Managing communication with faculty applicants: 3 issues good software should solve

Topics in Higher Education

By now, the flooding of the academic job market with job-seekers is old news. While a search is open, the department gets dozensoften hundredsof applications, and still more scholars are trying to stuff their CVs through the door as it closes.

Even in 2015, it’s not unusual for departments to rely on a hodgepodge of different desktop programs (and printed lists or highlighted spreadsheets) in order to stay on top of acknowledgement, rejection, shortlisting, and other communication with applicants. It’s understandable. We’re all at the mercy of what’s available.

Today, we think any search committee platform worth its salt should, at a minimum, make the following three operations really easy:

  1. Identifying certain groups of applicants to receive certain kinds of messages. The most obvious example, of course, is compiling a list of applicants who have been ruled out for a particular search. In addition, though, you might want to create a shortlist, or a longlist, and be able to easily send a particular message only to that groupwithout having to comb through a list of 300 unfamiliar names.
  2. Automating standard messages to reflect developments in the search. If a search committee just needs to send out an acknowledgement or similar standard notification to applicants, they should be able to queue up this kind of message to go out in response to changes in the status of a search, or of a particular application. Examples of these message triggers include the applicant’s initial submission of their application, the closing of the search to new materials, and their withdrawal from the search.
  3. Maintaining a record of communication history sorted by position and by applicant. In the absence of some kind of function like this, where message logs for particular searches are consolidated, faculty and staff are going to spend a ton of time just sorting through all the “noise” of unrelated or forwarded emails.

If your departments are currently handling any of these aspects of their faculty searches manually (or switching between isolated pieces of software to do it), you might consider whether that’s the best use of everyone’s time. After all, software that is designed to help departments, colleges, and universities with their faculty searches should already house all the information about the position and the applicants. Keeping them informed, giving them instructions, and requesting additional materials should be effortless.

In other words, it’s not that your search committee chairs and administrative staff don’t know how to send a bunch of emails, consolidate lists and spreadsheets, or manage their time. It’s that there’s other work waiting.