Legal Reminders and Recommendations
Consistent with the University's Non-Discrimination, Equal Opportunity and Diversity Statement and Affirmative Action Plan, the employment process at the University of North Florida must be administered in a manner designed to meet the following specific objectives:
- To recruit, hire, train and promote the best qualified persons in all job classifications without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, veteran status, and/or disability.
- To make decisions at all stages of the employment process that will further the University’s commitment to equal employment opportunity and diversity.
- To ensure that the criteria utilized for all employment decisions, e.g., hires, promotions, transfers, training, compensation and other employment benefits, are job related.
- To vigorously apply the principles of affirmative action to correct problems and ensure equal opportunity in areas where undernutrition of women and minorities is found.
Appointing Search and Screen Committees
It is vital that hiring officials and members of University Search Committees embrace the University's effort to create a diverse and dynamic work force, as they are the key persons, here at UNF, whose decisions actually determine the success of meeting our expected outcomes. Whenever possible, the composition of the Committee shall reflect the broad interests of the unit concerned, and all manner of diversity to the fullest extent possible including community representation if applicable.
Typically, search committee members are solicited from among employees within the hiring unit or an allied unit with the knowledge of the discipline (for faculty searches) or familiarity with the administrative function (for executive/administrative searches). However, students and community representatives may also serve on search committees. Committee Chairs must hold a position equivalent to or higher than the position that is being filled. In all instances, committee membership shall be approved by the appropriate Vice President (or designee) and the Director of Equal Opportunity and Diversity.
In all instances, the Hiring Official or the Committee Chair must insure that the following legal requirements and recommendations are communicated at the first meeting of the Search Committee:
The Sunshine Law
Committee Meetings: Under Florida law, search committee meetings at state universities are considered public meetings. Notice of any and all committee meetings shall be given in advance and the public invited to attend and observe. Notice may consist of posting an announcement of the date, time and location of the committee meeting at strategic locations throughout the University at least three days prior to the meeting. The Sunshine Law does not require conducting search committee meetings as "public hearings." Persons in attendance do not have the right to comment unless the committee deems it in the best interest of the process.
Documentation: In all instances, a committee secretary or liaison shall be selected to support the Search Committee Chair and members. Where possible, administrative/clerical support will be provided by the unit seeking to fill the position. Minutes must be taken of all search committee meetings. Completed and approved minutes of each meeting shall be retained in the search file.
Voting: All deliberations and votes must be conducted at committee meetings. A quorum (majority) must be present to conduct the voting process. Occasionally, due to conflicting schedules, committee members may not be able to attend every committee meeting. In these instances, absent committee members may attend and vote via phone. Votes may not be taken by proxy or email. Secret ballots are not permitted.
Screening and Evaluating Applicants
During the screening process, selection criteria can be refined. If, for example, a broad requirement of "demonstrated administrative experience" was stated, the committee may now agree whether that will be measured in terms of years, levels of positions held, and/or scope of employees supervised. All refined selection criteria should be job related. Attempts to clarify and refine the selection criteria should not result in changed or unadvertised criteria.
Ranking of applicants who meet the refined criteria should be done consistently, in a manner agreed upon by the committee as valid for predicting success in the position. When equivalences are agreed upon by the committee, they should be applied fairly to all candidates. Candidates who are approximately equal should be treated similarly; strict adherence to quantifying experiential and educational qualifications in terms of precise years-and-months is not recommended. For more information see, Sample Evaluation Matrix Form.
Ranking methods may be determined as each round of the search proceeds. However, University search and screen procedures require that minutes detailing the committee's deliberations include the rationale for eliminating any candidate from further consideration. The entire committee should make the final screening decisions, even if a subcommittee was formed to make the initial screening decisions. Committee deliberations at this point should produce the approximate number of interview candidates specified in the Recruitment Plan.
The Americans with Disabilities Act and Reasonable Accommodations
It is the policy of the University of North Florida to extend reasonable accommodations to the known limitations of qualified persons with disabilities who are applicants for employment in order that these individuals are able to perform the essential functions of a position. Accordingly, search committees and hiring officials will adhere to all applicable federal and state laws, regulations, and guidelines with respect to providing reasonable accommodations to afford equal employment opportunity to qualified individuals with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations will be provided in a timely and cost effective manner by the Director of the Office of ADA. More importantly, employment opportunities shall not be denied because of the need to make reasonable accommodations to an individual's disability.
The intent of the interview process is to afford the search committee and the hiring official an opportunity to further assess a candidate's qualifications, abilities and desire to successfully perform the job duties associated with the position in question.
After approval has been granted to commence with the interview process, (by the Director of Equal Opportunity and Diversity for administrative and professional positions or the Search Committee for faculty positions), the search committee shall plan interview schedules in cooperation with the appropriate university official(s), as well as other university officers, faculty, and the community. Similar arrangements for travel, lodging and other necessities should be offered to all interviewees. To avoid leaving the University vulnerable to a complaint of disparate treatment from one or more of the candidates, all expenses associated with the interview process are borne by the budget entity in which the vacancy exists, unless other arrangements have been confirmed.
It is important to remember that in structuring either telephone or face-to-face interviews, consistency, fairness, and job-relatedness are paramount to ensuring that equal opportunity prevails throughout the entire process. Accordingly, search committees should consider the following strategies in structuring the interview process:
The list of interview questions should be prepared and agreed upon by committee members prior to commencing with telephone and/or face-to-face interviews.
The same list of questions should be asked of all candidates. In addition, a well-planned interview will be based on the committee's prior decisions concerning many of the following considerations:
- Who will meet with the interviewee while he/she is on campus, in what setting, and what method will be used to evaluate interviewee?
- As a part of the candidate's visit to campus, will he/she make a formal presentation to the committee or other members of the campus community?
- Will the committee discuss the candidate's performance immediately after the conclusion of each interview or will the committee wait for the last scheduled interview to conclude prior to discussing candidate's performance?
- What general areas will be covered by the interview questions and who will lead the discussion or formulate the questions?
More importantly, to avoid unlawful inquiries during the interview process, search committee members, hiring officials and others participating in the interview process should be acquainted with the Guidelines for Lawful Interviewing concerning pre-employment inquiries.
If possible, interviewees should be informed as to when they can expect to be apprised of the final selection decision.
At the conclusion of the entire interview process, the search committee should meet to reach agreement on recommending a list of finalists for the position to the appropriate administrator or authorized hiring official. Depending on the instructions provided by the appropriate administrator or authorized hiring official, the list of finalists may be either ranked or unranked. Often, the hiring official also specifies the number of candidates, usually three, to be considered, as well. Rankings, which use quantitative methods, are discouraged. Rather, the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity recommends utilizing qualitative evaluations based on job related criteria in reaching decisions related to the ranking of candidates.
Recommendations may be submitted in alphabetical order or in the order depicting the committee's preference, with supporting comments. In either case, a sufficiently detailed summary of the committee's impression and reaction to each of the candidates interviewed should be compiled for the search committee record.
Minutes of this final committee meeting should reflect the rationale for any and all recommendations made. The committee's decision, with supporting documentation, should then be transmitted via memorandum to the appropriate administrator or authorized hiring official.
In turn, the appropriate administrator or authorized hiring official should advise the search committee of the final selection decision. Correspondingly, the search committee should notify, in writing, all applicants who were interviewed that another candidate was selected. In those instances, where the appropriate administrator or authorized hiring official deems the candidates recommended by the search committee as unacceptable, the appropriate Vice President may recommend filling the position on an interim basis or that the search be reopened.
In the event the committee is unable to forward a selection recommendation, the chairperson should meet with the appropriate administrator or authorized hiring official to discuss either reopening the search or closing the search as "unsuccessful."