HRDG 4335 - Merit Promotion Plan - Section F

HRDG 4335 - Merit Promotion Plan - Section F

Subchapter 4335
Merit Promotion Plan 

Section F - Interview Guidelines for Supervisors



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Introduction Interviewing is a valuable tool. Interviews may be conducted by telephone or in person. They are encouraged, but not required. If one person from the promotion eligible list of a Promotion/Selection Certificate is interviewed, the selecting official is not required to interview all individuals listed eligible for that same grade level and location. Selecting officials must be able to support interview decisions.
Interview Fundamentals

As a general rule, when conducting interviews:

  • Give the candidate realistic information about the job. Include information about shift work, overtime, etc.
  • Do not oversell the job, since doing so could lead to early turnover or cause the candidate to decline the offer.
  • Give the candidate ample time to answer and ask questions the candidate should do most of the talking.
Before the Interview

The following list will help you prepare for and conduct interviews:

  • Review the candidate's application.
  • Plan your interview, select questions (which will be asked of all applicants), develop an interview outline, and plan for uninterrupted time. (See the table at end of this Section for questions that may or may not be asked.)
During the Interview The following table will help you conduct interviews. Be consistent with all candidates.


Step Action

Begin the interview--establish rapport and open communication.

  • Give a warm, friendly greeting.
  • Use names (yours and the candidate's).
  • Sit where both can see the other well.
  • "Break the ice."
  • Talk briefly about yourself.
2 Introduce topics that will be covered in the interview.
3 Tell the candidate you will take notes.
4 Ask only job-related questions. Be careful not to ask inappropriate questions. (See table at end of this Section for guidance.)
5 Ask open-ended questions that require a full sentence response.
6 Discuss specifics of candidate's work history, education, vocational training, and, if appropriate, managerial/leadership skills.
7 Describe the job.

Discuss special considerations such as:

  • When can the candidate begin work?
  • Are overtime and travel possible?
  • Is shift-work possible?
9 Give applicants the opportunity to ask question.

Close the interview.

  • Give a warm, friendly closing.
  • Outline steps in the selection process.
  • Tell candidate that you may check with employers/references.
  • (A candidate may request that contact be made only if he/she is to be selected.)
  • Tell the candidate when to expect a decision.
  • Thank the applicant.


After the Interview

Summarize the interview:

  • Document variances in interviews.
  • Paraphrase your interview notes and refer to them as needed.
  • Document comments provided by employers and references. Ask references if their names may be revealed if the candidate requests (particularly if comments are unfavorable). Some references may only be willing to verify employment dates. Do not return reference notes with the promotion/selection certificate since they are not kept in the merit promotion file. You, the selecting official, should retain them for your personal reference.


The following information can be shared with applicants who were not selected for the vacancy:

  • Who was selected.
  • Specific, job-related ways to improve the nonselectee's experience and/or application in order to prepare for future vacancies.
  • Ways that applicants can improve their interviewing techniques.


Use positive methods to acknowledge strengths and abilities possessed while discussing the above information.

It is improper to discuss the following information with any applicants:

  • Cultural biases.
  • Previous grievances and complaints.
  • Potential grievances and complaints.
  • Non-merit topics.

What Interview Questions May Be Asked?

The following table helps you determine what questions you may or may not ask when conducting interviews.

Before you begin using the table, remember:

Age, sex, or any other nonmerit topic are not determining factors and must not be considered in the selection process. Nonmerit topics are not appropriate items for discussion during the selection process or at any other time.

You may contact your servicing personnel office for additional guidance on the appropriateness or legality of your interview questions

If the subject is: You may NOT ask: You MAY
ask/state (if job-related):
Age Any question which tends to identify applicant's age. Example: Do you remember the 1940 election? None. (The Personnel Office will verify age, if necessary, to ensure that legally set minimum or maximum age limits are met).
Citizenship Are you a citizen of the United States? Are your parents/spouse U.S. citizens? When did you acquire U.S. citizenship? Are you/ spouse/ parents native born or naturalized? None. (The Personnel Office will verify citizenship requirements, if they exist, for the job to be filled.)
Economic Status Do you have a good credit rating? Do you have any trouble with bills/ collection agencies? Own your own home? None. (The Personnel Office will verify delinquency on Federal debt if required).
Education Any questions asking specifically the nationality, racial, or religious affiliation of a school. Any question asking for education level in general, not relating specifically to the job to be filled. Questions related to the job to be filled and how the applicant's academic, vocational, or professional education may fulfill knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA's).

Any inquiry that is not job related or necessary for determining possession of KSA's.

Do you think it's possible for a "clerk" to move up to a management position?

Any questions that relate to the job and how the applicant's experience may fulfill the KSA's.

Describe your experiences in literature searches, using computers, etc. Please expand on your work or unpaid experiences.

Describe one or more special projects or achievements which demonstrates your managerial and leadership skills. How much independence/ flexibility do you like? Prefer to work alone? Describe your major strengths/weaknesses?

What do you like best/ least about your current job?

Disabling Conditions
How is your health? Do you have any disabilities? If the job to be filled has special requirements, the following may be stated: In order to do this job, you must be able to climb ladders into and out of ship holds. Does this present any problems? Do you have anything to add?
Are you married/ divorced/ separated/ widowed? With whom do you live? Do your children live with you? What ages are your children? Is your husband/wife in the military? None. (The Personnel Office will verify if other family members work at the installation to fulfill OPM requirements).
Military: Discharge/
Selective Service
Were you honorably discharged from military service? Are you registered with the Selective Service? None. (The Personnel Office will verify this.)
Miscellaneous Any inquiry that is not job related or necessary for determining possession of KSA's. That any misstatements or omissions of significant facts may be cause for nonselection.
National Origin What is your national origin? What language is spoken in your home? What is your native language? None.
To what organizations, societies, and clubs do you belong? Do not ask about any whose name or character indicates the race, religion, creed, color, national origin, or ancestry of its members. Questions related to the job to be filled and how the candidate's participation in the organization may fulfill KSA's.
Participation in Certain Activities Do you plan to take savings bonds/ contribute to the Combined Federal Campaign/ join in the coffee club? None.
Personal Plans/Questions Do you plan to live in this area long? What is the color of your hair/eyes? None.
Police Record Have your ever been arrested? If the job to be filled has special requirements, such as bonding, the following may be stated: In order to fill this job, you must be bonded. What problems does this present?
Politics Any questions pertaining to political affiliations/activities. Are you a Democrat or Republican? None.
Race/Color Any comment or question which directly or indirectly relates to race or color. None.
Religion What church do you attend? What religious holidays do you observe? None.
Security Clearance Do you have a secret/ top secret security clearance? If the job to be filled requires a certain type of security clearance, this condition may be stated. Example: This job requires a top secret clearance; does this requirement present any problem?
Sex Any inquiry as to gender. What are your plans regarding having children in the future? Do you mind having a male/ female supervisor? Can you work with a group of men/ women? None.


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