This post continues our series, The Smart Scholar by Ramon Goings.

With the onset of COVID-19 the higher education landscape has changed drastically in what feels like overnight. While institutions have begun to announce hiring freezes and faculty/staff furloughs, 2020 has witnessed individuals like myself transition into new roles.  While I have written past Smart Scholar Series articles on tips to apply for a job position, given the uniqueness of transitioning to a new institution while most operations, including hiring, are virtual, I wanted to share two aspects of the job search process for candidates to consider this hiring season.

Invest in Your Virtual Interview

Prior to COVID-19 typically faculty and administrator hiring processes entailed a round of reviews of candidates’ written materials (e.g., cover letter, CV, letters of recommendation). For those individuals who made it through this round, they were then given either a telephone or video interview and finalists selected would then be brought to campus. However, now that many institutions have halted in person gatherings, it is highly likely this season that candidates will complete a finalist interview via some video conferencing platform. As a result, there are a few technical aspects that I believe are critically important.

  1. Purchase an HD webcam- As a result of doing interviews virtually I think it is important to present the best visual image of yourself. While laptop computers have adequate webcams, I believe making the investment in a higher quality camera will help folks connect with you visually during your interview. 
  2. Invest in an External Microphone- As having a visual presence is important, in many ways having a strong audio presence is even more important as you will be responding to questions from the search committee. There are a number of USB microphones on the market that will give you an advantage over microphones connected to headphones and/or the microphone on your laptop computer.
  3. Upgrade your Internet Router- Having a strong Internet connection will be critical to ensure that your video and audio come across as high quality. As a result, if within your budget I would recommend you to upgrade your Internet to a bandwidth that is suitable for video conferencing. And if you are unable to upgrade, I would suggest that if you have an interview, you should disconnect all devices that will be using the Wifi connection so that your video interview is the only device on the network during the interview to maximize your Wifi connection. 

While these are suggestions, the takeaway here is that you want the search committee to remember you and the thoughtful responses you had to their questions and not have a discussion about the various interruptions due to poor video, audio, or Internet quality.

Get an overview of how institutions are improving their faculty recruitment in our recent white paper, The Modern Faculty Recruitment Playbook.

Importance of Position Fit

As a job seeker I believe this current virtual environment, more than ever, stresses the importance of candidates seeking a position that is the best  fit. For some an important question to ask is ‘what does being a fit for a position look like’? While fit can be specific based on where you are in your career, for me, here  are some of the questions I considered as I determined if a position was a fit for me:

  • Does the position provide an opportunity to for me to expand by skill set?
  • Do the individuals on the search committee like working at the institution?
  • Will the institution provide me the resources to effectively do my job in a virtual environment?
  • Will this position require me to work alone or will I have a team to help?
  • What are the institution’s policies around COVID-19 and keeping students, staff, and faculty safe?

While this list is not exhaustive, it is important to always consider how the position will support your professional growth and whether your values align with the values of the institution. With you potentially not being able to be on campus until Fall 2021 (depending on your locale), fit will be just as important as you may be working from home. 

For those of you who have transitioned to new positions this fall, what were some considerations that you kept in mind as you started your new role? Please feel free to tweet me (@ramongoings) to continue this conversation!

Any opinions, findings, and conclusion or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has unfolded, many college and university administrators have recognized that they can no longer delay the digital transformation of their institutions. Not only did these administrators have to move instruction online, but they must now also make administrative processes mobile and digital — including faculty recruitment and hiring.

The advantages of using a modern, digital faculty recruitment platform were the focus of a recent webinar Interfolio hosted with guests from two partner institutions, the University of Texas at Austin (UT) and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST)

Long before the pandemic began, these two institutions had fortuitously made the switch to Interfolio Faculty Search, a digital platform that covers the entire academic recruitment process — from creating a job board to facilitating committee review and decision-making. 

During the webinar, the representatives from UT and KAUST highlighted three principal advantages of the platform. Their remarks also made clear that, even when in-person interviews and committee meetings again become possible, these advantages of Faculty Search will persist.

1. Faculty Search’s ease of use promotes adoption and consistency while reducing administrative burdens

Webinar guest Ebtisam Bakhsh, the Faculty Affairs Administrator at KAUST, said that KAUST faculty members quickly embraced Faculty Search because it was so easy to use: 

“Getting faculty to use a new system is not the easiest task. But when we initially rolled out Interfolio as a faculty recruitment tool, I had a faculty member come up to me and ask, ‘Oh, can I use this to post my postdoc positions?’ And that was really great to see that they were so comfortable and wanted to roll it out to wider objectives,” Bakhsh said.

Interfolio’s other webinar guest, Henry Tijerina III, a Digital Project Manager at UT, sees consistency as one of the main advantages of modernizing the hiring process. “Because UT uses Faculty Search for posting positions, we get a consistent title, description, and qualifications, and the position is tagged with the correct department, college, and school. UT is a giant institution, so it’s good to be able to have those required fields to standardize the data.” Of course, standardized data also supports data analysis and reporting.

Institutions are also able to save time, Bakhsh said, because of the platform’s Application Program Interfaces (APIs), which enable connectivity with other programs and sites. Bakhsh elaborated, “We use APIs to push open faculty positions to recruitment tools and websites. What really works well for us is that we only have to update in one place, and the changes are reflected on all sites instantly.”

Tijerina also described how the platform makes administrative work easier and more efficient. With their earlier paper system, he said, correlating all the diversity data was a labor-intensive process. Now, it only takes the push of a button to see Equal Employment Opportunity and diversity data.  

Bakhsh made a similar remark: “In our previous system, it would take us days to pull a report to answer questions like — did we have any applicants from China this year? — but now our super admins can do that easily, just within a few clicks.”

Get an overview of how peers are improving their faculty recruitment in our recent white paper, The Modern Faculty Recruitment Playbook.

2. Faculty Search supports diversity efforts

As the above remarks suggest, Faculty Search has reporting tools that enable quick analysis of diversity data. Faculty diversity, of course, is an important goal at many institutions, but a recent study shows very little progress on this front in higher education. One practice that will help address this gap between faculty diversity aspirations and outcomes is collecting and analyzing faculty recruitment diversity data to assess progress.

Faculty Search helps institutions do just that. For example, Tijerina noted that the platform enables UT to compare its current faculty diversity to the diversity of the search group to assess whether UT is successfully attracting a more diverse pool. With this information, UT then adjusts its national recruitment spending to better support its diversity goals.

At KAUST, departments create forms within Faculty Search that capture diversity data to help the institution measure its progress in increasing diversity.

Efforts like these — and other best practices — are a critical step in improving faculty diversity.

3. Faculty Search enables data-driven decision-making and insights

Of course, collecting and analyzing data helps with more than just diversity efforts. Collecting data also enables administrators to assess their overall faculty hiring process.

For example, the data that Faculty Search collects helps KAUST officials, including Bakhsh, determine whether their marketing efforts are succeeding in attracting the best candidates. 

Similarly, data collection and reporting capabilities within Faculty Search help UT evaluate their faculty recruitment efforts:

“Having everything in one system allows us to gain insights and see trends year over year. For example: How many positions are reposting? Are applications remaining steady or growing, or did they fall? What does our successful candidate look like? Where did they come from? How did they get to the job? These are all things we can pull out of the system really easily,” Tijerina said. This data analysis also helps UT focus their advertising expenditures and make effective marketing investments.

Faculty recruiting

How did two research universities increase efficiency, diversity, and accountability with streamlined faculty hiring?

Tijerina added that Faculty Search’s APIs enable data from other programs to be mixed into the analysis, creating a fuller overall picture of their faculty recruitment efforts. For example, UT can look at search data from the Algolia program that UT added to Faculty Search. With this Algolia data combined with the Faculty Search data, UT can see whether candidates are searching for positions that don’t yet exist. This information can suggest potential new opportunities that UT might want to create. 

Bonus advantage: Faculty Search makes a strong impression with prospective faculty

Although the webinar guests focused on the above three advantages of adopting Interfolio’s digital platform for faculty hiring, one additional advantage Tijerina emphasized is worth mentioning:

Faculty Search enables a customizable, branded job board and recruitment experience that puts your institution’s best foot forward to potential recruits. 

As Tijerina explained, UT’s old jobs page wasn’t very welcoming. In response, UT switched to Interfolio because they wanted a new web presence that “highlighted our faculty, our research stories, why should you work at UT, and really elevated the brand of UT.”

If you’re interested in elevating your own institution’s brand and modernizing your faculty recruitment process with a COVID-proof digital platform, you can read more about Faculty Search here and request a demo.

You can also listen to our webinar on How Two Institutions Modernized Faculty Hiring by going to this page.

Partnership with Interfolio will transform faculty career management, improving efficiency and collaboration

WHITTIER, CALIFORNIA — SEPTEMBER 16, 2020 — Southern California University of Health Sciences (SCU), a premier evidence-based integrative healthcare university, today announces its adoption of all four modules of Interfolio’s Faculty Information System. With this digital approach to its faculty processes, SCU deepens its commitment and support of the faculty experience while also improving efficiency for the university at large.

“Our faculty are the heart of what makes us successful, and we knew we could better support them while improving academic management processes,” states Dr. Jonathon Egan, Assistant Provost, Academic Administration at SCU. “The Faculty Information System solves our challenges with faculty appraisals, reporting, and data, while at the same time increasing trust and collaboration with faculty.”

With this platform, SCU is able to manage faculty members’ career pathways and create a centralized faculty roster noting location, rank, and skills, a task which previously required manual compilation by academic affairs staff.

Faculty appraisals, portfolio reviews, and faculty promotion will become fully digital—making a previous cumbersome process more efficient for both the faculty members and administrators. Additionally, SCU will streamline reporting for accreditation and compliance through Interfolio Faculty Activity Reporting. Last, faculty hiring will be facilitated through Faculty Search, to help SCU continue to attract the best possible faculty from the region, the nation, and around the world.

“With the adoption of all four modules, SCU is realizing the full advantages of faculty-centric and administratively-streamlined modern academic governance,” states Andrew Rosen, CEO of Interfolio. “Interfolio’s platform enables SCU to digitize difficult manual processes while better supporting and enhancing the user experience across the entire lifecycle of their faculty’s careers—further promoting what’s truly important to SCU: educating students as competent, caring, and successful integrative healthcare practitioners and professionals.”

ABOUT SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA UNIVERSITY OF HEALTH SCIENCES

Founded in 1911, Southern California University of Health Sciences’ (SCU) mission is to educate students to be competent, caring, and successful integrative healthcare practitioners and professionals. The University is committed to providing an academic community imbued with kindness, integrity, humor, and determination. SCU began as a single-purpose institution preparing chiropractors. Over time, the University added programs and evolved from a single-purpose professional school into a health sciences university with programs at the certificate, undergraduate, master, and doctoral level. The University has four core values inextricably linked to the vision of transforming and redefining health and healthcare education and, together, inform SCU’s approach to healthcare education. The values are: a commitment to integrative health, a commitment to evidence-based practice, a commitment to health equity, and a commitment to inclusivity.

ABOUT INTERFOLIO

Conceived by academics for academics, Interfolio is an education technology company headquartered in Washington, DC, USA and in Cambridge, England, UK. Founded in 1999, Interfolio operates the acclaimed Faculty Information System for colleges and universities, the Researchfish impact assessment platform for funders and research organizations, and the widely used Dossier service for individual scholars. Over 300 clients based in 15 countries choose Interfolio’s technology for hiring and recruitment, academic appointments and timelines, activity data reporting, faculty reviews and promotions, and research impact analysis. Interfolio provides scholar-first products for the full academic lifecycle—from job seeking to professional accomplishments, committee service, funding award compliance, career growth and advancement, administrative leadership, and beyond. For more information about Interfolio, please contact team@interfolio.com.

Institutions of all sizes are interested in streamlining their faculty recruitment processes in order to save time, improve their equity practices, and attract high-quality candidates. A holistic faculty recruitment tool provides a centralized platform that encourages seamless collaboration and transparency across departments and hiring committees.

Factors to consider in faculty hiring

There are plenty of nuances in recruiting and hiring practices of faculty and staff. While certain pieces of information — the CV, cover letter and letters of recommendation — offer helpful insight into candidates’ skills and experiences, these documents aren’t enough on their own. Traditional hiring tools leave out other, multi-dimensional factors that impact the big picture. Some key attributes to consider in the higher education hiring process include:

  • Experience
  • Expertise
  • Accomplishments
  • Diversity

Addressing diversity in applicants

One significant shortcoming of traditional hiring software is the difficulty in tracking relevant pieces of information regarding faculty demographics. Traditional faculty recruitment technology gives a snapshot into different candidates’ experience levels, but does not target characteristics that might not typically appear on their CVs.

As an example, many institutions overlook applicant diversity. It’s not that they are intentionally avoiding diverse staff and faculty applicants. In fact, it’s often quite the contrary. Many universities measure recruiting data related to diversity and find that there is a disparity in the percentage of diverse applicants applying for roles and the amount of candidates being called for interviews and receiving offers. They then seek out best practices for recruiting and working with diverse candidates. Some characteristics they might look out for in candidates include, but are not limited to:

  • Gender identity
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Disability
  • Age

Interfolio Faculty Search addresses various disparities in faculty hiring to provide equitable opportunities for all prospects and candidates. Our solution provides transparency in applicants’ talents and diversity. In addition, our built-in equal employment opportunity (EEO) forms and reports ensure near 100% compliance regarding diversity data during every step of the recruitment process. This provides an overall more insightful process for hiring professionals and a more equitable experience for diverse candidates seeking faculty and staff positions.

Standardizing candidate criteria

The hiring process requires input from multiple parties, from department heads and administrators to human resources professionals. With so many moving parts and invested parties, it’s essential that institutions empower their staff to collaborate and communicate with consistency. One such way to develop a more holistic approach to faculty recruitment is through the standardization of processes.

A decentralized approach to candidate recruiting and hiring makes it difficult to observe and track hiring data. By switching to a system in which hiring, onboarding, and interviewing materials are readily available to all faculty members, institutions are able to standardize their approaches. In turn, the recruitment process becomes more responsive and produces better results.

Interfolio Faculty Search empowers deans and administrators to standardize criteria, job postings, and messages to candidates to develop and foster an equitable recruiting process across the institution. They can ensure job posting language is consistent, all while tracking when and where jobs are being posted. With one tried-and-true approach to hiring, human resources professionals can make sure they are attracting the best talent. In addition, standardization solidifies the notion that candidates are given equal opportunity at the university.

Streamlining recruitment processes to save time

Staff can save time during recruiting by digitizing formerly manual processes. Most broadly, this refers to the collection, organization, and distribution of applications. Rather than posting each job individually on the institution’s career site,  several openings can be shared at once, all with standardized language. This reduces time spent on tedious, administrative tasks and allows hiring faculty to focus on more strategic tasks. For example, rather than utilizing the time they have allocated for recruitment to writing and uploading job descriptions, they can take a more active role in seeking out qualified candidates.

When you’re ready to streamline your hiring processes and improve equity in recruiting for faculty positions, you may be ready to integrate your system with Interfolio’s Faculty Search solutions. This centralized platform provides hiring managers with more insight throughout the recruitment process. If you’d like to find out more about how Interfolio can provide you with a more equitable experience for faculty members and applicants, check out our selection of resources.

In 2014, Dr. Jeffery Aper became Provost at Millikin University and led the school through a transitional period regarding its partnership with Interfolio’s solution for supporting faculty hiring processes. Transitional, in part, because since 2013, Millikin adopted Interfolio’s Faculty Search platform, then decided to build a homegrown system due to internal budget constraints, and then went back to Interfolio.

Dr. Aper agreed to sit down and tell us about his leadership role and his experiences using the system. Take a look at what Provost Aper had to say!

Tell us about Millikin’s relationship with Interfolio and how it has transitioned from on, off, and on again.

Millikin University first adopted Interfolio’s Faculty Search in 2013 to support management of their faculty and staff hiring processes. In 2015, the end of my first year, Millikin decided to drop Interfolio’s platform due to budgetary reasons. A team at Millikin had been working with our IT staff and developed a homegrown faculty hiring platform used for receiving application materials and storing them on a shared drive to support an internal process. However, the in-house system did not meet our needs. People couldn’t access it. It just didn’t work. It didn’t make us more efficient.  

During the period when we we tried using our in-house system, the comments we received included: “Why did we drop Interfolio?” “Can we go back to Interfolio?” And I had department chairs and deans imploring me to do what I could to get the university into the use of the Interfolio system.

So I pressed the case that as soon as possible we needed to re-up with Interfolio because the product had worked well for us in the past. Thankfully everyone on campus agreed, so we were able to re-adopt Interfolio and use it to run our hiring searches again.  

Were you familiar with Interfolio’s faculty hiring platform before taking the provost’s position at Millikin?

I had been familiar with Interfolio’s Faculty Search, but only at the individual level, having submitted letters of reference for candidates seeking positions at other institutions. It was not until arriving at Millikin that I experienced Interfolio from the institution’s perspective.  

What were your first impressions with Interfolio’s platform from the institution’s perspective?

I was very pleased. This was such a vastly better approach to hiring than the traditional method of keeping all kinds of paper files, trying to maintain the security of those files, and trying to make sure members of the search committee had access to the documents while trying to maintain the confidentiality of those materials. The solution gave us so many better options for managing those processes.

Have you used the system in workflows other than faculty hiring?

Yes, we use Faculty Search for faculty and staff hiring processes, and for faculty honors and awards given by the University. Using the solution for these internal applications has been very valuable.

I ran a search for a new dean two years ago. We used Interfolio extensively for receiving and warehousing materials and allowing committees to access materials in a confidential way. The system was a real value to us because it made it so much easier to keep track of the appropriate records, make sure those records were maintained in a secure way, and give the committee access.

Similarly for staff positions, we use Interfolio for even administrative assistant searches because it helped us be more efficient and effective in maintaining those records and making sure we’ve got all the documents assembled.

We were able to set up an internal application process for faculty awards, honors, and professional development opportunities. For example, we’ve got eight endowed professorships that rotate among faculty members who qualify for the awards. All of those involve the submission of a significant amount of background materials. We used to be handing boxes of paper to committees and the committee was supposed to keep it secure. We were trying to make sure confidential materials did not end up left on tables in conference rooms.  

Using Interfolio has been an immense improvement in the efficiency and effectiveness of those review processes—allowing us to set up an online format to submit their materials for all of these competitive processes. Using Interfolio has benefited us significantly. I am definitely a fan.

What about Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) data?

That’s information we will keep track of no matter what system we’re using, so it’s a benefit to have a system to assemble those kinds of data. Any time you’ve got an automated system collect a consistent record of your activities, instead of having an individual in the HR office compile a report, there’s a benefit.  Faculty and staff time is a precious commodity. Anything we can do to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of collecting, managing, and reporting data is beneficial for us.

What problems were you seeking to solve in deciding to select Interfolio’s Faculty Search?

I’ve overseen scores of faculty searches over the years as the commissioning officer. Having done that many, many times, the chronic challenges to make sure you have a very accurate systematic way of receiving materials, compiling and maintaining those materials, and making them available to committees—but also maintaining their confidentiality and securities—are constant headaches with paper systems. The Interfolio application, in many ways, solves the headaches in those processes, and to me that’s just golden.

Are faculty buying in to the system?  

In the last four years, we’ve used Interfolio as a basis for maintaining our records on searches. We’ve done at least 25 to 30 searches involving many committee members and have not received one complaint, and that’s quite a statement in itself.

Faculty members are not reticent about sharing their opinions about what works and what doesn’t work. I haven’t had a single faculty member say, “Well, I like using Interfolio… but we should have done this”;  “I wish we could use something different”; “I wish we could go back to the paper method.” Not once. And we’ve run a lot of searches.

Is there anything else that you’d like to share with us?

Faculty Search has worked very well for us. This is one of those things where you could go around campus and talk with faculty, staff, and administrators who’ve used the system, and I don’t think you would get a single negative comment—and that’s saying something.

Read the Millikin University case study here.

***

Is there room for improvement in faculty hiring at your institution? Looking ahead to academic searches in the coming year? Let us know today.

Not looking for a demo yet? Take a look at our free guide to evaluating academic hiring technologies for some suggestions.

The University of Florida will launch Interfolio’s faculty hiring module, Faculty Search, at the beginning of this academic year to support the university’s “Faculty 500” initiative to hire 500 new faculty members over two years—200 of those by this fall. Two leaders from UF’s Human Resources office, Melissa Curry, Director of Recruitment and Staffing, and Kathy McKee, Manager of Strategic Talent Group, joined us recently for a webinar addressing UF’s distinctive faculty hiring strategies and about the role Interfolio will play. 

Challenges involved in an institution-wide hiring initiative

The commitments involved in the Faculty 500 initiative posed significant logistical challenges for all involved in faculty hiring at UF—not least the HR office. Competition for top faculty members was fierce. No new administrative resources would be allocated, and UF’s HR office had a very short time period before hiring processes would begin. In addition, hiring faculty takes place in a decentralized environment, and within a culture of shared governance and search committees—all factors that tend to lengthen the hiring process.

Responding with a strategic recruitment model

In response to the challenging landscape, UF made a commitment to transition from their traditional faculty hiring approach to a more strategic recruitment model. Fundamental to the change was the realization that faculty hiring was simply a unique process, different from hiring staff, administrators, and other personnel. As Melissa and Kathy present in thoughtful detail in the webinar, the new approach would require new commitments, processes, and technologies. It took the form of a plan with five distinct elements, or stages. (Find Melissa and Kathy’s prepared presentation on those stages in the webinar recording.)

Q&A highlights

In addition to Melissa and Kathy’s great detailed presentation about their faculty recruitment strategy as a whole, we posed a few questions about how the institution’s transition to Interfolio fits in.

Please note: These responses have been edited slightly for clarity and length. 

Question 1:  Did you have any technology you were already using for faculty hiring?

For us, the issue with most applicant tracking systems is they are designed for companies and not designed for institutions of higher education that have a shared governance model. We even find that difference between faculty and public employers because the shared governance model is so different at institutions of higher education. Even though our regular applicant tracking system faculty could post online, which was definitely was easier than the paper process, there was an administrative burden because applicant tracking systems are developed for private companies, which generally are very centralized and do not have shared governance.

One of the things that attracted us to Interfolio was the platform was developed for institutions of higher education with faculty search, search committees, and shared governance in mind. We didn’t really find that anywhere else. The ease for the search committee, from an electronic process that looks and acts like the paper process they’re used to, was very attractive.

We had an electronic system but most committees were printing the submitted 200 CVs (which totaled hundreds of thousands of pages) so even though it was an electronic system applications were not easy to read online.

Question 2:  What aspects of the faculty hiring experience specifically merited adopting a better technology for it?

We didn’t have in mind that we needed a new system or an additional system. But what we were hearing was there were specific pain points. When Interfolio came to our attention, we started asking questions.

The ads postings actually look different for faculty positions versus staff positions. Allowing them greater flexibility in how they would appear and how they would be seen online was something Interfolio offered that our current system didn’t have. The whole interactivity: allowing blind review, and allowing search committees and evaluators to make comments on applicant packets (similar to what they might do on written materials)—these were the things our current system doesn’t allow, so those were very important.

Many of our departments were having this issue, which was raised by deans, of collecting reference letters. In the traditional module, you have people submitting for faculty positions, then the department requests from the applicant to have the referee submit their letters directly to the hiring department. Our existing applicant tracking system ended up shifting that traditional burden to the hiring departments, so they were sending notices out to the referees. Then, there could be communication glitches, which created these circles with respect to recommendation letters. With [Interfolio’s], the fact that applicants and referees are familiar with the dossier service and it’s integrated with Faculty Search, that was a great assist for us that came as a part of what Interfolio is.

Interfolio also presents an opportunity to use a tool that seems very straightforward, that on its face is similar to what they were doing traditionally in the academy, and not making them adopt different types of behavior because they’re using an electronic system.

Question 3:  What impact do you predict the new academic hiring experience will have on UF’s ability to meet its goals?

For us, the immediate goal that we think Interfolio is going to help with is hiring of an additional 300 new faculty members in the next 12 months. Some of the things we’re looking for from Interfolio are things like ease of use for search committee members. These faculty members are changing the world—what they do matters. We have some of the best and brightest faculty members in the world, and we want them to do that, and not be burdened with administrative tasks just because they want to participate in the search committee to hire a colleague. And we believe Interfolio will help them quickly participate and give meaningful feedback to hiring the best and the brightest, and then to go back to their business of changing the world.

Interested in this webinar or in Interfolio’s work? Watch the recording here, download our free technology selection guide for academic hiring, or contact us with a question.

Starting today, we took the first step in an expansion of the Interfolio Faculty Search module to accommodate more complex administrative workflows around academic hiring. We’re starting with “position approval,” broadly understood: what has to happen before you accept any applications.

Today’s release

Taking our cue largely from our direct market research—including interviews with people directly involved in academic hiring at institutions located in California, Washington, New York, Louisiana, Texas, and elsewhere—we are seeking to address some known, widely reported difficulties around faculty hiring and academic recruitment in higher education.

In this first release, we added a set of functionality to support “position approval” workflows. Essentially, the development work released today makes the official approval process around future academic hires (i.e. the “paperwork”) more efficient and consistent, and better documented.

But, wait. Why is position approval oversight a big deal? Aren’t we basically talking about red tape?

Bureaucracy and equity: why effective oversight of new positions makes a difference

From talking to lots of experienced people directly involved in faculty hiring in higher education—some of them with a faculty background, some without—it’s become clear that we must consider these pre-recruitment “approval” processes from the perspective of what happens when there is not enough oversight.

Clearly, having a formal review process that runs a proposed new search or hire past multiple sets of eyes is a key way that colleges and universities ensure the integrity of their faculty hiring.

There may be business and legal compliance reasons why certain offices at the institution need to at least be notified of—if not sign off on—a new hire. But more generally, when opening new faculty searches is too much of a “Wild West” in terms of decentralization, a number of pitfalls are possible:

  • Oddly enough, only white male candidates keep getting hired!
  • Actual violation of anti-discrimination law, such as inappropriate qualifiers in written description.
  • The institution or academic unit can’t really afford this particular hire at this time.
  • At a higher level, if the right people don’t have consistent view into proposed new positions, the institution may continue to make an excessive investment in certain departments or disciplines, and neglect development of others.
  • Also, fraud.

It’s considerations like these—which we’ve heard from our product research, to conversations with clients more informally, and even in new sales conversations—that provide the context for our technical investment in a more useful feature for position approval workflows.

Future investments in academic hiring workflows

In the near future, we’re going to have a lot more to say about our plans to expand the potential for shared governance and administrative workflows in the Faculty Information System’s hiring module, Interfolio Faculty Search.

One thing we can say, now, is that we’re making sure to design these “process improvement” expansions (a priority, clearly) in a way that will also serve future data reporting well. Our academic hiring workflow investments will enrich the Faculty Information System’s capacity to provide client universities with new kinds of factual insight into their academic hiring patterns—insights they have not had available before.

This is one post in a series on contemporary strategies for increasing faculty diversity and inclusive excellence in higher education. For a fuller picture, take a look at our free best practices checklist.

At schools that have been successful in improving diverse representation of faculty members during the recruitment stage, where do diversity officers focus their attention?

Administrators with ownership for faculty diversity face a common challenge: how to actually view accurate institutional data that would reveal patterns in what  is working and what isn’t.

There are a few key data points that the most progressive colleges and universities analyze annually, comparing them to trends across recent years:

  • Applicant pool diversity
  • The diversity of interview pools and diversity of candidates receiving offers—and how those compare to applicant pool diversity
  • How the offer acceptance rate for candidates from underrepresented groups correlates with the diversity of new hires

Having access to uniform and complete data for all faculty searches in all departments allows senior academic affairs leaders who are responsible for advancing faculty diversity to surface trends spanning the institution, set the most effective strategies, and direct scarce resources to the avenues with the greatest potential to impact change.

How does your institution compare?

To see how your school’s current practices lines up with contemporary leading strategies for advancing faculty diversity and inclusive excellence, take a look at our free best practices checklist.

This is one post in a series on contemporary strategies for increasing faculty diversity and inclusive excellence in higher education. For a fuller picture, take a look at our free best practices checklist.

How can academic leaders help faculty across the institution develop professional networks that will improve diversity and inclusion in future searches?

One of the biggest mistakes higher education institutions make, in their efforts to recruit faculty from underrepresented groups, is focusing primarily on activities of search committees filling open positions. To achieve the best results, colleges and universities need to approach inclusive excellence the way other large organizations do: sustaining institution-wide, ongoing efforts to network with talent from underrepresented groups to put the institution in a strong position to attract a strong and diverse pool of candidates when searches open up.

Most faculty members want to support diversity efforts—and will do so more effectively if the institution helps them keep the issue visible and urgent, and provides guidance on which efforts would have the highest impact for their department. One way to advance these goals is holding annual departmental debrief sessions in which all faculty hear an update on the institution’s and their department’s recruiting efforts.

Across the department’s recent searches, where is the greatest drop-off in diversity occurring—initial applicant pool composition, likelihood of accepting an offer, or some other point in the process?  Where should faculty focus their ongoing networking efforts to build connections that could lead to talented applicants from underrepresented groups in future searches? Which graduate programs have produced strong candidates from underrepresented groups that applied to recent searches? Where did those candidates first learn of the position?

Focusing on questions like these helps faculty orient their efforts around those activities most likely to positively influence diversity, representation, and inclusive excellence at their institution.

How does your institution compare?

To see how your school’s current practices lines up with contemporary leading strategies for advancing faculty diversity and inclusive excellence, take a look at our free best practices checklist.

This is one post in a series on contemporary strategies for increasing faculty diversity and inclusive excellence in higher education. For a fuller picture, take a look at our free best practices checklist.

Are you gathering enough data about your faculty applicant pool to accurately monitor the success of your faculty diversity initiatives?

If applicant pools aren’t diverse and well-represented, faculty searches won’t produce hires that represent the diversity of that academic field. Yet most institutions still use decades-old processes that reveal applicant pool diversity long after the deadline for submitting applications.  And because only a small portion of candidates complete EEO surveys, the data that institutions do collect gives little insight into actual applicant pool diversity.

Institutions successfully tracking applicant diversity get 100% of candidates to submit EEO data by making the surveys a required step in submitting the online application. Candidates may select “prefer not to disclose” for any question, but fewer than 10% of candidates typically choose this response. The result is that institutions get an accurate picture of pool diversity as applications arrive.

Progressive colleges and universities also give search chairs the tools to monitor pool diversity during the submission window—not after it. Chairs can see the aggregate diversity of the pool in real time, which allows them to increase efforts to recruit candidates from underrepresented groups in time to impact the diversity of the final pool.

How does your institution compare?

To see how your school’s current practices lines up with contemporary leading strategies for advancing faculty diversity and inclusive excellence, take a look at our free best practices checklist.