How to Make the Faculty Hiring Process More Equitable and Effective
Experts share information on attracting the best faculty through inclusive and rigorous searches
Good news, your department has gotten the go-ahead to proceed with hiring a new faculty member. Now what?
All search committee members and academic leaders are expected to learn about effective and equitable practices for all stages of the hiring process. Duke’s offices for Faculty Advancement and Institutional Equity have a wealth of information and resources on how to recruit, hire and support the best new faculty members.
On December 7, Abbas Benmamoun, Sherilynn Black and Kimberly Hewitt presented an online workshop, Inclusive Faculty Searches. They discussed different scenarios and practices to strengthen the process, reviewed case studies and engaged with about 50 participating faculty.
To assess participants’ areas of interest, the hosts began with a multiple-choice poll. More than a third of faculty recognized that improving the departmental climate is an important factor in attracting top talent; this represented a big increase from last year’s workshop. Half of this year’s participants were interested in optimizing the interview process, another notable increase.
Here are excerpts from the workshop:
On the Value of Diversity
Kimberly Hewitt, Vice President for Institutional Equity and Chief Diversity Officer
“We want to have a diverse community because of the advantages it brings to a university. The advancement of diversity necessarily benefits the breadth of our scholarship and decision-making.”
On Setting Ground Rules
Abbas Benmamoun, Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement
“We get excited when our Dean approves a search, and usually there is a committee … and someone is appointed the head of the committee and they are told to ‘do the search.’ We don’t get to look at past searches and assess what were some of the best practices and what are some things that could be learned.
“What I would suggest to members of search committees is to go to your Dean and ask, ‘What are some of the ground rules that you would recommend for us, what are some of the resources and how would you like us to update you?”
Sherilynn Black, Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement and Assistant Professor of the Practice of Medical Education
“When you are going through periods of perceived or actual stress or trauma, you tend to hold much more tightly to your innate tendencies, which are also your biases. What this means is in 2020 we are all being more biased than we normally would be.
“When you are dealing with so many other things going on, the way to make the quickest and most efficacious decision is to do things that feel comfortable and safe for you. But that [approach] is sometimes in direct opposition to a faculty search; you may need to think outside the box about someone who is studying a topic that may not seem as central to the way that we usually think about a field, or [when] bringing in someone who does not have the educational experiences that we are used to seeing.”
How Faculty on Search Committees Can Combat Bias
On Hiring During a Pandemic
“We’re in a moment where our institution and others are in a period of constraint with respect to finances, so there is some extra pressure on us. We are having fewer opportunities to conduct searches because of the financial situation, and so the stakes are higher. This puts extra pressure on us to get it right, especially when we are focused on trying to bring in diverse candidates.
“In this unusual time, because we are doing the hiring entirely in virtual or hybrid platforms, [we should be] thinking about how we can be creative to maximize our best practices and how we can reimagine some of these strategies that we’ve developed for targeted searches.”
What Faculty Members Want to Know
Selected questions and answers from the workshop
How do we balance diversity with the idea that every interview experience should be the same?
If we bring in a colleague from an underrepresented group to join our department, are there resources and communities in place to support their retention?
Do you have suggestions about how to do a ‘bias check’ and keep things equitable when a candidate is well known to the school?
Resources on Hiring for Inclusive Excellence
See guides for candidate experiences, for school and department leaders, and for search committee members (in Box folder, Duke login required).
Other Tips for Faculty
- Insider Perspectives on Promotion and Tenure Review
- Creating an Equitable Research and Learning Environment
- Juggling Professional and Personal Priorities
- Faculty Roles as Scholars and Mentors in an Uncertain Time