University of Oregon

Faculty Recruitment

Current thinking and recommended practices described by peer institutions related to recruiting underrepresented (UR) faculty suggest moving beyond passive basic recruitment, and cultivating a focus on active recruitment—a more complex, long term, relationship-focused approach to recruiting.

View a continuum of basic and active recruitment strategies.

Basic Recruitment Strategy

Basic recruitment reflects the commonly used departmental strategies of publishing position announcements in prominent publications and waiting for candidates to apply. This strategy is based on the assumption that interested and qualified applicants for a faculty position will find and respond to a position announcement that is published in an easily accessible source (journals, newsletters, listserves, professional organizations etc.) (Bilimoria and Buch, 2010; Smith, 2000).

Basic recruitment is a necessary strategy for communicating the availability of a faculty position. It focuses on generating a pool of candidates for a specific position opening. Yet, the small growth in numbers of UR faculty suggests that the passive, short-term strategies of basic recruitment alone are not working.

Enhanced Recruitment Strategy

Below are some examples of strategies to enhance basic recruitment efforts that are likely to generate a stronger, more diverse applicant pool that includes UR candidates:

• Utilize the Outreach & Recruitment Resource* to identify additional venues that are likely to reach a wide pool of potential candidates.

• Send position announcement to chair of affinity groups that reflect UR faculty (e.g. Committee on the status of women/minorities in the profession). Follow up with an email or phone call

• Send position announcement to professional networks and follow up with an email or phone call to ask for assistance in reaching qualified UR faculty

• Seek assistance from colleagues and graduate students whose professional networks are likely to reach UR faculty

*To assist with effective recruitment efforts, the University of Oregon Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity is developing an Outreach and Recruitment Resource that is designed to assist departments in attracting strong, diverse applicant pools. This resource is not yet available.

Active Recruitment

Active Recruitment is the process of “generating a pool [of applicants] rather than merely tapping it” (NSF ADVANCE Michigan, 2007). The active strategies include making direct contact with graduate students, faculty and key institutions; and building relationships over time. These efforts are made with a long term mindset that contributes to cultivating both current and future applicant pools that include strong representation of UR faculty. Examples of active recruitment efforts from peer institutions are highlighted below.

Active recruitment “processes not only reflect the larger institutional commitment to diversity but also serve as important signals to current and future job applicants” (Tuitt, Sagaria & Turner, 2007). Efforts to assure that individuals from UR groups feel welcome and are included signal that the institution might be a good place to work (University of Virginia Faculty Search Committee Tutorial).

Key Elements to Success

Research indicates that there are three key elements to successful efforts to recruit UR faculty. They include:

  1. Ongoing faculty ownership: Unless specific individuals are formally responsible for leading the department’s ongoing efforts to recruit underrepresented faculty, recruiting activity is unlikely to extend very far beyond the efforts of the search committees to fill open positions. Click here to see an example from the Sociology Department at Texas A & M University.
  2. Non-faculty support: Administrative staff with knowledge of the appropriate discipline can help departments with the early-stage work of identifying and gathering information on potential candidates from underrepresented groups. Click here to seen an example from the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University.
  3. Upstream recruiting activities: The majority of upstream or early stage recruiting activities take the form of informal exchanges requiring few resources other than faculty time and attention. Click here to see an example from the Psychology Department at the University of Michigan.

Source: Breakthrough Advances in Faculty Diversity: lessons and innovative practices from the frontier. 2008 Education Advisory Board [registration required]

A PDF summary of highlights from the research is available without registration.

Common Misconceptions

There are several common beliefs that leave many faculty members and academic departments hesitant to expend effort on active recruitment. Research suggests that these beliefs are not fully informed and that some are inaccurate. Some of the common misconceptions are below (labeled in the research study as “myths” and “realities”). The research reflects a study of 299 scientists from underrepresented minority groups. All were recipients of the prestigious Ford, Mellon and Spencer Fellowships. (Smith, D. 2000).

Myth: The scarcity of faculty of color in the pipeline means that many institutions must compete against one another to seek out and hire minority candidates.

Reality: Only 11% of the scholars of color in the sample were recruited for a faculty position and encouraged to apply. If the candidates had a choice-and many did not- it was usually between two or three institutions, but not the two or three of their choosing. Even among this select group, few had institutions bid for them. If they got to negotiate, it was usually over a computer or a modest research stipend. (Smith, D. 2000)

Myth: The scarcity of faculty of color in the sciences means that those who are available are in high demand.

Reality: Most of the scientists in the sample, all of whom were persons of color, were pursuing postdoctoral study. Only 16 percent held faculty positions. None of those doing postdoctoral work had been sought out by colleges or universities. (Smith, D. 2000)
Myth: The kind of scholars represented in this study, both because of their competitive positioning in the market and their elite education, consider only prestigious institutions in their job searches, making it virtually impossible for other institutions to recruit them.

Reality: The participants in the study expressed interest in different positions, regions and institutional types. Limited mobility explained some but not all of these preferences. The candidates based their choices on the environment in which they wished to live, a desire to teach a diverse student body, an interest in institutions with missions related to their professional goals, or other factors. (Smith, D. 2000)
Myth: Wealthy and prestigious institutions draw established faculty of color away from nonelite institutions with fewer resources, creating a revolving door that limits progress for any single institution in diversifying its faculty.

Reality: Outside offers do lure some faculty members away from their institutions. But most of the study participants indicated an unwillingness to move frequently solely because of monetary incentives. (Smith, D. 2000)


For more information on this study, see

Further research suggests that “The disappointing takeaway from examination of the faculty pipeline is that gaps are small in pipeline stages where universities have the most control and larger earlier on, where individual and even collective university action may be insufficient in the face of larger social forces. [However,] while the outlook for faculty diversity of higher education as a whole is disappointing, the outlook for any one university need not be so. Despite the slow progress, there are universities in every category that have created faculties far more diverse than those of their peers, often after starting with faculty diversity levels well below average.” (Education Advisory Board, 2008).

Related Research Findings

Findings of a 6-year study of data on 193 full-time faculty searches in STEM units at two institutions:
– A statistically significant linear relationship exists between the percent of female and [underrepresented minority] URM applicants in the candidate pool and their degree of inclusion on the short list. This finding represent the strongest evidence to support casting a broad and diverse net when conducting faculty searches and to defer moving the search process to the next stage until a greater proportion of female and URM applicants have been included. (Bilimoria & Buch 2010)

How to Avoid Having Active Recruitment Efforts Backfire

Women and minority faculty candidates wish to be evaluated for academic positions on the basis of their scholarly credentials. They will not appreciate subtle or overt indications that they are being valued on other characteristics, such as their gender or race. Women candidates and candidates of color already realize that their gender or race may be a factor in your considerations. It is important that contacts with women and minority candidates for faculty positions focus on their scholarship, qualifications, and potential academic role in the department. (University of Michigan Handbook for Faculty Searches and Hiring).


Bilimoria, D., Kimberly Buch (2010). The search is on: engendering faculty diversity through more effective search and recruitment. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning.  [PDF]

Burgoyne, R., T.M. Shaw, R.C. Dawson, R. Scheinkman, A.R. Coleman, S.Y. Winnick, J. Rippner, S.R. Palmer, and J.L. Keith. (2010). Handbook on diversity and the law: Navigating a complex landscape to foster greater faculty and student diversity in higher education. Washington, DC: American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Education Advisory Board. (2008). Breakthrough advances in faculty diversity: Lessons and innovative practices from the frontier.

NSF ADVANCE, Cornell University. Effective pool development strategies.

NSF ADVANCE, University of Michigan. (2009). Handbook for faculty searches and hiring, 2007-2008. University of Michigan.

NSF ADVANCE, University of Washington. (2007). Faculty hiring: Diversity and excellence go hand-in-hand. Center for Institutional Change.

Olson, G.A. (2007). Don’t just search, recruit. The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Smith, D. (2000). How to diversify the faculty. Academe. Washington, DC: American Association of University Professors

Smith, D., Turner, C., Osei-Kofi, O., Richards, S. (2004). Interrupting the usual: successful strategies for hiring diverse faculty. The Journal of Higher Education.

Tuitt, F. A., Sagaria, M. A. D., & Turner, C. S. V. (2007). Signals and strategies: The hiring of faculty of color. In J.C. Smart (Ed.), Higher education: Handbook of theory and research. New York: Agathon Press.

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