University of Oregon

Final Candidate Evaluation

Once campus interviews have taken place, the search committee’s* focus turns to reviewing their own and others’ evaluation of candidates.  This stage of the selection process is particularly vulnerable to unintended bias because the stakes are high as the process narrows in focus to a small number of candidates.  Search committee members may be invested in different candidates, which may lead to tension or conflict on the committee.

Adherence to the recommended practices highlighted in earlier stages remains important here.  In particular, this includes awareness of implicit bias, a focus on the agreed upon selection criteria, a commitment to considering all points of view, and a commitment to articulating specific job-related rationale as a basis for candidate assessments.

Recommended Practice Associated Challenges
The search committee and/or larger faculty group should meet as soon as possible after the completion of the interviews so that information is fresh, the process continues moving efficiently, and candidates are contacted in a timely manner. Any delay in the search committee process means that candidates will be waiting longer for information about the status of their candidacy.  This can lead to candidates’ frustration with the process, and/or the possibility of losing a strong candidate.
It is critical that candidates continue to be evaluated using the original selection criteria that were developed earlier in the process.  At this point, the conversation often turns to determining whether the candidate is a “good fit” for the department.  This is a good time to revisit the selection criteria to assure that “good fit” is assessed consistently, fairly and with the selection criteria as a reference point. Evaluating top candidates without the selection criteria as a reference point increases the chances of unintentional bias influencing the process.  See related information in Screening Applications. Do not base selection decisions on untested assumptions, (e.g. “I don’t think they are going to be happy here.  The African American community is so small in Eugene.”)
All input should be considered. When some input differs significantly from the majority of assessments, follow up to find out more.  If it is not possible to follow up with the person(s) who offered the input, you can follow up with references on the issues or concerns being raised. Ignoring input from sources that differ from the majority of perspectives can mean missing opportunities to evaluate candidates, including UR candidates, from a variety of angles.  Following up also provides the opportunity to assess whether input is based on firsthand experience with candidates rather than on hearsay or assumptions.
When providing a list of recommended top candidates to the department head or dean, submit an unranked list with a detailed description of strengths and concerns. A ranked list can box candidates into a second or third rate status, which can diminish the appeal of an otherwise outstanding candidate.  Providing an unranked list can contribute to a more positive departmental climate by minimizing the polarization that can result from ranking.
If the search committee determines that there are two outstanding candidates who would each contribute to the department in equally significant ways and one is an UR candidate, explore the feasibility, with the hiring authority and Academic Affairs, of hiring both. If hiring both candidates is not an option, those involved in the selection process must be mindful of and consider the appropriate application of the University’s policy on hiring women and minority faculty. Though it will not always be feasible to hire two candidates, opportunities have been missed in the past when departments do not consult with Academic Affairs.
Decide how to proceed if the top candidate does not accept the offer.  Having a clear plan in place can ensure thoughtful decision making should the initial plan fall through. If the committee has not discussed what to do if the top candidate declines an offer, then next steps can be delayed.  Other top candidates who do not receive courteous treatment and timely information may decide not to accept an offer should they ultimately be involved in hiring negotiations.

*Academic departments vary as to the role of the search committee during the final candidate evaluation, recommendation and or selection processes.  In some departments, the search committee plays a central role in these later stages of the process and in others, the faculty group as a whole is  central to the identification, evaluation and selection of top and/or final candidate(s).   The above information is intended to be applicable to any process in which your department engages.  If you have questions about how your department’s process fits with any of the recommended practices, please contact Academic Affairs, the Center on Diversity and Community, or the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity.

Integrating Stakeholder Input

Input from stakeholders can be both useful and challenging.  Search committees often wonder how to make use of this information in way that is most beneficial to the process.

One of the most useful aspects of stakeholder input is that it can represent diverse viewpoints that are not present in the committee.  Stakeholders sometimes pick up on things that others may miss because their experiences, perspectives and needs are different.

The challenges often exist when stakeholders are not involved in search committee discussions about the needs of the position and the selection criteria.  Their input, therefore, may be focused in ways that the search committee finds less relevant.  In addition, some stakeholders may have had contact with only some of the candidates, so their input may be inconsistent or incomplete.  Others may offer only conclusions (e.g. “This candidate is the perfect fit”), but not provide their thinking that led them to this conclusion. Finally, it may be difficult to determine whether stakeholder input has been influenced by potentially biased or unreliable information such as stereotypes, hearsay or gossip.

Stakeholder perspectives from those who were present during the campus visit can help you determine whether you need more data.  You may need to engage in further reference checking, a second round of interviews, or even revisit the applicant pool if stakeholders:

  • Strongly support applicants the committee finds unacceptable
  • Strongly objects to applicants the committee finds acceptable
  • Indentify an important area of strength or concern that the committee has not addressed elsewhere in the information-gathering process
  • Raise concerns about the applicant’s interactions with people from a particular identity background

Adapted from Oregon State University’s Search Advocate Workshop Manual, 2011.

Resources

Fine, E., Handelsman, Jo. Searching for Excellence and Diversity: A Guide for Search Committee Chairs. University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2005.

Oregon State University.  (2011). Affirmative Action Search Advocate Workshop Manual

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