Search Advocate Guides
Weber State’s Search Advocate Program is designed to expand candidate pools, enhance consistency, and increase accurate and objective assessments during the hiring process. Many goals of the Search Advocate Program can be accomplished by adjusting steps in the hiring process. These guides introduce and provide simple but effective ways to keep fairness front and center during hiring.
Building Hiring Committees
A cross-functional hiring committee is a simple way to build consistency, fairness, and broad consideration of perspectives into the hiring process. Below are a few guidelines.
As of January 1, 2024, search committee members are required to participate in search advocate training.
- Ideal size of committee: 4 to 6 people, depending on position.
- When choosing members, consider what is needed to ensure the committee represents the organization's interests while minimizing the resources needed to fill a position.
- Choose two members to be area experts who represent the content and competency for the position being hired.
- Choose two members who complement the area experts, particularly those who would partner with the department, provide another perspective on the same discipline or a person who the position would regularly interact with outside the department.
- Hiring committees should include members who bring a variety of characteristics, perspectives, and backgrounds to the review.
Keep in mind that diversity includes a wide range of factors, including personal characteristics, education, background, culture, race, religion, gender/sexual orientation/identity, ability/disabilities, socioeconomic status, geographic location, ideologies, and more.
Drafting a Position Description
When building position descriptions, it is important to remember that language and structure matters. In order to expand recruiting pools, use a structure and language that is accessible for as many potential applicants as possible. Below are a few elements to include when building position descriptions to help attract more candidates.
- Position Summary Paragraph: This should be a brief overview of the university, hiring unit and mission of the position. The paragraph should be conversational and avoid jargon or gender-coded words.
- Position Duties: This should include the top 3-5 functions of the position. Language should use present-tense action verbs, and describe the work rather than the worker.
- Required Qualifications: This section should focus on measurable qualifications, such as degrees/certifications, with 2-3 qualifications listed. Only qualifications that are essential to the position should be included.
- Preferred Qualifications: This area should include skills that would enhance the position’s performance. However, qualifications should still relate to essential job functions. The shorter this list, the better, as it will help avoid unintentional isolating of individuals who are hesitant to apply without meeting 100% of the listed qualifications.
- A successful candidate will: When building this section, consider the type of skills you might want a candidate to learn or develop to meet the desired impact of the position. Focus on creating a compelling picture of how a candidate can grow in their professional life while aligning with the desired impact of the position.
- Materials to include in application: Determine what materials would be needed to determine a candidate’s qualifications.
- Benefits: Including a few benefits can help increase the appeal of the role. Examples include university provided benefits or local highlights and attractions.
- All language should be clear and concise.
- Where possible, bullet point formatting is preferred to increase accessibility.
- Hiring committees should consider ways to open the door to non-traditional or atypical career paths and transferable skill sets.
- Diversity statements are not to be used, as they tend to be performative or inadvertently pressure individuals to out characteristics of themselves in order to be seen as contributing to a diverse organization.
- Avoid or limit arbitrary numeric measures such as number of years.
- Use words like “should” instead of “must.”
- Keep qualifications as open as possible and suggest multiple ways to meet them.
- Treat required qualifications as the first steps in screening, not the last.
- Describe what must be done rather than how it must be done.
- Identify both key “technical” skills (what they must do) and crucial “performance” skills (how they will do it). Remember that performance skills are almost always transferable.
Download a printable checklist.
Creating the Interview
Prior to opening the search, the committee should discuss qualifications to identify the criteria for assessing candidates. It is important the committee reach a shared understanding of the criteria, how it relates to the position and the different ways an applicant could meet it. Once the criteria is established, the committee should identify the most important performance skills and values essential to the job and team, which will be used to build interview questions.
We suggest sending questions ahead of time to allow for an even playing field of temperaments and personalities in the interviews.
When developing questions, primarily use situational (“What would you do if…”) instead of behavioral (“Tell me about a time when…”) questions. Situational questions help forecast potential, assess leadership and interpersonal skills and level the playing field for candidates with less experience but great potential.
Ask for positive and negative examples to help build a balanced picture of the candidate.
Develop follow-up questions to help the candidate provide relevant and detailed information. Choose 6-8 open-ended questions, in addition to follow-up questions. Follow-up examples include:
- Why would you choose that course of action?
- Tell us more about the steps you took and what happened.
- How did others react and what did you do with those reactions?
- Would you do anything differently if faced with that same situation?
- Under federal law, there can be no discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, national origin, or age. Therefore, there are topics you should NOT ask a prospective employee because they may be discriminatroy in nature.
Evaluation & Search Criteria Matrix
Hiring committees should invest time early in the hiring process to reach an understanding of the qualifications for the job. The committee works to develop the search criteria, discussing what meets or demonstrates strength for each qualification, which qualifications most strongly predict better performance and how/when to evaluate each qualification. Doing this before posting a position ensures the qualifications can be refined and helps mitigate structural bias.
- Qualification/Required or Preferred: Copy each qualification from the job description, with one qualification in each cell. In the second column, indicate R for required or P for preferred. Remember, a candidate must meet all required qualifications to be hired.
- Relationship to Job: To understand how broadly a committee can evaluate a qualification, determine what the qualification enables the appointee to do in the position. Which position duties require it? Why is it needed, how is it used in the job, what may be difficult to do without it?
- Transferable: Consider if certain skills are transferable. Transferable skills are skills that can be learned in any setting and taken to another setting. When a skill is transferable, the screening criteria are highly flexible.
- Screening Criteria: This column broadens the understanding of how candidates may meet qualifications. Considering the job, what experiences, accomplishments, etc. meet each qualification? Go beyond quantity to define indicators of acceptable quality performance or understanding.
Complete required and preferred qualifications before continuing to Priority.
- Priority: How important is strength in a given qualification compared to others? If meeting a qualification strongly predicts better performance, it is a high priority for the committee to spend time evaluating. Qualifications that least strongly predict better performance are low priority.
- Strength: For medium and high-priority qualifications, decide what will indicate a candidate strongly meets the qualification, as well as what ways of meeting the qualification will predict better performance. Go beyond quantity to include quality.
- Assessment: Determine when the committee will have enough information to assess qualifications for each applicant. If it is a high priority qualification and will be evaluated at multiple stages, decide what is being assessed at each stage?
Download the evaluation guide and printable screening matrix.