University of Oregon

Position Announcements

The position announcement serves a dual purpose:

  1. It provides a description of the position for which the department is searching, making clear the educational and experiential qualifications required or desired. This fundamental information about the position both allows potential candidates to assess whether or not they are qualified, and provides those involved with the selection process a reference point for evaluating candidates.
  2. It serves as an initial means of marketing the position to prospective candidates, and is therefore a critical tool for generating interest in the position.

Qualifications and Job Performance Attributes

Once a department has defined the position, it then needs to carefully consider what qualifications and job performance attributes are necessary to successfully meet the needs of the position.  Identifying the necessary qualifications is a critical step in the search process, but one that too often does not get the critical attention necessary to best support a successful search.

Recommended practice considerations for identifying and articulating necessary qualifications and job performance attributes, along with associated challenges, include the following:

Recommended Practice Associated Challenges
Every tenure-related search is for the long-term, possibly for two or three decades.  Start with the newly defined position that addresses current and future needs, rather than making minor changes to an announcement used for a previous search. Making minor changes to an old announcement can result in qualifications that don’t align with the needs of today’s position.
The faculty and search committee should be closely involved in the development of the qualifications. When qualifications are generated without adequate input from faculty or the search committee, important perspectives can be omitted and committee members may have to work with qualifications that are inconsistent with their thinking or that they don’t fully support.
Ensure that each stated qualification is directly related to identified needs and functions of the position.  To ensure a direct connection, consider why each stated qualification is needed. 

 

Without carefully considering the applicability of each stated qualification, the search may be hampered by unnecessary qualifications.  Some unnecessary qualifications can screen out protected groups at a disproportionate rate, thereby interfering with efforts to diversify the applicant pool.
Limit required* qualifications to those that a candidate absolutely must have to be able to perform the functions of the position, listing all others as preferred qualifications or desired attributes.  Keep in mind that candidates who do not meet required qualifications cannot be considered further.  Required or minimum qualifications should be easily determined through review of application materials, as opposed to interviews. In addition to the challenges listed above, the search committee may be unable to consider candidates of strong interest overall because they don’t meet stated minimum qualifications.  That can inhibit the committee’s ability to consider less traditional but transferable experience (e.g. an engineer to run a college of business, a record of outstanding professional experience outside of the academy, etc.).
Include a qualification that speaks to the candidates ability to work effectively with diverse groups of students, faculty and staff. (see related research below)  This is most meaningful when a department takes the time to craft a statement that reflects how such a qualification is consistent with the departmental mission and goals. Often departments include a statement related to diversity in the announcement only because it is required by UO policy (see more below).  The statement is often tacked on to the end of the announcement , which can communicate a low level of commitment to it.  In addition, when the statement is not included as a qualification, is it often not considered during the search and selection process.
Deliberately consider other means by which a candidate might meet the needs of the position and define qualifications broadly enough to be able to consider that additional information – e.g. a degree in a related discipline, or related professional experience from outside of academia. 

 

Defining qualifications in an unnecessarily rigid manner will limit the search committee’s ability to consider broader relevant information that may be of interest and bring different experience and perspectives to the department.   Among the candidates who might be unintentially screened out are underrepresented faculty.
Identify attributes that are necessary or relevant to success in the position – the ability to teach specific courses, if required; the ability to secure research funding; the ability to collaborate with and complement the strengths of an interdisciplinary team; etc.   Don’t assume that required credentials translate to those performance abilities. Consideration of critical attributes that are not identified in the announcement can raise questions as to whether they are legitimate or a pretext for eliminating candidates for non-legitimate reasons.

For information on turning qualifications into selection criteria, click here.

Research Findings

Research indicates that there is a positive correlation between including a “salient job qualification [that] indicates diversity” and the diversity of the applicant pool.  “Even in science searches, adding an explicit criterion in the job description for experience and success in working with diverse groups of students has significant potential to broaden the qualities being considered.” (Smith et al, 2004).

“The rise in diversity among students on U.S. campuses demands that job descriptions stress experience in teaching different kinds of students as well as skill in developing classroom environments that facilitate learning for all students. Looking for these qualities is especially important in the sciences, where the content of the curriculum may or may not change because of issues of race and gender, but where helping students of diverse backgrounds to succeed is a widespread goal. Many faculty of color bring the expertise needed to accomplish that goal.” (Smith, 2000)

University of Oregon Requirement
In support of its commitment to affirmative action and equal opportunity, the UO includes a requirement in its Unclassified Appointments Process that position announcements include a statement about the University’s commitment to affirmative action and equal opportunity and the successful candidate’s responsibility to work effectively with faculty, staff and students from diverse backgrounds. That statement can and should be tailored by the hiring unit to best reflect the needs of the position and the unit’s approach to ensuring support of our increasingly diverse university community.

Marketing the Position

The position announcement will serve as a first introduction of the position to many prospective candidates.  First impressions are important. An effective position announcement will generate interest in the position, the department and the institution, and will give your search an edge in attracting the best available candidates.

Recommended practices in using the position announcement as a marketing tool, and related challenges, include the following:

Recommended Practice Associated Challenges
Make the announcement clear and focused. A “cluttered” announcement may generate as much confusion as interest.
Briefly convey relevant department directions, initiatives and other information that is likely to generate interest in the position. 

A position in a unit with vision, one that aspires to exciting challenges and directions, is more likely to attract candidate attention.

A position announcement that provides only the most basic information can come across as dry and unappealing.
Provide context as to how the position fits within the larger organization – the school or college and the institution as a whole – including opportunities for collaborative working relationships. This broader information can allow candidates to envision how they might contribute. This is particularly true in new or cross-disciplinary areas. Omiting the broader context may mean missing opportunities to create greater appeal and sense of relevance for some candidates.
Specifically address the importance of diversity to the position for which you are searching. For tenure-related positions, relevant job performance attributes might include the demonstrated ability to mentor and support students from diverse backgrounds, cross-cultural communication skills, experience with different teaching strategies and learning styles, or a research agenda that addresses or incorporates issues that involve or affect diverse groups. Candidates for whom diversity is an important consideration will recognize language that suggests that diversity is not integral to the value of a department.  Particularly for candidates from diverse backgrounds, language that suggests that diversity is a “tag-along” rather than a core value may impact your ability to attract candidates who would add value for your department.
In describing the institution and surrounding community, be mindful of who may or may not see themselves as included in that description.   Craft your description of the benefits of the community to be as inclusive as possible. Well-meaning language such as “family-friendly community” or “beautifully situated between the Pacific Ocean and the Cascades” might be very attractive to candidates who are married, with children, and/or who enjoy the outdoors.  That language may cause someone who is single, who doesn’t have or intend to have children, and/or who prefers the ballet and opera to hiking and camping to wonder whether s/he would be happy in Eugene.

Among the other candidate-centered changes that departments should consider are

  1. explaining the department’s vision for the program and for the candidate
  2. providing a departmental, college, or institutional description/character statement
  3. using inclusive language in the position announcement
  4. making specific references to teaching load, service or administration requirements, salary

Resources

Cook, K.C.  Recruiting New Faculty? Change Your Rhetorical Perspective (2002).  Complicating Binaries: Exploring Tensions in Technical and Scientific Communication.  29th Annual Conference Proceedings 2002. pp. 119-122. [PDF]

Smith, D. (2000).  How to Diversity the Faculty.  Academe.  Vol. 86, No. 5 (Sep. – Oct., 2000), pp. 48-52
Published by: American Association of University Professors.

Smith, D., Caroline S. Turner, Nana Osei-Kofi and Sandra Richards. (2004).   Interrupting the Usual: Successful Strategies for Hiring Diverse FacultyThe Journal of Higher Education.  Vol. 75, No. 2 (Mar. – Apr., 2004), pp. 133-160

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