Screening occurs at multiple stages throughout the search and selection process, after each round of information-gathering is completed. The guidance below applies to initial application screening, screening after phone/video interviews, screening after site interviews and screening after reference checks.


When internal or “known” candidates are included in the pool, unique opportunities for bias and conflict of interest arise. Since as human beings we can’t “un‐ know” what we already know, our thoughts about some candidates can undermine the goal of an equitable search. As a committee, engage in discussion about conflicts of interest or known applicants prior to any applicant review.

  • Disclose relationships and/or prior knowledge: Known applicants including potential conflicts of interest should be disclosed and discussed prior to any applicant review.
  • Conflicts of interest occur when a search committee member has a personal interest in a particular candidate’s success—the member may stand to benefit or experience disadvantage from that candidate’s selection--or if there is any other factor that might compromise the member’s objectivity in evaluating that candidate. When a conflict of interest is identified, it is ideal for the member to recuse themselves from the search if possible. If that is not possible – for example if that member is the only subject matter expert in the department – the committee must determine another way to mitigate the conflict. The appearance of favoritism or negativity towards particular candidates in a search can make it hard for the successful applicant to be accepted in the position, even when there is no impropriety in the actual selection process.
  • Known candidates do not necessarily constitute a conflict of interest unless the situation meets the description of conflict of interest above. When a candidate in the pool is known to one or more committee members, it is expected that the committee members will make every effort to give them the same treatment as other candidates in the pool.

Committee members should commit to not disclosing information about known candidates from outside the application or interview process. If relevant factual information about a known candidate does not show up in the screening or interview process, it’s likely that the same gap is present for other candidates as well. Rather than sharing the specifics about the known candidate, strategize about how to address the apparent gap in the process—that is, discuss how you can systematically request appropriate information about that topic for all candidates still under consideration. Though it is not recommended, should the committee determine that some critical information must be shared after the first interviews, they must limit themselves to relevant and factual information obtained from a credible and reliable source. When such information is used to screen a candidate in or out, comparable information should be sought for other candidates at this time as well. Exception: factual information that might disqualify a candidate from consideration should be shared privately with the search chair and hiring official. For example, if a candidate was dismissed from a recent job because they were found to have engaged in prohibited activity such as sexual harassment, discrimination, violence in the workplace, etc., in most cases it would not be appropriate for the candidate to advance.

  • Protect the reputations of internal candidates: People are sometimes reluctant to risk their reputations by competing for an internal vacancy. If they are not selected, they are sometimes seen as “failures.” Do everything you reasonably can to keep their applicant status confidential until the on‐site interviews. If an internal candidate is not advancing to on‐site, they may wish to withdraw rather than be eliminated.

The Screening Criteria Matrix, described above in the Position Description section, is intended to mitigate potential bias in the screening process by clearly and collectively defining screening criteria, identifying transferable skills, determining the relative weight of various criteria and designating the stage at which each qualification will be assessed.

  • The search committee chair should utilize the Screening Criteria Matrix and keep track of each committee members’ reviews at all stages of the search.

Ideally, all committee members review all applications. However, if the pool is too large, the chair can divide applicants between committee sub-groups. Most often, two or more committee members should review each application. Where there is substantial disagreement between reviewers, an additional reviewer may be added.

The screening process should begin with a thorough review of the Screening Criteria Matrix. Ensure the committee shares an understanding of what each qualification means and why it matters; how it relates to the position and to the other qualifications; transferable skills related to each qualification and how to recognize qualifications and related transferable skills. Next, applicants should be reviewed independently by all committee members to identify those who meet minimum and required qualifications. Importantly, all committee members need to:

  • use the Applicant Screening Form or spreadsheet and the Screening Criteria Matrix to complete their review;
  • adhere to the decisions made by the committee and reflected in the Screening Criteria Matrix; 
  • apply the criteria consistently to all applicants;
  • identify applicant strengths and areas for improvement as well as any questions they may have;
  • keep the forms/spreadsheets to submit to the Search Chair.

Qualifying veterans will be identified by Human Resources in the Applicant Disposition Workbook. Follow the OSU Veterans’ Preference procedure to ensure that veterans’ rights are met.

Keeping a diverse pool of qualified candidates is important at this stage and screening committees should focus on ‘screening in’ rather than ‘screening out’ candidates. When an applicant meets the minimum measurable qualifications, it is recommended that each committee member then evaluate their application by looking for all the reasons to advance, before beginning to document shortfalls. Try not to develop a preference for any one applicant during the application review.

  • For each applicant that meets measurable minimum qualifications, look first for all the reasons to screen them in before considering reasons to screen them out.
  • Document strengths and reasons to interview before evaluating weaknesses or areas for development.
  • Identify applicants’ transferable skills, i.e., relevant skills that have been developed in various settings.

Applicant grouping, should not occur until either the Full Consideration Date or the Final Closing Date (if no “full consideration date” was published).

When reviewing applicants, all and only requested materials included in the application should be considered. If an applicant submits additional materials beyond those requested, the committee should forego reviewing those materials.

When evaluating qualifications for an applicant is complete, the committee selects the qualification category that most closely matches the applicant’s overall qualifications. Four possible categories are:

  1. doesn’t meet all minimum qualifications
  2. meets all minimum qualifications
  3. meets all minimum qualifications and some preferred qualifications
  4. meets all minimum qualifications and most preferred qualifications.

Sometimes, a sub-group has substantial disagreement about an applicant. In these cases, the disagreement is resolved by assigning an additional reviewer to evaluate the applicant or by bringing the difference of opinion back to the larger committee for review. Members bring their completed forms to the committee meeting.

Screening decisions should reflect the priorities and stages identified in the criteria matrix. Screening reasons should be detailed, accurate, job-related and specific to each applicant. This information should be recorded directly into the Applicant Disposition Workbook (ADW) as the screening decisions are being made. A completed ADW is required before a hire can be made, so updating the workbook as decisions are made will reduce confusion and delay at the end of the process.

Remind committee members that all records from the search must be saved. Records include handwritten and electronic notes, emails, committee members’ Applicant Screening Forms and documentation from the committee meeting. Typically these are collected by the search chair or search admin at the end of the process for archiving (until the end of the records retention period). If the records are not collected, it is the responsibility of the individual search committee members to retain them for three years.

The Search Chair may obtain a demographic update from HR Business Partners, the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access or the Search Advocate Program Director and reviews the screening impact with the search committee to evaluate how underrepresented groups, including people of color, women and veterans, have fared.

If screening produced a strong negative effect on a particular identity group, the committee explores whether particular qualifications or criteria are responsible. If so, the committee considers whether criteria could be defined more inclusively to mitigate this impact and re-screens all applicants eliminated by the earlier criteria.

University searches can take a long time. It is therefore important to keep candidates updated about their search status. Be courteous and communicate warmly with candidates; if a candidate has been screened out and will not be added back under any circumstances, it is appropriate to send them a “regrets” email informing them that they are no longer under consideration. Candidates who are being held in reserve rather than advancing to the next round of interviews may also be notified that, although they have not been selected to advance at this time, the committee would like to continue considering their applications in case additional interviews are scheduled. Candidates who are screened out at the application stage should be notified by email; those who are screened out at the remote or site interview stage should be notified by phone and finalists who are not selected should be notified by telephone with a written confirming letter. As per above, be careful with language and provide as much of a personal touch to the correspondence as possible.