Staff Hiring at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences

At FAS Recruitment Services, our goal is to help you hire the right employee. Hiring employees who bring the necessary skills for the job, have diverse backgrounds and insights, and accurately understand their expected roles is crucial to workplace productivity and growth.

The FAS Recruitment Services team will work with you to post the job and will effectively solicit candidates and identify the best person to fill the role. Our team will also consult with hiring managers about how to reach qualified candidates for hard-to-fill positions.

The FAS Staff Hiring Toolkit provides an introduction to navigating the recruitment and hiring process and will guide you through the decisions, actions, and processes that go into developing a talented and diverse team. At any step of the process, the FAS Recruitment Services team and your HR Consultant are available to help you.

Staff Hiring at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Developing a Job Description for Posting in Harvard Careers

Make sure the job description is precise and accurate.

Below are the required fields in Harvard Careers:

  • Duties and Responsibilities
    Summary: a brief description summarizing the overall purpose and objectives of the position, the results the employee is expected to achieve, and the degree of autonomy the person has over his or her work.
    Essential Functions: the most important responsibilities and duties of the position.
    Non-essential Functions: desirable, but not necessary aspects of the job.
    Management Responsibilities: the scope of the person’s authority as it relates to managing people, including a list of the positions that report to the person. 
  • Basic Qualifications
    Non-comparativee.g., three years’ experience in a particular position, rather than a comparative requirement such as “must have the most years’ experience, among applicants”.
    Objective, e.g., ae.g., a Bachelor’s degree in accounting is objective, but not a “technical degree from a good school.
    Relevant to the performance of the particular position.
    Demonstrable by evidence or statements in the candidate’s “expression of interest” (resume or cover letter).
  • Additional Qualifications
    Behavioral Knowledge: capabilities that contribute to a person’s ability to excel on the job.
    Working Conditions: a person’s interest in or ability to work in the environment in which the job is performed, especially any unique conditions (e.g., outdoor work, extensive travel, or laboratory work). 
    Qualifications Labeled 'Preferred': qualifications that, if absent, will not disqualify a candidate, but which are strongly desirable.

When creating a job description for an HUCTW position, use the generic job descriptions as a guide, and basic qualifications must be comparable to those listed in the generic job descriptions.  

Once you have a final job description, create a requisition in Harvard Careers.  

Please see the Harvard Careers Quick Reference Guide – Creating a Requisition document for instructions.  For more information regarding background screening selections, please see Harvard University Pre-Employment Screening Checklist. 

The requisition will be approved and posted by FAS HR, in Harvard Careers to the internal and external gateways.  

If you would like to post to additional external sites, please see Harvard University External Internet Postings.

If you would like to post to additional external sites, please contact your FAS Recruitment Consultant. 

Recruiting and Resources for Diverse Talent

Consider Our Commitment to Diversity

The Harvard community has a shared commitment to diversity and inclusion and FAS recognizes both ideals are core to the FAS mission. In fact, Harvard’s recent Presidential Task Force Report on Inclusion and Belonging recognizes recruiting from the broadest possible pool of exceptional talent as one of its four key goals. In keeping with this, one of FAS HR’s strategic priorities is to build and retain a diverse FAS staff community. To this end, we will partner with you to source and recruit strong diverse FAS talent.

Understanding Unconscious Biases

Unconscious biases are shaped by our experiences and by cultural norms, and they are formed outside of our own conscious awareness. In a recruiting situation, unconscious biases can lead us astray, especially when they cause us to judge people. Our understanding of unconscious biases and our awareness of how to manage them is critical to our ability to recruit and hire diverse talent. This awareness helps us to avoid making judgements and engaging in decisions based on these judgements. This in turn enables us to create (and maintain) a work environment that encourages diverse perspectives and welcomes a diverse community.

If there is a goal, good faith efforts should be undertaken to recruit a diverse pool (internally and externally). It is usually better for searches to be conducted externally to have an adequate and diverse pool.

Please also note that hearing-impaired candidates may require accommodations to take part in a telephone interview. The University Disability Resources office can advise and help you with how to make specific accommodations. For guidance in meeting Harvard’s commitment to diversity, please see Recruiting and Resources for Diverse Talent. Once you have completed and reflected upon the candidates’ answers to your screening questions, you decide which candidates you will invite for an in-person interview.

Reviewing Resumes

Review each resume you receive, paying attention to the outlined details below.

Key skills and experience:

  • Basic Qualifications: Does the candidate meet the basic qualifications, such as the level of educational attainment or job experience? A candidate who lacks these basic qualifications cannot be considered for the position and must be immediately declined in Harvard Careers.
  • Additional Qualifications: Make a note of “useful to have” qualifications and skills, including those you may have described as “Preferred” on the job posting.
  • Competencies: Look for “soft” competencies and capabilities that the candidate will need to be successful in this role. For example, depending on the job in question, you might look for indications that the candidate can lead and manage change, is detail oriented, or can listen to a variety of perspectives and to reach an aligned solution.

Employment history and experience:

  • How do the candidate’s previous positions and employers (including workplace cultures) compare with the posted job and your department?
  • How long did the candidate stay in each job and with each employer? Did they change jobs frequently? Was there a reasonable career progression? Are the candidate’s skills and experiences broad or deep, or both?
  • Are there any unexplained gaps between jobs? Don’t assume they reflect negatively on the candidate, but do make a note to raise this question during the interview.
  • Determine whether the resume reflects achievements, relevant to your open position, and results that would be helpful to your opening, or simply lists tasks and duties.

Review the overall presentation of written materials, such as spelling, grammar, and attention to detail, if appropriate to the job.

Narrow your candidate pool

Aim for about three to seven candidates for the top group. If necessary, screen this group again to narrow down the candidates further. As you screen candidates, work with your divisional FAS Recruitment Consultant to create a robust and diverse candidate slate.

Consider our commitment to internal Harvard employees

Qualified internal candidates are a hiring source for open positions, provided there is a match. Among other reasons to consider internal candidates first: they understand Harvard’s structure and systems and have an established network of contacts, and this practice encourages the career growth of our staff.

Please note these requirements relating to laid-off Harvard staff

  • As provided in the HUCTW Personnel Manual, based on their history of proven contributions, laid-off HUCTW staff members (on Work Security) will be given hiring preference over outside candidates for any vacant job for which they are qualified.
  • The HR office of any hiring unit to which a qualified laid-off HUCTW employee has applied will interview that employee and will provide feedback to their assigned Case Manager to advise the employee.

Telephone Screens

The telephone screen consists of a few basic qualifying questions that will help you determine whether a candidate’s qualifications, experience, and salary needs match the position. The purpose of a telephone screen is to save managerial time by eliminating unlikely candidates. It is important to ask every candidate the same screening questions, to avoid the appearance of discrimination (although you can, of course, ask follow-up questions if appropriate based on the candidate’s responses). Before you begin telephone screening, please read our Guide to Legally Permissible Interview Questions and Discussions.

Use the screening process to include rather than exclude candidates, to avoid missing strong candidates. In reviewing qualifications, consider how each applicant might enhance diversity in the department and university-wide.

Avoid prematurely labeling one or more of your candidates as the “most promising” until all candidates have been considered. This will help ensure that all qualified candidates receive equal consideration.

Note: Effective January 2018 Massachusetts law prohibits asking applicants their current salary.

Interview Process

For candidate interviews, it is important to learn about the candidate through behavioral interviewing questions, given that such questions are designed to gain an understanding if the candidate will approach his/her job in ways that are important to FAS (building trust, communication skills, delivering results, embracing change, and managing conflict, among other things). By asking the candidate specific behavior related questions about his or her “past practice” in previous roles, it provides valuable insight into how the candidate will perform in the job they may have at FAS.

A team should interview each candidate because different people will likely be able to gather different types of information from the candidates (for example, one person may understand technical qualifications, while another may be a better judge of the interpersonal dynamics called for by the position and the department).

Who should generally be part of your interview team?

When selecting your interview team, consider how many interviewers to include, and their qualifications and diversity. Consider including people who will bring diverse outlooks and who are respectful of different cultures and characteristics. If different individuals or groups have a stake in the hiring decision, it’s a good idea to see that all stakeholders are represented on the interview team. Try to limit your team to no more than four members.

Recognize the potential to bring unintended biases to the process, and address this by having a clear and open discussion among team members before beginning the interview process.

You should consider including some of the following individuals:

  • Direct manager (should participate in all interviews)
  • Co-worker(s)
  • Department Administrator
  • Subject Matter Expert (example, if the position has a heavy complex financial component, someone in the finance department should be on the interview team). Work with your Recruitment Consultant to identify and secure a subject matter expert for your interview team.

Be clear about the scope of each team member’s role and identify one person (or possibly two) who will be the ultimate decision maker.

Please see Team Interviewing Process (TIP) for more information on Subject Matter Expert participation

Preparing for an Interview
 

Checklist in Planning for Interviews:

Review application materials, including resume, cover letter, and any application forms.

Prepare a list of information gathering and behavioral interview questions to ask every candidate.

  • Review the sample questions in Behavioral Interview Questions  to develop behavior-based interview questions according to the competencies and capabilities required for the position. We strongly recommend using behavioral questions because past behavior is the best predictor of future performance.
  • Your questions should also address areas relating to compatibility with the hiring department or with those with whom the person in this role would interact if hired. For example, a position in a department comprised of fast-paced, high-intensity individuals might call for a staff member with a work style that could manage multiple conflicting demands.

Prepare answers to questions that diverse candidates (including people with disabilities) are likely to ask. Job candidates often ask critical questions aimed at helping them determine whether an organization is truly inclusive and supportive, and whether they will be comfortable in a position. Be prepared to answer these commonly-asked questions:

  • How many people with disabilities do you have in your department/the FAS?
  • What accommodations are available for people like me?
  • How many people like me are in middle and senior management positions?
  • How many of the people like me are in professional or technical positions?
  • What are my chances of progressing/advancing my career here?
  • Do you have a formal mentoring program or career development programs for people like me and other diverse groups?
  • What does the FAS/ Harvard do in terms of community outreach efforts to partner with diverse groups?
  • Do you have employee affinity groups that focus on the needs of people like me and other groups?
  • Are managers trained to communicate with and manage diverse employees, including those with disabilities?
  • What initiatives has the FAS/ Harvard participated in regarding diversity?
  • Does the FAS/ Harvard have formal diversity initiatives and programs in place?

Even if a candidate does not ask these questions, you may volunteer information that may help persuade the candidate of your—and Harvard’s—sincerity in welcoming diversity, including diversity of abilities. FAS Recruitment Services can help you to answer questions and offer information.

Arrange for any accommodations that may be needed when interviewing a person with disabilities.

Ensure effective communication with, and equal opportunity for, all candidates. Employers must make reasonable accommodations to enable applicants with disabilities to participate in the interview process. Accommodations for interviews may include: an accessible interview location for people with mobility impairments, a sign language interpreter for a person who is deaf, a reader for a person who is visually impaired, and modified testing for a person with a learning disability.

For more information about making the job interviews accessible, and to make arrangements for accessibility options, please contact the University Disability Coordinator at disabilityresources@harvard.edu or 617-495-1859. More information is available at the University Disability Resources website.

Additional resources may be found in JAN’s A–Z overview of impairments and their respective accommodations, and in A Technical Assistance Manual on the Employment Provisions (Title I) of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, January 1992.

JAN provides a wealth of resources for employers. For example, JAN has a guide just for applicants and employees with Asperger Syndrome (an Autism Spectrum Disorder). Example: an applicant on the spectrum has a verbal communication deficit, though they can communicate through handwriting and by email. The employer wants to provide accommodations during the first stage interview, which involves answering questions from a three-person search committee. JAN suggests providing the questions in advance and allowing the applicant to furnish written responses during the interview.

Avoid making assumptions about a disabled candidate’s ability to “feel comfortable” on your team or in the position. Focus first on the candidate’s similarities to, rather than differences from, the way your staff and their colleagues and constituents approach their work. Next, consider whether the candidate’s differences matter to the work they would do, and how those differences might actually enhance your team and its efforts.

Prepare yourself by learning about the candidate’s disability and its effects. Before calling or meeting with a candidate who has a disability, you can gain an understanding of his or her situation by reading about the disability as it relates to the workplace. The website of the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), a program of the Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor, provides an A–Z overview of impairments (from Addison’s Disease to Wheelchair Use), as well as accommodation ideas to help both you and the candidate feel comfortable.

Video Interviewing Best Practices
 

  • All video interviewing should be treated and prepared for in the same way any interviewer would prepare for an “in person” interview. Please review Video Interview Best Practices for more information.
     
  • It is best practice to provide candidates information regarding the technology you’ll be using as well as information regarding accommodations in the event the candidate may need them. Suggested language to provide in interview confirmations:

The interview will be conducted via a Zoom video conference session. Please take some time before the interview to test your connection using this link:  https://zoom.us/test

Accessibility: https://zoom.us/accessibility; Zoom Support: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/categories/200101697

Please let us know if you prefer a different platform, have any technology concerns, or if you need a reasonable accommodation for interviewing or otherwise participating in the selection process.

Behavioral Interviewing
 

In behavioral interviews, interviewees are asked to give specific examples of when they have demonstrated particular behaviors or skills. Candidates should be asked to describe in detail a specific event, project, or experience, how they dealt with the situation, and what the outcome was. Behavioral Interview Questions gives many sample behavioral interview questions that relate to the most commonly-needed competencies and capabilities for FAS positions. FAS Recruitment Services is available to help you customize your behavioral interview questions. First, identify the technical and soft skills that are vital to the position; this will help you target your questioning to reveal the information that matters most.

The word “STAR” is a helpful tool to keep you on track in asking behavioral questions. Each question and answer should address:

  • a Situation or Task facing the candidate;
  • an Action the candidate took; and
  • the Results of changes caused by these actions.

It is not unusual to receive vague, theoretical, or generic responses to behavioral questions. In such cases, follow-up questions are the best way to drill down to the specific, action-oriented detail you need to get a full understanding of the candidate.

Follow-up questions might begin with:

  • What was the most memorable example of this…
  • Why did you…
  • Walk me through the steps you took…
  • Describe your specific role in…
  • How were you able to…
  • What happened when you…
  • Tell me about a time…

When you ask behavioral questions, you should allow candidates time to think about their past experiences. Encourage them to take their time to think before responding.

Use the same core set of behavioral questions for every candidate's interview.

  • In addition to the factual and behavioral questions, you will ask of all candidates, prepare specific questions for each candidate, based on particular experiences included in each candidate’s resume or other communications.
  • Note any jobs, experiences, and gaps in employment about which you are unclear or would like more information.
  • Compare the needed job competencies and capabilities to the candidate’s experience and make a note of areas to explore during the interview.
  • Provide candidates with interview information such as directions to your office, names, and titles of those who will be at the interview, the job description, a point of contact at your office if they have questions or are running late for their interview.

During the Interview

Interviews yield the best results when all interview team members understand the job competencies and capabilities needed, arrive with prepared questions, and stick to the agenda. By the end of a well-executed interview, the interview team will have assessed the candidate’s level of knowledge and skills, interest in the position, and the likelihood of success in the job. Also, bear in mind that while you are assessing the candidate, they are also assessing the role, you, and Harvard. Ideally, the candidate will walk away feeling treated fairly, adequately informed about the job, clear about the next steps in the hiring process, and leaving with a positive impression of Harvard.

Exchange information during the interview

  • Paraphrase what the speaker said to make sure you understand correctly what you are hearing.
  • Take notes on a sheet of paper separate from the candidate’s resume. Write down the key points. That is, record the candidate’s statements that reflect qualifications for the job, and those that evidence past accomplishments and experiences.
  • Observe and listen to the candidate’s responses.
  • AAsk probing questions if the answer is vague or seems questionable. To probe more, you may want to ask:
    • Can you tell me what you mean by that?”
    • “Please give me another example.”
    • “Please tell me more.”
  • PProvide candid information about the job, your department and its constituents, and the environment in which the staff member would work.
  • Invite the candidate to ask you any questions they may have.

Before interviewing please review our Guide to Legally Permissible Interview Questions and Discussions.

In general, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers cannot ask disability-related questions before an offer is made. This means that employers cannot directly ask whether an applicant has a disability. It also means that employers cannot ask questions that are closely related to disability. However, you may do a wide variety of things to evaluate whether an applicant is qualified for the job, including asking about his or her ability to perform specific job functions, asking about non-medical qualifications and skills, and asking applicants to describe or demonstrate how they would perform job tasks. For additional information, visit EEOC’s Pre-employment Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Exams.

Important note: Sometimes interviewees volunteer information about themselves that by law should not be considered in making an employment decision. For example, a candidate might mention dropping a child off at daycare. Don’t acknowledge or make a note of this “don’t ask” information. Don’t ask, “How many children do you have?” Redirect the interview back to discussing the candidates the relevant skills and experience.

Close the Interview

  • Explain the next steps in the hiring process, including when and how the candidate will hear from you. (When the final hiring decision is made, be sure that you follow the communication process you described during the interview.)
  • Thank the candidate for taking the time to meet with you.

Note Taking and Discussion Before, During, and After the Interview

The notes you make on resumes, during interviews, and at other times relating to job applicants are legal records and should reflect the same lawful considerations that go into developing interview questions. For example, notes like “Older than others in the department, might not be comfortable,” should be avoided.

Also, while it’s okay to note that a candidate can work only between 9 and 3, do not add, “because of children.” The factors you should consider in making your hiring decisions—and any documentation of your considerations—should be objective, specific, and job-related only.

The same considerations apply to your conversations with and about candidates: if a topic is on the “don’t ask” list in the Guide to Legally Permissible Interview Questions and Discussions (for instance, a candidate’s religion), don’t mention it in conversation either.

Why take notes during the hiring process?

Notes help you remember important information provided by candidates and they help you to distinguish between multiple candidates. In addition, note-taking serves two other equally important purposes:

  • Ensuring that those in a position to hire staff to follow consistent procedures and consider the relevant and lawful facts, and only those facts.
  • Providing documentation of a fair and lawful decision-making process. Notes from telephone screens, in-person interviews, reference checks, interview team meetings, and other evaluations of candidates are often the best protection against claims that decisions were made based on illegal reasons.

Your interview and related notes must be retained for three years after the end of your search, including those for unsuccessful applicants. Departmental search files should include:

  • Phone screen and interview notes
  • Candidate evaluation forms
  • Reference checks (if applicable)

Post Interview Analysis and Making the Hiring Decision

Organize and complete your notes immediately after the interview, while things are fresh in your mind. Add details and thoughts that you weren’t able to jot down during the interview. When the time comes to make a hiring decision, the interview notes for each candidate will be a critical tool for your decision-making.

As you make these notes:

  • Remember that your notes are legal records.
  • Identify additional questions or concerns that were not noted previously or followed up on during the interview.
  • Compare your notes with the basic qualifications that the candidate must have to be considered for the position.

Making the decision

  • Decide which “next step” you recommend regarding the candidate:
    • Job offer;
    • Future consideration; or
    • No offer.
  • Consider the feedback provided by the subject-matter experts and/or customers on your search team.
  • Once you’ve had the time to arrive at your own decision, meet with the rest of the interview team to debrief and discuss their recommendations. The bulk of the team’s discussion should focus on each candidate’s track record of achievements and qualifications to meet the requirements of the position.

Communicating with External and Harvard Internal Candidates Not Selected

Unlike the case of candidates who were declined at the earliest stage of their job applications, once contact has been made with a candidate, Harvard Careers will not automatically send out a decline notification. For those candidates who have been telephone screened or interviewed in person, consult with your FAS Recruitment Consultant on the best way to inform the candidate, either by a personal email or a phone call, or you may choose for your Recruitment Consultant to send a release letter templates that reside in Harvard Careers.

In communicating a decline notification to a Harvard internal candidate or any finalist, it is best to do so personally, either through a phone call or a personal email inviting the candidate to call you if they wish to discuss the decision further. If possible, your communication to Harvard internal candidates should give a reason for why they were not selected, such as your choice of a candidate with more experience in the relevant field or with the competencies and capabilities required for the position.

Checking References Before a Job Offer

Always check references before extending a job offer, and only do so for those finalists you are seriously considering. Make sure that the applicant understands when and how the references will be used. We recommend checking at least three professional references, at least one of whom should be a current or recent manager.

No job offer should be made to an internal or external candidate until the candidate’s references have been checked.

References can be checked via SkillSurvey or verbal reference calls. SkillSurvey is an online reference collection platform that allows references to provide feedback anonymously (and on their own time).

Note: Reference checking through SkillSurvey is strongly recommended for positions grade 57 and below.

Verbal Reference Calls

This is your opportunity to test your impressions, ask for clarification of job experience, and obtain additional information about the candidates before making a hiring decision. Harvard has developed templates that you may use in checking references. Please use the Reference Check Forms for professional staff or support staff when conducting verbal reference calls.

When checking references, respect the confidentiality of the job candidate. Often candidates do not want to risk job security by having you talk with their current manager. In such cases, you may start by checking references with a previous manager, and then contact the current manager only when you are reasonably certain that you wish to make a job offer. Also, remember that your conversations while checking references should be treated as confidential and should never be discussed with the job candidate (even after hiring).

Harvard Internal Finalist/Transfers

References should always be checked for internal candidates, including the current manager if the person is a final candidate. Additionally, for internal finalists, the local HR office must be contacted to verify the candidate is in good standing. Please work with your FAS HR Recruiter or Consultant to verify that an internal candidate is in good standing, eligible for transfer, etc.

Acting on your Hiring Decision

Determining Salary

Once you have completed the selection process and decided to offer the position to your top candidate, contact your FAS HR Recruitment Consultant or HR Consultant who will request a salary equity review to determine the appropriate salary.

Extending the Verbal Offer

Once the salary is determined, the hiring manager will make a conditional verbal offer to the chosen candidate.

To prepare for this conversation, make sure you understand all of the benefits that would be available to the candidate by reviewing the Total Compensation Summaries. Keep this Summary handy and refer to it during your conversation, to be sure you cover all points accurately.

During your conversation with the candidate, provide details that include salary, job grade level, possible start date, and the name of the person to whom he or she would report. Inform the candidate that:

  • the offer is contingent upon successful completion of a background screen (if required, based on the candidate’s status)
  • after a successful screening, the formal written offer letter will come from FAS HR via email
  • the candidate will need to reply to the offer email with his or her acceptance

Background Screening

Before an offer letter can be sent to the finalist, any required background screens must be completed. 

To determine if the final candidate qualifies for a background screen, please see Determining if a Final Candidate Requires a Background Screen. For specifics regarding each type of background screen including turnaround time, please see Types of Background Screens.

To initiate a background screen, email a request to recruitment@fas.harvard.edu with the following information:

  • Candidate’s full name
  • Candidate’s email address
  • Type(s) of background screen(s) required

FAS HR will initiate the background screen.

Once the backgrounds screen has cleared, FAS HR will notify the requester.

If any additional information is required from the candidate, FAS HR will either contact the candidate directly or the requester of the background screen.

If no screen is required, send the completed FAS Request for Formal Offer Letter Information to recruitment@fas.harvard.edu.

Acceptance of Employment and Closing of Position in Harvard Careers

FAS Recruitment Services informs the FAS Recruitment Consultant and Department Administrator when the candidate accepts the formal offer.

If the search was managed at the department level, the Department Administrator is required to disposition all applicants to a final HR status with a disposition reason selected, before the requisition can be closed.

Send a notification to recruitment@fas.harvard.edu once you complete this final step so that FAS HR can close the requisition.