Click here to download “Conducting Inclusive Faculty Searches: A Concise Guide.”
See below for detailed, topic-by-topic guidance on best practices for conducting inclusive faculty searches.
Faculty excellence is central to the pursuit of Georgia State University’s strategic plan, including its update in 2016. To assist departments and colleges in achieving excellence in faculty recruitment and selection through the use of equitable, inclusive, lawful, and rigorous processes, this guidance synthesizes best practices drawn from both academic and human resources contexts. This guidance is intended to help inform departments and colleges about contemporary practices in recruitment and selection; accordingly, it is kept distinct from required hiring procedures and forms, which are housed separately on our website. The guidance offered here can be adapted to the unique needs of individual positions, departments, and colleges as they carry out their missions in support of the university’s strategic plan. This guidance supplements resources already available to departments and colleges and is applicable to both tenure-track and non-tenure track faculty positions.
At Georgia State, faculty recruitment and selection are carried out by individuals with varied backgrounds, including faculty members, department chairs, staff, and academic administrators. To assist this collaborative effort, this guidance provides a common vocabulary rooted in contemporary practices, and it outlines ways in which these practices can effectively be applied to a faculty context. An important starting point is a shared understanding of three key phases in this process:
|Think of it like marshaling evidence for a scholarly argument – the more evidence you obtain, from a wider array of sources, the stronger your argument can be||Think of it like a rubric – to ensure that you grade student work consistently and fairly, outline the criteria for strong work and develop a clear evaluation system|
Key topics include:
Key topics include:
Key topics include:
Faculty Hiring Policy
The guiding principles for faculty hiring at Georgia State University as outlined in the Faculty Hiring Policy are:
- To recruit and appoint faculty to advance the university’s strategic goals;
- To ensure that faculty recruitment, selection, and appointment are conducted in accordance with all relevant federal and state laws, and BOR and Georgia State University policies;
- To support the university’s goals of inclusive excellence through intentional efforts to attract diverse applicant pools; and
- To permit review and authorization of academic position requests with respect to budget and program priorities.
Our efforts to recruit and select faculty take place in a larger context of federal laws, state laws, and university policies. The resources gathered here will further compliance with both the letter and spirit of these laws and policies.
Search committee members can assist in this process by reviewing Georgia State’s statement on equal opportunity and affirmative action:
“It continues to be the policy of Georgia State University to implement affirmative action and equal opportunity for all employees, students and applicants for employment or admission without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, sexual orientation, veteran status or disability.
The university’s affirmative action program and related policies are developed in compliance with Executive Orders 11246 and 11375, as amended; the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Sections 503 & 504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title 11) and their implementing regulations; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967; and the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, as it amends 38 U.S.C. 4212.
In conformance with the federal regulations listed above, Georgia State University does not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment or against any student or applicant for admission with regard to any opportunity for which the employee or student is qualified. Persons wishing to file complaints under the provisions of this policy should contact the AVP of Opportunity Development/Diversity Education Planning, 1 Park Place SE Suite 527, Atlanta, Georgia 30303-3085, 404-413-2569.
Every member of this university community is expected to uphold this policy as a matter of mutual respect and fundamental fairness in human relations. The policy has my unequivocal support. I expect all members of the staff, faculty and student body to join me in order to ensure that nondiscriminatory practices are followed at Georgia State University.
Mark P. Becker, President”
Affirmative action in employment is sometimes misconceived as a quota system or preferential hiring. At Georgia State, affirmative action referenced in the statement above “requires that special efforts be made to employ and advance in employment qualified women and minorities in areas where they are employed in fewer number than is consistent with their availability in the relevant labor market. Affirmative action also extends to persons with disabilities and disabled or Vietnam era veterans. The University seeks to employ and promote qualified candidates. Consistent with this practice, affirmative action requires that where the best candidates for a position are otherwise equally well qualified, the individual(s) selected should be the one(s) who will contribute to the achievement of affirmative action goals” (see AA/EEO Definitions). The legal basis of affirmative action in employment is summarized at ODDEP Federal and State Laws.
The areas where women, minorities, persons with disabilities, and disabled or Vietnam era veterans are employed in fewer numbers than is consistent with their availability in the relevant labor market are highlighted in Georgia State University’s Affirmative Action Plan. Efforts to remove barriers to the employment of women, minorities, persons with disabilities, and disabled or Vietnam era veterans commonly include expanded efforts in outreach and recruitment to increase the pool of qualified individuals from these groups. Relevant guidance is available through Spreading the Word about Your Faculty Position and Recruitment as an Ongoing Process.
Equal Employment Opportunity
This refers to the right of persons to apply and be evaluated for employment opportunities without regard to race, color, religion, age, national origin, sex, disability, or status of a disabled or Vietnam Era Veteran. It guarantees everyone the right to be considered solely on the basis of his or her ability to perform the duties of the job in question, with or without reasonable accommodations as appropriate. Equal Employment Opportunity does not involve preferences (see AA/EEO Definitions). The legal basis of equal employment opportunity is summarized at ODDEP Federal and State Laws.
A well-written faculty job announcement provides a solid foundation for the consideration of applicants solely on the basis of their abilities to perform the duties of the job in question. Please see the Concise Guide to Faculty Job Announcements, with particular attention to section 4, Qualifications.
In compliance with federal law and the University System of Georgia’s records retention policy, recruitment records must be retained for three years after the search is completed. Relevant materials include:
- Approvals of recruitment proposals
- Copies of Affirmative Action compliance data forms
- Requests to fill academic position forms
- Approval to hire forms
- Curricula vitae
- Samples of writing or publications
- Candidate lists
- Position announcements
- Position advertisements
- Position descriptions
- Certificates of Eligibility
- Interview materials: schedules, rating sheets, tallies, screening and interview notes, review committee notes and memoranda
- Telephone conversation notes
- Related correspondence, such as cover letters and reference letters
Retention of these records is important not only to document Georgia State’s compliance with relevant employment laws, but also to support an ongoing evaluation of the efficacy of past recruitment efforts.
Departments can expand and diversify the pool of qualified applicants they generate for a search if they are proactive in their efforts and engage in recruitment on a continuous basis. This means using recruitment strategies well before beginning a search. Effective ongoing recruitment strategies focus on developing strong personal and institutional relationships over time, rather than beginning to identify and engage applicants only after a search is approved.
Departments that employ these recruitment strategies in advance of a particular search understand that the applicant pool is what they make it. For example, departments seeking to diversify their faculty identify institutions or individuals that have fostered women and underrepresented scholars and build relationships with them well in advance of a search.
5 Ongoing Recruitment Strategies
Here are five ongoing recruitment strategies to consider using before initiating any particular search:
- Create informal networking opportunities by holding symposia that bring 3-5 young promising scholars to your department to give a presentation and enjoy a dinner or reception with your faculty and graduate students. Graduate students can play a key role in organizing the symposia, and they can mentor their younger colleagues in taking on this responsibility.
- At conferences, identify and talk with graduate students and faculty at other institutions, including women and underrepresented scholars. Maintain a list of these scholars and invite some to speak at Georgia State. Even if they’re not currently seeking a faculty position, these scholars, their students, or their colleagues may become applicants, or they may nominate their students for a faculty position after learning about our research profile, diverse students, and advantageous location. It is therefore crucial to address scholars working in any subfield, including those for which you have no immediate hiring need.
- Identify an academic department at a possible feeder institution and have your faculty visit the department, talk to their undergraduate majors about graduate study at Georgia State, and talk to graduate students and faculty informally. Explore the possibility of organizing a co-sponsored symposium, collaborative research experiences, or similar partner activities, which will deepen and sustain these relationships with students and faculty over time. Departments seeking to diversify their faculty should identify and partner with institutions that attract and support women and historically underrepresented students.
- Partner with related departments at Georgia State to host a short conference to expose nearby doctoral students and faculty to our campus and community. Consider a conference theme with cross-disciplinary appeal, appeal for underrepresented students, and/or appeal for those committed to advancing diversity and inclusion in higher education. Include ample time in the schedule for networking and informal exchanges of ideas and experiences. Develop strategies for fostering the relationships initiated at the conference over time. Funding opportunities for research-focused conferences are listed below.
- Hold Professional Development Workshops open and advertised to graduate students from nearby institutions who will be on the job market in 1-2 years. Departments seeking to diversify their faculty should attract, engage, and support graduate students who are committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in higher education. Include meals and modest support for their travel expenses.
Specific examples of several of these strategies can be found in Breakthrough Advances in Faculty Diversity, Education Advisory Board, 2008 (requires guest login).
A Shared Responsibility
Ongoing recruitment requires time, and becomes feasible when it is a responsibility shared by department members. These steps can build a department culture of shared responsibility for active recruitment:
- Develop an expectation that faculty use every professional trip as an opportunity for recruitment. Ask faculty to report or share their efforts and contacts with the department.
- Encourage all faculty members to contact colleagues or use social media for recruitment purposes.
- Follow Georgia State’s Psychology Department and establish a department diversity committee. It can be charged with ongoing recruitment, among other related faculty and student diversity initiatives, and it can help ensure that the interests of faculty and students are successfully integrated in faculty recruitment efforts.
- Pool resources with other Georgia State departments. Consider hosting interdisciplinary events with related departments in your college or another college.
- Share this 7-minute video overview of recruitment practices with your colleagues to broaden departmental knowledge of contemporary faculty recruitment and selection practices.
Registries and Key Institutions
There are numerous registries or databases of doctoral and postdoctoral scholars that may help in ongoing recruitment efforts. Examples include:
- The National Registry of Diverse and Strategic Faculty – A subscription is required to access this database.
- Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities ProTalento Professional Résumé Database – Access résumés for a modest per-month fee.
- The Black Doctoral Network – Clearinghouse for African Americans holding or pursiung doctoral degrees.
Internal funding for research-focused conferences at Georgia State is available through URSA’s Internal Grants Program. External funding opportunities for conferences, seminars, and workshops include:
- Spencer Conference Grants
- Wenner-Gren Workshop Grants
- NIH Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Conference grants
- NIH National Institute for Occupational Health Safety and Health Support for Conferences and Scientific Meetings
- NSF Regional Research Conference in the Mathematical Sciences
- FDA Scientific Conference Grants
Consider partnering with corporate or community organizations to sponsor seminars, professional development workshops, or similar programs with a recruitment component.
This concise guidance synthesizes required language and recommendations based on best practices used at GSU and other universities. This guidance is general and is designed to be adaptable to a broad range of full-time faculty positions at GSU to help you attract large, diverse pools of applicants who are well-qualified for the job responsibilities. The exact wording and realization of any one announcement will vary based on the proportion of teaching, research, and service responsibilities for the open faculty position.
Organizing your job announcement in the following 6 sections will help you attract a large, diverse, and highly-qualified applicant pool and give your search committee a clear structure for its work.
1. Compelling Opening Paragraph
Your opening paragraph should generate enthusiasm about the position by:
- describing in a compelling and distinctive way the new hire’s contributions to the department/college/university’s strategic initiative(s) and vision and
- conveying a supportive environment for the new hire.
To do this:
- Highlight how the new hire will contribute to something – often a specific, forward-looking strategic initiative
- Convey how the new hire will be part of a team, cohort, or other supportive community
- Say what resources will be available to support the new hire’s success (e.g., facilities, a center, groups of people, time/financial support)
- Smoothly incorporate the position title in this section
2. Describing GSU
This second paragraph will ideally reinforce themes in the opening paragraph. Here is an example:
Georgia State University, an enterprising R-1 university located in Atlanta, is a national leader in using innovation to drive student success and research growth. Enrolling and graduating one of the most diverse student bodies in the nation, Georgia State provides its world-class faculty and more than 50,000 students unsurpassed research, teaching, and learning opportunities in one of the 21st century’s great global cities.
Include a clear and concise paragraph stating the job responsibilities or duties. Consider how the language you use here sustains or breaks the welcoming and supportive tone established in the first paragraph.
An example for a teaching-focused position is “The selected candidate can anticipate teaching X, Y, and Z courses and participating in service at the program, department. . . . level.”
An example for a position with significant research responsibilities is “The selected candidate will be responsible for maintaining an active, funded research agenda, teaching X and Y courses, and . . .”
For immigration compliance purposes, “The duties will include teaching, research, and service responsibilities in the areas of . . .” is an acceptable statement.
The qualifications instantly shape the size and make-up of the applicant pool. They are essential to equitable and lawful selection processes.
The search committee’s work will be clarified and implicit bias can be interrupted more effectively if the announcement includes 2 bulleted lists of qualifications: essential and preferred.
- Applicants must have all essential qualifications to be considered for screening interviews. This list should address education and key skills and experiences that are truly essential to perform this specific job at GSU. Because this list of essential qualifications will be used for the first screening stage, it should not be excessively long or restrictive.
- The preferred qualifications outline key skills and experiences that predict an ability to perform this job at GSU better. Well-written preferred qualifications provide multiple ways for applicants from diverse backgrounds to demonstrate their ability to perform the job at this higher level. The preferred qualifications may be used to develop multiple short lists enabling the search committee to consider applicants with varied strengths. It is not necessarily expected that the finalists invited to campus interviews will possess all the preferred qualifications.
Qualifications should support the themes in the opening paragraph and the paragraph about GSU.
In an open rank announcement, indicate what qualifications are needed for each rank.
Criteria used in all stages of the selection process will be developed from these lists of qualifications.
5. Application Materials
Consider these questions when choosing what application materials to request:
- What kind of barrier or burden does producing a particular piece of evidence place, on whom? How might that exclude or disadvantage certain applicants?
- How may a particular piece of evidence reveal more about an individual applicant’s interest in, and suitability for, your position at GSU?
- How much time will it take someone to assemble all these materials up front? Will that turn qualified individuals away from applying?
Here is a simple way of obtaining evidence specifically related to the qualifications at the outset of the selection process without excessively burdening or turning away applicants:
Submit: 1) a letter of application addressing the essential and preferred qualifications; 2) curriculum vitae; 3) [see table below] and 4) names, email addresses, telephone numbers, and titles of at least three professional references.
Sources of Evidence Supporting Selection Criteria
For Research-Related Criteria
For Teaching/Student-Related Criteria
For Other Criteria
|Letter addressing qualifications||Letter addressing qualifications||Letter addressing qualifications|
|Research statement||Teaching statement||Leadership philosophy|
|Letter of recommendation||Letter of recommendation||Letter of recommendation|
|Research sample(s)||Video of teaching, sample teaching materials||Licenses or certifications|
|Student evaluations||Leadership statement|
|Diversity/equity statement||Diversity/equity statement||Diversity/equity statement|
|Unofficial transcripts||Unofficial transcripts||Unofficial transcripts|
|Skype/WebEx interviews||Skype/WebEx interviews||Skype/WebEx interviews|
|Reference calls||Reference calls||Reference calls|
|Research presentation||Teaching demonstration|
|Meetings with faculty, followed by feedback forms||Meetings with students, followed by feedback forms||Open forum, followed by feedback forms|
6. Closing Language
Closing language will vary according to the details of the particular search. In the following example, the required language is in bold.
Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled. To ensure consideration, submit all materials by DATE. Should you be recommended for a position, an offer of employment will be conditional on background verification. Wording here may also address other matters as required by your college or department.
Georgia State University is an Equal Opportunity Employer and does not discriminate against applicants due to race, ethnicity, gender, veteran status, or on the basis of disability or any other federal, state or local protected class. As a university with a diverse student body, we encourage applications from women, minorities, and individuals with a history of mentoring under-represented minorities in DISCIPLINE.
Please note that how the position is advertised can have a great impact on GSU’s ability to hire and sponsor the permanent residency of international applicants. Before finalizing your position announcement, please consult the guidance provided by the International Student and Scholar Services.
The search committee plays several important roles:
- It has a powerful role in determining which applicants are given further consideration.
- It represents the department, the college, and Georgia State as a whole, both directly through its interactions and communications with applicants, and indirectly as applicants share their experiences with their immediate colleagues, their discipline, and the broader community of academic job-seekers.
- Each committee member can be an important resource for the selected candidate when acclimating to Georgia State.
For all these reasons, departments should form their committees by considering factors in addition to disciplinary expertise. Effective search committees include:
- A diversity of perspectives
- A diversity of expertise
- Demographic diversity
- Members who have demonstrated a commitment to diversity and inclusion through their teaching, research, and/or service
In particular, the Faculty Hiring Policy encourages departments to include women and underrepresented minorities on faculty search committees. Diverse search committee membership helps ensure that a balance of perspectives is used when evaluating applicants and when determining whether to extend a search at a particular point. It also sends an important message to applicants about the department’s—and Georgia State’s—commitment to creating and supporting a diverse and inclusive community.
Who Can Be on a Faculty Search Committee?
Possible Members beyond Department Faculty
Benefits of Inclusion
|Faculty from other department(s) or college(s)||
|Member of the larger community||
All search committee members, regardless of faculty, student, staff, or community member status, must be fully involved in the search, including the evaluation of candidates and the development and use of interview questions. Committee members from non-faculty backgrounds should not be given secondary or secretarial roles.
Spreading the word about a faculty position now encompasses many strategies beyond traditional advertising. Print advertisements cannot be relied on as primary means of generating a large, diverse, and robust applicant pool. Job announcements and links should be shared through:
- Social media
- Emails to relevant groups, including
- Special interest groups of your discipline’s national organization(s)
- Affinity groups of professionals in your field
- Online posting on national, general academic job boards (e.g., HigherEdJobs)
- Online communications targeting women and/or minority scholars
- See the UC Davis online directory of Resources to Broaden Candidate Pools
- Print and/or electronic advertisements in academic journals
- Personal outreach by email and/or phone
- Invite scholars to apply
- Ask colleagues for nominations; specifically ask for the inclusion of women and underrepresented nominees
To make using a broad range of these strategies feasible, involve the rest of your department, including both faculty members and graduate students. See Recruitment as an Ongoing Process for ways they can assist.
Keep this broad range of strategies in mind and indicate how you will use them in Appendix B of the Faculty Vacancy Packet when prompted to list “the types and names of media and other methods of advertising, affirmative action, strategies, organizations, committees, associations and individuals contacted to generate a diverse and qualified pool, etc.) List all ad sources, including print ad and target recruitment ad sources.”
Generating a Large, Diverse Pool of Applicants
This broad range of strategies is needed to effectively engage:
- members of a multi-generational workforce who communicate in varied ways,
- scholars engaged in interdisciplinary work and active beyond the “major” disciplinary organization(s) of an individual department,
- applicants who have pursued varied academic and professional trajectories relevant to the discipline,
- demographically diverse applicants, including women and underrepresented minorities, and
- both active- and passive-jobseekers.
Reaching across these varied groups creates a large and diverse pool of applicants.
Online and personal communications that target women and minority scholars are important for all searches. These techniques will both enlarge and diversify the pool. More diverse applicant pools positively impact biases that are often at play in the consideration of individual women and underrepresented minority applicants who progress through the short-list stage to the finalist stage (Heilman 1980, Van Ommeren 2005; Johnson, Hekman, and Chan 2016).
Departments seeking to diversify their applicant pools should make a shared effort to target:
- Institutions serving diverse populations of graduate students
- Individual faculty known for effectively mentoring underrepresented doctoral students
- Affinity groups and online job-boards dedicated to reaching underrepresented scholars
Finally, the deadline established for the applications has a significant impact on the applicant pool. An “open until filled” search with a priority deadline for consideration can greatly assist in developing larger pools, and it can allow the search committee to continue its work without interruption should the pool be found insufficient at a particular stage in the selection process.
Minimum Advertising Requirements for Hiring Non-U.S. Citizens
Departments who may be interested in hiring a faculty member using an H-1B visa must follow the Department of Labor hiring requirements for permanent residency sponsorship. These requirements are detailed at U.S. Permanent Residency Faculty Advertisements.
A non-U.S. citizen will only be able to be hired if the job announcement and advertising plan meet U.S. Department of Labor requirements.
Placement of the Advertisement: You only need to use one of the below methods (online or print). You can post the position in more than one place (and you are encouraged to do so), but you must have at least one ad posted either online or in print that meets the following requirements:
Online Ad- Preferred Method
- Online ad must be in national professional journal for 30 calendar days, minimum. To be safe, do not count the days it was posted or taken down as part of the 30 days.
- Journal must have other employment advertisements
- It must be an actual journal. Advertising on sites such as higheredjobs.com does not meet the requirements.
- Print out of the webpage containing the ad on the first day of publication and the last date of publication and/or an invoice with the dates of publication.
- Must indicate the name of the online journal and web address.
- In a national, professional journal
- Journal must have other employment advertisements
- It must be an actual journal, not a compilation of job postings
- Submit the original copy or the tear sheet
- Must indicate the name of the journal and dates of publication
Advertisements must contain:
- Name of the Employer and Location. Ex. “Georgia State University, Department Name, City/State”
- Applicants must be directed to report or send resumes to a specific address. “Pointer ads” where they direct them to a website will not work.
- Please list the job title. You can advertise multiple positions on the same ad IF the multiple job titles are listed.
- The ad must explicitly state “teaching” as part of the job duties.
- Job Qualifications
- The advertisement must state earned terminal degree or professional credentials in a specific field or indicate a list of acceptable fields. If ABD is acceptable, it must state so in the ad as well as indicate a completion date.
- The advertisement must state minimum experience qualifications. “Preferred” qualifications MUST be met in order to show the hire was the “most qualified” candidate.
- The regulation does not require employers to run advertisements enumerating every job duty, requirement, and condition of employment. As long as the employer can demonstrate a true representation of the position listed and the advert, then that is most important. (Aka you need to be able to see that, in general, the requirements have been met)
For any one qualification included in the job announcement, what is the bar that candidates must meet to remain under consideration at the next stage in the process? Selection criteria answer this question.
Why Are Criteria Important?
Clearly articulated and documented selection criteria are the foundation of a consistent and equitable selection process (see Legal and Policy Context).
A systematic, criteria-based approach to evaluating applicants in the faculty selection process has several benefits over an approach that involves a rapid and possibly intuitive identification and separation of a top group of candidates. The latter approach may lead committees to overlook strong candidates who come from backgrounds different from those reflected in the department or have strengths that may not be immediately recognized. It can leave the committee without clear direction if some candidates can no longer be considered for any reason immediately before or after on-campus interviews, or if the committee decides to expand the pool at a later point by reviewing applications received after the priority deadline.
The type of methodical, consistent, and rigorous evaluation approach outlined here has additional strengths. Articulating criteria helps ensure that all committee members have a shared understanding of the qualifications and are prepared to evaluate applicants consistently. Criteria help ensure that applicants are measured against a consistent standard, rather than a shifting standard, or in relation to a “top” candidate. This, in turn, ensures that all members of the search committee have an equal voice and guards against forceful and opinionated committee members from disproportionately influencing the outcome. Clear criteria also help establish continuity in the evaluation process as other faculty and students join the process during on-campus interviews.
When to Develop Criteria
Committee members need to reach consensus on and establish clear criteria before reviewing applicants’ materials. These criteria are the foundation of the consistent and equitable selection process that follows.
Criteria can also be developed earlier in the process when the job announcement is drafted. This will ensure that the application materials requested in the announcement will give the committee sufficient information to evaluate all applicants using the criteria. It can also help create an announcement that communicates committee and department expectations more clearly to applicants, improving the quality of the applicant pool.
How to Develop Selection Criteria
Committees develop selection criteria from the qualifications listed in the job announcement. Committees can reach consensus on selection criteria by posing questions for discussion.
Examples of questions to help produce criteria used in the initial screening stages:
- If a PhD in “a related field” was included as an option in the essential qualifications, what are examples of those related fields?
- If an “ability” to do something was specified in one of the essential or preferred qualifications, what would demonstrating this ability look like in the initial application materials? To develop inclusive criteria, include multiple answers to this question based on committee members’ previous experiences with faculty searches.
- If “experience” doing something was specified in one of the essential or preferred qualifications, what would this experience look like in the initial application materials? To develop inclusive criteria, include multiple answers to this question based on committee members’ previous experiences with faculty searches.
Criteria also support later stages in the evaluation process. For example, criteria developed from teaching qualifications for use during on-campus interviews might focus on finalists’ ability to engage GSU students in learning.
It is recommended that search committees get broader departmental input when developing the criteria used in the selection process.
The Importance of Developing Inclusive Criteria
Criteria used in evaluating applicants must be job-related. The race or gender of candidates may not be factors considered in employment decisions (see Legal and Policy Context). However, it is important to consider in advance how the criteria developed for use in the selection process can have significant impacts on the diversity and range of skills represented by the short-listed candidates and finalists. Think carefully about what inclusive excellence means for your department and how certain criteria may include or exclude applicants from further consideration.
- In the absence of clear criteria, some committees may be inclined to exclude from further consideration candidates without a degree from a Tier 1 doctoral program, even those who have impressive publication and grants records. How would a closer and graduated evaluation of the quality of the applicants’ research have a different impact? And could these candidates who would have been otherwise excluded be able to bring additional strengths in teaching and mentoring students from diverse backgrounds?
- Consider the possible impact of criteria on those who have not followed traditional career patterns but may nevertheless be able to help your department reach its goals (e.g., someone whose academic career was interrupted but along the way gained significant practical experience or community experience)? These strengths could be instrumental in pursuing particular lines of research, in applying for certain types of grants and for supporting students from diverse backgrounds.
Questions when reviewing possible criteria:
- Is the criterion that you plan to use really essential for someone to succeed in this particular position?
- What strong performers might get excluded by this criterion? How could the criterion be reworded more inclusively?
Criteria restricted to or heavily privileging previous experience may significantly reduce the diversity of candidates who are interviewed. Instead, consider how criteria could be developed to enable a full consideration of the varied strengths of all candidates.
Relative Weight of the Criteria
The search committee should discuss and determine the relative importance of the criteria drawn from the essential or preferred qualifications before beginning to review applications. This will help ensure that a consistent process is used to evaluate applicants. Determining this weighting in advance will help mitigate the impact of bias in the attention given to various types of evidence and the individual strengths, weaknesses, or qualifications of applicants (see Recognizing and Interrupting Bias). In addition, it is unlikely that individual applicants will be rated highly on all criteria. Therefore, having a prioritization of criteria in place at the outset will help the committee determine how to evaluate applicants who have different strengths and combinations of strengths.
Search committees may wish to get departmental input on the relative importance of the selection criteria.
Using and Documenting Your Use of Criteria
The criteria developed above are key to the various stages of the review and selection process and we recommend that their use be documented in some form. Two recommended, complementary forms of documentation are:
1. Evaluation Forms
Criteria-based evaluation forms used at each stage of the selection process assist in recording the committee’s and others’ detailed evaluation of individual applicants. Use such forms when initially evaluating applicants, when creating one or more short lists of applicants to be invited to screening interviews, and then again when determining which of those short-listed applicants to invite for on-campus interviews. Similarly, criteria-based evaluation forms will assist in gathering clear evaluations from other department members invited to participate in finalists’ on-campus interviews. Committees may adapt the samples provided below or develop their own.
2. Cumulative Matrix
A summary of the decision-making process on a cumulative selection matrix serves several purposes. A cumulative matrix gives the committee quick access to the number and names of individuals who met criteria at previous stages of the process in the event that the committee later wants to consider additional individuals for screening or on-campus interviews. A cumulative matrix also helps document how the search has been conducted equitably using consistent job-related criteria to evaluate all applicants: A cumulative matrix commonly includes the committee’s evaluation of each applicant according to the agreed-upon selection criteria and the committee’s rationale for no longer considering each applicant, citing one or more specific job-related reasons that are rooted in the qualifications published in the job announcement. Committees may adapt the samples provided below or use department documents.
Options for Documentation
|Option A||Option B|
|Function and Format||
Requires lesser documentation
Forms refer to qualifications stated in the job announcement
Helps a committee recognize and interrupt bias more effectively (see Recognizing and Interrupting Bias)
Forms refer to more clear criteria elaborating the qualifications in the job announcement
Criteria document the search committee’s shared understanding of the qualifications as applied at each stage in the selection process
|Cumulative Matrix||Cumulative Matrix Using Qualifications||Cumulative Matrix Using Criteria Developed from Qualifications|
Specification of job-related criteria rooted in the published qualifications is important as committee members’ notes and documentation of the selection process may be scrutinized following the completion of the selection process in the event of litigation, an audit, or a public records request. In accordance with federal law and USG policy, documents from all stages of the recruitment and selection processes must be retained (see Legal and Policy Context). More detailed guidance regarding documentation is available here. While the examples in this resource were developed primarily with staff positions in mind, the same principles apply to faculty selection processes.
Developing these clear records of the evaluation process will also assist a reflective assessment of a unit’s past recruitment and selection efforts to inform and strengthen their future search processes.
Bias is a common factor in selection processes. For example, in a randomized double-blind study on gender bias, both male and female science faculty were equally likely to exhibit bias by rating male applicants more highly than identical applicants assigned female names. Academic psychologists reviewing CVs rated a male applicant higher in teaching, research, and service experience and were more likely to hire him than the equally qualified female applicant. And when names were randomly assigned to résumés, applicants with “white-sounding names” were more likely to be invited for a job interview than equally qualified applicants with “African-American sounding names” (Moss-Racusin, et al., 2012; R. Steinpreis, et al., 1999; Bertrand and Mullainathan 2004).
Both explicit and implicit biases—the beliefs that we consciously endorse and the biases that operate below our conscious awareness—can have major impacts on the outcomes of individual selection processes. Cumulatively, they can have even greater impacts on the faculty that make up a department and a university. Biases in perception and attention can fuel quick, inaccurate, and poorly substantiated determinations about applicants. They can unconsciously influence how much attention is paid or not paid to particular types of evidence among all the materials submitted, which strengths and weaknesses of individual applicants receive the most consideration, and how particular qualifications are perceived. As a result, these biases often lead to the elimination of qualified women, underrepresented minority applicants, and applicants with non-traditional career paths at various stages of the selection process.
To be better prepared to recognize bias in the selection process, committee members may wish to watch this 5-minute, research-based video summarizing bias in faculty searches, created by Ohio State University.
Here are some specific types of biases and related cognitive errors and shortcuts that lead to poor quality decision-making during the selection process:
Bias, Cognitive Error, or Shortcut
|Similarity Bias or Cloning||Preference for those we perceive to be like us or have similar experiences to us.|
|Provincialism||Undervaluing something outside one’s own circle or group.|
|Positive Stereotypes||Based on stereotypes, individual members of dominant groups are presumed competent or receive the benefit of the doubt when questions arise.|
|Negative Stereotypes||Based on stereotypes, individual women and members of underrepresented minority groups receive more scrutiny and may be tacitly held to a higher standard of work.|
|Euphemized Bias||The application of different standards to applicants from dominant groups and non-dominant groups is disguised through vague language such as “star,” “visionary,” and “fit.”|
|Contrast Effect||Evaluating one applicant in relation to another one, rather than in relation to the qualifications and criteria.|
|Groupthink||The emergence of consensus influences an individual member’s view.|
|Group Momentum||A rush to reach consensus prevents other views from being heard.|
|Snap Judgments||Rapid assessment and emphasis on certain pieces of evidence often resulting in devaluing an applicant for insignificant reasons or ignoring their strengths.|
|Halo Effect||One highly rated aspect of an applicant’s qualifications generates an overall strong evaluation, regardless of other evidence.|
|Horn Effect||One poorly rated aspect of an applicant’s qualifications generates an overall weak evaluation, regardless of other evidence.|
|Recency Effect||Judgment is excessively influenced by recently received information.|
|Primacy Effect||Judgment is excessively influenced by initially received information.|
|Tendency to seek or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions, while ignoring or undervaluing the relevance of information that contradicts one’s preconceptions.|
|Attribution Bias||Attributing the cause of one’s actions to the person, not the situation.|
Committee members can register to watch and discuss this 6-minute video created by the University of Washington to see how bias may shape a search committee’s decision-making (requires guest login to access).
- Which of the biases, shortcuts, and cognitive errors listed above occur as you watch this mock search committee’s deliberations?
- What other dynamics among the members are having an impact on the trajectory of their discussion?
Bias in Reference Letters
Bias can enter the search process not only in committee members’ evaluations and committee deliberations, but also in recommendation letters that are submitted and used as evidence during the selection process. Bias in recommendation letters can be mitigated by using reference calls as an additional source of information and engaging in careful consideration of many types of written evidence to ensure the use of balanced information on the qualifications of all applicants.
Search committee members can learn more by reviewing this short video created by the University of Oregon on reading for and mitigating bias in recommendation letters.
We can interrupt and mitigate bias throughout the selection process by taking steps to address the conditions that often encourage it. We can:
- Reduce ambiguity by clarifying the structures being used for decision-making
- Reduce cognitive overload on committee members
- Reduce time constraints commonly placed on the decision-making process
Several of the recommendations discussed elsewhere in this online guidance are in fact designed to help interrupt and mitigate bias.
Create a Structure That Supports Clear Decision-Making
Such a structure can be created when criteria are established and prioritized prior to the review of applications, and when evaluation templates are well-designed, ideally reflecting the prioritization of criteria and including prompts to consider a broad range of evidence.
Search committee members can assist by holding one another to high standards when applying these criteria with available evidence. For example, are committee members introducing a threshold of a Tier 1 graduate program as a short-cut to evaluating applicants’ research qualifications?
Ask Questions to Clarify Decision-Making
During deliberations, search committee members can prompt one another to explain themselves in relation to the agreed-upon criteria when vague descriptors such as “bad fit,” “great fit,” “star,” or “visionary” surface. If the committee is discussing the importance of finding a “good colleague,” committee members can stop and ask what that means, and how, if at all, it relates to the qualifications included in the job announcement. This questioning can mitigate euphemized bias. Specifying key qualities will assist in maintaining a fair and consistent decision-making process.
In the course of decision-making, search committee members can periodically stop and genuinely ask, “What is the evidence for the opposite conclusion?” This question can interrupt and mitigate confirmation bias.
At various points in the selection process, search committee members can pause and reflect:
- Have women and minority applicants have been held to a different standard?
- Have applicants from outside prestigious research universities have been undervalued in the selection process?
- Have assumptions or inferences about an applicant’s family responsibilities negatively impacted the evaluation of their qualifications and abilities? (Moody 2007; Fine and Handelsman 2012)
Allow Sufficient Time and Attention for Thoughtful Review
An emphasis on making offers before competing institutions do can result in poor quality evaluations of applicants. So can competing demands on reviewers’ attention. Here are several proactive ways to shape the use of time in a thoughtful evaluation process:
- Gain time for thoughtful review by using technology to simplify the mechanics of review processes; examples include uniform evaluation sheets or automating an anonymous pooling of comments and ratings from department members on finalists.
- Create intermediate deadlines to reduce reviewers’ tendency to postpone and rush their evaluations; prompt them to allow sufficient time (15-20 minutes) to review each file (Martell 1991).
- Slow down the pace of conversations during deliberations to mitigate biases and cognitive errors.
Pause before Creating the Short List
Creating a short list directly from the full list of those applicants who meet the advertised essential qualifications may introduce bias and may prevent the committee from taking additional time to consider applicants from less traditional backgrounds or career paths who may make valuable contributions to the department.
There are two recommended alternatives that can help ensure a fairer review and prevent or slow the creation of a homogeneous short list from a diverse applicant pool:
- Make a medium list first. Review it and ask if bias may have played a role, for example, in eliminating women and underrepresented minority applicants, before proceeding to the next step in the selection process.
- Make multiple short lists, each created from those applicants who were rated highly on a different criterion. Then select applicants from all those short lists for further consideration. This approach can help mitigate the halo effect.
The committee can introduce checkpoints in the selection process to stop and assess whether bias or different standards may have impacted the extent to which women and underrepresented minorities remain under consideration. Doing so can have significant ramifications on the outcome of the search process: when women or minorities comprise less than one quarter of the applicant pool (or group of finalists) they are more likely to be negatively influenced by reviewers’ gender (or racial) assumptions and much less likely to be offered a job (Heilman 2005; Van Ommeren 2005; Johnson, Hekman, and Chan 2016). One such checkpoint can be before conducting screening interviews.
If necessary, the recruitment phase of the search can be extended and/or the short list can be expanded. However, such delays can be avoided or minimized by wording, advertising, and sharing the position from the outset in ways that will generate a diverse pool.
It is essential to maintain a fair, objective, and consistent selection process. This can become more difficult when an applicant is known to one or more of those involved in the selection process. If a search committee member knows an applicant, the member should:
- Tell the committee at the outset.
- Assess whether or not he or she will be able to be a “fair evaluator.”
- If the search committee member feels unable to be a “fair evaluator,” the member should tell the committee. The committee can discuss the option of the member abstaining from consideration of the applicant.
The following tips may help search committees conduct and document effective screening interviews while keeping applicants informed about the search process.
Consider carefully where and how you conduct interviews of the candidates on your short list(s). While convention interviews may still be common in your discipline, due to factors of cost and distance, they may exclude qualified candidates who can help a department achieve its goals. In addition, not all committee members can be present at an in-person convention interview, reducing the opportunity for multiple perspectives to be taken into consideration when evaluating the candidates. The many distractions and competing interests may not help you or the candidates for their best foot forward. In addition, convention interviews eliminate a valuable opportunity to show candidates attractive aspects of Georgia State’s environment.
Videoconferencing is now commonly used for screening interviews in academia. Both WebEx and Skype for Business provide strong alternatives to convention interviews. Consider holding these interviews in a location that illustrates Georgia’s State contemporary facilities.
Develop a list of questions for the short-list interview and ask all of them, in the same order, of all those you interview at this stage. This structured interview format helps ensure an equitable process. Internal or known candidates should be treated in the same way and asked the same questions as other candidates. Committee members may also ask follow-up questions, such as those designed to elicit clarification or elaboration of individual candidate’s response.
Questions are best developed from the qualifications and job duties listed in the publicly circulated job announcement. Include as part of your question list a question prompting each candidate to add any other comments or information that they would like to share at this time and a prompt for them to ask one or more questions of the search committee.
Begin each interview by letting the candidate know the structure of the interview and then prompting committee members to introduce themselves to the candidate. Conclude by letting each candidate know the next step(s) and thanking them for their interest in the position.
All committee members should review this guide to appropriate and inappropriate inquiries during the selection process. This guide pertains to both the list of questions planned for the interview, follow-up questions, and less formal exchanges that may occur, especially during on-campus interviews.
When deliberating over the short-list interviews and how they have provided additional evidence of candidates’ qualifications, refer once again to the committee’s agreed-upon criteria and document the committee’s decisions clearly. Record in writing the committee’s rationale for no longer considering each candidate who has been disqualified. This evaluation and rationale can be added to a cumulative committee evaluation sheet. Note specific job-related reasons that are rooted in the job announcement and cannot be construed as discriminatory. An employer may not base hiring decisions on stereotypes and assumptions about a person’s race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.
Committee members’ notes and selection documentation may be scrutinized following the completion of the selection process in the event of litigation, an audit, or a public records request. An unintended impression of bias can be created by comments that are not related to the job and the qualifications and skills required to perform it. Retain records per the USG records retention schedule.
Impact of Bias in the Interview Process
As with other phases in the selection process, bias can impact the decision-making of individual committee members, the committee as a whole, and other department members who may be invited to provide feedback on applicants’ qualifications. Review and continue to use the techniques listed at Recognizing and Interrupting Bias as you discuss the qualifications of the short-listed candidates that you have interviewed.
Communicating with Applicants
How your department conducts a search can have an impact on the recruitment efforts of your colleagues in other departments at Georgia State and your department’s recruitment efforts in the future. The impression you make on individual applicants, including those you do not wish to consider further for a particular search, is an impression that will be shared with applicants’ colleagues in person, on multi-disciplinary and disciplinary-specific websites, and through social media. Prompt and courteous communications with all who apply help spread a positive impression of Georgia State:
- Acknowledge receipt of applications and direct applicants to the Qualtrics survey link provided by the Opportunity Development Office to request and record affirmative action data.
- Notify applicants who do not meet the minimum requirements.
- Provide information to candidates about Georgia State, the Atlanta area, and resources in support of dual-career couples and academic families. Feel free to direct candidates to the Join GSU section of the Office of Faculty Affairs website, which has been set up for this purpose. At appropriate points in the selection process, you can also direct candidates to any of its individual pages: Why Georgia State?, Getting to Know Atlanta, Dual-Career Resources, and Faculty Benefits.
- Include a statement explaining how to request accommodations: “Georgia State University is committed to providing access, and reasonable accommodation in its services, programs, activities, education and employment for individuals with disabilities. To request an accommodation during the application or selection process, please contact [insert name and contact email for the department or college HR representative].”
A campus visit is a two-way interview process: the finalists are evaluating Georgia State as much as you are evaluating them. Campus visits represent a significant investment of time, resources, and energy by each finalist and by Georgia State. And of course they have a major impact on the outcome of the entire recruitment and selection process. A few key steps can enhance finalists’ experiences and maximize the potential of the campus visit to help each side get a full picture of the other.
Before Finalizing the Interview Schedule
Here are some tips to help you design an effective and positive on-campus interview experience:
- When inviting finalists to a campus interview, share Georgia State resources pertaining to family, work-life balance, benefits, and dual-career resources. Feel free to direct candidates to the Join GSU section of the Office of Faculty Affairs website, which has been set up for this purpose. You can also direct finalists to any of its individual pages: Why Georgia State?, Getting to Know Atlanta, Dual-Career Resources, and Faculty Benefits.
- Set aside a portion of the finalists’ campus visits that can be tailored to their individual interests and needs. Before finalizing the interview schedules, ask all finalists to indicate anyone specific they would like to meet with during their visit. A finalist may volunteer that she would like to meet with a faculty member from another department, a center, or someone who can help her understand more about work-life benefits or dual-career resources. Should a finalist request assistance for a spouse or partner who will need help finding a position, direct them to OFA’s Dual-Career Resources page and follow the procedures in your department, institute, or college to arrange interviews or other appropriate opportunities for the spouse or partner.
- Consider how the campus visit can demonstrate that Georgia State is place that each finalist can feel welcomed and supported. A sense of connection is especially important for women and underrepresented minority finalists. Incorporate sufficient opportunities for finalists to meet other groups and individuals with whom they may be interested in working or connecting. Be responsive to any finalist’s expression of interest in working with members of a particular community or unit, and involve faculty who can demonstrate opportunities for community or interdisciplinary collaboration. Take steps to ensure the opportunity for finalists to meet a broad representation of our diverse student body and employees, and consider including a mixture of faculty, staff, and student members in visit segments that may have traditionally been reserved for faculty.
- Involve other department members in the on-campus visit as appropriate. Provide informal opportunities for the finalists to interact with other faculty, undergraduate and/or graduate students, and staff.
- Check with your Dean’s office regarding any required or recommended college-level meetings during the campus visit.
- Include ample breaks for the finalists.
- Include a statement explaining how to request accommodations. “Georgia State University is committed to providing access, and reasonable accommodation in its services, programs, activities, education and employment for individuals with disabilities. To request an accommodation during the application or selection process, please contact [insert name of HRAC] at [Phone #].”
Preparing for the Visits
Here are some tips to help you prepare an effective and positive on-campus interview experience:
- Develop a standard form or anonymous electronic survey to receive feedback from department members on finalists’ qualifications. Sample feedback forms are available in the section on Developing and Using Selection Criteria.
- Prepare department members for the finalists’ visits:
- Give them relevant information, such as the full job announcement, each finalist’s V, finalists’ scholarly work, and applicable portions of this toolkit. Better informed department members will make a more positive impression on the finalists, ask richer questions, and provide more helpful feedback.
- Tell department members when to submit their feedback for consideration and to whom it should be given.
- Remind department members that each finalist’s visit is a two-way process with larger ramifications and that courteous interaction and positive comments about Georgia State will make each visit a fruitful one. Also remind them of expectations of confidentiality.
- Make sure that department members recognize that meals and conversations when walking between scheduled portions of the campus visit are parts of the interview process and the same guidelines regarding appropriate and inappropriate inquiries apply. Having one or more search committee members present at each segment of the campus visit can assist in this process. Inform staff members so they are ready to greet and assist finalists during their visit.
- Double-check room, meal, and lodging reservations.
- Provide finalists details about the time, location, attendees, and format of each segment of their visit.
- Designate someone to escort finalists between segments of their visit.
- Maintain a structured interview format if the search committee will interview finalists again during a portion of the campus visit. Provide an equitable visit for all candidates, including any internal ones.
Communicating with Finalists
Some key topics to address with finalists during and immediately after the campus visit include:
- Opportunities for mentoring, clear promotion and/or tenure criteria, and internal funding opportunities as appropriate to a particular faculty appointment (e.g., funding through University Research Services and Administration, the Office of Faculty Affairs, and the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning).
- Opportunities to be involved in curriculum development, teach in the Honors College, and lead one of our many short-term, faculty-led study abroad programs.
- Reimbursement for expenses associated with the interview process
Evaluation of Finalists
Committee deliberations following the campus interviews should remain focused on job-related criteria and include careful consideration of the full range of evidence gathered about the finalists’ qualifications. Committee members should review and continue to use the techniques listed in Recognizing and Interrupting Bias.The committee should provide clear written documentation of their evaluation of all finalists, continuing to follow the guidelines on documentation in Developing and Using Selection Criteria. This evaluation can be added in summary form to a cumulative committee evaluation sheet and supplemented with a more detailed report of the committee’s determinations.
The exact nature of the written recommendation provided by the search committee may vary depending on the committee’s charge.
Professional reference letters are required to complete the hiring process and may be requested once the selection process is underway. For example, finalists can be asked to arrange for professional reference letters to be sent to the department. At least three professional reference letters will need to be included in the hiring packet for the selected finalist.
While reference letters are essential to the hiring process, we encourage using reference calls as a supplement to reference letters.
Reference calls can be conducted at various points in the selection process. For example, reference calls may be used before deciding which semifinalists to invite to a campus interview. Finalists would then be asked to provide reference letters to ensure that required documentation is available for the hiring packet. Alternatively, reference calls can be conducted for finalists after the completion of the on-campus interviews.
Here are some tips when using reference calls:
- Let the candidate know that the process is moving to the phase of conducting reference inquiries and seek the candidate’s permission before making reference calls. This is consistent with the Board of Regents Human Resources Administrative Practice Manual, which indicates that “before making a reference inquiry, permission from the applicant should be obtained so as not to jeopardize the applicant’s current employment status.”
- Conduct the reference checks in the same way (e.g., by phone) for each finalist (or semi-finalist).
- Have at least 2 search committee members present for each reference call.
- Ask the same questions of all those you call (“structured interview”).
- Ask follow-up questions as appropriate.
- Follow the guidelines regarding appropriate and inappropriate inquiries.
- Document answers clearly so information gained through reference calls can be treated consistently as evidence in the selection process.
The Board of Regents Human Resources Administrative Practice Manual indicates that before making a reference inquiry, permission from the applicant should be obtained so as not to jeopardize the applicant’s current employment status. This applies to both references who are listed on the candidate’s application materials and those who are not (“off-list references”).
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