Inclusive Faculty Searches: Best Practices


Inclusive Faculty Searches: Best Practices

“Yale’s education and research missions are propelled forward by a faculty that stands at the forefront of scholarship, research, practice, mentoring, and teaching. An excellent faculty in all of these dimensions is a diverse faculty, and that diversity must reach across the whole of Yale — to every school and to every department”  – Peter Salovey, President


Diversity is inherent to excellence. Excellence thrives in an inclusive environment where colleagues of varied backgrounds collaborate to create new knowledge to understand and change the world.

An open faculty position is an opportunity. New colleagues bring innovations, new areas of expertise, and new discoveries. New colleagues from underrepresented backgrounds add to this rejuvenation through new intellectual directions and critical perspectives. The outcome of a search creates the future of the department or school.

Initiating a search

Defining the field

In your search posting, is your definition of the field open and inclusive? Are you casting a wide net? Are you explicitly seeking new areas of knowledge? Are you open to emerging fields, or approaches to a discipline, that are not necessarily “proven” yet? Do you intentionally invite expertise from fields in which underrepresented scholars specialize Does the wording in your advertisement create a sense of welcome on this dimension?

Strategies for inclusive success: scan the field to see where the emerging and cutting-edge scholarship is coming from. Identify those areas as examples of areas of interest.

Challenging tactics: defining the field narrowly (you will have a smaller applicant pool); constructing the scope of the search to replicate the expertise of a departing colleague (focus on the future, not the past).

Developing the search posting

One way to demonstrate that you are serious about wanting candidates whose research, teaching, or service will contribute to the culture of diversity and inclusion in the department or school, is to say this in the posting. Underrepresented applicants and diversity champions are more likely to apply if they see a serious commitment expressed in the search ad. Another option - which is not required by Yale but can be chosen for use in  individual searches - is to ask candidates to discuss, in their cover letter or a separate statement,  some way(s) in which they have championed diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.


The search process

The search committee

  • The search committee’s membership should be diverse across many dimensions (e.g., career stage, demographic background, field specialization) but should avoid over-taxing underrepresented faculty for the sake of representation.
  • All committee members are responsible for running an inclusive search. At least one person should be designated as the Diversity Representative and all members should have assignments to support inclusive practices.
  • Agree as a committee on process, plan of action, and delegation of responsibilities.
  • Recruit proactively. Develop an ambitious outreach plan. This means reaching out to colleagues, deans, chairs, and field leaders to identify a pool of excellent and diverse candidates. Ask those colleagues to encourage strong candidates to apply. If your field’s scholarly association provides information about new job candidates, use it. Review the Survey of Earned Doctorates to see the graduation rates by demographic. Reach out directly to promising candidates to make sure they know of the opening and to offer to answer informational questions. Recognize that many candidates will have biases about Yale that your outreach can overcome.
  • Advertise broadly and proactively. Advertise in diversity-focused venues. This makes a statement to underrepresented faculty, even if they would have seen your ad in another venue. Review the list of advertising venues posted by Yale’s Office of Institutional Equity and Accessibility.
  • Discuss diversity and inclusion at the beginning of - and throughout - the search process. Attend a workshop on running an inclusive search.
Evaluating applications

Initial review of applications

Develop a plan for the initial review of all applications. Examples of successful and inclusive practices include:

  • As a committee, define your priorities for evaluating candidates before you begin the review
  • Assign more than one reviewer to all applications, with random assignments of review groups (avoid having a committee or one or two who do all the initial work and do the true steering);
  • Have all committee members read a subset of application materials from all candidates;
  • Create an evaluation rubric or scoresheet to standardize the priorities for evaluation;
  • Have each reviewer identify a “top ten” group and require all committee members to read (some portion of) the applications of anyone placed on a top-ten list;
  • Talk to colleagues who have served on other search committees where inclusive practices were emphasized and share those with your committee
Inclusive practices: measuring excellence

How do you measure excellence?

What you consider excellent, and how you measure it, should be discussed early in the committee’s meetings. Are the measures of excellence different in various disciplines within the search’s broader field? It helps to have agreement on elements of excellence, especially when differing evaluations emerge, of candidates and of various sub-fields.

Some appropriate and inappropriate measures of excellence

Strong indicators of excellence

  • Expertise
  • Innovation, originality, independence
  • Impact of research
  • Publications: quantity, quality
  • Publications with multiple authors: candidate’s role
  • Publication venues: prestige and impact
  • H-index
  • Grant funding
  • Pace of productivity
  • Quality of teaching and presenting: vibrant engagement, responsiveness to questions, professionalism
  • Ability to make a positive contribution to the climate in the School

Not measures of excellence

  • “Fit” with the department or school - this euphemism can function to exclude those whose demographics or areas of study differ from those doing the hiring
  • “Pedigree” - apparent social class, elite characteristics, and the degree-granting institution do not predict excellence
  • Charisma
  • Self-promotion
Bias: implicit and explicit

Implicit bias

The study of implicit bias focuses on the cognitive basis of bias. Educate yourself on implicit bias. An enormous body of literature exists. Where to start? Former Yale colleague Mahzarin Banaji, et al., Blind Spot: Hidden Biases of Good People (Delacorte Press, 2013) and Banaji’s Implicit Associate Test:

Examples of implicit and explicit biases in faculty searches

Bias against studying inequity and racism

Underrepresented candidates are sometimes seen as not excellent when they study race, class, gender, and inequity. See, for example, how grant funding practices have  decentralized of the study of inequity: “Black Scientists Face a Big Disadvantage in Winning NIH Grants, Study Finds”

Productivity biases

Biases in letters of recommendation

  • Letters for men are commonly longer than letters for women
  • “Female applicants are only half as likely to receive excellent letters versus good letters compared to male applicants”
  • Letters written by women and men express these biases
  • Men are described in terms of agency and actions (pioneer, trailblazer), women are described in terms of social interaction (kind, collegial, helpful)
  • Letters for men emphasize the research; letters for women emphasize teaching and mentoring

Citations: 10.1038/ngeo2819,

Bias toward assimilation

Biased standards

Higher standards
               “Jamal” needs 8 more years experience to be seen as equal to “Greg”

High potential vs. not ready

To whom do you give credit for potential, and who do you say is not ready? Majoritized men tend to be given credit for potential while women and BIPOC are judged on past accomplishments

Horns vs. halos

Horns: one weakness is generalized into an overall negative rating
Halos: one strength is generalized into an overall positive rating

Biases candidates may have about Yale
(Which is why proactive outreach is important)

  • “No one gets tenure at Yale”
  • “Yale is not welcoming”
  • “Yale is old-school. [Institution] is where the new work happens.”
Selecting candidates

Selecting the long list

The long list typically includes 8 - 10 candidates. All committee members should read the full file of anyone who might be placed on the long list. Approval of the long-listed nominees may be required by the Dean’s or Provost’s Office.

How will you review the long-listed candidates? Will you hold short audio/visual (Zoom, Skype, etc.) interviews with each? Will you meet them at a professional association meeting?

Selecting the short list

The short list must include at least three candidates, and ideally at least four. All short-listed candidates should receive full interviews on campus (unless precluded by pandemic protocols). The demographics of your short list predicts the outcome of your search, per this article in the Harvard Business Review.

Interviewing candidates

The interview

Treat candidates with professionalism: you’re recruiting them

Treat them like future colleagues who will be stars in the field: if you’re interviewing them, you’ve already decided they’re among the best

Demonstrate your intentions by saying that you care about diversity, equity, and inclusion; ask for examples of what they’ve done to enhance this

Common interview behaviors that hurt recruitment:

Asking inappropriate or potentially discriminatory questions

Interrupting the candidate or your colleagues

Putting the candidate on trial with hostile questions

Making inappropriate comments, including race- and gender-focused asides

Over-using sports metaphors

Lack of decorum by interviewers: avoid your cell phone, avoid insider conversations with colleagues that render the candidate invisible

Questions not to ask during an interview

Discrimination in hiring is illegal on the bases of these categories, so don’t ask about them:

  • Race, color
  • Religion
  • Sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity)
  • National origin
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Veteran status
  • Genetic information (including family medical history)

Candidates know this, so will be offended if asked

Students who participate in interviews usually don’t know this: tell them



Peer Guides to Best Practices in Faculty Recruitment

Brown University Faculty Hiring Guide

Cornell University Best Practices in Faculty Recruitment

Harvard University Best Practices for Search Committees

Princeton University Best Practices Guide for Faculty Search Officers and Search Committees

Stanford University Building for Excellence: Inclusive Practices for Faculty Recruitment and Searches