may ask about an applicant’s non-medical qualifications and skills, such as the applicant’s education, work history, and required certifications and licenses.

Employers may ask applicants to describe or demonstrate how they would perform job tasks.

Once a conditional job offer is made, the employer may ask disability-related questions and require medical examinations as long as this is done for all entering employees in that job category. If the question or examination screens out an individual because of a disability, the employer must demonstrate that the reason for the rejection is “job-related and consistent with business necessity.”

According to the ADA, disability means:

A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. For example, walking, breathing, seeing, or hearing.

A record of such an impairment. For example, a person who has recovered from cancer.

Being regarded as having such an impairment even when no limitations exist. For example, a person who is scarred from burns.

The term “qualified individual with a disability” means an individual with a disability who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the employment position that such individual holds or desires, and possess the prerequisite knowledge, skills, abilities, education, licenses, etc.