Even if a search committee identifies the very best candidate to fill an open position, it is an empty exercise if the committee cannot close the search successfully by persuading the person who emerges as first choice to accept the position. By focusing on Northwestern’s comparative advantages and targeting those colleagues who might find a position at Northwestern especially attractive, committees can maximize the likelihood that the top candidate will accept an offer.
Additionally, search committees should recognize the important implications of their interactions with candidates. Individuals contacted in connection with the search process will form lasting impressions of the department and of Northwestern. All prospective faculty colleagues should be treated with great respect during the interview process. The way these scholars are treated will affect their future sense of the institution—even if they do not receive, or if they decline, an offer. By dealing with candidates warmly, efficiently, and professionally, the committee has an opportunity to enhance the reputation and image of Northwestern.
Departments and schools should use the campus visit to impress upon candidates Northwestern’s strengths and the attractiveness of the Chicago area. The following suggestions are offered for providing faculty candidates with a welcoming, supportive, and collegial atmosphere during the campus visit:
- Showcase Northwestern and its environment. Capitalize on the University’s distinctive characteristics, including its tradition of interdisciplinary work, its collaborative culture, and its location in a major metropolitan area. Provide candidates with materials about the department, about the University, and about the Chicago area. Ensure that the department’s website is current and robust in content, as prospective faculty members likely will review it early in their consideration of Northwestern.
- Arrange meetings with students. Make efforts to ensure that candidates have significant contact with undergraduate majors and graduate students in the field during the campus visit. The committee and department is likely to find the students’ perspectives helpful.
- Arrange meetings with faculty in related departments. If the candidate is from a demographic group that is not well represented in the department or is in a scholarly field that is related to other disciplines, enlist the participation of faculty members in cognate fields during the campus visit. Especially when a potential colleague is recruited into a department thinly populated by women or underrepresented minorities, it is important to introduce the candidate to faculty members beyond the hiring department.
- Enlist the assistance of the administration when necessary. In certain circumstances, faculty hiring can require creative approaches. The Office of the Provost will assist schools and departments when it can to enhance the diversity of the faculty.
- Welcome the spouse, partner, or significant other. Treat the candidate’s spouse, partner, or significant other well. Invite him or her on any post-offer recruiting visit and provide information about resources that may be of interest.
- Assist candidates with personal concerns. The department or school should be mindful of possible concerns that candidates may have about working at Northwestern, including family leave policies, child care and school options, prospects for partner employment, the possibility of excessive work burdens, isolation, or social and cultural activities in the local community. Although prospective employers generally cannot ask about such personal matters, they can ask whether any important issues have been overlooked during the campus visit. If the candidate voices interest in child care options or partner employment prospects, the department should be in touch with the administration for assistance. Search committee members may wish to familiarize themselves with available resources for new hires, including the Faculty Work-Life and the Faculty Career Development pages on the Office of the Provost website, the Relocation Resources page on the Office of Human Resources website, and Northwestern’s Diversity & Inclusion website.
- Uniform questions and review criteria. Search committee members should agree in advance on a set of questions that will be asked of each candidate during interviews, and use structured evaluation templates for evaluating interviews. See the Resources on Unconscious Bias webpage.
- Legal considerations. All interviewers should be generally familiar with the law relating to employment discrimination as it relates to interviewing. See the Legal Considerations webpage for more information.