Montana State University’s Human Resources team supports departments across campus in maintaining a diverse, highly qualified, and inclusive workforce. Through our local and national advertising efforts, we encourage applications from candidates with a broad range of backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences.

Designed for supervisors and search committees, the Recruitment section of the website offers resources that explain recruitment best practices and promote consistency in hiring procedures across campus. In particular, the Guide to Successful Searches is a comprehensive manual for completing a successful candidate search—topics covered include Forming a Search Committee, Creating a Compelling Position Description, Tips on the Interviewing and Screening Process, Interview Questions, and much more.

These Recruitment guidelines help the University operationalize these goals during its recruitment processes. These guidelines:

Establish and implement recruitment best practices.

Ensure a consistent approach to various types of recruitment decisions (such as new hires or promotions).

Ensure that recruitment practices are administered strategically, consistently, effectively, efficiently, fairly, and equitably across the institution.

Provide managers with guidance for making recruitment decisions.

Maintain compliance with all relevant federal regulations, state statutes, and local laws, as well as internal policies and procedures.

Provide the University with a meaningful and effective recruitment process that can be updated as needed to reflect institutional and labor market changes.

Please note : Most of the following guidelines are general recruitment processes for University Staff. For more information regarding Faculty recruitment requirements, please refer to the Appointment and Employment of Faculty in the MSU Faculty Handbook .

The University is committed to creating and maintaining an environment that is diverse, inclusive, and free of discrimination. By accessing the full breadth of talent available, Montana State University is best able to build a qualified, dynamic, and competitive workforce, meet the needs of students to engage in a rich, interactive learning environment, more successfully produce high quality graduates, and better serve Montana and beyond. Before beginning a search, it is helpful to understand the difference between the concepts of “equal employment opportunity,” “affirmative action,” and “commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Equal employment opportunity means that all individuals must be treated equally in all employment decisions, including hiring. Each candidate must be evaluated on the basis of his or her ability to perform the duties of the position without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation and gender identity (see the University’s Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy ). This policy also explains the University’s commitment to applicants and employees with disabilities.

Affirmative Action requires that additional efforts be made to increase employment opportunities for women and members of underrepresented groups when there is underutilization in a job classification. Affirmative Action also requires an organization to demonstrate a good faith effort to recruit, employ and advance in employment qualified individuals with disabilities and veteran status. These efforts may include expanded efforts in outreach and recruitment to increase the pool of qualified women, people of color, individuals with disabilities and veterans. See the MSU’s Affirmative Action Plan .

Diversity, equity and inclusion is a broader, more inclusive concept. An organization committed to diversity welcomes, values and engages people heterogeneous in background, perspective and experience. Diversity, equity and inclusion is vitally important at Montana State University.

We believe that excellence at Montana State University is best achieved through a culture of intellectual and personal growth that is diverse and inclusive. Montana State University is located on the original homelands of Native peoples and acknowledging this rich history is central to our commitment to learning from the past. We prioritize efforts that create and support diverse working, teaching, learning and research environments and opportunities for the people who make up our community. We create an environment that welcomes, respects and nurtures all students, staff and faculty. We cultivate this inclusive environment by respecting and celebrating the diverse dimensions of people’s identities, particularly as those identities intersect in complex ways. We will continuously promote a culture of intellectual and personal growth for all, attuned to the importance of differences in age, race, ethnicity, national origin, socioeconomic status, sex, gender expression, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability status, religion and spirituality. Therefore, a commitment to diversifying our community is imbedded in the strategies described in this guide.

Montana State University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion foremployees is part of the University’s broader strategic plan, Choosing Promise.

Visit the Diversity & Inclusion website. Read President Cruzado’s message on diversity and inclusion .

A Few Fundamentals

The following legend will provide guidance on what processes and procedures are required in the recruitment process and what is recommended and/or based on best practices. Following recommendations is strongly encouraged but discretion may be used by hiring authorities.

MANDATORY: These laws, regulations, policies and procedures MUST be followed. These guidelines are based on Federal and/or State law and BOR and/or MUS policies so must be strictly followed, no exceptions.

RECOMMENDED: These guidelines are based on Human Resources and Higher Education industry standards as well as Montana State University’s mission, vision and values. Following these practices is strongly encouraged.

BEST PRACTICE: These guidelines are based on successful past practices that provide a balance of efficiency and ease for hiring authorities with compliance for the University.

WHY? These explanations will help clarify why we follow our guidelines and the consequences of non-compliance.

Montana State University uses an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to post job vacancies and to receive applications from applicants. Allsearches are managed through this system by the HR Service Center. Search committee members will be provided access during a search. Banner is the enterprise system that MSU uses to manage university business such as registering students for classes and paying faculty and staff. Helpful links (your NetID and NetID password are required to log in):

University Human Resources works within a Shared Services model. HR Business Partners and HR Service Center teams provide advice and assistance in human resources matters. The HR Business Partners provide strategic guidance and oversight for assigned units across campus. The HR Service Center oversees the University's job posting and applicant management systems and related policy and processes to assist campus in the recruitment and retention of an outstanding workforce.

Recruitments are begun at the department level and are guided by the Service Center for consultation and compliance purposes. Information found on this website will help take you through each step of the process. Advice and assistance are guided by MSU’s University Human Resources Policies and Montana Board of Regents Policy 711.1.

There are several categories of employees at Montana State University as identified and defined by the Employee Categories policy . Leave and benefit eligibility and retirement programs are dependent upon the employment category, FTE, and duration of employment. Any individual who works for Montana State University, regardless of funding source, is an employee of Montana State University.

Compensation for all staff positions is guided by the Montana University System Staff Compensation Plan . Staff employee titles and hiring ranges are determined by the plan.

You may directly appoint a short-term worker. Defined in Montana Code Annotated a short-term worker:

  1. may be hired by an agency without using a competitive hiring process for an hourly wage established by the agency;
  2. may not work for the agency for more than 90 days in a continuous 12-month period;
  3. is not eligible for permanent status;
  4. may not be hired into a permanent position by the agency without a competitive selection process;
  5. is not eligible to earn the leave and holiday benefits provided in part 6 of this chapter; and
  6. may be discharged without cause.

A Temporary worker (e.g. Fixed Term) is defined as:

  1. is designated as temporary by an agency for a definite period of time not to exceed 12 months;
  2. performs duties on a temporary basis;
  3. is not eligible for permanent status;
  4. is terminated at the end of the employment period; and
  5. is not eligible to become a permanent employee without a competitive selection process.

Please note that for both categories a competitive selection process has to occur to permanently appoint.

"Permanent employee" means an employee who is designated by an agency as permanent, who was hired through a competitive selection process unless excepted from the competitive process by law, and who has attained or is eligible to attain permanent status.

"Permanent status" means the state an employee attains after satisfactorily completing an appropriate probationary period.

As a federal contractor, Montana State University must comply with the Office of Federal Contracts and Compliance Programs (OFCCP) job listing mandates in order to retain our federal funding.

All job searches must meet the following criteria, regardless of hiring scenario or employment category:

  • Must be entered in the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) so that the University can provide the OFCCP with required hiring data.
  • Must be competitive unless otherwise approved under these guidelines.
  • All postings must be open to the public for at least five business days.
  • All postings must contain the University-approved diversity statement.
  • All University Staff positions must be advertised with either a pay range, starting wage or as commensurate with experience.

Search committees are established to ensure a fair and equitable hiring process as well as for compliance with state and federal regulations and University policies. A search committee is a group of three or more individuals who convene to identify, evaluate, and recommend qualified candidates for a position. Search committees are charged with developing and maintaining information about the decisions made at the different steps in hiring. If a hiring decision or hiring process is challenged under one of these requirements, such as a discrimination allegation, this documentation is key for the University to successfully defend its hiring processes.


Using a search committee is recommended for all full-benefits-eligible positions and is required for managerial, administrative, and faculty positions. Faculty recruitments may have additional search committee requirements.

Not all positions require a formal search committee. A search committee is not required for filling an entry- level, seasonal, or temporary role, or when the unit does not have the resources to form a formal search committee. In such cases, an interview team may be created instead. An interview team consists of two individuals who convene to identify, evaluate, and recommend qualified candidates for a position.

For additional details on Search Committees, please see the Guide to Successful Searches.

Use of Search Firms

A search firm is a professional recruiting service hired to recruit applicants who meet the requirements for a job search. If your unit decides to use a search firm, notify the HR Service Center to ensure that all required equal employment opportunity data is collected and that each contract is appropriately tracked within the University’s systems.

Guide to Successful Searches

Recruiting and hiring people to work at the Montana State University is one of our most important shared responsibilities. This web page has a variety of materials to help you conduct complete, competitive and effective searches. The Guide to Successful Searches provides a comprehensive look at the search process and important background information regardinglaws, regulations and policies that inform best practices. Additional Resources are provided at the end, such as a checklist you may use to plan a search, sample letters to candidates, and sample questions for interviews and reference checks.

People are our greatest resource. Because each new Montana State University hire represents an opportunity to shape our collective future, exceptional care must be taken each time we seek to add new members to our academic community or to promote individuals from within it.

Search committees play a critical role in shaping Montana State University’s future by identifying promising candidates likely to increase the University’s success. To support search committee members in their important and challenging roles, this guide has been developed to:

  • clarify search committee roles and responsibilities;
  • provide strategies for developing diverse and qualified candidate pools;
  • offer guidance about effective screening and selection criteria and methods;
  • describe strategies for effectively communicating with candidates, constituents and the Montana State University community; and
  • suggest protocols designed to protect the University against unnecessary liability.

This guide and the related resources are designed to support University excellence.

Hiring processes are subject to federal and state regulations, and Montana Board of Regents and University policies.

Records can support that the process focused on job-related requirements, skills, and abilities, and that the process was managed in a professional manner. In addition, high quality search materials may be a foundation for use in future searches.

All members of the search committee must be prepared to retain all search-related documents (search committee notes, evaluation matrices. email correspondence, copies of advertisements and publications, copies of correspondence, email and letters sent to candidates etc.). At the conclusion of the search, the committee chair scans all the documentation and emails it to the HR Service Center for retention. Once that is complete, the paperwork may be shredded. The Center uploads the compiled search file into the Applicant Tracking System and maintains it there for three years after the calendar year in which the records were created. Upon expiration of the three year retention period, the materials should be purged.

Search Committees

Generally, the Hiring Authority (Department Head, Dean, etc.) will give a “charge” or instruction to the search committee as to what they are looking for in a successful candidate. Search committee chairs assemble the committee, and must do their best to include diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and knowledge. Search committees must contain at least three members, who must be recorded in ATS.

All search committee members and managers are required to complete search committee orientation or search manager orientation training sessions, respectively. These trainings must be completed every two years to remain current and are necessary for ATS access to be granted. Orientations are conducted both online and in-person.

Register for the online Search Committee Orientation.

Register for the online Search Manager Orientation.

After the slide presentations, there will be short quiz.

To register for in-person orientations, please contact your HR Service Center representative.

The search committee chair acts as the committee's facilitator, official spokesperson, budget manager and liaison to the hiring authority. In this role, the chair should:

  • understand and communicate the committee’s charge;
  • articulate expectations for committee conduct and mediate conflict;
  • monitor the committee’s budget;
  • coordinate outreach efforts;
  • manage communication with the University community, press, potential leads, and potential and actual candidates;
  • ensure compliance with state and federal laws and Montana Board of Regents and University policy.

Establishing a strong and credible search committee is essential for a successful search process. Because decisions are made most effectively and efficiently by groups no larger than 3 - 7 people, search committees should be limited in size, with a minimum of three. When possible, a majority of the members should have experience participating in successful searches and should be open-minded, committed to diversity and fair process, able to negotiate conflict to achieve group results, and knowledgeable in the area/field/responsibilities of the advertised position.

A search committee may include the hiring supervisor, selected peers, clients, or individuals who will frequently interact with the new hire. There are no specific requirements regarding gender or minority status of committee members, though a diverse committee is recommended. A diverse committee is more likely to withstand public scrutiny and to generate diverse candidate pools and finalist lists.

Individuals from outside a hiring department or the University may be invited to serve on a search committee to share insights, challenge assumptions and bring lessons of experience from other perspectives, disciplines and organizations. These members will be required to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

The most effective search committee members share the following characteristics:

  • protect confidentiality of candidates and the decision-making process;
  • draw upon connections to support recruitment efforts;
  • participate fully and consistently;
  • challenge conventional assumptions;
  • treat all candidates in a thoughtful and respectful manner;
  • set aside biases and preconceptions in order to fully consider all those who may be qualified to assume University roles;
  • give fair consideration to all candidates; and
  • act promptly to ensure that top candidates are not lost to organizations who move quickly to hire top talent.

Conflicts of Interest

Search committee members must promptly notify the chair of any potential conflicts that arise as part of, or as a result of, the search process. No one may serve on a search committee if they have an actual or apparent conflict of interest.

All parties involved in the search process are expected to exercise good judgment in situations where a conflict of interest may be perceived to exist because of close professional relationships such as having served as an applicant’s graduate advisor, having co-authored articles or proposals with an applicant, or having previously hired and/or supervised an applicant. This may include appearances of nepotism or outside professional or employment commitments related to the position or applicant pool.

In most cases, if a committee member knows an applicant well or has had more than casual dealings with an applicant, the committee member should either resign from the committee or recuse himself or herself from reviewing that applicant’s materials.

Search committee members are not eligible to apply for a position if they are appointed to the search committee for that job. Members cannot be a reference for candidates within the search.

Confidentiality is the foundation of a credible search committee and trustworthy search process. The importance of maintaining strict confidence throughout the process cannot be overestimated.

A breach of confidentiality threatens a successful outcome in three ways:

First, it may result in the immediate termination of the search, a serious loss of time and money and potentially viable candidates.

Second, it may cause the most qualified candidates to withdraw from the search, fearing that a premature disclosure of their candidacy will jeopardize their current positions.

Third, a breach in confidentiality, by its very nature, is bound to become more widely known, and may undermine the University’s ability to attract candidates in the future. In short, confidentiality is an absolute requirement to be understood and honored by everyone on the search team.

An external communication plan should be discussed early in the search process. In general, it is best to designate one individual (usually the chair) to communicate with candidates, constituents, the press, and others who may inquire about a search process.

A committee communication plan should also be developed. Because written documents may be subject to public records requests, judicious use of written and email communication is recommended to protect candidate confidentiality and the integrity of the search process.

Position Descriptions And Announcements


A position description is needed for all positions being posted. Even though a position may already have an existing position description, it is a good idea to review and update it to ensure it meets the current needs of the department and University. The position description is a comprehensive document that outlines responsibilities, essential functions, expected outcomes, reporting relationships, and required and desired qualifications. This is a key component in attracting a broad, qualified candidate pool.

The Hiring Authority has the ultimate responsibility to create position descriptions, however they are encouraged to consult with others, such as the new hire’s supervisor and the HR Service Center.

The stated requirements, both preferred and required, must accurately match the needs of the position. The list of Required Qualifications all need to be met by a successful hire. Everything that will be used as criteria in the selection process should be accounted for somewhere in the qualification requirements. An applicant may not be scored ranked? against any criteria that is not listed as a qualification requirement. See question below re: scoring/ranking.

To broaden the applicant pool, beware of overly narrow requirements. For example, instead of saying “5 years of customer service experience,” consider saying “Experience in customer service.” This allows for potential applicants that may not necessarily have 5 years of experience in that area but do have transferrable skills or a strong skill set.

Also, we recommend using the equivalency statement for any education requirements, unless it is a hard requirement for the position. For example, instead of requiring a Bachelor’s degree for an administrative position, “A Bachelor’s degree or an equivalent combination of education and/or experience” may be used. This allows for applicants that don’t have the Bachelor’s degree, but do have a strong work experience or skill set.

Committee members should challenge each other about the merits and necessity of each qualification statement in order to attract the broadest pool of qualified candidates. Rigid selection criteria limit search committee flexibility and may unintentionally eliminate excellent candidates.

The vacancy announcement is used to advertise the opening. It is the actual posting that displays on our MSU jobs site and other external websites or in publications. The vacancy announcement uses the main position description as its core, but can be used to add more specifics to “sell” the opening and promote Montana State University. Attractive and inviting statements may be added in the General Statement and/or Brief Position Overview boxes such as the examples below:

  • Culinary Services is looking for motivated team members who are excited to actively participate in the ever changing world of the high-paced food industry!
  • Unique opportunity to use your multiple creative skills to market to companies and entrepreneurs nationwide the thousands of cutting-edge Department of Defense technologies in virtually all high-tech fields. TechLink is seeking a highly experienced, senior-level marketing manager with national-level writing and multi-media skills to join our dynamic team.

The position announcement should include language strongly expressing the University’s commitment to diversity, specifically describing requirements to meet the diversity commitments of the department. This language sends a powerful message about our commitment to a diverse and inclusive University community and may result in a larger, more diverse candidate pool.

The University is required to provide public notice of its status as an equal opportunity and affirmative action employer on all recruitment materials, including bulletins, announcements, publications, and application forms. In those cases where advertising costs are a critical consideration, position announcements must minimally include the followingstatement: Equal Opportunity Employer Minorities/Women/Vets/Disabled.

Because this statement inadequately expresses the Montana State University’s commitment to creating and sustaining a diverse and inclusive community, the recommended language for position announcements is morecomprehensive. Please consult with the HR Service Center.

Through the ATS system, search committees can see and analyze demographic information about the aggregate applicant pool. This analysis may help the committee determine if it should engage in additional recruitment and advertising in order to obtain a more diverse pool. If you have questions about this process, please contact the HR Service Center.

For more on this topic, see MSU’s Diversity and Inclusion website and MSU’s Strategic Plan, Choosing Promise .

Protected Classes - History

Protected classes began as early as 1866, with the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which made discrimination based on race and color illegal when entering into contracts. The understanding of this early law included employment.

In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was expanded, specifically Title VII, which included protections of employees and applicants of employment based on color, race, national origin, sex and religion. Under Title VII the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was formed as an independent Federal Agency overseeing the enforcement of Title VII under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Other protected classes such as age and disability, began to emerge through the passage of additional acts.

Protected Classes - Practices

Montana State University values diverse perspectives and is committed to building a multicultural work force. We strongly encourage women, racial/ethnic/gender minorities, persons with disabilities, and veterans to apply. MSU is receptive to the needs of dual career couples and is dedicated to work-life integration.

MSU does not discriminate on the basis of the protected classes listed below:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Ethnicity
  • National Origin
  • Sex
  • Sexual Orientation or Preference
  • Marital or Parental Status
  • Age
  • Religion
  • Creed or Political Belief
  • Mental or Physical Handicap or Disability
  • Status as a Covered Veteran

All interview questions, reference check questions, and informal discussions with candidates must be job-related, and may not be geared towards obtaining information regarding the protected classes noted above. A list of permissible and impermissible questionsrelated to protected classes can be found here (documents to be posted).

Please DO NOT refer to any protected class information in your search notes.

Learn more about protected classes at MSU here.

Applicant Screening

Staff postings typically ask applicants to upload both a resume and a cover letter. The fewer documents that applicants need to upload, the faster and easier it will be for applicants to apply for the job. Having applicants request letters of recommendation is not best practice as the online application form already asks each applicant to list three names of references.

The search committee must call and talk to at least two references before an applicant can be hired (even if a recommendation letter was uploaded by the applicant). Search committees must ask for enough information to evaluate candidate viability, but should guard against overburdening candidates with complex application requirements. Searches will have greater success in attracting applicants if the application process is straightforward.

Each search committee member is expected to participate in all steps of the review process. If, for valid reasons, a search committee member cannot attend an interview, the search committee member may be excused but at least two search committee members are still required to be sitting in during the interview. Search committee members are held accountable for the committee’s selection decisions.

Prior to evaluating and assessing the candidates, the search committee should develop a consensus on the job criteria/requirements that will be used. This criteria should be based on the position requirements that were posted, not on things outside the requirements for the job. During this process, committee members review all application materials to assess whether candidates have the minimum qualifications required for the position.

Leslie’s comments re: necessity/benefits of scoring/ranking?

Quantifying candidate qualifications through a scoring matrix is the most defensible approach to evaluations. It's important to ensure all scoring committee members apply the same scoring scale and understand the established criteria. It's advisable to have broader conversations with other committee members when there are large disparities in the scores applied (e.g., “I ranked her a 5, but you gave her a 1. Why is that?”)

The search committee will need to score each applicant using the established criteria via the Applicant Tracking System. Instructions on how to score on the system can be found at:

Documenting why a candidate has been screened out during this process is essential. Comments such as “lacks Ph.D.” or “teaching experience is in pathology rather than toxicology” will be valuable if the search process is challenged and an investigation is conducted.

Veteran's Preference in Screening – Leslie’s thoughts on which way to do this.

State law ( MCA 39-29 ) requires public employers, including units of the Montana University System, to provide preference in initial employment for veterans and certain eligible relatives of veterans by:

  • Adding points to the raw score of a numerically scored screening instrument, or
  • Hiring the veteran or eligible relative of a veteran if, at the conclusion of the search process, there were commensurately equally qualified candidates among whom was the veteran. Need definition of “equally qualified”?

MSU uses the first of these options in administering veteran’s preference for executive, administrative, faculty, and contract professional positions. To ensure compliance, a veteran's preference checkbox is available for applicants in the ATS system.

Veterans and eligible relatives of veterans who do not complete a veteran's preference checkbox are not given point preference under Montana law, even if the committee can determine from the resume that the applicant is a veteran. State veteran’s preference applies only to initial hire with the institution.

Generally, the search committee conducts an initial round of phone interviews to further narrow the field. Thereafter, on-campus and/or videoconference calls are scheduled for finalists.

Entry level staff positions should move directly to an on-campus interview, if possible, skipping the phone or initial interview stage. We need to move quickly in our recruitment efforts of these positions and a phone interview stage can mean unnecessary delay and loss of candidates.

If the candidate is out-of-state, you may generally substitute the on-campus interview for a videoconference call. Please keep in mind that for MUS contracted positions and other key positions on campus, it is required to bring candidates on campus for the final interviews. For these positions, the search committee will need to submit the list of applicant interviews to the HR Service Center for approval prior to conducting the interviews.

Interview Questions

Committees are advised to develop a basic set of interview questions in advance. The search committee must submit their list of interview questions to the HR Service Center for approval. No interview question may be used if it hasn’t been approved by HR. Is this necessary? Can we provide a bank of pre-approved questions; if approved questions are re-used are they OK?

Use the position description as the guide when developing the basic set of interview questions. Questions should be related to the work described in the position description and the qualifications and competencies required to be effective in the role.

A list of sample interview questions can be found here (documents to be uploaded). You may also contact the HR Service Center if you need help in drafting interview questions.

Ask all candidates the same questions, not only to ensure fairness, but to give you a consistent basis for evaluating and comparing the candidates’ qualifications. A consistent process enables a committee to effectively evaluate one candidate against another. Using the same set of questions for each candidate also makes it easier to defend hiring decisions, should there be a challenge to the results.

In addition to basic questions, the committee is encouraged to prepare personalized questions for each candidate, based on particular experiences identified in each application package. Ask for clarification about gaps in employment, particular jobs or experience, or candidate materials that are unclear. During the interview, it’s recommended to ask broad follow-up questions if the initial response is unclear. (“Please tell us more about that.”) Make notes of additional questions you may want to add to the personalized questions.

Determine how the committee members will pose the questions, e.g. if sections/topics will be assigned to each member, or if members will rotate asking questions. When the committee has asked all their questions, allow some time for the candidate to ask questions about the position; decide in advance who will answer the candidate’s questions.

Prior to the interview, provide candidates with information such as date and time of interview, location and directions to the location, who will be at the interview, the job description, and a point of contact at your office should they have any questions. Provide the opportunity forcandidates to request disability-related accommodations. Let the ADA Coordinator know if any accommodations are needed.

The interview should be free from interruptions and distractions. For confidentiality reasons, make sure that interviews are conducted in a room where the door can be closed. Keep the interview format substantially similar among all applicants. For example; if one candidate meets with the Dean, you will want all of the candidates to meet with the Dean. Or if you offer one candidate a tour of campus, please make sure you are extending the same offer to the other candidates.

Remember what it’s like to be a candidate. Establish rapport by maintaining by following the recommendations below:

  • Maintain eye contact with a smile.
  • Welcome the candidate, introduce yourself, and describe your position and what you do. The other members should do the same.
  • Offer the interviewee a glass of water, or a cup of coffee or tea.
  • Give a brief overview of your department and/or college. Provide a brief description of the job responsibilities.
  • Provide a brief overview of the interview format (e.g. “we’ll take turns asking about 10 questions then we’ll have time to answer any questions you might have”).

Also, bear in mind that while you are assessing the candidate, he or she is assessing the position, you, and the University. Ideally, the candidate will walk away feeling fairly treated, adequately informed about the job, clear about the next steps in the hiring process, and holding a positive impression of MSU.

After the interview, make sure to thank the candidate for their time and give an estimate as to when they would hear from you about the status of their application. Supply them with your business card so they will know who to thank and/or email should they have questions about their applications. Also, supply an informational packet to each candidate that includes the Benefits handout, MSU Family Advocate information, and departmental and/or college information.

Committee members are encouraged to make notes on the answers to all questions and to submit them to the committee chair for inclusion in the search file. Brief notes that capture the essence of each response can be especially helpful if a search process is challenged. Investigators may not have to involve committee members in an investigation if search-related documents are comprehensive and explain the rationale behind selection decisions.

Please remember not to refer to any protected class information in your search notes.

All interview notes (phone, final face-to-face interviews) and referencenotes will need to be scanned and emailed to the HR Service Center by the end of the search. All search documentation will be uploaded into the Applicant Tracking System for storage and easy access if/when needed in the future.

Sometimes candidates volunteer information about themselves that, by law, should not be considered in making an employment decision. For example, a candidate might mention dropping a child off at day care. Don't acknowledge or make a note of this information. Don't ask, “How many children do you have?”

In addition, several states and cities have laws that prohibit asking candidates about their salary in their current or most recent job. If you are interviewing a candidate who resides in one of these jurisdictions (such as New York City), you cannot ask this question. Because basing current salary on past earnings serves to perpetuate salary inequities against women and people of color, it's a question best avoided anyway. Instead ask the candidate, "If you are offered this position, what are your salary expectations?"

While it may be interesting to learn about a candidate’s hobbies, country of origin, age, or family life, if it’s not directly related to a position’s requirements, it’s better not to ask. And remember, presentations, community forums, meals and social events are ALL part of the interviewing process.

Recorded Interviews

While the interview process may be conducted via WebEx or other live video mediums, the University does not allow recorded interviews. Recording interviews can change the dynamics of an interview, could be subject to a records request, and could be disincentive for search committee members and candidates to attend the interview process. Montana Law requires advance permission to conduct voice recordings, but the University does not allow recordings of any kind.


Each search presents an opportunity to tell the University’s “story.” A well-managed search will reflect well on the University, while a poorly managed search has the potential to damage the University’s reputation and hamper the success of future searches. Applicants who feel that they were treated in a courteous and respectful manner during the search process are less likely to be angry if not selected and less likely to file a complaint about the decision or process.

In recognition of the time and effort required to pursue University employment, search committees must treat all candidates in a respectful manner. Communicating efficiently and effectively is essential. As such, the search committee chair must ensure that candidates:

  • receive acknowledgement that their materials have been received and are informed of the decision-making timeline;
  • are informed as soon as they are removed from consideration (though be cautious about notifying “second tier” candidates who may eventually move to the “first tier” of consideration); and
  • are informed of delays in the search process.

When a candidate interviews in person, but is not advanced to the next stage, a phone call rather than a letter sends an important message about our appreciation for the candidate’s time and effort.

If a candidate enquires about why he or she was not selected, the inquiry should be forwarded to the committee chair. A detailed explanation of why the candidate was not selected is neither required nor advised, though a telephone conversation during which you provide specific guidance about the search committee's impressions about the individual's strengths and weaknesses may be appreciated.

For help in preparing for these conversations, the HR Service Center may be of assistance to the search committee chair.

It is important to maintain on-going communication to the University community regarding the status of key searches. Such “progress reports” may be distributed through the normal channels used to communicate to campus constituents such as HR Insights and listservs.

Progress reports should be drafted by the chairperson at the following key points in the search:

  • after semi-finalists have been identified and selected for pre-interview (not to include actual names of candidates);
  • after the finalist list has been identified, notify the candidates who are no longer being considered;
  • prior to the on-site visits of final candidates, including the schedule of on-site meetings or open forums; and
  • when a candidate has been selected and has accepted an offer.

Engaging the University community in the search process to fill a key position can provide the search committee with valuable feedback about candidate viability and give the candidate an opportunity to assess the University’s climate.

To engage the broader University community, search committees are encouraged to announce the schedule of open forums and invite a wide range of constituent groups to attend including students, staff, faculty and interested members of the Bozeman community.

After the finalist list has been made public, the curriculum vitae of each candidate should be made available for public review. Evaluation forms should be provided to all parties involved and responses should be included in search committee discussions. Open forums should be held at an accessible location.

Reference Checks

Checking references and verifying credentials is a critical step in the screening process. A reference check generally involves contacting a finalist’s former employers, supervisors, co-workers, or educators to obtain information on previous employment and the individuals’ knowledge, skills, abilities, and character.

The University conducts reference checks:

  • To create a safe and secure educational institution and workplace.
  • To verify University employees are qualified to perform the jobs for which they are hired.
  • To hire and retain high-quality employees.
  • To ensure compliance with policies.

The Applicant Tracking System collects a list of three references from each applicant. The search committee may conduct reference checks on all finalists, just the top candidate after final interviews, or do it for all finalists right before the final interviews. A minimum of two references need to be called for each candidate requiring a reference. If committee members are not available, the HR Service Center can assist with reference calls. At least two people are required to be on each call taking notes. References that do not participate in the question and answers but only provide dates of employment are still considered valid.

If an applicant is being brought to campus, and being provided hotel and/or airfare, we recommend checking references beforehand.

Since the search is confidential, please only use the references given bythe applicant on ATS. Please contact the HR Service Center if you think you are missing a reference (current supervisor wasn’t given etc.) or have problems reaching references.

Reference Collection

Reference checks must obtain job-related and uniform information. Information about a candidate’s personal life or demographic background should never be solicited. The committee should use the same criteria for determining the prospective hires’ candidacy for the job.

Reference checks should be in alignment with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines. Reference check documents must be retained in the recruitment file for three years after the finalist’s date of hire.

References for Current University Employees

A member or representative of the search committee must contact the candidate’s current or former unit(s) for a reference check before extending an offer letter. They may also request access to review official personnel records.

Negative References

If the search committee is unsure of how to proceed after receiving a negative reference, it can reach out to the HR Service Center.

Like the interview process, reference inquiries should be related to the position description and consistent for all candidates. Committee members are advised to schedule appointments with prospective references to ensure that there is adequate time to conduct a comprehensive conversation. Include specific questions related to a candidate’s circumstances, such as a gap in employment, without soliciting protected information.

A list of pre-approved reference check questions can be found here (documents to be uploaded)

Candidate Visits

The on-site visit is an extremely important part of selecting the ideal candidate. Communication and interaction with the candidate should represent the University in the most positive and favorable light possible. Just as search committee members will be evaluating the candidate, the candidate will be evaluating Montana State University to determine if the position and the organization are a good “fit” for him or her. The candidate’s early impressions of the University will play a major role in the decision-making process.

Search committees should work with the hiring department’s Business Operations Manager or Administrative Assistant to coordinate all details and travel arrangements.

Public Disclosure

In the course of conducting a search, the issue of public disclosure of search-related information or documentation may arise. Montana State University’s release of public records policy is to be as open as possible while protecting legitimate privacy or confidentiality issues.

Much of our work as a public institution requires public transparency. Job descriptions, job advertising, job announcements, and the search committee membership are public information. Interview and reference check questions, and candidate names and their related information are not public information, and must be kept confidential in order to maintain the integrity of the search process.

Search Committee Membership

The names, titles, academic degrees and facts of past or present University employment information of search committee members are public information.

Candidate Confidentiality

It is the intention of the University to maintain the integrity of search processes by protecting candidate confidentiality. To encourage applications from those reluctant to “go public” with their interest in MSU employment, the names of candidates should only be released to the University community or to the general public when a candidate becomes a finalist and confirms his/her intention to proceed with the selection process.

When inviting the finalist to interview on-site, be sure to inform the candidate that his or her name will be made public and that his or her curriculum vitae shall be open for review. If a candidate has reservations about going public, allow the candidate a short, but reasonable, time to decide to withdraw from consideration.

Search Documents

Documents prepared by University employees while performing work-related duties are, with some exception, public records. Search-related reports or records produced during the search process such as screening matrices, interview questions and committee notes should remain confidential among search committee members and other key individuals on a need-to-know basis. Under no circumstances, should members of the committee, or other departmental personnel, release search-related information or documentation to unauthorized individuals. Requests for documentation or reports underthe State’s “Release of Public Records” statute should be forwarded to the Office of Legal Counsel .

Hiring And Onboarding

When a candidate has been identified as recommended for hire, a hiring proposal should be completed in the ATS system. A hiring proposal should beinitiated by the Search Manager, with assistance available from the HR Service Center.

The hiring rationale should outline how the candidate meets all required qualifications and which of the preferred qualifications. Please include the names of the two references called.

Specify what compensation amount you would like to offer (hourly amount for classified, professional can be annual salary).

Please attach all search documentation to the Hiring Proposal, including:

  • Interview questions and notes from all search committee members for all interviewed candidates;
  • Reference questions and notes from at least two members.

UHR must approve the Hiring Proposal prior to any offer to the candidate.

Once the hiring proposal is approved, the candidate should be contacted and given a verbal offer for the position. Please make sure to mention that the verbal offer is contingent upon passing the required background check.

If the candidate wants to negotiate salary, please let the candidate knowthat you will get back to them and inform the HR Service Center so that the salary requirement for the position can be reevaluated. Please note that salary offerings/negotiations on professional MUS positions will require additional approvals.

When the candidate accepts the position please mention that they will receive an email from

A-Check Global (our background check facilitator) and DocuSign (collectingPersonally Identifiable Information for Banner setup). Inform the HR Service Center of the acceptance and include the start date.

The HR Service Center will facilitate the background check and prepare the official offer letter and send it to the hiring authority for signature.

After a hire has been made, the search chair needs to regret the unsuccessful candidates. In some cases, the HR Service Center may be able to assist.

Every candidate that made an effort to come to an on-campus interview should be regretted personally (usually via phone, sometimes via personalized, HR-approved email).

Candidates interviewed via phone, as well as those in the remaining pool,can receive ATS generated regret e-mails (please coordinate with the HR Service Center).

Internal candidates are usually regretted personally (phone or email). Please note that if an internal candidate does not advance to the finalist stage, it is courteous to notify them at that time.

Concluding The Search

At the conclusion of the search, the committee chair collects all thedocumentation and forwards it to the HR Service Center for retention. Human Resources must retain the compiled search file for three years after the calendar year in which the records were created. Upon expiration of the three-year retention period, the materials should be purged. Human Resources retains online employment application materials and job postings.

Unsuccessful Search

Occasionally, a search does not result in a hire. In this case, the hiring authority may:

  • Go back into the qualified candidate pool for any applicants who could be interviewed.
  • Cancel the search, appoint a new committee and re-advertise the position.
  • Reopen the search by continuing the same committee and re-advertising the position.

If a candidate initially accepts and later declines an offer or resigns shortly after being appointed, the hiring authority may seek permission from UHR to reopen the applicant pool. Usually, a pool can be considered "active" for six (6) months from the date a hire was made.

Terminating or Suspending a Search

If terminating or suspending a search is deemed necessary for valid reasons, please contact the HR Service Center.


Relocation allowances are generally reserved for higher-level positions such as managers, directors and other executives but exceptions may be discussed with the unit’s HR Business Partner. If the hiring authority agrees to pay moving expenses for the new hire, they should inform the HR Service Center since such agreements should be described in the Letter of Hire or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

As of January 1, 2018, relocation expense reimbursements are fully taxable.This is a result of the federal tax reform bill signed into law on December 22, 2017. The hiring authority may choose to “gross up” the amount so that the employee receives the intended amount (note that the full “grossed-up” amount will be expensed to the hiring department). Please fill out a Relocation Allowance Request Form and, if applicable, aGross-Up Calculation Form found here, under “Additional Payroll Forms.”

Montana State University recognizes that, in order to recruit excellent staff or faculty, it is increasingly important to consider the employment needs of the spouse or partner. The University has established a Dual Career Assistance Program through the office of Human Resources. The community placement liaison provides assistance in identifying potential employment opportunities in the Gallatin Valley or at Montana State University. Spouses or partners of newly recruited or recently hired full-time faculty and staff must request this assistance and are responsible for following up on any leads provided. Assistance does not guarantee or promise employment.

Contact the Dual-Career Liaison for non-academic partners here or call 406-994-4310.

Faculty hires should be directed to the Partner Accommodation Request Worksheet.

All new employees should attend these three orientations. Advance registration dates will be provided in the new hire’s welcome letter. If new hires are not registered in advance, they may sign up via the training link below.

Jump Start

JumpStart provides new employees with introductory fundamental information. The topics presented include:

  • A brief overview of MSU along with the MSU Service Philosophy
  • Information regarding MSU employment – Payroll / Benefits / Email
  • Required new employee paperwork will be explained

New Employee Orientation

This is the official welcome to MSU and introduction to working in the university system. Information will be provided about UIT, Safety and Risk, Office of Institutional Equity, the MSU website as well as many other topics. Any questions regarding employment will also be addressed.

New Employee Benefits Orientation

This session is designed to help new employees best utilize their benefits package and answer questions. Required benefits, such as retirement, health and dental, as well as optional benefits, including Flex plans and life insurance that are available to employees will be discussed.

Register for all orientations here .