Faculty Search Guide

The Faculty Search Guide provides search committees with:

  • written guidelines regarding what is necessary to meet affirmative action and equal opportunity obligations at each step of the search process
  • suggestions as to effective outreach and recruitment strategies for faculty searches
  • samples of effective selection tools and search process correspondence

The search guide is not intended to address all requirements and expectations related to faculty searches. Screening committees should work closely with the respective department chair and dean to ensure that they are aware of and comply with the chair's and dean's expectations, and also be aware of those points in the search process at which the Provost's approval is required.

See Appendix C of the Conditions of Faculty Service for more information on the hiring process for faculty and academic professionals.

Outreach and recruitment

Effective outreach and recruitment are critical to finding the best possible candidate.

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Where women or people of color are underutilized within the discipline of the search, we have a specific obligation as a federal contractor to engage in a good faith effort to correct that underutilization. That effort begins with an outreach and recruitment plan that includes efforts specifically targeting women and/or people of color. To determine if the academic department is underrepresented, read the Affirmative Action Plan and follow the directions.

Outreach and recruitment include a broad range of activities, such as:

  • advertising in print media
  • advertising in electronic media
  • posting with professional and academic organizations
  • posting with women's or minority caucuses of professional and academic organizations
  • sending notice to departments at universities with programs relevant to the position
  • personal contact with colleagues who might know of potentially interested and qualified candidates for the position
  • "cold calls" to the administrative departments at institutions where you do not know colleagues
  • posting with services primarily serving women and/or people of color

It is important to document, on the Form A2, in the search file all avenues pursued. In all outreach materials, identify a point of contact, with a name, phone number, and e-mail for potential candidates.

Immediate outreach

When you have the opportunity to conduct a faculty search, develop a comprehensive outreach and recruitment strategy.

  • Attempt to have searches to coincide with the availability of potential women or minority candidates identified through the department's on-going outreach efforts.
  • Define positions to emphasize, within the context of the department's programmatic needs, areas in which women or minority scholars are most likely to be active and available (based on above efforts).
  • Ensure that diversified perspectives are represented on your search committee, both among faculty and students at such point as students have an opportunity to meet candidates and provide input. Consider outreach and recruitment in the broadest sense.
  • Consider both print and electronic posting likely to reach the broadest possible audience of potential candidates, including women and minorities. Send notice of the position to appropriate professional and scholarly organizations; contact colleagues at universities with programs relevant to your needs, especially those with significant numbers of women and minority students, and ask about imminent or recent doctoral recipients.
  • Ask all department faculty members to identify professional caucuses or organizations that have a particular interest in feminist or racial and ethnic minority concerns relevant to your discipline, then contact them for advertising of your position or suggesting potential candidates.
  • Check with the Department's outreach and recruitment committee regarding potential candidates they may have identified through their on-going outreach efforts and send notice of the position to any candidate the committee may suggest.
  • Send position descriptions and invitations to apply or to suggest potential candidates to:
    • Universities with a terminal degree program in your discipline, particularly those with significant enrollments of women and minority students.
    • Lists of Ph.D.'s solicited from comparable institutions.
    • Members of relevant professional organizations (some sell membership lists and labels)
    • Members of relevant minority and women professional or scholarly organizations (some sell membership lists and labels)
    • Doctoral candidates listed in directories that describe individual potential candidates.
    • Relevant journals targeted at underrepresented groups.
    • On-line bulletin boards or other email advertising.
  • Distribute position announcements at annual professional/scholarly meetings and conferences.
  • Use career services offices of professional organizations.
  • Encourage all faculty members to do personal networking: write letters, make phone calls, and send email notes to senior scholars, including women and minority scholars, both on and off campus who could help identify qualified minority and women candidates.
  • Follow up on all suggestions regarding potential candidates with personal letters, phone calls and email.
  • Describe efforts by the department to infuse and integrate diversity in its programs, the diversity of its student body, and efforts to build on current accomplishments in communications with those from whom you have requested referrals and with potential candidates.
  • Describe cross-disciplinary opportunities that may exist both within your department or between your department and others at Northern Arizona University that enable candidates, including women and minority candidates, to connect with others across department lines.
  • When candidates come for on-campus interviews, make certain they have the chance to meet with other minority and women scholars from a range of departments.
  • Ensure that all interviewees have an opportunity to talk with minority and women students in the program.

Faculty outreach and recruitment strategies

Outreach has to be approached as an active and on-going process. To be successful in attracting and retaining a diverse faculty, a department needs to develop an on-going strategy:

  • Establish a department outreach and recruitment committee to identify potential candidates for future faculty positions and bring them to campus as guest speakers in connection with special events.
  • Encourage faculty, through contacts with colleagues, to identify minority and women doctoral students and post-docs; invite them to give seminars and encourage them to apply for positions at Northern Arizona University.
  • Watch for women and minority students in the doctoral pipeline at professional meetings: attend sessions at annual meetings where minority and women scholars are giving papers, make a point of introducing yourself after the presentation, let them know about your program and about any present and future searches, stay in touch with students whose area of work is potentially relevant to needs of the department.
  • Offer post-docs to bring in minority or women graduates as visiting researchers.
  • Consider women and minority candidates with strong potential but limited experience for visiting or other limited-term appointments as a way of exploring the potential while also providing experience that might contribute to making the candidate competitive for a later tenure-track position.
  • Offer public programming (conferences, workshops, meetings, productions) likely to interest members of underrepresented groups. Make every effort to announce such events in ways that will reach members of underrepresented groups.
  • Involve faculty in campus programs for minority and women undergraduates.
  • Involve current women and minority faculty as "magnets" in outreach.
  • Maintain contact with potential women and minority scholars who might be a fit with departmental needs in order to effectively convey Northern Arizona University’s interest in those scholars and to nurture interest in Northern Arizona University on the part of the those scholars.

Job announcement and advertisement

All position announcements must indicate that:

  • candidates must be committed and able to work effectively within an increasingly diverse university community
  • Northern Arizona University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer. Women, minorities, veterans and individuals with disabilities are encouraged to apply

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The general diversity statement can be tailored by the hiring unit to best reflect its individual commitment.

Sample diversity statements

  • Northern Arizona University is committed to diversity in its faculty as well as its student population. It is the policy of Northern Arizona University to provide equal opportunity through affirmative action in employment and educational programs and activities.
  • The Northern Arizona University community is composed of faculty, staff and students from a wide range of culturally diverse backgrounds. Applicants should be experienced with, and committed to work in and with this diverse population.
  • Candidates with a demonstrated commitment supportive of the multicultural needs of Northern Arizona University and the surrounding area are strongly desired.
  • We invite applications for this position from qualified persons who share our commitment to diversity and equal opportunity.
  • Northern Arizona University is committed to enhancing campus diversity and creating a more inclusive and diverse institution.
  • The successful candidate will have experience and demonstrated results of successful leadership in a culturally diverse community.
  • The successful candidate will be committed to supporting and enhancing a culturally rich and diverse learning environment. The successful candidate will have the ability to work effectively with people from a variety of culturally diverse backgrounds.
  • This position requires interaction with students, staff, and faculty from a wide variety of backgrounds. Candidates with demonstrated knowledge of and sensitivity toward women's issues and multicultural diversity are strongly desired.

Final candidates are subject to a criminal background investigation, an employment history verification and a degree verification (in some cases) prior to employment. Northern Arizona University is also required to participate in the federal E-Verify program. These requirements MUST be communicated to prospective applicants either in the advertisement for the position or in the letter acknowledging receipt of each candidate's application. Appropriate language for either the ad or the letter is as follows:

"Northern Arizona University requires satisfactory results for the following: a criminal background investigation, an employment history verification and a degree verification (in some cases) prior to employment. You may also be required to complete a fingerprint background check. Additionally, Northern Arizona University is required to participate in the federal E-Verify program that assists employers with verifying new employees' right to work in the United States."

Selection tools – selection matrix/criteria review process

Learn about effective selection tools for hiring below. 

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Developing the selection tool

It is critical that a screening committee carefully consider what will most effectively assist them in identifying the best candidate for a position, and the selection matrix/criteria review process is an important tool in distinguishing between the applications received for a position. This tool serves several functions:

  • The criteria review process compels the committee to find common ground as to the kinds of experience, training and other job-related attributes necessary to succeed in the position
  • The matrix or review sheet ensures that all candidates are evaluated against a common set of job-related criteria

Documenting the review process provides an institutional memory and defensible analysis if the selection is subsequently challenged.

Typically, there are two distinct steps in evaluating applications, one addressing minimum qualifications and the other addressing preferred qualifications. If a candidate does not meet minimum qualifications, there is no need to evaluate the application against preferred qualifications since the candidate cannot emerge as a viable candidate for the position.

Job-related criteria, specific

Each of the criteria included in a selection matrix or other criteria review process must be:

  • job-related and grounded in the position as announced
  • discussed by the committee when criteria are subjective in nature, in order to ensure all committee members have a common understanding of the specific kinds of experience, training, and/or other job-related attributes that are relevant to each criterion and to the position

The committee can consider relative strengths not specifically mentioned in the job announcement, but the committee cannot include criteria that a candidate would not reasonably have understood to be relevant based on the job announcement.

Documentation regarding the specific kinds of evidence the committee considers relevant to each of the subjectively stated criteria should be attached as a footnote or attachment to the selection matrix or criteria review process.

Job-related criteria, overall

While the selection matrix is a valuable tool for assisting in the hiring process, it is important to monitor usage of it, because:

  • the selection matrix or criteria review process should not limit committee review of the overall, job-related strengths of candidates for a position
  • if a scored matrix is used, the scoring provides an initial indication of which candidates most closely meet the criteria for the position

Matrix scores aren't necessarily a good measurement of the best candidate for a position. In those cases, strict adherence to a scored selection matrix could result in selecting a candidate with less potential to offer the most significant contribution to the university over truly outstanding strength and experience.

One way of ensuring a more global consideration of the overall strengths and contribution of applicants is to include within a selection matrix or criteria review process a criterion that specifically addresses the overall strength of each candidate.

For example, such a criterion might read like this:

"Overall mix of job-related strengths as reflected in above criteria, as well as overall contribution to the goals and objectives of the educational program and to the experience of students within the program."

In an effort to avoid unintended results, screening committees are advised to consider using a non-scored selection matrix or criteria review process focusing on relative strength without assigning numbers. The intent is to encourage committees to think more globally about the overall strengths of each candidate and to avoid having scores control, but not fully support, the review process.

Note from the U.S. Equal Employment Commission

The U.S. Equal Employment Commission recognizes in its Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures that numerically scored selection procedures are not always used or required, and suggests in such circumstances that employers utilize selection procedures which are as job related as possible and which will minimize or eliminate adverse impact on candidates - the risk of a substantially different rate of selection in hiring which works to the disadvantage of members of a race, sex or ethnic group.

Document the selection process

Regardless of what tool is used, it is important to adequately document the job-related reasons supporting selection decisions at each point where some candidates are advanced and others are eliminated from further consideration. That documentation provides the institutional memory and defensible analysis if the selection is later challenged.

Diversity in the selection process

The value of diversity needs to be considered as an integral part of the selection process. Diversity is broader in concept than gender, race, and ethnicity - it includes age, disability, sexual orientation, citizenship, geographic location, etc.

While diversity should be considered in those broad terms, it is also important to keep in mind that as a federal contractor Northern Arizona University has a specific obligation to evaluate whether women and/or people of color are underutilized within its workforce and to engage in a good faith effort to correct any identified underutilization.

Relative to correcting underutilization, it would be inappropriate under the law to prefer one candidate over another strictly on the basis of gender, race, or ethnicity, except that it can be a factor in the selection. Consult with AA/EO in these situations.

Application review

Prior to personal interviews of candidates, screening committee members typically are unaware of a candidate's race or ethnic background. Some committees have questioned how they can act affirmatively to support Northern Arizona University's commitment to diversity without that information.

In the application review stage, a screening committee can look for evidence of a non-traditional background that might suggest the potential for a more diverse perspective and contribution to their program.

Evidence of support for the value of diversity might also be found in a candidate's identified efforts to infuse his/her teaching or research with:

  • a multicultural perspective
  • critical thinking about how to teach effectively to students from a broad range of backgrounds and different levels of preparedness
  • experience teaching or working within a diverse environment

The application packet

To emphasize just how important diversity is to Northern Arizona University, and hopefully get more information regarding a candidate's understanding of and commitment to diversity, a screening committee might consider asking, as part of the application packet, that candidates include a statement specifically addressing the role and value of diversity within higher education and their past and intended efforts to contribute positively to creating an environment that values and enhances diversity.

Finally, it would be entirely appropriate for a screening committee to contact the Affirmative Action Office to inquire about the diversity of the applicant pool for a position, or even to inquire about the diversity of a short list of candidates proposed for further consideration in the search process. 

The screening process

Screening committees need to think critically about how to effectively consider diversity in the screening process. While a single question, given some limited weight in the selection process, is one approach, it is an approach that is not likely to help us in making measurable gains in the diversity of our workforce. Likewise, non-probing questions such as "Do you have experience with and are you committed to diversity?" are not likely to be useful. We will be far more successful when:

  • committees consciously make diversity an integral part of the selection process, considered in connection with each criterion in the selection matrix or criteria review process and in the telephone interview process
  • questions that are posed really explore the extent of a candidate's understanding of and commitment to the value of diversity
  • Both traditional and non-traditional measures of excellence are considered, and the committees critically consider the value that different perspectives and experience contribute to the program's overall objectives and the experience of students within the program

Samples of screening matrices

Interview questions

Thoughtful interviewing is important to reaching a sound hiring decision. Inappropriate interview questions can create potential liability for the institution. Therefore, careful thought should go into the development of your interview questions so that those will provide a sound basis for assisting in identifying the best candidate for your position.

The key to legal interviewing is to stay focused on job-related topics. What are the essential functions of the position for which you are interviewing, and what job-related experience, training, skills or other attributes does the candidate bring to the position that will enable him or her to most effectively perform the essential functions of the position? While a candidate may share personal information with you during an interview, to avoid inappropriate and possibly illegal questions you should stay focused on job-related information. By keeping the interview focused on job-related topics, you will be assured of getting information that will assist in identifying the best candidate for the position and you will avoid potential liability.

The following links are lists of sample questions to give you an idea of what can and cannot be asked of candidates during the interview process. Additionally, we have included a link to the hiring and recruitment page of the Northern Arizona University Human Resources website where you will also find a list of interview questions.

Reference checks

Reference checks are an important part of the hiring process because they confirm the candidate's ability to perform the duties of the position for which he or she is being considered, and they provide an opportunity to learn whether there are legitimate reasons why the candidate is not appropriate for the position or for employment with Northern Arizona University. Reference checks provide an independent means of verifying the qualifications claimed by the candidate.

Which references to choose

A screening committee can choose to contact references beyond those identified by a candidate. Although permission is not required, the committee should alert the candidate that they may be contacting additional references and give the candidate the opportunity to identify any potential reference the candidate thinks may not be objective or fair. While it is not essential that an identical number of references be contacted for each candidate, it is important that the screening committee have a reason for its decisions.

If significantly more references are contacted for one candidate than for another, there should be a compelling reason for that decision. Otherwise, it will raise questions regarding equity in the search process. Pursuant to the Faculty Hiring Process, at least two references are to be contacted for each candidate for whom reference checks are conducted.

Typically, if a person with whom you are speaking is supportive and positive about the candidate, they will not mind spending time talking with you. Sometimes a reticence to talk might be an indication of a possible problem. If you get that response, make every effort to contact others in order to better assess whether there are issues that might be of concern or simply a stiff reference. One negative or neutral response should not automatically disqualify a candidate. A more defensible position is to have contacted more than one reference to see if the negative or reticent response is a trend or an isolated case. Document your attempts at getting additional input.

What questions to ask

As with interview questions, inappropriate reference check questions can create potential liability for the institution. Therefore, it is important to keep reference check questions focused on the functions of the position and the candidate's ability to perform those functions. Below are links to sample reference questions.

A final reference check question

As a way of encouraging references to let screening committees know of anything that raises serious questions as to whether a candidate is right for a position with Northern Arizona University, the Provost has asked that screening committees include a final reference check question along the following lines: "Is there anything else you think we should know about this candidate before considering an offer of employment?" 

Should the reference provide information that raises a question, the screening committee should attempt to get definitive information regarding the possible concern before making a final decision. The screening committee is encouraged to contact the Provost's Office, Human Resources, or the Office of Affirmative Action for assistance with respect to any troubling information and how to appropriately follow-up on that information.

Sample faculty search correspondence

The following links are samples of letters for use by faculty hiring committees.

This letter would be appropriate when acknowledging receipt of an application.

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  • Applicant Welcoming Letter (PDF | Word)
  • Letter for Non-Qualified Candidates (PDF | Word)

The following letter would be appropriate in replying to candidates who are not qualified for the job based on a review of minimum qualifications.

  • Letter for Non-Selection of Interviewed Applicants  (PDF | Word)

This letter would be appropriate for candidates who were interviewed either by telephone or on-campus, but who were not selected for the position. This letter should not be sent out until you have definitely eliminated the candidate from further consideration.

  • Letter to Colleague Requesting Assistance in Suggesting Potential Candidates  (PDF | Word)

Articles on faculty diversity