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Filling Vacant Positions - Search and Hiring Frequently Asked Questions

Initiating the Search

What are the RTF (Request to Fill) and RTF-S (RTF Supplement)?
The RTF and RTF-S are the two forms that initiate the search process for a vacant position. They are available here RTF (PDF)RTF-S (PDF), and must be completed and approved prior to advertising any position.

What is the PDQ?
The Position Description Questionnaire is a form, generally filled out by the employee occupying the position, which describes the specific job duties and the minimum requirements for the position.

What is the Recruitment Strategy?
The Recruitment Strategy is a description of the hiring department’s planned efforts to advertising the vacant position. Equal Opportunity will review the form to ensure compliance with affirmative action/equal opportunity laws and policies and suggest any additional resources that could potentially increase the size and diversity of the applicant pool.

Remember–recruiting means more than advertising. Search committees are encouraged to make telephone calls to potential applicants or to those having contact with individuals who possess the required qualifications. The only provision is that search committee members are merely soliciting interest. No potential applicant should get the impression that his or her application will be handled in any different or priority manner.

As applications are received, they should be date stamped and maintained in a secure location. Applications and the names of applicants are confidential until the finalist stage. This is particularly important if there are any internal applicants–current employees in the department, for example–who must not have access to the files of other candidates.

Why do we need the Recruitment Strategy?
The goal of the recruitment strategy is to attract as many and as diverse a number of qualified applicants as possible and do so in accordance with the The University of Maine Equal Opportunity Policy and Affirmative Action Plan, as well as federal and state laws. The University of Maine’s Affirmative Action Plan requires search committees to specify strategies aimed at increasing the diversity of applicant pools in areas where women and/or minorities are currently under utilized. OEO maintains an ever-evolving list of minority- and women-targeted advertising resources. You may access this list on First Class by going to the Campus Connection ->University Organizations->Equal Opportunity->Search Materials. The Women and Minority Doctoral Directory, (an annual listing of recent doctoral recipients who wish to be considered for academic positions), is available for your use at OEO (101 North Stevens). Search committees may send job announcements directly to the organizations or candidates listed. Additionally, search committees should investigate the existence of minority and female caucuses within professional and discipline-specific organizations with which they are affiliated, and forward job announcements to them whenever possible. Note: OEO welcomes your input into the Affirmative Action Advertising Resources list; call Bonita Grindle (1-1226) with any new resources you find.

The University of Maine policy requires that national searches for faculty and professional positions lasting more than five months, unless an individual is named in a grant or contract (in which case, a copy of the relevant excerpt from the proposal should be attached to the PAF). Exceptions to this policy include appointments through the Opportunity Hire Program and Postdoctoral Research Associates appointed for no longer than two years. Applications for Opportunity Hire search waivers and Postdoctoral Research Associate Appointment Forms are available upon request from OEO. Positions lasting less than five months may be filled without a search, using a Temporary Professional Employment Form, which is available from Human Resources.


Posting Job Ads:

What if we are unable to place the job ad in all the sites specified in your recruitment strategy?
Any change in the Recruiting Strategy or the ad (including the deadline or time frame for interview) must be approved by Equal Opportunity. Please call 1-1226 for more information. You may be required to identify another site to replace the list serve. The remedy for a missed publication deadline will include consideration of such things as the publication schedule, the published search closing date if any, the target audience for other active recruiting efforts, and potential alternative publications.

Delays in getting the search approved may result in missed deadlines for professional journals. Occasionally, a recommended list serve is no longer functioning. Consult the Associate Director about these changes. It may be important to make substitutions in advertising venues. You must also consult HR if you wish to change the ad in any way, including a change in the date applicant screening begins.

Do we have to post a salaried/faculty position in the local newspapers?

When can we start putting ads in local newspapers?
As soon as the search is approved, the initiating department may place the approved job announcement (ad) in the professional journals, newspapers, listserves, and other venues specified in the Recruitment Strategy. Display ads must use the UM seal, available in camera ready form from Public Affairs (1-3743). The Bangor Daily News, Portland Press Herald, Maine Sunday Telegram, and Chronicle of Higher Education have the camera ready UM seal on hand.

Who posts the job announcement on the UMaine website?
HR will list the opening on the UM web page. HR also mails the announcement to campus bulletin boards as well as external organizations and individuals specified in the University’s Affirmative Action Plan.


If you have an Internal Employee who will apply:

We have a qualified internal candidate. Do we have to conduct a search?
In most cases, the search may be limited to existing regular hourly paid staff within the hiring department. The applicable collective bargaining sets a process to consider internal applicants. Contact your HRO for more information.

What changes must we make in the process if we have an internal applicant?
At the beginning of the search, the internal candidate should be fully informed of the procedure that the search committee plans to follow (e.g., schedule, format of presentations, interviews).  Openly discussing the search at this stage can help minimize the tension that inevitably occurs.  At later stages, colleagues should try not to let the search prevent normal interaction with the candidate.

Any written communications sent in writing or discussions about the status of the search to external candidates should also be sent to internal candidates.  An internal candidate should not be informed that he or she was not been selected for an interview until confirmations are received from all those who were selected.

It is inadvisable to provide reasons for a negative decision to an unsuccessful candidate.  If the internal candidate believes they were treated differently or unfairly, they should be referred to the Office of Equal Opportunity. A successful internal candidate should be given the same time frame in which to accept or reject the offer as an external candidate.  A minimum of two weeks is usually recommended. No candidate, internal or external, successful or unsuccessful, should be given any details concerning the voting action or discussion of the search committee.

Members of the search committee should be selected in such a way as to avoid introducing potential bias, either for or against the internal candidate.  If anyone on the search committee believes they cannot vote without lack of prejudice, they should remove themselves from the committee. See the University of Maine Conflict of Interest and Nepotism policy for more information.

When the search is not limited to existing department staff, the presence of an internal candidate can be awkward for the candidate, members of the search committee and hiring administrators. Whenever a current UMaine employee applies for a vacancy, it is important that the search committee ensure that this person is treated the same as all other candidates at each stage of the search process. For instance, if the internal candidate is part of the group to be interviewed by phone, that person should be interviewed by phone, even if they are in the office down the hall. Additionally, the internal candidate should be schedule for job related screenings. When a decision is made to tentatively offer the position to an external candidate, the internal candidate should not be informed before the offer has actually been made (for the same reason as the item above).  Discretion should be used in deciding how long to withhold the information while waiting for an answer.

Every effort should be made to hold search committee meetings outside the department’s office area and to avoid discussing the search in hallways, etc. Search business should not be conducted during normal department meetings. The internal candidate and all department members should be given full schedules of all external candidate visits.  The internal candidate should be informed regarding the public presentations and on-campus visits by other candidates and also advised not to attend. Presentations, meeting with members of the department, reception and/or dinner with members of the department and other constituencies should also be the same for both internal and external candidates.  The internal candidate should receive the same consideration and courtesy during the interview as do the other candidates. Colleagues and coworkers should make every effort to attend, as appropriate, the internal candidate’s presentation, dinner, or interview as they would for an external candidate. Search committee members who receive questions from external candidates about any internal candidates should be advised that they may acknowledge the presence of an internal candidate, but not provide any other information.


Screening Applicants:

What do we need to do before we screen candidates?
Before applicant screening begins, the search committee chair must arrange for an OEO briefing for the search committee. Bonita Grindle, Associate Director, will meet with search committees for all faculty and professional searches. It is helpful if the search chair has a draft Comparative Applicant Rating Sheet for review and discussion at the briefing. A sample of this form is included in this material, as is an explanation on the back. The rating sheet should include criteria that match the qualifications specified in the job announcement. A numerical scale need not be used (for example, it is acceptable to use “excellent, acceptable, poor” or “v, v+, v-”).
Suggestion: Invite the Department’s Administrative Assistant or Secretary to the search briefing. This is often the individual who will keep the process moving, maintain the files, and handles the correspondence with applicants. Keep this person informed!

At the conclusion of the search, the search chair will submit a “consensus” Comparative Applicant Rating Sheet from the committee. In other words, individual committee members’ rating sheets (which are kept by the chair as part of the official file) are not submitted. Rather, the chair summarizes the ratings of the group on one form. The gender and minority status of each applicant (where known) is also indicated on the consensus form that is submitted at the end of the process. This information is used to determine the success of affirmative action recruitment strategies and to answer any questions about the criteria used to evaluate candidates.

Since the Comparative Applicant Rating Sheet is used at the first stage of screening, it does not reveal how decisions were made at later stages. Search committees may either develop a separate rating sheet for the interview stage, or the chair may summarize the process in a brief narrative submitted with the paperwork at the end of the search, see Concluding the Search, available from OEO.

On or after the review date specified in the ad, the search committee may begin screening applications. Committee members must rate the relative strengths and weaknesses of at least the top 50 candidates (who meet required qualifications for the position) on each of the job related criteria. A subcommittee may do a preliminary screening to reduce the number of applications for the full committee. After individual search committee members rate applications, the committee meets to narrow the pool of applicants who will move on to the next stage of the search.

Often, the next stage consists of telephone interviews, although this is optional. Some committees go directly to campus interviews. All applicants must be treated consistently through each phase of the search. For example, it is NOT appropriate to telephone interview one candidate, while skipping that stage and inviting another candidate for a campus interview. Search committee should consider the gender and racial representation at each stage of the process, as part of The University’s affirmative action recruitment strategies. If applicant pools are small or homogeneous, consideration should be given to extending the recruitment phase. Equal Opportunity can provide financial help in meeting interviewing expenses for an additional, highly ranked candidate from an underrepresented group. Consult the Director of Equal Opportunity for more details.

The interview is a particularly crucial stage of the search. Interview questions should be prepared in advance, see Communication Guidelines and Pre-Employment Inquiries. The Department of Labor requires The University of Maine (and all recipients of federal funds) to retain interview notes from all searches. Interview notes must be kept with the other search material in a secure location within the department. All search material must be maintained for three years.

Can we check references? When can we start? The timing of reference checks is up to the committee, but it must be consistent for all candidates who are under consideration at that stage. Permission to call references (other than those listed by the applicant in the application) must be obtained before any contacts are made. Reference checking is extremely important–open ended questions should be framed in advance. It is not advisable to rely solely upon written letters of recommendation. Reference checks will be kept confidential to the extent possible unless the person is the finalist for a position.

Can we contact references other than those listed by the applicant?
As a courtesy to the applicant, obtain permission from the applicant before contacting other references. This is especially important if you wish to contact the applicant’s current employer.

May we see past evaluations of internal applicants?
Search committees may not have direct access to personnel files. However, the committee may ask to see prior evaluative material on applicants who are current or former University employees. This material includes performance evaluations, peer committee evaluations, student evaluations, any responses to these evaluations from the employee/applicant, and disciplinary actions. For assistance of it you have questions, please contact your assigned HRO. Search committees should request this information about internal applicants at the same time that references are being checked for all applicants still under consideration.

What’s the next step after the interviews and reference checks?
After the interviews are over and the reference checking is done, the search committee prepares its recommendation for the hiring administrator. For professional and administrator searches, this recommendation usually includes the names of several, unranked finalists, with a memo outlining the strengths and weaknesses of each. For faculty searches, the search committee and the Department Chair may forward one or more names, ranked or unranked. Usually, the committee prepares a written summary of the strengths and weaknesses of the finalists interviewed on campus.

The Director of Equal Opportunity must be consulted before a tentative offer is made to an administrator or tenure eligible faculty member. The purpose of this consultation is twofold: to determine that University search policies and practices were followed, and to review the compensation package for equity considerations. The AFUM contract includes language requiring Equal Opportunity to review and make recommendations concerning salary equity before the tentative offer is extended. Usually this can be accomplished with a telephone call to the Director of Equal Opportunity from the Dean, department chair or search chair. Salary offers for all new appointments should fall within the salary range specified on the Request to Fill. Occasionally, salary can be negotiated above the range if the salary was not specified in the job announcement AND the salary does not create unlawful inequities for other University employees.


Hiring:

Does the University accommodate the spouses/partners of new employees?
While the University cannot guarantee a position for a spouse or partner, we do encourage the employment of spouses or partners as long as they are not in a supervisory relationship. All existing vacancies are posted on our web site. A search committee chair may call other search chairs (names are available from HR) to alert them of the interest of a spouse/partner. Through the Opportunity Hire Policy, a search may be waived for a spouse or partner (consult Equal Opportunity for more information on the Opportunity Hire search waiver process). Remember, however, that an applicant should not be promised that a position for her/his spouse or partner will be created. If applicants require such a promise in order to remain candidates, they should be asked pointedly whether they wish to withdraw from consideration.

Do we have to send acknowledgement letters to all applicants?
Acknowledgment letters should be sent promptly upon receipt of applications. This is a good opportunity to request any information–reference letters, transcripts, work samples–missing from the application.

In addition, federal guidelines now require The University of Maine to inform potential employees of the availability of an annual report on crime statistics for the campus and surrounding community. Since it is costly to include this notice in your ad, you should use an insert with your acknowledgement letter to inform applicants of this information. The Office of Equal Opportunity will provide you with this insert upon position approval. Please call OEO if you need the information in an email format.

Also, feel free to email this information to applicants with a hyperlink. The Applicant Survey Form is used to gather descriptive information on applicants for professional and faculty positions. The form is optional and personal information will not be shared with search committees or hiring authorities. However, aggregate information on each search will be useful in determining the success of affirmative action and more general recruitment strategies.

Sample Text
Federal guidelines require The University of Maine to inform you that our Annual Security Report includes statistics on reported crimes that have occurred on or near campus, as well as University policies concerning campus security. Copies of the Report are available on request from the Director of Public Safety, The University of Maine, 5794 Public Safety, Orono, Maine 04469-5794, by calling (207) 581-4048, or at www.umaine.edu/security.

The Office of Equal Opportunity at The University of Maine is responsible for monitoring the success of affirmative action recruitment strategies used by search committees. Equal Opportunity has posted a brief, web-based, Applicant Survey to collect this information. Although completion of the form is voluntary, I urge you to do so within the next ten days. The personal information on this form will not be shared with any member of the search committee or hiring department. The Applicant Survey is available at: www.umaine.edu/eo/aasurvey.htm. Please indicate that you are applying for (Position #), (Job Title), and (Department Code). Thank you for your assistance.

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Office of Human Resources
5717 Corbett Hall
Orono, ME 04469
Phone: (207)581-1581E-mail: hr-um@maine.edu
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469
207.581.1110
A Member of the University of Maine System