Narrowing the Field of Candidates


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Maintaining Diversity Throughout the Search

It is strongly recommended that the search committee, under the direction of the diversity officer, take efforts to avoid prematurely ranking candidates based on positive and negative stereotyping. Committees are encouraged to consider candidates from a wide range of institutions, including historically Black colleges and universities, and to carefully examine all of an individual's accomplishments, his or her potential for growth, the diversity of perspective that he or she will bring, and any unique contribution the candidate would make to the department. Search committees are encouraged to consult with the Office of Faculty Development and Diversity regarding the ways in which diversity can be maintained throughout the review period.

Screening Applications and Narrowing the Field of Candidates

The position description (as included in the advertisement and solicitation letter to institutions and individuals) should be the basis for the initial evaluation of the applicant pool. If the position description did not state any requirement or preference for training in a specific area, then candidates without such training should not be ruled out on that basis. Generally, the initial screening determines if candidates meet the minimum criteria for the position.

Departments should establish procedures for selection of the definitive pool that require applications to be read by at least two (and preferably more) members of the committee, which should minimize the possibility that qualified candidates may be overlooked. Care should be taken to examine all of an individual's accomplishments, his or her potential for growth, the diversity of perspective that he or she would bring, and any unique contributions the candidate would make to the department. Search committees must be on guard at all times against biases that may unconsciously intrude into their evaluation of a candidate. The search committee should establish evaluation criteria early in the search, and should apply the criteria uniformly in retaining or rejecting candidates; search committees may want to develop a rating form based on job-related criteria.

After a reasonable amount of time has elapsed since any announced deadlines or after advertising has concluded, courteous rejection letters may be sent to candidates who do not meet the minimum criteria.  A template letter is available here. As a safeguard, the chair of the search committee should read all applications rejected in this initial screening, and the letter should be sent out under his or her signature.

Establishing the Definitive Pool 

Depending on the size of the applicant pool, some departments create a "long short list," which includes all potentially strong candidates. In order to narrow the field to the definitive pool (that is, the group of candidates who will be invited for an interview), the search committee may wish to conduct telephone or remote video interviews to elicit more information about the candidate's background, to assess the candidate's interests and to provide more information about the position than can be contained in an advertisement. If phone interviews are conducted, a consistent set of questions should be asked of each candidate and careful notes should be taken. Video conferencing or webcam interviews may also be used to narrow the field of candidates.

It is important to keep especially careful notes at this stage of the selection process as the search report will need to include a brief justification for each known female or minority candidate not included in the definitive pool, as well as an evaluation of each definitive pool candidate with respect to the established criteria.

The search committee might consider expanding the definitive pool to include consideration of candidates who would contribute to diversity (broadly defined), especially in departments where the desired diversity may not exist (such as, for example, where women or minorities are underrepresented in relation to the relevant applicant pool at either entry or senior levels). Personal interviews may allow qualified individuals to demonstrate previously overlooked strengths.

The search committee should also become familiar with potential resources, such as the Faculty Incentive Fund, which can be used for the recruitment of women, minority and other scholars in the basic sciences who would bring diversity to the Professoriate, and the Gabilan Provost's Discretionary Fund, which primarily is used in the science and engineering fields to assist in the post-search recruitment of women candidates and in the retention of women faculty.  The Office of Academic Affairs will provide more information about these funds upon request.

It is strongly recommended that the committee as a whole reach a consensus about which candidates will move into the definitive pool. Candidates not selected for further consideration at this stage of the search should be notified by letter; a template is available in the Letters, Templates, and Forms section of the Toolbox.