best practices in faculty recruitment

Each faculty hiring decision is an opportunity to strengthen your institution. Securing top talent attracts students and research funding and brings new perspectives to your campus.

That’s why it’s critical to have an effective faculty recruitment process in place.

To help your institution achieve this goal, this article guides you through best practices for each stage of recruitment.

The Faculty Recruitment Process

Develop A Position Description

Creating a position description will guide your efforts in all subsequent faculty recruitment steps because the description is a specific statement of what type of candidate you need for the role.

The challenge is to strike a balance between broad, inclusive language and specific details on what your institution wants. The former will encourage a diverse pool while the latter will help others understand the role and the attributes you value most.

To be welcoming, you should state your institution’s and department’s commitment to diversity and encourage applications from individuals whose research, teaching, and service will foster academic diversity and excellence. 

To achieve specificity, the position description should detail responsibilities, minimum requirements, and the department’s or school’s values and mission. You can also provide a sense of how much flexibility the role will offer in course design and other responsibilities.

Form and Train a Search Committee

Once your department has created a position description, you’ll need to form a search committee with a diversity of viewpoints and backgrounds. Members of the committee should include members of underrepresented groups.

If appropriate, you may also want to consider including faculty from outside the department with relevant expertise.

It’s also preferable to have an odd number of members to avoid deadlocked votes.

To guide each search committee, your institution should establish a uniform training program that teaches the institution’s procedural, ethical, and legal guidelines for searches as well as any best practices your institution has developed.

The more you establish uniform practices, procedures, and training in your faculty recruitment process, the more likely you’ll achieve your institution’s faculty recruitment goals.

Develop a Search Plan and Agree on Decision Criteria

Once the search committee is in place and trained, they can develop a search plan to find the right candidates that match the position description. 

The search plan should detail how you will advertise the job and build awareness among relevant groups. 

Make sure to build diversity into the search plan by including steps that involve actively reaching out to groups and networks to attract diverse candidates. You can find specific resources on how to attract a diverse candidate pool in this article.

The search plan should also specify how the search committee will ultimately pick a candidate for the position and what criteria it will weigh. The committee can rank its selection criteria in terms of departmental priorities. In addition, committees should agree upon the system of ranking applicants (such as on a scale from 1 to 5).

If your institution has specific requirements for how searches should be conducted and how hiring decisions should be made, the search plan would also need to include these requirements.

For example, if your institution requires a certain number of interviews or a practice lecture before students, be sure your plan explicitly incorporates these steps.

You’ll also want your search plan to spell out the hiring timeline, which is built backwards from when you want the new hire to start.

Implement the Plan and Monitor the Candidate Pool

With the plan in hand, the search committee should post the job opening on all planned platforms and begin personal outreach to increase applications.

To ensure you’re on track to achieve your diversity goals, you can regularly monitor the number and diversity of applications received. You may also want to compare the diversity of the candidate pool to the known diversity within a field.

For example, if the opening is in biology, you would want to compare the relative percentage of female applicants in your pool to the relative percentage of female graduates with a biology PhD (which was 51.4% in 2019).

If only 25% of your candidates for this position are female, then you’ll want to take corrective actions to increase the percentage of women in your pool before the submission period closes.

Review Applications, Conduct Interviews, and Select a Candidate

Your search committee likely will have begun reviewing applications while the submission period was open, and after the submission date closes, the search committee would review any remaining applications.

If you still haven’t met your diversity goals, you might also solicit applications from specific qualified individuals.

Depending on your search plan, you might then create a long list of candidates based on the previously established criteria and conduct remote interviews. This process would in turn inform your short list of candidates.

The remaining steps of the process, including interviews and candidate selection, would follow the procedures you established in your search plan.

As you begin to weigh candidates, be careful not to commit these cognitive errors, including over-reliance on a first impression or falling prey to group-think.

Conversely, be sure to follow these additional best practices, including having a core set of questions you ask in each interview and interacting with faculty candidates in more than one context. 

You can also find best practices for this stage of recruitment and all the other stages in the Interfolio White Paper: The Modern Faculty Recruitment Playbook.

A Modern Approach to Faculty Recruitment

Before you start working on a massive Excel spreadsheet or binder to capture all the details of your new faculty recruitment process, you should consider that it’s much easier to capture and implement standard procedures through a digital platform.

With Interfolio Faculty Search, your institution can establish an easily accessible digital source of truth for applications and faculty hiring procedures and create digital workflows that ensure academic hiring follows those procedures across your institution.

At the same time, individual search committees can customize their search in a number of ways: establishing the exact evaluation criteria they will be using for their search; creating the position description and list of required materials; and pushing the job posting to specific groups and sites.

If you’re not sure where to advertise the position, the module can help with that too by collecting data on where applicants are finding your postings. You can then prioritize advertising spending on those sites that yield the biggest number of applicants.

Once the position is published and you begin receiving applications, you can easily monitor the diversity of the candidate pool because Faculty Search collects real-time, self-reported, anonymous demographic survey responses.

You can read more about how your peer institutions have benefited from adopting Faculty Search’s digital advantages by reading this eBook: Achieving Faculty Excellence through Recruitment and Hiring.

And if you’re interested in seeing firsthand how Interfolio Faculty Search can help you modernize your institution’s faculty recruitment, you can request a demo of the module.