Affirmative Action

6.4 Evaluating the Applicants - Affirmative Action Searches

Although evaluation procedures vary, it is necessary for the search committee to develop a rating form based on job-related criteria found in the position description. The rating form may consist of a series of job-related questions or issues that the committee believes are crucial to the position. The rating form should be developed and approved by the search committee before reviewing any candidate's dossier. The committee should consider using a combination of a standardized list of criteria to be evaluated by an agreed upon point system and written comments reflecting the judgment of each member of the committee. The former helps ensure that each member of the committee will use a uniform standard in evaluating each candidate; the latter will permit an informed discussion when deciding which candidates are to be interviewed. It will also save time if it becomes necessary to return to the applicant pool at a later date. Furthermore, recording the judgment of the committee will facilitate completing the Affirmative Action Report at the conclusion of the search. (See "Documenting the Search")

It is not difficult to get a committee to agree that it should hire the best candidate. Determining the criteria for measuring "the best" and establishing who is "the best" is more difficult. The search committee may wish to evaluate its selection criteria in terms of their validity as predictors of future success. Is publication in graduate school, for example, a valid or logical predictor of one's performance as a faculty member? Are there other, more appropriate, predictors of future performance for women and minorities, especially in cases where the candidate's educational, social and cultural background is significantly different from that of a caucasian man? Furthermore, the committee may wish to examine a candidate's entire career when applying its criteria for selection. A woman, for instance, who has earned her degree and entered the academic profession after taking time out to raise a family will undoubtedly have fewer publications than a man of the same age whose career has been uninterrupted. If one evaluates her publication record, however, in terms of the time period over which it was produced, she may well have the stronger publication record.

In the evaluation process, a candidate's publication record is often stressed to Brobdingnagian proportions, with all other achievements remaining Lilliputian in comparison. While publications may be a significant indicator of future success, they are not the only indicator, nor are they solely indicative of the value of a candidate to a unit. A search committee should evaluate candidates in broad and comprehensive terms, carefully examining all of an individual's accomplishments, her or his potential for growth, the diversity of perspective that the candidate will bring and the unique contribution which the candidate will make to the academic unit.

Search committees should also guard against biases which may unconsciously intrude into their evaluation of a candidate. Degrees, for instance, from women's colleges or Southern universities must not be automatically seen as inadequate; reference letters from individuals not known to search committee members should not automatically be given less credence and importance than letters coming from friends and organizations in the "old boys' network"; scholarship on feminist or minority issues should not be devalued because some may believe that it is not "in the mainstream." Sexist language, always reprehensible and inappropriate, should not be used when discussing the candidates, since it has been shown that language leads to mental imaging which in turn, does influence one's vision of whom an appropriate candidate should be. Likewise, it is vital to eliminate from the evaluation process any stereotyped ideas based on the candidate's race, color, religion, national origin, age or gender (e.g., the notions, for instance, that women are more transient than men, or that persons with disabilities are not interested in long-term careers). Applicants with disabilities should be evaluated in terms of the actual position requirements and with attention given to reasonable accommodations that can be made to enable them to fill the position.

Whatever criteria are used, it is important that the criteria be applied equally to all candidates. Based on their evaluations, the committee either decides as a whole who will be interviewed or makes that determination in consultation with the unit administrator to whom they report. It should also be added that a nominee for a position is not a candidate for the position until the individual nominated makes direct contact with the search committee by letter, telephone or submission of documents. Only bona fide candidates should be evaluated by the search committee. An individual who has potential for being a very strong candidate may be nominated, but she/he may decide to not apply for the position. In this case the committee may ask permission to review the individual's curriculum vitae as a non-candidate. If the individual learns that she/he would rank highly among the candidates, she/he may agree to apply for the position.

Most selection processes involve more than one screening. Generally, the first screening determines if candidates meet the minimum criteria for the position. Sometimes, however, highly qualified candidates may stipulate conditions such as starting salary or rank that seem to disqualify them from further consideration for the position. If such a candidate appears to be a competitive, affirmative action candidate, the committee should keep her/him in the pool. If the individual is eventually judged to be highly qualified, the committee could seek special support from the chairperson or dean to bring such a person to campus. Subsequent screenings become increasingly qualitative and increasingly difficult. A list of candidates removed from the applicant pool during the first and subsequent screenings should be reviewed by the unit administrator. The committee may want to devise a way of reviewing any candidate whom the unit administrator wishes to return to the applicant pool for the next screening. After the unit administrator approves the list of candidates to be removed from the pool, polite letters of rejection should be sent to candidates who do not meet the minimum qualifications for the position.

Back to the Handbook for Faculty Searches with Special Reference to Affirmative Action