Applicant Screening

The entire applicant pool must be considered until the closing date and should be treated with confidentiality and only shared on a need to know basis. The Hiring Manager/Search Chair/Search Committee may consider only those applicants who meet the minimum qualifications as identified in the job description and no nominee for a position is a candidate until he or she has applied through PageUp and submitted all of the required documents.

Prior to reviewing resumes or curricula vitae, Search Committees should determine the criteria they will use to screen applicants based on the advertised required and desired qualifications specified in the position announcement.


Your first impression of the candidates who have applied for your open position will generally come from the resume, and other written materials submitted by the candidate.  Interviews provide the opportunity to focus on specific details surrounding experience and background and are, therefore, a critical step in your process to hire the best person for your opening.

Before the Interview:

  • Book an appropriate location, which is free from interruptions.
  • Review the job description.
  • Draft and agree upon the interview questions to be asked.
  • Review the candidate's resume/application.
  • Agree on the format for the interview.
  • Ensure that you know and can identify the indicators of the candidate's ability to perform the job.

During the Interview:

  • Make the candidate feel at ease with introductory and welcoming remarks.
  • Ask open-ended questions which focus on behavioral descriptions rather than simply “yes” or “no” questions (i.e. have them describe a work situation in which they handled stress well rather than just asking if they can “handle stress well”).
  • Listen; do not do all the talking.
  • Ask job related questions.
  • Ask the same core questions of every candidate.
  • Take notes during the interview.
  • Keep reactions to yourself.
  • Probe for specifics.

After the Interview:

  • Answer any candidate questions.
  • Provide an overview of the next steps in the process.
  • Provide timely communication to candidates.

It is important that all interviews be held in accessible locations.  It will not always be clear if a candidate has impaired mobility prior to arrival on campus.  You may not legally ask a candidate to reveal if s/he has a disability.  However, before the visit it is advisable to ask the candidate if she or he will need any special accommodations for their interview.  This is different from asking if the applicant has a disability—an individual can need an accommodation without necessarily having a disability.  At no time may a candidate be asked if they have a disability.  Accommodations may be related to a person’s physical disability or to their special dietary needs.  This can be done when writing or calling the candidate to arrange the visit.

Before an offer of employment is made, do not ask a candidate questions regarding:

  • the existence of a disability.
  • the nature of a disability.
  • the severity of a disability.
  • the condition causing the disability.
  • any prognosis or expectation regarding the condition or disability, or
  • whether the individual will need treatment or special leave because of the disability.

If a candidate does indicate that a reasonable accommodation may be necessary during the application or interview process because of a disability, the candidate should be immediately referred to Jacquie Kittler, Assistant Director of Employee Relations at x5-7559 in the Office of Human Resources for assistance.  It is not the responsibility of the Search Committee Chair or Search Committee members to process requests for accommodations related to a disability.  However, the Search Chair may be required to implement an accommodation at the direction of the Office of Human Resources. 

Massachusetts law guarantees that no person shall be denied the right to work because of his or her race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age (over 40), criminal record, or mental or physical handicap/disability. In order to comply with this law, an employer should generally not ask on a job application or during an interview any question that:

  • identifies a person as being within a protected category;
  • results in the screening out of members in a protected category; or
  • is not a valid basis for predicting successful job performance.

Generally, an employer may seek information, which is directly related to the applicant’s ability to perform the job for which he or she is applying.

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination has developed this chart, which compares questions that may appropriately be asked on employment application forms or during employment interviews with questions that should not be asked.   Of course, there are other questions not listed above that could be construed as attempting to elicit information for the purpose of discrimination on the basis of a protected category.

Topic Employers May Ask Employers May Not Ask

Generally; the only proper question is, "Are you under 18, yes or no?"

Questions about age may be allowed if necessary to satisfy the provisions of a state or federal law (for example, certain public safety positions have age limits for hiring and retiring). Also, if the Commission has previously identified age as a bona fide occupational qualification for the position.

Inquiry into the date of birth or age of the applicant, except as indicated to the left.
Disability/ Handicap No Questions

Inquiry into whether the applicant has a physical or mental disability, handicap or about the nature or severity of the disability/handicap.

Inquiry into whether an applicant is alcoholic or drug addicted.

Inquiry into whether an applicant has AIDS.

National Origin, Ancestry, Citizenship

"Are you legally authorized to work in the United States?"

An employer may require an employee to produce documentation, which evidences his or her identity and employment eligibility under federal immigration laws. This occurs after an offer of employment has been accepted using the Employment Eligibility Verification Form (I-9).

Inquiry into the birthplace of an applicant or the birthplace of his or her parent(s), spouse and/or other close relatives.


Inquiry into the national origin ancestry or ethnicity of an applicant.

Inquiry into whether an applicant for employment or an applicant's parent(s), and/or spouse are nationalized or native-born citizens of the United States.

Medical Examinations Once an offer of employment has been made, an employer may condition that offer on the results of a medical examination conducted solely for the purpose of determining whether the employee, with or without reasonable accommodation, is capable of performing the essential functions of the job.  
Race/Color No questions. Inquiry into the race or color of an applicant.
Photograph No questions. An employer cannot ask for photograph to accompany an application.
Religious Creed No questions, except by religious organizations as provided in 804 CMR 3.01(7)(a). Inquiry into the religious denomination or practices of an applicant, his or her religious obligations, or what religious holidays he or she observes.
Sex(Gender) Generally, no questions. However, questions regarding gender may be permissible if they relate to a bona fide occupational qualification, which has been ruled to be a legitimate requirement for a particular position, as provided in 804 CMR 3.01(3)(b)3. Inquiry into an applicant's maiden name or any question that pertain to only one sex (for example inquiries into marital status only asked of women). Inquiries into whether applicant has children, plans to have children, or has child care arrangements.
Sexual Orientation No questions. Inquiry into applicant's sexuality (gay, bisexual, lesbian, heterosexual).
Criminal Record No questions.

It is unlawful for an employer to make any inquiry of an applicant or employee regarding:

1. An arrest, detention or disposition regarding any violation of law in which no conviction resulted;

2. First convictions for the misdemeanors of drunkenness, simple assault, speeding, minor traffic violations, affray or disturbance of the peace. For the purposes 804 CMR 3.02 minor traffic violations include any moving traffic violation other than reckless driving, driving to endanger and motor vehicle homicide.

3. Any conviction of a misdemeanor where the date of the conviction or the completion of any period of incarceration resulting there-from, which ever date is later, occurred five or more years prior to the date of such inquiry, unless such person has been convicted of any offense within five years immediately preceding the date of the inquiry.

No person shall be held under any provision of any law to be guilty of perjury or of otherwise giving a false statement by reason of his failure to recite or acknowledge such information as he has a right to withhold by 804 CMR 3.02.


Inquiry into the academic, vocational or professional education of an applicant for employment. Inquiry into the work experience shall also contain a statement that the applicant may include in such history any verified work performed on a volunteer basis.

Inquiry into references.

Questions about education designed to determine how old the applicant is.

Inquiry into the organizations which the applicant for employment is a member, the nature, name or character of which would likely disclose the applicant's protected class status.

Lie Detector Test No questions. It is unlawful to require/administer a lie detector test as a condition of employment or continued employment.
Salary No questions. It is unlawful to ask a candidate their salary history.

Download "Sample Interview Questions"

  • Create a well-documented screening process in which each applicant’s qualifications are compared with the qualifications specified in the position announcement.
  • Use the applicant Screening Tools in PageUp to compare each applicant’s qualifications at a glance and to allow Search Committee Chair to review all members' recommendations.  
  • Select a short list of applicants to recommend for interviews in PageUp.
  • Be knowledgeable about personal biases that might influence perceptions about applicants.
  • Assess ways the applicants will bring rich experiences and diverse backgrounds and ideology to the community.
  • Screen applicants to be inclusive rather than for the sole purpose of narrowing the applicant pool.
  • Refrain from assessing applicant qualifications based on a single standard.

Grouping of applicants is useful at every stage of the screening process.  Ranking of applicants is not advised, and particularly not during the initial stages of screening. During this initial screening, each committee member should simply indicate whether each applicant meets, exceeds or does not meet criteria, and therefore should or should not receive further consideration. 

Job Aid "Applicant Screening"

Once the initial screen is complete, Search Committee members must narrow the field of potential candidates. Asking each committee member to propose and defend his/her “top 10” candidates is one way to assess candidate viability.  Often, committee members will agree on several candidates and can debate the merits of candidates selected by fewer committee members.  As in the initial screen, documenting why a candidate has been eliminated from further consideration is essential. 

Depending on the role you have in the recruitment process, you will have access in PageUp to review and disposition applicants to the positions you are recruiting. Hiring Managers, Administrators/Originators and Communication Chairs can change the status an applicant sits in for the job.

Job Aid: “How to Review and Disposition an Applicant”

Before offering interviews, the Search Committee Chair must contact the Office of Human Resources to review the candidate pool and shortlist of interviewees for diversity.

Using overall demographic information garnered through applicant self-identification, a representative from the Office of Human Resources will assess the applicant pool viability to determine the following:

  • has a pool been generated that will likely yield quality candidates, and
  • is the pool sufficiently diverse, and should recruitment be extended?

Ultimately, the Office of Human Resources must approve the applicant pool. They will share relevant aggregate data about the candidate pool but will not share information about specific candidates.

While there is not one set of percentages or numbers used to determine if a candidate pool is diverse, the Office of Human Resources will work with individual Hiring Managers to assess each search on a case-by-case basis. This assessment may include data from specific employment sectors, labor market statistics, and underutilization of minorities in departments.

When an applicant is ready for hire, the status of the applicant must be changed to Offer Pre-approval.  This status will trigger the Offer Card, where the hiring recommendation will be completed.

Once the hiring recommendation has been completed, the Offer Card can be routed for approval through PageUp.  Once approval is complete, the offer can be made to the candidate.  The Office of Human Resources will be responsible for sending all offer letters to the candidate via PageUp.  Applicants will acknowledge the offer through the PageUp applicant portal and the Hiring Manager will be notified when an applicant accepts the offer.

Job Aid “Offer Card”

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991 (ADA) makes it unlawful to discriminate in all employment practices including but not limited to the following: recruitment, hiring, promotion, training, lay-off, pay, firing, job assignments, leave and benefits. Additionally, the ADA prohibits an employer from retaliating against an applicant or employer for asserting his rights under the ADA. Therefore, our search process is subject to all federal, state, and local regulations.

The ADA raises many questions for employers.  Most significant are:  Who is protected?  What are essential functions of a job and how are they determined?  What is a reasonable accommodation? What information can be legally sought and relied on at various stages of the search process?  In all cases, the ADA is not designed to interfere with an employer’s right to hire the best-qualified applicant.  A person with a disability and or chronic medical condition (documented) must be qualified to perform the essential functions of a job with or without a reasonable accommodation.

Should you have any questions or need assistance in arranging a reasonable accommodation for an applicant or employee, please contact Jacquie Kittler, Assistant Director of Employee Relations at x5-7559.