What is faculty recruitment all about?
At the end of the 1990s, research predicted a significant increase in the number of faculty to be hired over the next decade or two. This prediction alerted universities to prepare for the increased recruitment of faculty and their entry into the university. The University of Windsor responded by establishing the Office of Faculty Recruitment and Retention (OFRR) in 1999. The OFRR is involved in the recruitment process from the advertising stage through the interview and selection stages, to the relocation and orientation stages. It is a comprehensive office that assists departments with the recruitment of faculty and then helps new faculty with their integration into the University of Windsor and the community.
How has faculty recruitment evolved since you started in the field?
In the early part of the decade, the University of Windsor was the only university with a dedicated faculty recruitment office. Now, many universities have such offices. The volume of faculty positions to be filled required changes to facilitate the recruitment of candidates and their appointment. One of the shifts in faculty recruitment is the growth of online advertising for faculty positions. Most universities now have web pages advertising faculty positions. Both University Affairs and the CAUT Bulletin created websites to permit online job posting and job searching and to provide advice to academic job seekers. Initiatives such as the Career Corner at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, the Careers website at University Affairs, and publications for new faculty by CAUT reflect the need to assist future faculty in the establishment of their academic careers.
How does the University of Windsor’s faculty recruitment program differ from others?
I am familiar with a number of faculty recruitment offices and the differences among us vary significantly. At the University of Windsor, the director of faculty recruitment is an academic. In the other offices the position is held by a staff person, typically a human resources professional.
We are more involved with the recruitment of faculty and the appointments process than other offices. An advertising recruitment campaign for the university is developed annually, recruitment materials are created for distribution by the departments, online application and electronic appointment processes are monitored by the office. A toll-free number is available for potential candidates to seek application and career advice. We provide a seamless online entry process for newly appointed faculty to facilitate the assignment of work-related needs, in advance of their arrival, such as employee number, library privileges, e-mail address, pension and benefits, etc. We also help with immigration issues and spousal hiring.
Faculty participate in an orientation session in early July (at other universities these are typically held in August) to provide a smooth transition and to allow sufficient time to prepare for the beginning of the fall term. We organize the orientation to introduce new faculty to our teaching and research culture, renewal and tenure processes, Information Technology Services and other services, benefits and pension, library services, and more. The orientation takes place over a period of one week. At other universities, it is often a one-day event.
One interesting aspect of our faculty recruitment program is its employment equity underpinnings. Employment equity has been a centralized process since 1988 and its practice allowed the smooth transition to a centralized faculty recruitment infrastructure. The recruitment office oversees the hiring process to ensure that all candidates are treated equitably and fairly and implement employment equity. Shortlists and recommended candidates must be approved before candidates are invited for interview or offered appointment. To my knowledge, employment equity matters are not integral to any other faculty recruitment office.
Many universities are seeking to diversify their faculty to reflect the diversity of their student bodies. Considerable research has demonstrated the benefits of a diverse faculty to teaching, learning and mentoring. Yet, few universities have engaged in targeted recruitment. I believe that we are the first university to address an advertising campaign to designated group members (women, visible minorities, persons with disabilities, and Aboriginal peoples – the University of Windsor also includes sexual minorities in employment equity). Our advertisements in 2008-2009 (see right) were well received by these marginalized groups.
What can small- and medium-size universities do to set themselves apart in the global race for academic talent?
Actually, the global race for academic talent requires a unified approach, sponsored by AUCC, to promote Canada as a desirable career destination for academics. Individually, Canadian universities do not have the resources to conduct an effective international faculty recruitment campaign. The promotion of Canada and its universities, as an academic career option, is a necessary foundation to individual university recruitment efforts. Advertising campaigns promoting Canada and Canadian universities in international publications and professional conferences would help all Canadian universities recruit more effectively internationally. Within this context, individual universities can highlight the unique features of their university, location, research and teaching in their ads and promotional material.
What advice do you have for faculty job seekers applying for positions in the current economic climate?
Universities will continue to hire faculty despite the economic climate. The number and type of positions to be offered, however, will be constrained by the financial situation of the institution. Job seekers should keep their focus on obtaining a tenure-track position. Many will accept limited-term positions. Typically these positions are teaching positions that make it difficult to balance teaching and research. It is imperative to maintain an active research record in order to be competitive for tenure-track positions when they arise. Job seekers in the humanities and social sciences should consider applying for postdoctoral positions. The competition for faculty positions will intensify as the number of available positions decreases. Job seekers must take considerable care in the preparation of their applications to present their “paper-selves” in the best light and to ensure that their referees are able to write strong letters or reference. Too often candidates submit incomplete applications or applications that are easily recognized as form letters that do not address the specific position applied for. These types of applications are easy to dismiss when the applicant pool includes complete applications that focus on the advertised positions.
Janice Drakich is the director of Faculty Recruitment & Retention at the University of Windsor.