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The MIT Selection Process

The process of interviewing and selecting candidates can be broken into three phases: Pre-Interview and Search, Interviewing, and Decision Making.

The Pre-Interview and Search Process

1. Define technical and list core competency requirements for position and prepare search plan:

  • Define and gain understanding and consensus of the job scope and responsibilities.
  • Define required technical competencies and list core behavioral competencies.
  • Prepare a search plan using guidelines listed at

2. Identify and utilize recruiting sources:

  • Determine how the job will be advertised (internal posting, ads, job fairs, headhunters).
  • Define the roles in receiving and screening resumes.

3. Obtain approval for Search Plan:

  • Submit to senior officer of department, lab or center, and to Personnel Officer.

4. Screen resumes:

  • Evaluate for required education, experience, and technical competence.
  • Decide who should be invited for interviews.

5. Set up interviews:

  • If you will be interviewing as a team or committee, assign roles for conducting the interview (i.e. who will probe for technical competencies, who will describe the job to the candidate, who will ask about behavioral competencies).


The Interview Process

6. Prepare for each interview:

  • Review information about the job opening and the required competencies.
  • Review the candidate’s resume.
  • Clarify your role with others on the team; decide which competencies you will probe for.

7. Introduction:

  • Establish an informal, friendly tone.
  • Make sure you and the candidate are clear on logistics and timing. Say, "As I understand it, we will have an hour together, then you are to meet with..."
  • Describe the format of the interview.

8. Review the candidate’s current job:

The purpose of asking the candidate to describe his or her current (or most recent) job is to:

  • get him or her talking, "warmed up";
  • begin to get the candidate focused on specifics;
  • give you some context for events that will be discussed later in the interview.

Some tips:

  • Focus on what the candidate is currently doing, or has done within the past two years.
  • Use the resume as a guide to ensure you have a clear picture of who this person is.
  • Begin to train the candidate to focus on specifics...
    "What did you do as the task force leader, what was your role...?"


9. Confirm the candidate’s technical competencies:

Though you will have an overview of the candidate’s technical competencies from the resume, it can be worthwhile learning about key technical competencies in greater depth. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Verify education/training received. For example:

"It says on your resume that you have taken courses in Finance. What courses did you take, when did you take them, what was the nature of the training, and how well did you do?").

  • Ask for a sample or work, or ask them to demonstrate technical skill or knowledge to you.
  • Ask for a description of work done. For example:

"Tell me about a time you programmed a project in C++. Tell me about the requirements, how you approached the task, what challenges you encountered, and how it turned out."

You can also ask references about technical abilities after the interview.

Obviously, when probing for evidence of technical competencies, it is important to have the interviewer be someone who can properly judge the competence of others in the specific technical areas.


10. Ask behavioral competency questions:

See Using CompQuick for details.


11. Present MIT:

Interviewing is a two-way process. While your primary objective is to ensure that you gain sufficient valid evidence to recommend the correct hiring decision with a given candidate, it is also important to answer that person’s questions and present a positive image of yourself and MIT. Therefore, it is important that you think through answers to the questions that might arise, like:

"So tell me, why should I come to work here?"

The best answer to that question is to answer honestly why you think the individual should want to work at MIT. The answers you provide should reflect your reasons for respecting MIT as an employer. Possible answers might be:

  • Environment of learning, ability to try new things, be on the cutting edge.
  • Freedom to work on a variety of interesting things.
  • Academia presents interesting challenges and opportunities not available in the private sector.
  • Belief in the MIT mission and values.
  • Pride at working for a great institution.
  • Collegial atmosphere.

12. Close the interview:

Leave candidate feeling positive about the interview process:

  • Ask the candidate if there’s anything else he or she would like to know.
  • Provide time for the candidate’s questions.
  • Ask in supportive tone: "In closing, what else would you like us to know about you?"
  • Clarify the selection process and identify the next step(s).
  • Thank the candidate for his or her time.


The Decision-Making Process

13. Document your interview:

  • Before you leave the interview process to move on to something else:
  • Document enough examples of the evidence to jog your memory. Too much is better than too little.
  • Rate the candidate against each individual competency. Since multiple competencies may be found in any story, look through all of the competencies to see if you have gained evidence of other competencies, and if so document this.
  • Rate the candidate against each competency based strictly on the evidence (what he/she actually did/said).

14. Convene all interviewers to compare notes and arrive at a select/no select decision for each candidate:

  • All interviewers meet and compare evidence.
  • Discuss and resolve discrepancies of opinion.
  • Discuss any other concerns (e.g., salary demands, relocation, etc.).
  • Evaluate the candidate as a hiring risk (based on evidence or lack of competencies).
  • Consider how realistic "growing into" the job is - avoid hiring "potential" for which you have no evidence.
  • Consider the possibility that none of the candidates are worth the risk.
  • Selecting someone with some limitations may point to early developmental efforts or opportunities for early focus in setting performance expectations.
  • Beware the halo effect. Do not let strengths in one area make you wish to overlook weaknesses in other areas. At the very least, you should see some evidence of every core competency in each new hire.


15. Submit Post-Search Report.

See the guidelines listed at


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Last updated January 2000


| What is CompQuick? | What are Competencies? |

| The MIT Administrative Staff Core Competency Model | Hiring for Competencies at MIT |

| Using CompQuick | Competency Interviewing Tips | Downloads |

| Learning More | The MIT Selection Process |