For job applicants, the experience of being invited to campus interviews is both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. The competition is strong and the stakes are high. How do you make your campus visit no more stressful than it already is?
I was recently in the tenure-track job market and reflected on my experiences navigating different campus tours and onboarding processes. Drawing on such experiences and those of various colleagues, I would like to share some ideas on how we can make the campus visit and the integration processes of new professors on the way more humane. Here are 11 suggestions for improvements.
- Avoid tight deadlines. One university, for example, asked me to prepare a full tour of the virtual campus within four days without notice. This short delay created obstacles for me as a disabled academic and added even more anxiety to the process. During this pandemic, families – and women in particular – may face significant challenges in the face of such tight deadlines.
- Send a detailed itinerary to the candidate in advance. Be sure to include the names, titles, and email addresses of everyone a candidate will interact with. This allows job applicants to research recruiting committee members and other people they will meet in advance.
- Connect with candidates before their visits. A hiring committee chair called me in the afternoon before a virtual tour to review the schedule and plan for the day. I have had the opportunity to ask initial questions and raise last-minute concerns.
- Money matters. Prompt reimbursements of expenses are essential. Don’t assume applicants have good lines of credit or disposable income, especially given the amount of student debt some have accumulated after years of living below the poverty line. I know colleagues who have nearly depleted their credit cards by booking flights and hotels to participate in on-campus interviews. If the repayment takes too long, it can put these applicants in a precarious situation. Don’t let this happen to your interlocutors.
- Treat applicants like human beings with human needs. When you pick the candidate up from the hotel, hand him a bottle of water and tell him to let you know if he needs another one. Inform them of nearby washrooms, including accessible, non-sexist washrooms. These little things matter.
- Communicate expectations. For example, state wardrobe expectations in advance. Also, if the weather is hot, advise the candidate that they can remove a jacket, sweater or blazer. If everyone on campus wears casual clothes, why do applicants need to be dressed formally? As a colleague remarked, “This is not a fashion show! “
- Keep interviewers on time. If someone is late for their interview with the candidate, it can have a domino effect and push back the whole schedule. It can be very stressful for a candidate to arrive late for the next appointment, even if it is not their fault. It also decreases their time with the next person.
- Recognize the importance of breaks. Allow 15 to 20 minute breaks in the itinerary so the candidate can catch their breath, take notes and relax. Allow time to go through the technical setup. Space out intensive requirements – research discussions, interviews, teaching demonstrations, etc.
- Give candidates multiple opportunities to ask questions. This is one of the best ways to get acquainted with these candidates. Also, keep in mind that the interview is also about whether the department and university is right for them. The interview process must therefore be a process of mutual exploration. This way of empowering candidates should go beyond the symbolic five minutes after one hour of questions.
- Humanize the entire recruitment process. Introduce the candidates to the administrative team that organized the campus tour – those who do the work “behind the curtains” and “run the show”.
- Be transparent and punctual on decisions. More importantly, as all of my colleagues have passionately mentioned, the hiring process should be as transparent and swift as possible. Candidates invested a lot of time and energy in the campus tour and interviews. In addition, they have contributed to the culture of the institution by sharing their research and teaching with colleagues and students. Hiring committees should have at least a tentative timeline and aim to communicate decisions to candidates quickly. This includes when you decide to reject a candidate. Always look for humane ways to do this, especially when it comes to a campus visit that doesn’t turn into work. Notify them as soon as possible with a personalized email that shows appreciation for their work instead of letting them discover search results through Twitter.
Diversify the pool
As a queer scholar with a disability of color, I cannot avoid the subject of fairness in this context. If departments are serious about going beyond a privileged pool of candidates, they must make an effort to do so early in the hiring process. To diversify the pool of applicants, you can’t just sit back, receive a stack of applications, and see what you have. The work must be done beforehand.
For example, some colleagues have contacted departments and emailed professors saying, “We would love to meet some of your students. Here is the information on recruiting; please pass it on. Or they ask, “Who in your network is finishing their doctoral studies and who would really fit this position?” Here is the job posting. This way you can become more proactive and go beyond just waiting to see who reads the job posting.
Diversifying the applicant pool also involves creating a safe (r) space – a space in which accessibility needs are taken seriously, applicants have the opportunity to learn about the resources and communities available on campus, and people feel supported by chairs who understand the additional benefits of work that professors of color, LGBTQ2S + professors, and academics with disabilities frequently do.
From my experience, I immediately felt welcomed and taken care of in my new department. For example, compared to colleagues who simply received a welcome email from their departments, I was greeted by social media posts that introduced me and my research interests. In addition, I participated in the graduation celebration with the professors and students. I was even surprised by flowers and a warm welcome note to my home.
I had to move to a new neighborhood for work, and I was amazed by colleagues in the department who took the time to write a brief guide to all of the city’s different neighborhoods as well as restaurant suggestions. Additionally, even though a campus tour was not possible due to the pandemic, my program administrative assistant shared videos and photos of the building with me from her cell phone. This way, without even entering the campus, I already had an idea of the main strengths.
I’m grateful to have a team of administrative assistants reaching out to me to explain how to order books for fall, jump through the hoops to hire research assistants, and go through other laborious processes besides the new teachers must navigate. I was also able to count on the support of a handpicked mentoring committee who really wanted to get to know me and help me succeed as an early career researcher.
Sometimes it’s small things that really make a difference. I recognize the time invested in these practices by professors and administrative assistants who are already overworked. For my part, at least, I am committed to giving back by supporting my future colleagues in the same way.