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Provost's Search Committee Tutorial: A Primer
Please Note: This is not the tutorial but a narrative version of tutorial materials, a primer if you will. Reading through this material will NOT give the necessary certification for serving on a faculty search committee. It is designed instead to offer all who are interested a chance to become familiar with the material covered in the tutorial prior to taking the tutorial and/or a chance to review material and references for individual topics after you have taken the tutorial.
If you would like to actually take the tutorial please click here.
1. Courting Candidates in an Age of Social Media
We have entered a new era of connectedness and networking, exemplified in social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, and microblogging sites like Twitter. In this new world there are millions of bloggers, You Tube videos, wiki sites and social networking sites. Communication via these interactive “Web 2.0” sites is more the norm than the exception for young professionals, including the majority of new faculty and faculty candidates at U.Va.
How might this revolution in communication be affecting our faculty searches at U.Va.?
As search committee members and chairs you already know the importance of courting all candidates throughout the recruitment cycle, with an eye not only to the individual search but also to the potential for building the ongoing reputation of the entire university as one that welcomes, respects, and values its faculty and faculty candidates.
Candidates Are Evaluating Universities and Departments Online. The culture of searches is changing, and that change is not being driven by institutions or search committees, but by candidates and their use of social media. In this emerging culture, an attitude of hospitality and an awareness that the reputation of a department, school or even an entire institution can be cultivated or ruined at any point along the search process has become even more critical. That is because while you are evaluating candidates, they are also evaluating you, your department and the university. And they may well be posting their observations on interactive sites such as the Academic Job Search Wiki, where candidates not only list available jobs, position cancellations, interviews given, and offers made, they also post comments to pages with titles like “Universities to Fear” and “Universities to Love” (see below for examples of posts to these pages).Institutions, departments, and sometimes even individuals are named. You may think interactions are between you and a given candidate when in reality they may being broadcast to a global community of academics.
In this budding new culture of academic searches, candidates may be competing with each other, but they also tend to see themselves as members of a community of candidates and potential candidates. And so they may share their experiences, good and bad, the status of the search, and their progress as candidates.
The vast majority of postings are anonymous, so no one can verify whether negative posts are true, or the sour grapes of a candidate who was not selected. Some schools or departments try to delete negative comments, but in the open culture of Web 2.0 that is considered “cowardly” and often further tarnishes the reputation of the institution.
Academic Job Search Wiki - A Series of Comments on a U.Va. Search. Here is a fairly typical set of posts about a position, lifted verbatim from the Academic Job Search Wiki—this one just happens to be about a position at U.Va.:
- This is strange. I was not contacted for an interview on 12/9 (that's not the strange part), but today, I received an e-mail from the search committee (addressed to "candidate," not to me) to notify me that all materials must be in before they can interview any candidate. I submitted all of my materials before the deadline, though there were some conflicting directions as to what should be submitted electronically versus through snail mail. Anyway, is it possible that they have not extended all their [professional organization] invites yet, or is this just a poorly timed acknowledgment? Did anyone else get this e-mail?
- Yes, I also got it (and also have an interview)--the search chair explained it as being just a strange element of UVA bureaucracy. For some reason, they cannot legally inform us if our files aren't complete without calling all the applicants, so they recommend we check with the secretary ourselves. Nothing to worry about, just email her.
- I did e-mail her, but got no response, which leads me to conclude that I'm not getting an interview (as I had assumed after the 12/9 posting). Did anyone get this e-mail who DIDN'T get an interview?
- Rumor is this will be a senior hire (2/3)
- Official notification that search has concluded (3/31); it *was* a senior hire
There is nothing especially indicting in this interaction; it is quoted here as an example of the transparency of searches in this Web 2.0 era. Anything anyone associated with a search says or does may end up on this, or another, social media site.
Social media is evolving rapidly. Specific wikis, blogs and other sites may rise in popularity—and disappear—quite rapidly, but the culture of connectivity and shared information will likely continue to develop for a long time.
Universities to Fear. Interactive Web 2.0 sites are here to stay. Academic search committees ignore them at their peril. U.Va. has not yet appeared on either the “Universities to Love” or “Universities to Fear” pages of the Academic Job Search Wiki, but a number of our peer universities have. Here are a few sample “Fear” postings (Note: institution and department names have not been included here because there is no way of knowing if the comments are accurate. But they are right out in front on the actual wiki pages):
- Faculty [were] hostile, rude, and not on the same page about the search - though the search committee itself was OK. Ever been actually heckled at an interview seminar? Made up my mind before the second day of the interview I wanted no part of the place.
- This department is so bitterly divided, they have no sense of who they are or how they come off to others. During my interview, I got the distinct impression that they were hiding things from me -- especially the professors in the department who are unhappy here and there seem to be LOTS of them.
- Not sure why they interviewed me. They (by one faculty member's own admission) already knew who they were going to hire before they called me up! Too bad, the people seemed nice otherwise, despite their subtlety racist comments. Still, big waste of my time and a detriment to my opinion of the university and department.
Universities to Love. The good news is that if candidates have good experiences they will post them as well, and will also post a positive comment in response to a negative one if their candidate experience was good. Here are a few samples of comments from “Universities to Love”:
- Didn't end up giving me a campus visit, but clearly all the MLA interviewers had read my materials closely. I can say that in my dozen or so interviews over the years, this was the only one in which this has happened. The SC chair was extraordinarily kind, sending me three (unsolicited) e-mails throughout the process telling me just where my candidacy stood. The only way the notification process could have been more efficient is if he'd Twittered me.
- Smart, sharp people who do amazing work. Campus visit was very well organized. I was treated very courteously. Excellent questions during job talk. Reimbursement was quick.
- Very well-organized campus visit. Relaxed meeting opportunities with a variety of faculty, all of whom were friendly, helpful, and candid, and many of whom came to the job talk. The college is a lovely place, and the…department is truly collegial (an increasingly rare thing these days). This would be a splendid place to make one's professional home.
While we have focused in this question on how candidates may perceive climate and hospitality in a given department or school, it is clear that the burgeoning Web 2.0 culture raises many other issues for search committees. Should search committees or schools try to defend themselves on these sites? (Most experts say no.) For the most part people who post to the Academic Jobs wiki do not reveal their own names or names of other candidates, but nothing prevents them from doing so. If candidates are sharing this kind of information with each other, does it justify search committee or department members breaking confidentiality on their side of the search? Should search committees keep track of what is being said about their schools or departments on this wiki (and others that may arise in the future)? If negative comments appear should search committees consider proactively addressing them with candidates? These are questions search committees, department chairs, deans and associate deans should consider addressing.
Academic Job Search Wiki. http://academicjobs.wikia.com/wiki/Academic_Jobs_Wiki
Katz, R. N. 2008. The tower and the cloud: Higher education in the age of cloud computing. Boulder: Educause. Retrieved from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/PUB7202.pdf on June 27, 2010.
Perlmutter, D. The social media challenge for serving dual career couples. Presentation at the 8th Annual International Dual Career Programs Conference, University of Iowa, Iowa City, June 3-4, 2010. http://www.uiowa.edu/~dcn/documents/final--dualcareer--perlmutter.pdf
Sutton, V. and L. Malisheski. 2010. Understanding the Jobseeker of Today. National Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (HERC) Webinar. April 20, 2010.
Taleo Business Edition. 2010. Social network recruiting: Managing compliance issues. Dublin, CA: Taleo Corporation.
Universities to Fear: http://academicjobs.wikia.com/wiki/Universities_to_fear
Universities to Love: http://academicjobs.wikia.com/wiki/Universities_to_love
Vicker, L.A. and H.J. Royer. 2006. The complete academic search manual: A systematic approach to successful and inclusive hiring. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
Table of Contents
- Why a Faculty Search Committee Tutorial?
- Tutorial Instructions (also included in the actual tutorial)
- Courting Candidates in an Age of Social Media
- Before Writing the Position Description
- Hiring International Faculty
- Active Recruitment
- Expanding Trusted Networks
- Hidden Biases
- Reference Letters
- Cognitive Errors
- Research Based Interventions that May Help Mitigate Gender Bias
- What Do we Do Well at U.Va.?
- Dual Careers
- End of Game Strategies: The Role of the Search Committee After the Offer Has Been Ma