Building a Diverse Pool of Candidates

Search Committee Activity before the Search Begins

Generating a large pool of talented and qualified candidates is the single most vital step in conducting a successful search.  Participants must take an active role to identify and recruit candidates and not leave a stone unturned in seeking out applicants.

Reviewing the National Pool – take steps to identify the national pools of qualified candidates for the field as a whole and for subfields in which you are considering hiring.  Subfield pools are sometimes quite different from overall pools.  If applicable, identify any institutions or individuals that are especially successful at producing doctorates and/or post-doctorates from groups that are underrepresented in the department.  Recruit actively from those sources as well.

Reviewing Past Searches find out how members of underrepresented groups have applied for past positions in the department, as a percentage of the total applicant pool.  Find out how many members of underrepresented groups have been brought to campus for interviews in previous searches.  If members of underrepresented groups have been hired in recent searches, ask the search committees, the department chair, and the recently hired faculty or staff member how they were successfully recruited.  If members of underrepresented groups have been offered positions, but have turned them down, attempt to find out why they turned them down.  Find out what happened to members of underrepresented groups were not offered positions in previous searches.  Where are they now?

Recruitment Activities: Search Chair/Search Committee Responsibilities

Broadening the Pool

View your committee’s task as including a process of generating a pool rather than merely tapping it. This may be accomplished by having committee members attend presentations at national meetings and develop a more diverse list of potential future candidates based on those meetings. Candidates identified in this way may be in any field, not necessarily the one targeted for a particular search.

  • Keep in mind that some highly ranked universities have only recently begun actively to produce women and underrepresented PhDs.  Therefore, consider candidates from a wide range of institutions.
  • Consider reopening or intensifying the search if the pool of applicants does not include any female or minority candidates who will be seriously considered by the search committee.

Using Active Recruitment Practices

  • Place announcements using electronic job-posting services, websites, listservs, journals, and publications, particularly those targeted at diverse groups such as minority and women’s caucuses or professional networks in your discipline or field. 
  • Make personal contacts, including women and underrepresented individuals, at professional conferences and invite them to apply.
  • Contact colleagues at other institutions to seek nominations of students nearing graduation or others interested in moving laterally, making sure to request inclusion of underrepresented groups and women.
  • Identify suitable faculty at other institutions, particularly women and underrepresented faculty who may currently be under-placed, and send position announcements directly to them.
  • Contact relevant professional organizations for rosters listing women and underrepresented people receiving Ph.D.’s (or other relevant degrees) in the academic field.  Be aware that most academic fields have resources— listservs, email groups, etc.—that can help you identify or reach qualified women and underrepresented candidates.

Conducting a Fair Selection Process

  • Documenting the search process through systematic tracking of the search committee’s interaction with applicants is not only helpful to the committee, but the resulting records may be useful in the future.
  • Develop a standard form that summarizes each candidate’s progress during the search process (e.g., nominated, applied, reviewed, failed to meet minimum qualifications, shortlisted, interviewed, eliminated, etc.)
  • Maintain official minutes of search committee meetings.  These can be brief, but they should document general criteria established by the search committee and their decision-making process.
  • Keep copies of letters and advertisements, especially those efforts made to recruit women and underrepresented candidates
  • Ensure evaluations, interviews, and reference checks are consistent by developing standard forms and standard questions for these activities.
  • Ensure that documentation provides rationales for search committee decisions and recommendations.  This can be as extensive as notes to the candidate files, or as brief as a line in the search committee minutes (e.g., “The search committee decided to limit interviews to those candidates having more than ten years of teaching experience”). 
  • Notes should indicate specific job-related reasons for selection or non-selection.

Communicating promptly and courteously with Applicants 

Be courteous and responsive to applicants who seek information about the position, WCU in general, University divisions, colleges, department, and/or the local community. Keep applicants informed on the progress of the search (especially if it is taking longer than expected). We make friends for the University by treating applicants with thoughtfulness - no matter how ill-suited an applicant may be for a particular position. However, it is extremely important to be consistent in the information you share with applicants. Be careful to give the same level of detail to applicants especially concerning the application process. Remember, sometimes less is more. Standardize the information that is communicated to applicants by only having the search committee chair make any necessary contacts with applicants. Treat internal candidates just like the external candidates.

Once the search committee begins evaluating candidates, members should end their contact with individual applicants and direct applicants to the search chair. A notification letter can be sent to each applicant, once the individual is no longer under consideration for the position. For example, applicants who are no longer being considered after an initial screening can be notified at that point. You don’t have to wait until an offer is actually made. However, be careful not to eliminate a person from consideration too early. If you wait until a final candidate is selected, try to notify candidates as soon as possible before any formal public announcements about the selected candidate are made. All interviewed candidates must be notified in writing that they were not selected. Consider regular phone and/or e-mail contact with applicants in whom you are especially interested. You don’t have to have any particular news; just keeping in touch is an effective recruitment strategy if the process seems to be taking unusually long.

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