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Higher Education Jobs Hiring – Pre-Closing the Applicant

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When hiring faculty, administrators, university executives and post-docs, ensure your ability to increase the probability of hiring your top academic job talent. Sometimes, despite what you may believe, the top applicant is NOT always the best choice.

Avoid surprises – no matter what the cost. As we all know, higher education recruiting can sometimes be fickle, with too much inertia involved. Having an engaged academic job hiring process, including a variety of information-gatherers, keeps “blood flowing” and interest high.

The first contact during university hiring should always be via phone – we actually suggest two (2) preliminary phone calls for higher education jobs hiring, from different people in the process. Specially, involve the person who is in charge of the academic hiring process, as well as a person who most resembles a “peer” of the position you are hiring for. Getting to know the person helps in two ways: you are able to 1) remove the stigma of interview information gathering and 2) your interchange about likes (and dislikes), goals and motivations, and teaching vs. research will help define the applicant’s ability to both communicate and be a “fit within the academic organization.”

Having defined a conversation vs. an interview, we also need to be a bit hypocritical and emphasize that you [the head of the search committee] ask one interview question towards the end of the conversation: “what compensation package are you seeking, and why?” The worst thing that can happen is to fall in love with an academic “superstar” for a faculty job opening and then not be able to afford them. Also, it is appropriate (if not a fit) to immediately tell the university job candidate: “you are a spectacular candidate, but outside of the bounds of our budget.“ As we discussed earlier, and your university human resources department will agree with - the top applicant is NOT always the best choice.

Be honest at every step of the university hiring process, and make sure those doing the information-gathering along the way are also honest. If there are any discrepancies (such as teaching vs. research) in what has been discussed, make sure the applicant feels comfortable approaching the head of the search committee to discuss them. Misinterpretation will bite you in the derriere later. Make sure that they are addressed in debrief.

If applicable, the most important thing is to engage the partner/spouse/etc very early in the process. It makes no difference if the applicant is male or female, straight or gay, old or young. Find similarly situated individuals, even outside of your department, for the trailing person to talk to, even before the first visit. While it not legal to ask certain questions, your university human resources department can help you find the “politically correct and allowable” way to get the knowledge you need to initiate the dialogue. Doing this early in the process also has the added benefit of “showing you care.”

Good luck and happy university job hiring.

RICK FRIEDMAN is President of, an academic job advertising website. He has over 25 years of recruiting related experience.

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