Academic Affairs

Guidelines for Search Committees

The following checklist was prepared as a guide to aid you in conducting a successful search. 

The good judgment and experience of the chairperson and individual members is critical to the success of the search committee.  This guide is provided to give you the benefit of the experience gained from many search committees.  Its purpose is to help you avoid pitfalls, anticipate potential problems, and to become familiar with some important regulations that apply to the hiring process in colleges and universities.

At the beginning of all searches in the College, the entire search committee meets with the Equal Opportunity Coordinator and Academic Affairs to discuss how searches are conducted and address the contents of this memo. The entire search committee should be familiar with search policy and appropriate forms.

  1. Position Description:  Understand the position description.  Every member of the Search Committee should read the advertisement and become thoroughly familiar with the requirements advertised.  Specifications in the advertisement must be followed – e.g., or if the position has been advertised only at Assistant Professor level, a hire cannot be made at a higher level.
  2. Qualifications:  All candidates must meet the minimum qualifications as stated in the published advertisement, without exception.  The Search Committee should discuss which items on the job description are essential to the position, and what qualities are desirable but not essential. A broad set of qualifications, rather than too specifically prescribed qualifications is recommended to attract more candidates.
  3. Late Applications:  If a deadline has been specified, applications arriving after that date cannot be considered unless the deadline is extended and all applicants are notified of the new deadline.  One way to maintain the flexibility to consider applications arriving later is to advertise a position “open until filled” along with an indication of the date at which the committee will begin considering applicants.
  4. Equal Opportunity:  Everyone should be considered equally with regard to letters of inquiry, telephone calls, Skype/FaceTime interviews, campus interviews, teaching demonstrations, research presentations, etc.  For example, Search Committees should agree on a common list of questions to ask all interview candidates, including internal candidates.  (This does not exclude the possibility of different questions asked of different candidates as follow-ups to the common questions.)  If an applicant seeks a personal meeting with a search committee member or chair (usually a candidate might say “I will be in town anyway and I would like to meet to learn more about the position.”) a meeting should not be granted but any official materials may be forwarded to the candidate.
  5. Notifications:  Avoid premature notification of the status of the individual applicant.  Whereas it is good procedure to not keep people in suspense too long, don’t eliminate too many candidates too soon because your primary choices may not be available in the final stages of the search.  The committee should agree on a reasonable secondary list of finalists.
  6. Confidentiality:  Details of the search should not be discussed outside of the committee.  Under the Colorado Open Record Act, only the information about the finalists may become public. This is especially sensitive when you’re dealing with internal candidates.  If anyone asks you anything, refer him/her to the committee chair.  If candidates call to inquire about the progress of the search or their prospects, chairs should tell them they will be notified as soon as possible, but that no information can be released until the search process is complete.  Individuals known to committee members should be treated as anyone else.  Where potential conflicts of interest arise because people known to committee members may apply for positions, the committee member should speak with the chair of the Search Committee to alert him/her of this, and they should determine (in consultation with the Dean’s Office or the Equal Opportunity Coordinator) what steps should be taken to avoid conflict of interest.  In some cases, it would be inappropriate for that individual to serve on the committee.
  7. Notes:  The committee chair should keep careful notes summarizing the decisions made regarding each candidate.  These notes will constitute the official record of committee actions and should be kept for three years by the department or forwarded to the Archives Manager at the conclusion of the search.  The notes are important in the event of an equal opportunity challenge to the search.  All other members of the Search Committee should be careful to shred any notes they may have kept during the search as soon as the search is complete.
  8. Email:  Search committee members should refrain from communicating about candidate evaluations on email.  Email may be used for scheduling meetings and logistic support, but deliberations regarding candidates should be done face-to face in committee meetings. Emails may be used for seeking clearance from the EO Coordinator and/or Dean during the search process.
  9. Diversity:  The College policy in this regard strongly urges diverse candidate pools that include ethnic minorities and women in male-dominated fields.  Whereas the job description, by being carefully worded, really opens the door to a large candidate pool, it is the Search Committee who require that race-neutral policies be enforced.  While diversity in background, experience, intellectual philosophy, cultural emphasis, etc. are matters of consideration so that the College offers diverse perspectives in academic disciplines, race, color and gender in and of themselves should not be matters of consideration when making an employment decision.
  10. Check Points:  It is crucial to check with the EO Coordinator, the dean for approval at several points during the search process:  1) approval of job ad; 2) approval of the short list for phone/Skype/FaceTime interviews; 3) approval of the final list for campus interviews (campus interviews need Provost approval, which will be secured by Dean); 4) approval of successful candidate.  Candidate should not be contacted until appropriate EO clearance and approval is given.  A failure to do so may result in declaring the search failed.
  11. Questions to Candidates:  While questioning candidates, be sure all questions relate directly to the person’s qualifications for the position or expectations and requirements for the position.  Questions of a personal nature are not appropriate (i.e. childcare, marriage status, spousal employment, leisure activities, religion, political affiliation, etc.) unless the candidate voluntarily discloses personal information.  However, it is not appropriate to inquire details of personal information. All committees or individuals scheduled to meet with a candidate participate in the search process.  Therefore, the rules governing lawful questions apply to each subgroup.
  12. Resources:  There are three focal points at Fort Lewis College with regard to hiring: the Academic Affairs, EO Coordinator, and Human Resources.  You are encouraged to contact them if you have any further questions.
  13. Offer of a Position:  An offer, or a promise of an offer, may not be made by anyone other than the dean. The Dean will negotiate the conditions of the hire with the candidate and finalize the offer.