Tenure-Track Search Process Guide

2.0 Leading an effective search committee

2.1 Initiation of a tenure-track search
2.2 Preparation before the search committee meets
2.3 Identify the search committee
2.4 Information on confidentiality
2.5 Record keeping
2.6 Resources

2.1 Initiation of a tenure-track search

Department chairs submit a Tenure-Track Faculty Position Request Form (available from Shanon Nowell) to the Provost’s Office early March for any tenure-track search to be conducted in the subsequent academic year. Positions are authorized by the Provost after consultation with the President, Deans, and the Faculty Senate. After receiving authorization, the department chair will meet with their Dean in order to discuss the department’s plans for the search process.

2.2 Preparation before the search committee meets

Before the search committee is formed (or concurrent to its formation), the search chair should sketch an initial search plan based on the approved position description.

  • To ensure the largest, most diverse pool of candidates, the initial search plan should sketch some outreach activities, including lists of: nominators (potential sources of candidates) and nominees (potential candidates) to be notified; listservs, blogs, and other online venues where the position can be posted; conferences where candidates can be scouted and screening interviews might be conducted; award lists that can be searched for nominees; and venues for advertisements. The initial plan will be modified over time, but it’s wise to have a place to begin.
  • Develop a realistic timeline for recruiting and interviewing (see a sample timeline in the resources section below), working backward from a target completion date, recognizing that some fields have specific job market periods. Be sure to account for holidays, grading periods, and other times when it will be difficult to get faculty members’ attention.

2.3 Identify the search committee

The search chair: Any tenured member of the department/program may serve as chair. The search chair needs to ensure that they will have the time/capacity to devote to this task during the semester in which the bulk of the work will be done (i.e., fall semester of the search). In addition, other members of the screening/search committee may elect to serve in lieu of other committee work during the search year, depending upon the anticipated size of the applicant pool.

Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty Members: All tenured and tenure-track faculty members should participate in all stages of the search. Exceptions include faculty members on sabbatical who choose not to participate and retiring faculty who are typically not included in the search for their replacement. If your position will include courses that contribute to an interdisciplinary program, include at least one non-departmental member of that ID program on your search committee. Any tenured member of the department may serve as the search chair. Continuing Faculty are encouraged to but not required to participate. Non-tenure-track faculty are neither required to nor encouraged to participate.

Students: Students should be present for teaching demonstrations and, ideally, for research presentations. Student feedback ought to be sought out and shared with the search committee. If it is the practice of the department to invite a student to serve as a formal member of the search committee, the confidential nature of search processes must be explained to the student. In addition, departments may invite students to informal meetings with each candidate, such as lunch on campus or a reception.

The Liberal Arts Search Representative (LASR): LASRs are charged to 1) be a constructive voice in the search committee deliberations. A tenure-track search is one of the most important and most challenging types of work in which faculty engage. It can be very helpful to have an outsider’s perspective and to allow that person to encourage open dialogue within the search committee deliberations; 2), remind the search committee that finalists must serve the college as a whole (e.g. ability to contribute to general education as well has departmental offerings). Having such a person on the search committee will also emphasize for candidates our commitment to the liberal arts; and 3) help ensure that college guidelines in hiring practices are followed. A department may not conduct a search very often; LASRs represent a source of continuity and collective wisdom about hiring.

Propose to your Dean a couple of tenured faculty members from outside your department (ideally also outside your division) who could serve as LASR. The LASR needs to have undergone training within the last five years. The LASR will be appointed to the search committee by the Provost’s Office. The LASR is a full voting member of the search committee who must be present at all search committee meetings, including the meeting/s for the development of the position description.

Diversity advocate: Appoint a search committee member as a diversity advocate (usually the LASR) to help ensure that the search is consistent with best practices in faculty search and hiring and that it gives due consideration to all candidates. Although all members should be trained on issues of diversity and affirmative action, the diversity advocate helps the committee stay focused on these efforts. A specific action that a person in this role could take
would be to review the applicant pool and candidate shortlist to ensure adequate representation of women/underrepresented minorities. Another action for this individual is to ensure that each candidate is asked about his or her demonstrated commitment to diversity.

Screening committee (optional): Create a screening subcommittee including, where possible, gender balance, range of years of service, and members of underrepresented groups. In mid-size to large departments and/or in departments that expect to receive large numbers of applications (50+), the department may choose to form a screening subcommittee that conducts some aspects of applicant review prior to consultation with the full search committee. The screening subcommittee should be chaired by the search chair and must include the LASR. Finally, the full committee must agree to abide by the screening performed by the subcommittee. To that end, it is important to agree, in advance, on the tasks that have been assigned to the subcommittee. In most cases, the subcommittee is asked to eliminate the candidates who do not meet the minimum requirements for the position and to recommend, to the full committee, a smaller slate of candidates for consideration for phone interviews (less than 20).

2.4 Information on confidentiality

All of the material that candidates submit as part of their file is confidential and should not be shared with anyone who does not have a direct role in the search. In addition, all search committee conversations are confidential and should not be shared with anyone who does not have a direct role in the search. If a search committee member is asked about the search process by a candidate, they should refer that person to the search chair. The search chair can update candidates about the process and timeline. All positions are posted on the Gustavus Human Resources website, so direct any inquiry you may receive about the position to that listing or to the search chair. The search chair should also discuss confidentiality with the departmental administrative assistant and any student worker who may be asked to handle candidate application materials. You may personally know a particular candidate or know the candidate’s advisor, references, etc. It is not appropriate to informally gather or share information that is not part of the candidate’s file at any point in the search.

NOTE: Don’t write anything in an email that you wouldn’t want attributed to you on the front page of a major newspaper. Email is great for distributing information but deliberations about candidates should be done in person. Email is not a secure medium and emails can be forwarded.

2.5 Record keeping

The committee must keep complete records, including all job advertisements, postings, lists of nominators and nominees, candidate dossiers, rating sheets, long and short lists, and interview notes. The documentation must demonstrate that Gustavus has made good faith efforts toward outreach and an equitable search process.

2.6 Resources

Example timeline (based on 50 applications)




First week of May: Approval of tenure-track position


Week of May 7: Meeting #1: Interrupting Bias and Search Process Beginnings (Dean, FADIE, entire search committee (which includes the LASR))


Week of May 14: Meeting for Crafting Ad (entire search committee)


Week of May 21: Meeting for Developing Selection Criteria (entire search committee)


May 21-June 15: First, ad and criteria suggestions and revisions with FADIE, then approval of ad by Provost’s Office


June 15 through application deadline: Recruiting Efforts (entire search committee)


Summer: Decide the class (and class section) that the candidates will teach, so the professor can amend the syllabus to include this information.


October 9: Suggested deadline for applications. Amend the following schedule based on the selected deadline, keeping the timing between events. You may want to work back from the date you wish to make a final selection. Remember that candidate on-campus visits need to be scheduled during the instructional days of the semester.


October 10: Minimum requirement meeting (sub-group of screening committee), to generate a list of candidates that meet minimum requirements (qualified applicant list).


October 11-27: Screening of qualified applicants against the evaluation rubric (screening committee)


October 27: Meeting to generate top-third list (screening committee)


October 27-November 2: Evaluation of top-third candidates


November 2: Meeting to generate phone interview short list (~5-10 candidates) (screening or full search committee, depending on size of top-third pool, TBD by Dean and LASR)


November 9: Phone Interviews of the short list (screening committee)


Optional: Contact references of short list.


November 9-13: Individual evaluation of phone interviewees.


November 13: Meeting to select top 3, unranked, candidates for interview (entire search committee)


Week of November 27: On campus interviews (entire search committee)


Week of December 4: Contact references of finalists. Evaluate finalists.


December 8: Final selection (entire search committee)

The Liberal Arts Search Representative (LASR)

Who is the Liberal Arts Search Representative? The LASR is a tenured member of the Gustavus faculty from outside the department (and ideally the division) conducting the search who serves as a full voting member of the search committee.

Why do we call it the Liberal Arts Search Representative when we are all “representatives of the liberal arts?” It is considered a “best practice” in academia to have an external faculty member serve on searches for new tenure track hires. The name was chosen to reflect the emphasis this person should have in their role as a search committee member; to act as a representative for the full faculty and campus community. This person is expected to prompt the other committee members to be mindful of the contributions the various candidates may or may not bring to the broader campus community, not simply the department.

What is the LASR’s role on a search committee? Liberal Arts Search Representatives perform three essential functions in the search process:

  1. They provide a constructive voice in the search committee deliberations. It can be very helpful to have an outsider’s perspective unencumbered by disciplinary or departmental disagreements in such an important discussion. This open perspective will help to encourage open dialogue within the search committee deliberations.
  2. The LASR is charged with reminding the search committee that the finalists recommended to the dean should be good faculty colleagues for the college as a whole as well as the department. Having such a person on the search committee will also emphasize for candidates our commitment to the liberal arts.
  3. Finally, the LASR, as an experienced senior faculty member, helps ensure that college guidelines in hiring practices are followed.

How does the LASR participate in the search process? The Liberal Arts Search Representative is a voting member of the search committee and like the rest of the committee and must participate in all committee deliberations and all aspects of the on-campus candidate visits.

When does the LASR join the search committee? The LASR is part of the committee from the beginning and helps craft the position description and advertisement just like members of the searching department.

I’m a department chair and our tenure track search was approved. What do I do now? Before you do anything else, you identify a list of 3 to 5 senior faculty members from outside your department and preferably outside your division who you think would be good to work with as a LASR. You then send the list of names to your dean who will assign the best LASR for your search based on your recommendations. You are then free to invite this person to serve as the LASR for your search.

Why does the chair come up with the names of possible candidates if the dean is picking the LASR? The Provost’s Office highly values your sense of who would work well with your department. The deans are more likely to know of hidden service responsibilities and other less public dynamics that LASR candidates face in their daily work here.

I have been invited to be a LASR. Why should I say yes? You should feel honored to have been asked. Tenure track searches are some of the most important work we do outside of the classroom. The invitation to serve as a LASR means your colleagues across campus respect and trust you to help them pick a member of their department. Searches at many institutions are considered the first decision regarding tenure as a member of the faculty. As a senior member of the Gustavus faculty as a whole, you should have an important voice in determining who will join the Gustavus faculty.

I am a LASR on a search and I noticed that we are not following appropriate search procedures. What should I do? If possible, you should first talk to the search chair. If that is unsuccessful or inappropriate for some reason, you should talk to your dean.

I know a bunch of people who might be good at this, but I’m not sure who would be best. What qualities should I look for and which are less important in identifying our LASR? LASR selections should not be made on the basis of that person’s knowledge of a discipline. Nor do they have to be humanists or well-known for their interest in the traditional liberal arts. They should be knowledgeable about the college and what it is like to work here. It would be helpful if they have recently participated in a search. They should be able to be a constructive member of the search committee.

I like the LASR idea but I feel like we will waste a lot of time getting the LASR up to speed on our field. What if I cannot find anyone who understands our field? It is the responsibility of the search committee to answer questions a Liberal Arts Search Representative may have about research and teaching in the discipline. Just as tenure and promotion processes require us to be able to communicate clearly without jargon about our field to well-educated, non-experts, the search process is also a time to share our discipline with our colleagues.

Last modified: 9 November 2017, by Shanon Nowell