Human Resources refers a list of candidates to agencies after the initial screening and civil service exam process.  You are required to give all of those candidates a chance to interview. The number of candidates referred for interview is set in personnel rules and labor agreements.

Interviewing resources

Course: Creating an Equitable Interview Process

This course is required for all supervisors, and recommended for any staff who participate on interview panels.

View information and register for the course.

Other resources

Important Considerations

Request approval from Human Resources for any practical tests and presentations

Some agencies include a practical test, work sample, or presentation as part of their process. These assessments need to be shared and approved well in advance by Human Resources. This includes any written questions or exercises—anything that is not a standard face-to-face (or virtual) interview.

The initial notice to schedule interviews needs to include information about the assessment so candidates know what to expect. Otherwise, we are not meeting legal requirements and living our values for candidates with disabilities. Candidates may need to arrange in advance for a disability-related accommodation. Without notice, they cannot make those arrangements and may not have a fair opportunity to compete for a position.

Never research potential candidates online

Never look up candidates online or on social media platforms. These searches often give information that is not job-related. This includes details that the City is legally prohibited from considering, like a candidate’s gender, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, family status, and arrest or conviction record.

Talk to your HR Business Analyst if you think a specific position requires an online or social media screening. Be prepared with a list of job-related questions and information you would want this screening to provide.  

Preparing for the Interview

Preparing Interview Panelists

The City uses panels of interviewers (usually three people or more). A “balanced panel” includes people with different genders, races and ethnicities, abilities, and backgrounds. Your assigned HR Business Analyst and the Department of Civil Rights can help you identify potential panelists.

We recommend reaching out to panelists as soon as you have a recruitment timeline. Putting tentative holds on their calendars right away, before they fill up, can make the scheduling easier. The names of panel members are confidential until the candidates appear for interview.

In addition to the interview questions, be sure panelists are given the following information:

  • Interview Questions and benchmarks
  • Interview Tips Handout
  • Applicant materials (Optional- talk to your HR Business Analyst about whether this interview should be an independent data point, especially if the civil service exam included evaluation of materials)
Panel Member Responsibilities

This information is also included in the Interview Tips handout.

  • If a panel member personally knows the candidate being interviewed, they may recuse themselves if they feel they would not be able to objectively evaluate the candidate.
  • Candidate’s information and participation in a hiring process is strictly confidential, before, during and after the interview. Interview questions and benchmarks are also confidential.
  • Panel members are prohibited from using the internet to find out information about the candidates as the information obtained online may be unreliable, inaccurate, and/or lead to discrimination lawsuits.
  • Each panel member should take thorough notes documenting the candidate’s responses. Avoid taking notes regarding physical characteristics of the candidate, such as, “older, blonde, funny laugh, etc.” All notes are subject to discovery in case of a lawsuit and such notes could be used as evidence of discrimination.
  • Scoring the candidates should be done separately by each panel member following each interview.
  • Panel members should not discuss overall rankings with each other until all interviews are completed.
  • There should be a post-interview discussion. At the post-interview discussion, ask the external member to share their scores and thoughts first. If the hiring manager is on the panel, that person should participate last.

Scheduling

When the HR Business Analyst refers candidates to the Hiring Agency for interview, they will send them a notification with information on how to schedule. You have two options:

  • Self-scheduling- Set up NEOGOV so candidates can schedule their own interviews
    (The NEOGOV Online Hiring Center User Guide has detailed instructions. Requires network login.)
  • Staff scheduling- Have a contact at your agency support scheduling. Give your HR Business Analyst their contact information so it can be included in the notices. Be sure your contact has all the information they need (schedule, interview length, panelist names) before notices go out. Remind your contact that the names of panelists are kept confidential until the interview—candidates will sometimes ask who will be interviewing them.

Candidates are given a minimum of five (5) business days to contact your agency and schedule their interview. Your scheduling contact can call or email candidates, which sometimes speeds up the scheduling process. However, it is never appropriate to disqualify a candidate who was not given the full five (5) days to respond to the interview notice.

You may have candidates who withdraw, are unavailable, or just don’t respond to the invitation. As candidates drop out of the process, you can contact your assigned HR Business Analyst and may be able to get to request additional names. If you started with a larger number because of ties in the exam process, you may not get more names. You are required to give any additional candidates an opportunity to interview too, including giving them at least five (5) business days to schedule.  

Developing questions and benchmarks

The City uses structured interviews. Interviewers ask every candidate the same set of planned, relevant questions and use a scoring guide to make sure their interviews are consistent. Decades of research has demonstrated that structured interviews are better at predicting how employees will perform in a new job. They also tend to be more fair to diverse groups of candidates since the criteria is decided ahead of time, not on the spot when biases can create a moving target.

Identifying your “must-haves”

Use the position description to develop a list of your “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves.” Look beyond the tasks and responsibilities to the skills that would make a candidate successful. For example, a customer service position is likely to require good communication and problem-solving skills, and cultural humility and competence. A field operations position is likely to require situational awareness, adaptability, and working under pressure.

We also recommend including at least one diversity, equity, and inclusion question that is weighted equally with the other questions. Develop or choose a question that’s relevant and appropriate for the job.

Behavioral interview questions

Effective questions are open-ended and allow candidates the opportunity to give examples of when they have demonstrated these skills. Once you have developed a question, you also decide in advance what your ideal candidate would say.

Behavioral questions often start with the phrase, “Tell me about a time when you…” They test how a candidate responded to a past situation. These situations should be connected to the skills a candidate will need on the job. They usually include several follow-up questions to help guide the candidate’s responses and ensure you get a thorough response.

For example, a position that requires project management skills might be, “Tell me about the largest project you’ve ever had to see through from beginning to end. What was your role and what was the deliverable(s)? How did you coordinate tasks and activities and track your progress? What obstacles (if any) did you encounter, and how did you overcome them? What was the outcome(s) of the project?”

The Manager’s Guide to Interviews and Background Checks includes examples of behavioral questions and a list of questions you should avoid for legal reasons.

Benchmarks, scoring and weighting of questions

Once you have your questions you develop benchmarks. Benchmarks are the criteria you use to decide whether a response to a question is good. Get feedback about the benchmarks from your interview panel members and Human Resources so they are clear and you don’t miss something important.

The maximum possible points you assign to each question and benchmark should reflect your priorities and values. If everything is a must-have, then make sure that the points add up so that everything has equal weight. If some benchmarks or follow-up questions are less important, then their maximum number of points can be smaller.

Conducting Interviews

A few recommended practices:

  • Give candidates some time to review the questions and make notes just before their interview.
  • Be careful about small talk—any information you learn that isn’t job-related could cause a problem. For example, asking about someone’s family or their plans for “Easter weekend” could form the basis for a discrimination lawsuit.
  • Listen actively to candidate responses. Don’t spend the whole time with your head down taking notes.
  • You can ask follow-up questions, as long as they job-related and connected to the main interview question or topic. If a candidate misses part of a multi-part question, you can re-ask it as long as you are consistent with other candidates.
  • Ask one of the interview panel members to be a time keeper.
  • Take a long pause before moving on to a new question.
  • Be mindful and consistent in your body language. If you have a tendency to smile and nod as an interviewer, be mindful of doing this with everyone.

 Interview Follow-up

  • Gather all interview notes. Your agency is required to keep them for three years. Interview questions and notes are confidential, and should always be filed in a secure location. Talk to your agency's record custodian about how and where interview notes are filed at your agency.
  • Thank your interview panelists. Follow up again with them once you’ve made a final job offer to let them know who was ultimately chosen.