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Recruiting Employees

How can you make certain that you do everything possible to hire the right employee? Although no one can guarantee that a good hiring process will result in the "perfect hire" for any particular job, this guide can help you minimize bad hires and increase the likelihood of good hires by being prepared.

These guidelines are offered to help you in the hiring process and are subject to change. The guidelines assume you already have authorization from your HR representative to fill a job vacancy.

Recruiting Guidelines

It is critical to have an up-to-date job description which provides clarification of the job requirements, both for the hiring manager and the prospective employee.

Make sure the job description accurately and realistically reflects the essential duties and requirements of the job.

"SKA": Think about the Skills, Knowledge and Abilities needed to perform this job successfully. They help to:

  • Give applicants an accurate description of the job and its requirements
  • Focuses your attention on key language for job advertisements and interview questions that are critical in recruiting top talent
  • Provide you and the employee with foundation to evaluate performance and future growth

You should also consider both the current and future needs of your school or business unit.

In conjunction with your HR representative, you will develop the appropriate recruiting strategy. Your HR representative will utilize NYU's automated web-based staffing management system to identify and forward to you the applications, resumes and cover letters of qualified applicants. You may also search the PeopleAdmin database for qualified applicants even before the position is posted on the NYU website. This will help determine if it is even necessary to do additional external advertising of the job opening. However, depending on the type of position, it may be appropriate to advertise in print media and/or job boards.

When reading and evaluating resumes/applications, it is helpful to arrange them into three folders or piles, labeled:

  • Yes (best fit)
  • No (no fit)
  • Maybe

Many resumes/applications will immediately go in the "No" pile because it is obvious that there is no fit based on the skills, knowledge and abilities required for the job, and perhaps salary requirements,. Other resumes you may place in the "no" pile are ones that have a lot of typos or are not properly organized. Errors are important to note, especially for those jobs that require good writing or proofing skills. They also show that the applicant is careless.

If you end up with too many in the "Yes" and "Maybe" piles, re-sort these two groups again, to determine which applicants will be interviewed.

You should ignore the applicant's name, address or personal information to limit any subconscious biases.

The NYU Job Application

The NYU job application is an important document that must be signed by the applicant, stating that all the information on the application is true and can be verified. The NYU job application also provides critical data that may not be found on the resume, such as salary requirements, names of past supervisors and the reasons for leaving past jobs.

This additional information can be helpful in sorting through the piles of resumes. Your HR representative will send you applications, along with the resumes, of qualified applicants to you. All applicants who are interviewed in person must sign the application at the time of interview.

The Cover Letter

Job applicants often accompany their resumes with a cover letter. It can reveal important information, or it can be completely useless- - especially if the letter is "generic."

A well-crafted cover letter responds specifically to your advertised job. If it is error-free, it can be a positive sign that the applicant is detail-oriented, and can spell check and punctuate accurately. Certainly, if the applicant has not produced a cover letter free of spelling, grammar and punctuation errors, it can tell you something about their attention to detail and English language proficiency, which may be important for the job. Cover letters can also be used to explain gaps in employment, or call attention to a particular project that might otherwise appear as an easily overlooked one-liner in the resume. It can also give you a sense of the individual's overall career goals and the reason for interest in your particular job opening.

While not designed to take the place of a personal meeting, telephone interviews can be useful for getting a first impression, clarifying an applicant's educational credentials or some other essential job requirement, and confirming salary expectations, all of which would be important to establish prior to the interview.

A telephone interview provides an opportunity to talk for a few minutes informally. But, don't judge too quickly; some applicants may be too shy to "sell themselves" effectively on the phone, and, in fact, the job may not require an outgoing personality. Remember, the telephone interview is just one more information gathering step in your decision process. It can:

  • Screen out unsuitable applicants
  • Clarify what is stated on the resume
  • Test enthusiasm and personality
  • Determine whether you can afford to hire this applicant
  • Check the availability of the applicant
  • Enable the applicant to ask a few specific questions about the job before committing to an interview

If the telephone interview is going well, you might decide on the spot to arrange an appointment for a face-to-face interview. It is important to give the applicant an idea of what to expect during this appointment: the length of the interview, who will be conducting the interview, and whether there will be multiple interviews. Give the applicant directions on how to get to your location. Doing things that will help applicants to arrive on time and feel relaxed help contribute to more effective interviews.

On the other hand, based on the telephone interview, you may determine that you will not arrange an in-person interview, or you may telephone interview other applicants first before scheduling in-person interviews.

You may say something like, "We are still in the process of phone screening some other applicants for the job. We will contact you should we decide to bring you in for an in-person interview." NOTE: It may be helpful to use Telephone Pre-Screen Form.

The purpose of the face-to-face interview is to further narrow your initial group of applicants by learning as much about them as you can in a relatively limited time. This is a fact-finding mission for both parties. Both parties need information to ensure a successful outcome!

Prepare interview questions in advance
Some applicants are very rehearsed. They know how to anticipate or deflect difficult questions. They know the "correct" answer to many questions, mainly because they have been asked the same questions over and over or they have a written script that anticipates questions. There is a way to limit too many "canned" answers by formulating questions that cannot be anticipated by the applicant.

You will want to formulate original questions that are less commonly asked by interviews and will lessen the possibility of getting formulaic responses. Read more below about different types of interview questions and how to develop more original questions.

Types of interview questions

There are two basic types of questions:
1. Closed questions
2. Open-ended questions

Closed questions: Require only a yes or no answer, or specific data. Examples:
"Do you like to work hard?"
"What was your title at your last job?"

Open ended questions: Require the applicant to develop an answer and provide more detailed information.
Example:"What was your most significant accomplishment?"

If you asked a closed question, then add follow-up questions using words such as "how," "what," "why," "when." Open-ended questions also lend themselves to developing follow-ups, because the applicant is telling a story with many components, each of which can lead to more questions.
In general, your interview should consist of many more open-ended than close-ended questions.

Behavioral questions
This is a type of open-ended question that allows the applicant to provide more concrete evidence of past behaviors. What you want to learn using this questioning technique is how the applicant behaved in a job situation in the past to predict how they may handle a similar situation in the future.

This can be a very effective technique- - it reveals what an applicant actually did, thought, decided, created, led, negotiated, etc., in prior jobs.

An easy way to formulate a behavioral question would be to start the question with: "Tell me about a time when…."Example: "Tell me about a time when you had to work really hard to complete a project."

Hypothetical questions
This is another type of open-ended question that tests whether applicants can think creatively under fire. Some hypothetical questions test problem-solving and reasoning skills. Ask applicants to come up with a plan by describing a scenario that echoes a real-life job situation, and see what they can do with it. Also ask hypothetical questions that help you learn about the applicants' values and people skills.

Remember: Interview questions must be focused on job-related areas only, without any reference to race, sex, age, religion, creed, national origin, marital or parental status, sexual orientation or apparent or perceived mental or physical disabilities. They must focus on the applicant's ability to do the job.

See "Sample Interview Questions" (above right) as well as questions you cannot legally ask candidates. Your HR representative can assist with developing additional interview questions as well. 

Suggestions for a Successful Interview

Setting up for the Interview

It helps to give some thought ahead of time to the physical environment in which you'll conduct the interview. You'll want to find a private area where you can spend enough time without interruptions. Applicants will be more at ease and you will learn more about them in an environment that is not threatening to them.

Review the information on the applicant just before the interview so that the details are fresh in your mind. Be sure to look for and possibly ask about on the interview:

  • Special skills (e.g., computer software)
  • Words such as "assisted" and "arranged" when describing a project, which often means the applicant was involved in a project, but was not actually responsible for it. You'll need to explore this further.

Conducting the Interview
There is no specific recipe for conducting a good interview that will work for all applicants, and you'll have to adapt your style somewhat to each applicant you meet. There are shy people who appreciate it if the interviewer makes them comfortable with a little small talk in the beginning of the interview, for example. You may want to start by commenting on a neutral subject to "break the ice" a bit (e.g., the weather). Then, you can let applicants know who you are relative to the position. Are you the immediate supervisor? Will you be making the hiring decision? Will you discuss the pay and benefits with them, or will they be talking to someone else about these issues?

Take Notes
Even though you may think that you will remember everything about an applicant you have interviewed, most of us do not. Notes are helpful when several top applicants emerge and a close comparison becomes necessary. Mention to the applicant that you will be taking notes. Telling them this up front makes them feel more comfortable. Limit note taking to short entries, because it is more important to listen. Allow time to go over the notes immediately after the interview. Refine the notes by writing a summary for each interviewed applicant for later comparison. Do not write your notes on the resume. Take notes on separate paper.

Establish a friendly tone, but stay in charge
Make certain that you control the interview; don't let forceful applicants talk incessantly or lead the interview. Use the interview time efficiently to get your most important questions answered.

Make the interview accessible to people with disabilities
But, don't question the nature, severity, cause or expected outcome of disabilities. Focus on the essential functions and attendance standards of the job. Do not make assumptions based on actual or perceived disabilities. Ask all applicants the same questions regardless of whether they have actual or perceived disabilities.

Have the applicant do most of the talking
Apply the 70/30 rule: applicant talks 70% of time; you talk 30% of the time. You'll want to provide some general information about your department, philosophy and culture, but keep your comments brief. The main purpose of the interview is to gather as much information as possible from the applicant.

Allow silence
During the interview, the applicant needs time to think. And, if an applicant seems reluctant to answer a difficult question, don't rush on to the next question to make the applicant feel more comfortable. An awkward silence can indicate that you have reached an area which you may want to probe further, or it could simply mean the applicant cannot think of an immediate answer.

If applicants have falsely represented their qualifications
End the interview early, though try to do so in a neutral rather than accusatory way. If, on the other hand, it becomes clear that you simply misunderstood the applicants' qualifications, and they are not a fit with the job's qualifications, show them the courtesy of completing the interview, although you'll probably want to shorten it somewhat.

Handling awkward responses
Applicants sometimes volunteer information that employers may not lawfully consider in evaluating an applicant for a position. For example, they may tell you: "I have two children." We are expecting a baby." "My spouse is disabled." Do not follow-up on this information even though the applicant brought it to your attention. The best way to handle this situation is to acknowledge what was said simply by nodding and saying "Oh," "I see" or another similarly neutral comment. Then continue with your next prepared question related to the position.

Hasty judgments
Many interviewers find themselves making up their minds about applicants very early on in the interview- sometimes, the minute the person walks in the door! This rush to judgment can be very detrimental to a well thought-out hiring process. Once you sense that you're forming an opinion about the applicant, either positive or negative, ask questions specifically to find out if your impression is correct. You may confirm that what you have already sensed or you may find yourself surprised to discover that the applicant has characteristics or traits that you completely missed in your initial assessment.

Tell applicant about the job and about working at NYU
Be sure to allow enough time to talk in more detail about the job opening, provide an overview of your department's structure, how it fits into the University as a whole, etc. You should also allow some time for applicants to ask you more questions based on what you say, and pay attention to the kinds of questions they ask. This can tell you a lot about their interest level in the job.

Allow some time for applicants to ask you more questions
They'll have questions about the organization, benefits, why you came to work for NYU, or your style of management. You should be prepared to answer, although briefly, questions about yourself, the department, NYU, in general, and other questions particular to the job opening. You should also be prepared to sell the job to a good applicant and show how attractive it would be to work in at NYU if the offer were ultimately made.

At the end of the interview, invite viable applicants to call you if they think of additional information or want to ask you a few more questions. Give all applicants a general idea of your timetable; i.e., when you expect to conclude the interviewing process and make a hiring decision (e.g., "We are still interviewing some other applicants for the job, but expect to wrap up the process in the next two weeks.") Of course, depending on your interest in the applicant, you may be sharing more or fewer details on next steps in the process. For example, if there is a strong interest on your part, you may say something like, "I am very impressed with your credentials and would like to schedule you to come back and meet with our Department Head. I will have a member of my staff contact you to set that up." If there is less of an interest in the applicant, you will be less likely to share any details other than he/she will hear back on the final decision.

Show them out
Escort all applicants to the entrance. Thank them for their time.

Be careful not to make promises of any kind, such as promising future promotions or benefits and perks NYU normally doesn't offer. Promises of this nature can lead to serious problems if they are ultimately not kept.

It may be appropriate to arrange interviews with other members on your hiring team, particularly if the job involves extensive interaction with people in your department or in other areas of the University. Set up meetings with staff who will work closely with the new hire, or arrange for likely applicants to talk to the next level up in the department. These "internal references" can help you get a more complete picture by picking up insights about an applicant that you might have missed.

It can be interesting to compare how the applicant's answers to the same specific questions asked by several different interviewers may have changed during the course of the interviews. But, for efficiency, many interviewing teams prefer to avoid asking the same common questions of the applicant. To prevent repetition, it is possible to do one of two things:

  • Develop a set of key questions as a team and assign only one of the interviewers to ask each question. Then report the answers to the rest of the team
  • Develop the key questions and ask them when the entire interviewing team is present with the applicant.

The latter, a panel interview, requires a lot of preparation and may be intimidating to the applicant. But, the benefit is that each member of the hiring team hears the answers to the questions firsthand. Then, the individual follow-up interviews can focus on detail, with time to pose new questions based on answers to the common ones already asked.


Now you will need to evaluate the input from the team and take into consideration that different people react differently to the same applicant, even to the same answers. Some interviewers may judge the applicant more on personality, while others are more intent on technical competency. You'll need to use your best judgment here, considering and factoring in everyone's feedback and making the best decision you can.

Analyze the following areas in order to make the final selection:

  • Potential: CAN the applicant do the job? You should feel confident that the applicant possesses the experience, skills knowledge and abilities needed to perform the essential duties of the job.
  • Motivation: WILL the applicant do the job? You want to hire someone who truly wants to do this job and for good reasons. Having the skills to do the job is not enough. Ask yourself: does the job fit in with the applicant's career goals? Does it offer challenges that would interest them?
  • Fit: Does the applicant possess the other key characteristics and work behaviors to make him the best FIT for the job related to judgment, personality, attitude and interpersonal skills? These factors usually "tip the scale" when comparing applicants who otherwise may be equally qualified.

Why Check References?

Hiring decisions should not be made without making an effort to check references. Making hiring decisions without complete information on candidates could lead to costly mistakes and may subject an employer to liability for its hiring decision. Reference checking should simply be regarded as a component of the interviewing process.

References help you get the full picture of the candidate's skills, work habits, and personality. Reference checking is all about making sure the candidate is right for the job.

The Reference Checking Process

  • Inform job applicants at the initial interview stage that all finalists are subject to a thorough reference checking process, which will involve contacting prior employers for detailed discussions of the candidate's work experience and performance. Advance notice can also help eliminate some applicants from pursuing the interviewing process further. Additionally if your unit has the practice of requiring hired employees to provide copies of pay stubs that verify past employment as well as copies of diplomas for the highest degree level attained, tell the applicant up front. Check with your HR Rep if this practice exists in your unit.
  • Have candidates sign a Release Form consenting to have his/her references checked. (See "Reference Checking Resources" at right for Release Forms.) Fax this form to the current or past employer and to educational institutions in advance. This form encourages prior employers to speak more candidly and educational institutions to verify dates of attendance and awarded degrees. By signing this form, the candidate waives his/her right to legal action against all individuals providing references based on the information provided.
  • Use NYU's Reference Check form for all references. (Click here for Reference Check Form.) Those questions ensure consistency in the reference checking process. Fax the form to the person giving the reference to fill out, if he/she doesn't want to discuss a reference on the phone--sometimes this is less "threatening" than talking on the phone.
  • Have candidate provide a minimum of three (3) reference sources. It is helpful to get references from a combination of people who can discuss the candidate's skills and work habits (e.g., prior supervisors, peers, and subordinates). However, it is essential to get references from past supervisors. Ideally, one reference should be from the candidate's current or most recent supervisor. If it is not possible to speak with the current supervisor before hiring the candidate, you should still check the reference, even if it is after the candidate has been hired. You may either extend an offer to the candidate conditioned on a positive reference from his/her most recent supervisor or hire the candidate and check the reference while the employee is on probation.

Reference Checking Tips

When conducting reference checks, start by asking straightforward employment facts (dates of employment, title, etc.), then move on to more open-ended questions. Use a behavior-based approach to focus on a candidate's past behaviors in specific situations (e.g., "Tell me about a time when….").

Be friendly and conversational when talking with a reference giver to help gain that person's trust and to make him/her more comfortable.Be attentive to a person's style and tone in voice, pauses, etc.

Background checks

For some types of jobs at NYU, applicants are subject to a more extensive background investigation. NYU utilizes an external service to conduct such background investigations, which include, but are not limited to, criminal, credit, identity checks and drug testing. Your HR Rep will inform you if your job opening is eligible for this type of background checking.

You've made your choice and are ready to make the offer. Contact your HR Officer at this stage, as they can assist you in determining the appropriate hiring salary and completing the necessary documentation on recruitment for the job.

For Administrator and Professional positions: your HR Offcier completes an Affirmative Action Recruitment Report, which documents the measures that were taken during the recruiting process to ensure a diverse pool of candidates, including recruitment activities, finalists interviewed, and the rationale for selecting the final candidate.

Your HR Officer can also assist you with addressing any benefits or other related inquiries the applicant may have before accepting an offer.

In your conversations with the applicant you have selected, you should:

  • Convey that you are happy about being able to make the job offer
  • "Sell" the job, the work team and NYU, in general
  • Be open to negotiations on salary, if appropriate

Notify applicants not chosen

It is a good business practice and polite to notify the other applicants that your offer was accepted by another applicant. It sends a message to applicants that NYU is professional and respectful in how we conduct business and appreciate that candidates have taken the time to apply to NYU.

In addition, the second or third choice applicant could very well be the next hire when another job becomes available, so it's important to end the process on a professional, friendly note.

A short note or telephone call informing the applicants of the decision is appropriate. If you choose to make a phone call, keep in mind that they can be difficult because the applicant may ask for reasons why he or she was not chosen. It is best to keep these conversations short and not to get into any kind of argument. The reason for not hiring someone can always be stated simply: You found an applicant whose skills and abilities you think will best fit the position, nothing more.

Your new employee

Once the offer has been accepted, your HR Officer will work with you on completing the necessary new hire paperwork and scheduling the new hire for orientation.

You should notify your staff of your new employee's name, title and start date.

Begin preparing for your new employee's arrival:

  • Make sure desk supplies, directories, manuals and any other helpful resources are assembled and organized.
  • Set up telephone and computer accounts.
  • Have a "first day" plan.
  • Work out a training routine with other staff members - get their cooperation.

Once your new employee has arrived:

  • Welcome and train the new person. It may be helpful to set up a training schedule for the first few days/months.
  • Review job functions and share expectations as soon as possible.
  • Introduce your new employee to key individuals and services early on (e.g., University HR, Information Technology Services, Purchasing Services, etc.)
  • Be sure to impart the values, culture and expectations of your school or business unit.
  • Provide ongoing coaching and feedback -- don't wait until the end of the probationary period!

Recruiting Tools


  • Tell me about your favorite position, and what role your boss played in making it so unique?
  • Tell me about your least favorite position.

Achievement-Focused Questions

  • What makes you stand out amongst your peers?
  • What has been your proudest accomplishment? Tell me all about it.
  • What would your current boss say makes you most valuable to him/her?

"Pressure-Cooker" Questions

  • Tell me about your last performance appraisal. In which area(s) were you most disappointed?
  • Where do you disagree with your boss most often? How did you handle the last time he/she was wrong and you were right?
  • Were you ever in a situation where you had too many things to do in the time available? What happened and how did you handle it?
  • What was you worst mistake last year, and how did you deal with it?
  • How do you work with new and weak members of your group?
  • What kind of people do you feel represent a challenge to work with and how do you best deal with them?

Behavioral Questions

  • Tell me about the most difficult assignment you ever had. How did you go about completing it?
  • Tell me about a situation in which your boss was upset with the way you did something. How did you handle your boss?
  • For management-level applicants-Tell me about a particularly difficult employee you were able to turn around and help to become a good, solid worker.
  • Tell me about a decision you made on the job that did not work out well. How did you make that decision? What would you have done differently in retrospect?

Challenging Applicants in the Final Rounds of Interviews

  • Why do you want to work here?
  • What makes you suitable for this job?
  • What do you know about our organization/department?
  • Tell me about your understanding of the job you're applying for.

Interviewing "Don'ts"

Don't ask ANY questions related to an applicant's:

  • Race
  • National origin
  • Age
  • Birthplace
  • Religion
  • Creed
  • Sexual orientation
  • Disability
  • Marital or parental status
  • Child care
  • Health issues

Contact your HR representative to help develop other appropriate interview questions. 

Hiring decisions should not be made without making an effort to check references. Making hiring decisions without complete information on candidates could lead to costly mistakes and may subject an employer to liability for its hiring decision. Reference checking should be regarded as another form of interviewing. References help you get the full picture of the candidate's skills, work habits, and personality. Reference checking is all about making sure the candidate is right for the job. See Step 8 in the Recruiting Guidelines and License Verification Resouces, if applicable.

Release Form
The purpose of this form is for the candidate to consent to having references contacted and to release the employers and the educational institutes giving the references from liablity. This form should be given to the candidate at the begining of the reference checking process, and the candidate should be asked to complete and sign it for each reference name that he/she provides.

Reference Check Form
When a final candidate for an Office and Clerical (Local 3882), Laboratory and Technical (Local 3882), and Service Staff (Local 1, Local 810, and Non-Union) employee is selected for a position, the supervisor or Human Resources Representative must complete this form prior to extending an offer. The completed form should be included in the new hire paperwork package.

1. New York State Department of Education Office of the Professions:
This site verifies licenses in professions such as medicine, accounting, engineering, etc.

2. New York State Department of State Index of Licensing Services:
This site verifies licenses in certain trades and services industries such as security guards, real estate brokers, hearing aid dispensers, etc.

3. New York State Unified Court System: This site verifies attorney license registration.

These forms are used to hire a full-time temporary (Office and Clerical (Local 3882), Laboratory and Technical (Local 3882) for up to 3 months, Administrator and Professional for up to 6 months) or a casual (for up to 3 months) employee.

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