Preparing for Interviews

There are some major factors that must be taken into consideration when scheduling interviews. First, the search committee and chair must determine how many people (aside from the main committee) will meet with each applicant one-on-one, in an open-forum, or during professional presentations. These people include prospective peers, subordinates, department heads/chairs, etc. Various customers or constituents might also be included in interviews.

Another factor that must be taken into account is the potential need for the search committee to arrange or provide meals and other social events as well as transportation and lodging. The committee chair is usually the chief host, but will often seek volunteers for or assign committee members to assisting with hosting applicants.

As a host, a committee member may be responsible for picking up an applicant from the airport, taking them on a campus tour, having dinner, and answering questions about the position in question and the selection process. The committee chair may also ask the hiring department to assist with the many administrative and logistical requirements of arranging and holding on-site interviews.

When applicants will be meeting with more than the search committee during their visit to campus, the search committee should send applicants a schedule of events in advance. The schedule should note the names and titles of the individuals with whom the applicants will meet. Copies of the schedule should be given to these individuals. The individuals responsible for escorting applicants to and from meetings should also be identified. This information can accompany a welcome package that should be sent to all interviewees:

Welcome Packages for Interviewees

This is a brief list of information that the committee should consider sending to each applicant invited for an interview on campus (or by phone):

  • Employee/faculty handbook (or online link)
  • Benefits summary
  • University catalog
  • Department brochure or other literature that identifies the mission and goals of the hiring department
  • Organizational charts (both department and institution)
  • Information about the university – it’s mission and history
  • Promotional materials, i.e., a copy of OSU’s monthly research magazine
  • Information from the local Chamber of Commerce

Interview Preparation Checklist

  • Send welcome package to interviewees
  • Confirm travel and lodging arrangements
  • Arrange transportation from airport or other location
  • Arrange for tour of campus or community, as appropriate
  • Arrange meeting with the hiring manager
  • Arrange meetings with appropriate committees, groups, individuals
  • Schedule presentations or open forums
  • Schedule meals and breaks
  • Schedule rooms for meetings and presentations

In addition, the search committee members should review the position description, draft and agree upon the interview questions to be asked, and agree on the format for conducting the interviews.


Developing Appropriate Interview Questions

Good interview questions will illuminate the experience of an applicant well enough to indicate the prospects for their success in the position. Generally, all questions should be related to the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to successfully carry out the duties and responsibilities of a position. Questions about basic workplace competencies, work ethic, decision making, problem solving, and interpersonal skills that indicate a person’s professional character are also appropriate.

The criteria for determining which questions are acceptable are:

  • Ask only for information that is needed to make a hiring decision;
  • Know how the committee will use the information to make a hiring decision; and
  • Recognize that seeking information that is not job-related can be difficult to defend.

The BEST interview questions will emerge from a careful analysis of the position description.

Types of Interview Questions

Interview questions can be informational, situational, or behavioral. Informational questions ascertain the facts of an applicant’s education and work experience. Situation questions ascertain an applicant’s response to a hypothetical or real-life situation, and also test an applicant’s ability to analyze and solve problems, or make decisions. Behavioral questions ascertain the nature of the applicant’s past behavior, which is an excellent indicator of future performance. While each of the three types of questions are appropriate, the preferred and encouraged method of interviewing is behavioral interviewing because it helps predict how an applicant will “behave” in the position.

Behavioral Interviewing

Behavioral interviewing is a technique that focuses on specific job-related experiences. The questions are designed to address the knowledge, skills, and abilities for the position, and to provide detailed information about performance skills that may not be available in the written application materials. Behavioral interviewing questions focus on specific examples of an applicant’s past behavior in an effort to predict future behavior. Examples of such questions are “How would you organize your work if you had more tasks than time to do them?” and “How did you accomplish the project you described in your resume?”  Behavioral interview is a technique that frames questions in a way that a simple “yes” or “no” answer cannot be given.

Sample Interview Questions

Teaching/Research/Public Service:

  • How do you create a unique, compelling learning environment for students in your classes?
  • Tell us about a specific research (or teaching) project that included the involvement of your students.
  • Describe a situation that was related to your teaching or research that was particularly difficult for you. Describe the circumstances, how you managed the situation, and the outcome.
  • What technology applications have you utilized in the classroom?
  • How would you go about being an advocate and resource for the use of technology in the teaching and learning process?
  • How do you feel your teaching style can serve our student population?  Be specific.
  • Describe a time when you felt your workload as a faculty member was “split” into areas that you believed to be inappropriate. Describe the circumstances of this situation, and how you addressed and resolved your concerns with your department head.

Organizational/Teamwork/General Skills:

  • Give us an example of a time when you had to pull together constituents, both for and against your methods for completing an important project or task. What was your strategy to get everyone to work together?  What was the outcome?
  • Tell us about a time when you were required to perform what you felt were boring or mundane tasks. How did you keep yourself motivated while performing these tasks?
  • What types of decisions do you make in your current position without consulting your manager or department head?  
  • Give us an example of a time when you were able to communicate successfully with another person, even when that individual may not have personally liked you.
  • A respect for privacy and confidentiality is important to this position. Tell us about a time when someone asked you to share information regarding your employer or customer. What was the nature of the inquiry and how did you respond?
  • Tell us about your personal philosophy and approach to teamwork. Please be specific and describe what behaviors you display to support and encourage a collaborative work environment.
  • Describe your customer service experience. Give us an example of how you once solved a serious problem for one of your customers or constituents. What was the outcome?
  • Describe a situation in which you did “all the right things” related to your research or another important issue in your workplace, and were still unsuccessful in your outcome. What did you learn from the experience, and what would you have done differently?


Questions regarding diversity should not be used to obtain personal information about an applicant’s identity status, but rather to determine what skills they bring to an increasingly diverse workplace.

  • OSU strives to build an organizational culture that will allow each individual to enter, participate and thrive – unimpaired by barriers related to their identity status. Each of us is valued for our uniqueness. Describe how your background and experience has prepared you to be effective in an environment that values diversity.
  • Tell us about a time that you adapted your style in order to work effectively with those who were different from you.
  • What kinds of experiences have you had in relating with people whose backgrounds are different than your own?
  • Have you ever realized that you had said or done something that may have been offensive to a colleague?  How did you respond to that realization, and what was the outcome?
  • Describe a specific situation in which you worked with a diverse group of people over a period of time.  Based on this experience, what did you learn?
  • In what ways have you integrated multicultural issues as part of your professional development?

Visit the Office of the President’s website for a list of additional interview questions related to diversity.

Inappropriate Interview Questions

Interview questions must be job-related. Questions designed to elicit information that can later be used in a discriminatory manner when making a hiring decision should be avoided. The following subjects include factors that when used or considered during an interview, might be interpreted to violate non-discrimination laws. These subjects should be avoided.


Specific inquiry into foreign addresses, which would indicate national origin.


Age, date of birth or any other inquiries that would require applicants to disclose their age.


Applicant’s nationality, lineage, ancestry, national origin, descent or parentage; length of residency in the United States; ancestry of immediate family or spouse's family; and questions regarding how the applicant acquired the ability to read, write or speak a foreign language.

Birth Place

Birth-place of applicant, applicant’s parents, spouse, or other relatives, or any other inquiry into national origin.

Children or


Any inquiries regarding the number, age, and child care arrangement for the applicant's children or other dependents, or intentions regarding becoming a parent in the future. Such questions could be regarded as discriminatory against single parents.

Citizenship or Work Authorization

Inquiries regarding country or citizenship other than the United States; inquiries to naturalized citizens regarding citizenship status of parents or spouse; or date of acquisition of U.S. citizenship.  Inquiries regarding work authorization may not be addressed until after acceptance of a written offer.

Convictions, Arrests and Court Records

Any inquiries regarding arrests; questions regarding conviction and court records that are not substantially related to the function and responsibilities of the position.


Inquiries regarding an applicant's disability. If an applicant volunteers this information during the course of the interview, it can be considered in relation to the applicant’s ability to perform the essential functions of the position. If an applicant has an obvious disability or voluntarily discloses a disability that causes the committee concern about whether that person could perform the essential functions of the job, the committee can ask the applicant to describe or demonstrate how, with or without reasonable accommodation the applicant will perform essential job functions. However, if this question is asked of one applicant, it must be asked of all applicants, not just those with obvious or disclosed disabilities.


Any inquiry asking specifically the nationality, racial or religious affiliation of a school.

Financial Status, Credit Record, or Car Ownership

These questions are unrelated to the applicant’s ability to perform the requirements of the position and tend to discriminate against certain groups. Financial status inquiries regarding past ownership, bankruptcy or garnishment of wages.

Graduation dates

Any inquiries concerning the dates that an applicant graduated from high school or college, which might indicate an applicant’s age.

Health Issues

Any inquiries related to an applicant’s health, especially in regard to whether an applicant has AIDS or is HIV positive.

Marital Status

Any inquiry regarding whether the applicant is married, single, widowed, separated or engaged to be married may imply discrimination against women because of common societal assumptions that women often leave jobs when they get married or have children. In addition, societal assumptions regarding married and single, divorced, widowed or separated people may contribute to an atmosphere of perceived discrimination. Discrimination on the basis of marital status is illegal under Oregon Law and Board Rule.

Military Discharge

Any inquiry regarding the nature of a person’s discharge.

Military Service

Inquiries into the dates that an applicant either joined or left military service, which could be used to determine an applicant’s age. Questions should not be asked about the nature of the person’s military discharge or whether they ever served in another country’s armed services.


Inquiries about name that would indicate an applicant’s lineage, ancestry, national origin, descent or marital status.

Opposite Sex

Any inquiries regarding how an applicant would feel about working or traveling with members of the opposite sex are potentially discriminatory because answers are not always considered equally from men and women.


Inquiries regarding organizations which would indicate by their character or name the race, religion, color or ancestry of the applicant.

Pay / Salary History

Inquiries regarding an applicants pay or salary history is not allowed prior to an offer of employment that includes the amount of compensation per the Oregon Equal Pay Law (HB2005 - Pay History portion effective 10/06/17)


No photographs may be requested or required prior to selection.

Political Issues

Any questions regarding political party affiliation or opinions on political issues.


Any inquiries regarding pregnancy or potential pregnancy of an applicant.

Race or Color

Any inquiries regarding an applicant’s race, the racial group with which the applicant may identify, or regarding other physical features which may be directly or indirectly indicative of race or color.


Inquiry regarding spouse’s name, because it may indicate marital status. Names or addresses of any relatives certainly should not be requested.


An applicant’s religious denomination or affiliation, church, parish, pastor, or religious holidays observed should not be discussed during an interview. The relationship of a person’s religious beliefs to their professional employment is an improper area of inquiry until after the selection is completed. At that time, any potential need for accommodation to a person’s religious beliefs or practices may be discussed. Though applicants may not be told that employees are required to work on religious holidays, they may be asked if they are available to work on specific days (for example, Saturdays or Sundays), but it must be asked of every applicant and should not be phrased in the context of religious observances. However, an applicant’s religious beliefs must be accommodated unless such accommodation creates undue hardship to the university or department.

Union Membership

Any questions regarding current or past union membership or activities should be avoided.

Workers Compensation

Inquiries into an applicant’s workers compensation history are inappropriate. An employer may not discriminate against an applicant because that applicant has utilized the workers’ compensation system, nor may an employer base a hiring decision on the likelihood that an applicant may cause increased workers’ compensation costs in the future.


Conducting Interviews

Interviews serve several purposes, but primarily they are used to compare applicants and to determine which applicant’s skills, knowledge, and abilities best match the position’s duties. The committee has an opportunity to promote the position and employment with Oregon State University. The applicants also benefit by learning about the position and the university. Campus employees and community constituents also benefit by meeting applicants, interviewing or interacting with them, watching presentations, and providing feedback to the search committee.

During the Interview

  • Introduce the committee members
  • Describe the format of the interview
  • Let the applicant do most of the talking
  • Keep the interview on track
  • Take legible notes – they will become part of the permanent search record
  • Allow time for the applicant to ask questions
  • Describe the remainder of the search process and the anticipated appointment date
  • Thank applicant for their time


Evaluating Outcomes of Interviews/Tools

Once interviews are completed, the search committee reconvenes and evaluates the results of the applicant interviews. The evaluations for each applicant should include their name, qualifications, strengths, weaknesses, assessment of the diversity criterion, and an overall assessment of their interview.


Applicant’s Name: ____________________________________________  Date:  ________________


Interviewer: _______________________________________________________________________


Applicant’s qualifications:





Applicant’s strengths:





Applicant’s weaknesses





 Does the applicant appear to be able to perform the job duties?  Why or why not: 






 Did the applicant answer all questions to your satisfactory?  If not, explain:






 Do you have reservations about this applicant’s ability to succeed in this position and/or at OSU?  Why or why not:






 How would you rank this applicant in relation to the other applicants who have been interviewed?





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