Suggestions for search chairs and committees

Suggestions for search chairs and committees

The Application Process

  • Please, for the love of all that is sacred and beautiful, can we finally do away with having candidates send in reference letters during the first step of the application process? As a graduate student, I felt terrible asking people to send letters for dozens of applications. Now, as an Associate Professor, I experience how time consuming it actually is. Reference letters should come later in the process, if only to be a good colleague to our peers who already have piles of responsibilities!
  • Send out emails to applicants that thank them for applying, convey some basic information about your anticipated timeline, and give them some extra background information about the position and location. This can make it feel less impersonal and more like you’re trying to foster a relationship. 
  • Remember that you’re in competition with other institutions for top talent. Treat your candidates accordingly. Even small gestures of care can help your university stand out from the crowd.
Online Interviews

  • During online interviews, it is nice for the candidate when everyone on the committee is in the same room so that everyone can hear each other. 

  • Being reimbursed for plane travel can be tough as a graduate student. It can be hard giving up your whole stipend and then waiting for a reimbursement check to come a few months later. Many candidates just can’t afford to purchase their own travel and get reimbursed later.
Before the Campus Interview

  • Have a clearly-outlined schedule, including the names and titles of people, and try to give it to the candidate before their visit. This allows candidates to look up faculty and staff profiles and have questions ready. Faculty and staff names should match both their name on the website and the name they go by (if different). Give candidates a clear outline of all expected presentations and the expected parameters of those presentations. Don’t just assume they know what you are looking for. Give your candidates a chance to optimally prepare and know their audience before they arrive.
  • It is imperative to schedule bathroom and other breaks for the candidate. Do everything you can to protect those breaks and give the candidate some mental and physical down time during their very busy day(s). 
  • Be proactive in terms of asking the candidate what technology needs they will have. Also let them know what the technology setup and Internet access will be in the rooms in which they are presenting.
  • Time is a huge commodity, but ask the candidate what they would like to accomplish – and whom they would like to talk with – during their visit. For example, they may wish to see some schools or talk with administrators from the area.
  • Consider scheduling some time for the candidate with a real estate agent. It may only be an hour or two, but it can give the candidate some time to ask questions about the local community and schools without fear of upsetting any colleagues. 
  • Candidates may like to know the specific courses you are interested in having them teach. This can help frame their job talks and other conversations.
Campus Interviews

  • Be sure to personally pick up the candidate from the airport. Do not send an Uber or a taxi. Do not ask that they ‘make their own way.’ Impressions matter. The chair – or committee members – should be there to pick up and return the candidate to each and every event, including walks or drives to meetings and meals.
  • Have some swag ready for the candidate in their hotel when they check in. Even better, have a welcome bag with drinks, snacks, and information about the university for when they’re alone in the hotel and for their return flight. Give the bag to the candidate when you pick them up at the airport or have it waiting for them at the hotel. This is a welcomed gesture that speaks about the level of care from the search committee. It may seem insignificant but it does mean a lot to a candidate. 
  • All meals should be attended by someone from the college. Do not leave a candidate on their own unless you have checked that that is their preference. For example, if the interview wraps up at 5:00pm, rather than just drop the candidate off at the hotel, offer to take them out to eat at an interesting place around town. Candidates want to feel wanted, not to feel they are a burden.
  • Don’t overwhelm candidates at meals. For example, a meal can just be 1:1 and it can be really pleasant to get past the feeling of being on the stand and just talk about research and teaching. 
  • Some candidates may dislike having an early breakfast before the longest day of the visit, especially after a late dinner! 
  • A back-to-back research talk and teaching example may be exhausting. 
    •  Alternative: This may allow the candidate to demonstrate in real time how their research directly influences their teaching. 
  • Having a graduate student give the candidate a campus tour can be helpful because it gives a different insight regarding what is notable and important. Candidates also can ask specifics about how students see the program and university.
  • Ask follow-up questions about candidates’ responses to interview questions in order to break up the feeling of a specific script.
  • Protect candidates’ time for the day. It can be an incredibly long day. Make sure that folks don’t go over their interview times and that candidates have time to rest when needed.
  • Don’t put unanticipated events (e.g., a surprise Q & A) on the schedule. Candidates didn’t mind answering questions, but they should know their schedule ahead of time.
  • Consider not scheduling lunch with faculty members right before candidates’ job talk. While it’s an opportunity to interact in a more relaxed setting, the candidate may be extra nervous, worried about not having time to set up and prepare, being too full, etc.
  • In your eagerness to land a good candidate, it may be tempting to extend a job offer in person before they leave you. Please wait until after the candidate is no longer with you. The pressure of that in-person interaction can be quite intimidating for candidates, particularly if they’re not interested in you or simply need more time to think about the offer and your university.
  • Please remember what it’s like to be a job candidate. They’re nervous and know little about your institution. Treat them with basic humanity and extra care. For example, don’t do things like this:
    • At one university, they changed the schedule midstream. Rather than having a potluck lunch with the School of Education right before my presentation, they had me do the talk while everyone else was eating. Not only was it hard to present over the hustle and bustle, I was shaking with hunger! Adding insult to injury, people left after they were done eating, the food was completely gone, and I didn’t have an opportunity to talk to anyone or eat anything. It was terrible. Believe it or not, I got the offer. The dean was incensed (literally yelled at me) when I said, ‘I appreciate the offer, but no thank you.’
    • At one university, I had to make my own way to the hotel, to campus, and back to the airport. At almost every meeting, faculty were late and I just sat alone in the meeting room waiting for them. For my first-ever meeting with the faculty who would be my colleagues in the program, they not only were late, they also then plopped themselves down as far away from me as possible, looked at each other, and said, ‘Who are we meeting with today?’ as they ignored the fact that I was right in front of them. Needless to say, I didn’t accept their job offer.
  • Your candidates are ostensibly your future colleagues. Remember that they’re interviewing you too. If you treat them poorly or carelessly during the application process, what can they expect once they’re there?