Best Practices for Faculty Recruitment

Emory University is committed to a diverse and inclusive environment and nowhere is that commitment more important than when it comes to recruiting new faculty. Building an excellent and diverse faculty, however, will require us to be intentional.

Each department, school, or unit must decide how diversity and inclusion will be deployed as part of its strategic goals. Those conversations need to occur before an effective search can begin, and best practices suggest that leaders should initiate and be an integral part of those conversations.

The department, school, or unit must see the value of a diverse and inclusive culture. Without a consensus that diversity and inclusion are important strategic goals to be considered in each search, it is unlikely that the search will result in positive outcomes.

Guidelines for Search Committees

These guidelines, developed by the Faculty Advisory Committee on Excellence and Diversity, are designed to assist with those efforts and are based upon research regarding what works when it comes to diversity as well as peer experience in the area.

Part One

The work of the search committee up to extending invitations to campus to interview.

Faculty Hire has been Approved

Once the decision has been made to hire an additional faculty member, a national search must be conducted. Before the search committee is selected, the dean/department chair should review department, school, or unit historical data to determine how prior searches fared when it came to diversity and inclusion. Find out where candidates not selected were hired to determine if the criteria applied were realistic. This should be done for the last several hires wherever possible. Such data should be provided to the search committee.

The dean/department chair should consider developing a multi-year recruitment plan consistent with the strategic goals of the department, school, or unit. Perhaps even consider a multi-year search where planning and approval occur in one year and early posting and screening of candidates can occur rapidly, if needed, in the second. How many slots are expected to be filled? How difficult will it be to put together diverse pools for each slot? The dean/department chair should determine the area(s) that will be the focus of the new hire. With these considerations in mind, the dean/department chair should put together an appropriate search committee, which should include at least three faculty members.

Selecting the Search Committee

The search committee should include diverse perspectives. A single faculty member cannot be tasked with carrying the diversity banner. Some research suggests that it takes at least three members of underrepresented groups to overcome feelings of tokenism, isolation, and burnout that come from being the only one. Diversity provides the most benefits when the committee is allowed to work through any differences in perspectives. Members of underrepresented groups must be encouraged to bring their whole selves into the process.

It is important to work out disagreements because it is through that work that diverse committees produce better outcomes. Only when diverse teams can work through conflict are benefits most likely to be realized. The chair of the search committee must have leadership qualities that enable them to manage difference and yet reach a consensus that allows forward progress. Accordingly, who is the chair is an important and critical first step in putting together the search committee.

After the chair has been selected, the other committee members must be determined. Special care should be taken before including pre-tenure faculty on the search committee. Pre-tenure faculty, particularly those who are members of underrepresented groups, are usually already heavily burdened with institutional service obligations.

Each member of the committee should be committed to a diverse and inclusive process. A demonstrated record in this area would be ideal. Once the committee is put together, the dean or department head should reach out to each member of the committee and strongly encourage them to attend one of the Faculty Recruitment for Excellence and Diversity in the 21st Century workshops facilitated by the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Two workshops will be offered in the fall and one in the spring. Please contact the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to register for a particular session.

The dean/department head's charge to the search committee should include an emphasis on expanding the diversity of the faculty.

First Search Committee Meeting

The first meeting sets the tone for the committees' work. It should include a discussion of the data provided by the dean/department chair regarding the effectiveness of prior searches from a diversity and inclusion perspective. The committee should establish a fact base that means it understands the demographics of the department, school, or unit. The committee should be aware of and learn from best practices. The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion website includes several resources.

The committee should identify beliefs that may hinder their performance on diversity and inclusion efforts:

  • Which actions designed to increase the diversity and inclusiveness of the candidate pool have not worked in the past?
  • What new protocols should be considered?

The Faculty Advisory Committee and/or Department of Equity and Inclusion are willing to assist with these efforts.

The first meeting should include the following:

  • Discussion of what success will look like
  • Selection of criteria to be used for assessing applications
  • Discussion of the job description
  • Meeting schedule
  • Operating rules for the committee
  • Vigilance about unconscious or implicit biases (the committees' and others) when weighing applications
  • Confidentiality, and
  • Recordkeeping

The chair of the search committee should consult with Niger Thomas in the Department of Equity and Inclusion to learn if there is a relevant affirmation action placement goal for the search. A goal is by no means a quota. However, in searches with a placement goal for women or minorities, it is that much more important that the committee conduct robust outreach.

The pool of potential applicants should be expansive. An MIT study of its faculty indicated that proactive measures to encourage minorities to apply for openings were key to the successful hiring of minorities. Proactive measures such as encouragement to apply and/or active recruitment were factors in almost two-thirds of minority faculty hired who participated in the study. Compare that with the 20 percent of the non-minority faculty who joined as a result of proactive measures. The study indicates that the direct engagement of deans, department heads, and faculty members involved in a search process in reaching out to minority candidates contributed significantly to expanding the pool and resulted in successful searches.


In addition to the usual requirements surrounding scholarly productivity, or research funding, and teaching excellence, given the demographics of Emory's student body, an additional requirement should include experience mentoring and teaching a diverse student population. The selection criteria established should be the sole gauge applied to each application. In order to ensure that the selection criteria will be applied consistently for all candidates, two things need to be taken into account.

  • First, each file should be thoroughly and carefully reviewed. If there are too many files to make that practicable, and a decision is made to delegate files across the committee, there should be more than a single reader per file.
  • Second, while internet searches may be tempting, it is important to remember that not everything found on the internet is true. However, to the extent there are any internet searches performed for any candidate, a similar search must be undertaken for every candidate and must be confined to matters consistent with the selection criteria—i.e., professional activities. Therefore the selection criteria should be carefully and thoughtfully chosen.

Consider the applicant pool when drafting the position description. Do not unnecessarily limit the pool of applicants by excluding an area that is likely to include candidates from underrepresented groups without discussing the reasons. Understanding that the decisions made early on will impact the diversity of the pool is an important principle the committee chair should bring forward to members early in the search process.


Committee members should know the dates and times the meetings will be scheduled. Ideally, meetings should be scheduled around committee members’ schedules to ensure their ability to attend and actively participate at every meeting.


The chair should initiate a discussion of how decisions are going to be conducted during the search process. Will decisions be made by consensus or majority vote? How are disagreements going to be handled? The research finding that committee/team diversity leads to better decision making depends on the committee working through differences. For conflict avoiders, this may be the most difficult part of being on a diverse search committee. People who think differently typically do not agree. However, disagreement does not equal anarchy. Once differences are discussed, openly common ground can be found. Alternatively, as a result of differences being openly discussed, committee members can rethink original positions. It is important for the chair to set the tone that disagreements are welcome while being disagreeable is not. The chair above all must model this behavior for the other search committee members.


Unconscious or implicit biases exist. It is essential when considering the best available talent that these biases are not allowed to influence the evaluative/deliberative process. The US Department of Homeland Security phrase "If you see something, say something" is a good rule for each committee member to follow.

Consider the following excerpt from "Harvard University Best Practices for Conducting Faculty Searches, Version 1.0, Beware of How Unconscious Bias Can Affect Candidate Evaluations":

For women especially, assumptions about family responsibilities—and their potential effect on the candidate's career path—can negatively influence evaluations, even in the face of evidence of productivity. Here are some excerpts from recent letters of recommendation: "She balances work and life in a way that detracts from her career." "And what's more remarkable is that she did all of this while having three children." [Note: The same person who wrote this last sentence also wrote a letter for the candidate's husband and did not mention the three children, although they were indeed his too.]

Such statements or considerations should not play a role in the evaluation or selection of candidates.


The chair should note that all committee discussions should be kept confidential while noting confidentiality has its limits. If Emory were ever sued in connection with a hiring decision, all documents, including email, comments, and notes, would be discoverable. Committee members are advised to follow the "Washington Post Rule" regarding emails, which provides you should not put anything in an email you do not want to see on the front page of the Washington Post. Care should be taken regarding all emails, given how easy it is for email to be forwarded and/or taken out of context.


The chair is responsible for making sure all record-keeping obligations are satisfied. At a minimum, a list of the pool of qualified candidates should be maintained, along with the long list of applicants (12 to 15) and the shortlist (3 to 5) of applicants. All applicant information should be stored in Emory's Brass Ring system. The interview and outcome of the search for each candidate interviewed should be noted electronically. The chair will need to explain why a particular candidate was selected and why other finalists interviewed were not. For example, if candidate A was selected because of their publication record, then the other finalists' record will need to describe why they were not selected, based upon their publication records.

Subsequent Meetings

When considering applications, be sure to apply the specifically approved criteria previously established. When making decisions, know the competition and the candidate pool. Are peer departments conducting searches in the same content area? How extensive is the pool? Some programs are beginning to start searches in late spring or throughout the summer in order to bring candidates to campus and make offers early in the fall. This can have a major impact on the search process and success.

Identify a long list of between roughly 12 and 15 potential candidates with the ultimate goal of a small group of candidates to invite to campus. How does the long list look from a diversity perspective?

Once the advertisement and posting date expires, and prior to inviting candidates to campus, the search chair should reach out to the Department of Equity and Inclusion. DEI will provide the chair with available information regarding the makeup of the pool. This information is gathered from the survey data received directly from the applicants. The data should be kept confidential by the chair. The chair should then evaluate whether the search efforts to date have yielded a diverse and inclusive pool and whether additional steps may need to be taken. Have any good candidates been left out who should be reconsidered? Compare that list with the initial committee discussions of what success would look like. If the committee is not pleased with where things stand, they should consider reopening the application process, engage in more outreach activities, and/or have the chair contact Dorothy Brown or Carol Henderson for assistance.

Identify the list of 3 to 5 candidates for invitations to interview on campus. Compare that list with the initial committee discussion of what success would look like. Again, if the outcome is not what was hoped for, the committee should engage in more outreach. Once consensus is reached, invitations for on-campus interviews are extended by the chair.

While it is not always possible to have a diverse pool of applicants, being proactive and taking extra steps increases the likelihood that the candidate pool will be more diverse than it would have been without the additional effort.

Part Two

The role of the search committee, faculty, and greater university community once the applicant comes to campus and important factors throughout the offer and acceptance period

Invitation to Interview

During the initial call extending the on-campus interview, the search or hiring committee chair should provide the candidates with a description of the visit: what is expected, length of stay, and overall schedule. Do not assume candidates will know what may be expected during the on-campus interview. If it turns out that they already know, there is little downside to ensuring that all candidates have the same necessary information.

Think about whether there are any people (faculty outside the department in similar or overlapping research areas for example) on campus who should be included in the interview schedule in order for the candidate to be more likely to picture themselves flourishing at Emory. Make sure to ask the candidate if there is anyone at Emory with which they would like to meet.

The search or hiring committee should appoint a committee member to serve as a "faculty ambassador" for each candidate, who should make contact with the candidate prior to their visit to campus. The job of the faculty ambassador is to ensure the on-campus experience is an outstanding one for each candidate. If a problem arises, the faculty ambassador should be the first person to call and is expected to resolve the problem with the candidate's needs as the guiding focus. The faculty ambassador will check in regularly with the candidate before, during, and after the visit to campus. The role of the faculty ambassador will be crucial to helping the candidate leave campus thinking positively about Emory.

Provide a complete schedule of the candidate's on-campus visit at least 72 hours prior. Also, send the candidate materials about Emory, your school/unit/department, and any other specific information you would like to highlight.

Pre-visit Preparation of Faculty

Once the decision has been made concerning which applicants to invite to campus, the committee becomes background or supporting cast while the remaining faculty in the department/school/unit become the stars. Faculty need to understand their individual roles in either helping or hurting the goal of recruiting their No. 1 choice. The interview and recruiting process is a two-way street: while the candidate is certainly being interviewed, they are also interviewing Emory in order to determine whether it is best for them.

The search or hiring committee should inform the faculty of the selection criteria applied and the details of the search that led to the campus visit invitations. Being transparent will help to build faculty confidence in the search process and translate into a smoother recruitment season. In addition, the search or hiring committee should also provide faculty with the same information about the visit they shared with the candidate. Faculty should know what the candidate has been asked to prepare and what instructions were given for the candidate's public presentation (if applicable).

During the On-campus Visit

The search or hiring committee should suggest faculty keep the questions asked of each candidate focused around the selection criteria identified. The faculty ambassador should check in regularly with the candidate to ensure the visit is proceeding in a positive manner and to address any issues as they arise.

If candidates have to travel from one location to another on campus, do not leave it to the candidate to figure out the logistics. The search committee should make sure to provide escorts. The campus may be easy to navigate for us but not for first-time visitors.

During the job talk, a regular member of the faculty rather than the candidate should keep the queue during the question-and-answer portion. The candidate should be told upfront how the question-and-answer portion will be handled. In general, multiple questions (or multipart questions) asked by attendees should be discouraged, in order to ensure all attendees have an opportunity to participate. If time permits, once everyone has had an opportunity to participate, attendees may ask additional questions.

After the Visit: Soliciting and Receiving Feedback on the Candidate

If the search or hiring committee promised any follow-up information to the candidate, provide it as soon as possible.

If there were any questions raised by faculty about a candidate during their visit and follow-up is needed, the search or hiring committee should provide it promptly.

Feedback from colleagues about the candidate should be solicited immediately after the on-campus visit to ensure the details are fresh in their minds. In order to ensure that feedback assessment by faculty will be consistent and uniform across candidates, the search committee should solicit consistent feedback.

For an example of a "standardized" feedback form, see our sample form. This rating form is intended to stimulate faculty discussion of each individual candidate.

  • The numerical rating system is intended to provide a metric that captures the general level of enthusiasm that faculty have for a given candidate. However, there is certainly error associated with all estimates. Thus, it is recommended that the mean score not be used to make de facto hiring decisions and that the selection/search committee also pay careful attention to the level of dispersion around the mean score for each candidate (e.g., the standard deviation).
  • The qualitative assessments included in the completed forms should be used to further expand upon and clarify scores assigned to a candidate for each of the selection criteria in order to facilitate making sound hiring decisions.

Once all the faculty feedback has been received, the search or hiring committee should review and consider whether the feedback exhibits unconscious bias that may need to be addressed either individually or at a full faculty meeting.

Presenting the Candidate for Faculty Consideration/Discussion

The search or hiring committee should describe the criteria the committee applied that led to the creation of the shortlist and of the candidates being invited to campus. In presenting the candidates, the committee should provide similar information for each of the candidates, including the committee's assessment of each candidate applying the stated criteria.

In presenting files to the full faculty, the search or hiring committee chair should be sure to address any issues of unconscious bias present therein. For example:

  • If letters of recommendation are included, carefully consider the unconscious bias literature that shows letters for women are shorter than for men, while including more phrases raising doubt, are four times more likely to refer to women’s personal lives, and are less likely to describe women as outstanding or excellent. In addition, fewer letters for women include standout adjectives, and they tend to include more grindstone adjectives. (See Trix and Psenka, “Exploring the Color of Glass: Letters of Recommendation for Female and Male Medical Faculty,” Discourse & Society, 14: 191–200 (2003).
  • If an assessment of writing is included, a recent study of law firm partners analyzing identical memos but told some were written by Black men and others were written by white men, found the "Black" writing sample had many more errors than the identical “white” writing sample. (See Arin Reeves, “Written in Black and White” [2014].)

Once the decision has been made to extend an offer, then move into recruitment mode. While it is the dean or department head who will extend the offer, it is often helpful if faculty remain involved throughout the recruitment process.

Negotiations should incorporate awareness that women and men may have different negotiating styles. Ensure the candidate is provided with support similar to recent appointments at the same rank, such as office space and equipment, administrative support, and professional development funds.

An Offer is Accepted

Develop a retention plan for the faculty member. If there were any issues raised during the assessment of the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, these issues should be addressed in the retention plan put into place for each new hire.

For additional information about the retention plan, the Faculty Advisory Committee is working on drafting recommendations on best practices for retaining faculty.

Contact Us

David Goetsch

Assistant Director, Faculty Recruitment