How to Hire Faculty: Inclusive Interviewing Best Practices

We pride ourselves on building an inclusive experience for faculty and students from their very first interactions.

In keeping with this effort, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences recommends the following steps towards inclusion as units work to hire faculty on the tenure and non-tenure track.

An inclusion approach to hiring processes considers how we might equip all candidates for jobs to be successful in securing opportunities to join our faculty with a particular focus on making candidates successful and embracing difference.

Planning an Inclusive First-Round Interview

1. Offer Accessibility Accommodations in your Invitation for Online Interviews

First round interviews are increasingly held online, which increases accessibility for many faculty candidates. When you schedule these interviews, however, you should solicit needs for technological accommodations. Here is some recommended language:

“We realize that video conference calls present some barriers to access; if you need any accommodations in order to successfully engage with the committee via video, please do let us know. Otherwise, we'll plan to use both video and audio via WebEx.”

2. Communicate in Multiple Modes to Ensure Success

Both language diversity and neurodiversity are assets to our university, and we can employ practices to honor these forms of diversity. Some candidates will need more time than others to consider and understand your questions, so building in additional time for interviews (within reason) can be helpful. Those who are speaking with you in a second (or third or fourth) language might be best supported by sharing the questions ahead of time or by receiving their questions both orally and in written forms. If you’re in a web platform that allows it, consider whether copying and pasting written forms of the question would be useful.

3. Ask about (and offer your own) pronouns and name pronunciations

Before an interview, send a candidate an invitation to share their pronouns and a pronunciation of their names. This allows the candidate to control their gender identity and name without having to correct members of the committee.

Planning an Inclusive Campus Visit

An inclusive campus visit considers how different people require different experiences in order to determine whether to take a job and that different bodies require different accommodations and experiences in order to be most successful. Unlike the short, first-round interviews, campus visits are multiple day events that attempt both to learn more about the candidate but also to allow the candidate to learn about UB’s culture and campus and what it’s like to live in Buffalo. Planning an inclusive visit takes time and dedicated thinking about the candidate as an individual and should be done from an intersectional framework.

1. Plan with candidates as much as possible

Before you begin planning the candidate’s visit, extend them an opportunity to tell you what kinds of accommodations might be necessary for them to be successful. This language might be integrated into the invitation to campus.

“We want to ensure we plan your visit so as to set you up for success; this includes planning for any accommodations that might enable you to be successful and comfortable. Please let me or XXX know if you can anticipate particular needs on your visit, including frequent breaks, a location/time for nursing, particular dietary accommodations (e.g., more frequent opportunities to eat or hydrate) or additional time built in as you travel from meeting to meeting. I welcome the opportunity to talk about the day’s schedule with you directly before your visit is planned.”

This acknowledges the need for accommodations across a range of contexts and invites the candidate, who is in a very vulnerable position, to share their needs with you directly.

Questions that might facilitate planning with the candidate include (but are not limited to):

Question:

Creates inclusion for:

Is there a time you prefer to have a break in the day?

Nursing parents; single parents; those with medical conditions/medications to take.

The dean’s office is X buildings away from where you’ll spend the bulk of your day. Does 15 minutes seem like enough time to travel between those buildings?

Candidates with physical constraints or chronic pain.

Would you prefer to see the rooms you’re teaching/talking in ahead of time? Is the morning of the talk soon enough or should we try to arrange a time to see it when you arrive?

Candidates with a range of neurodiversity; candidates with physical constraints.

Are there additional units, groups or individuals on campus you’d like to talk with?

Candidates from multiply marginalized gender, sexuality, racial, ethnic or ability groups.

Are there particular types of food you’d like to avoid for health or dietary reasons? Are there foods you are particularly keen on?

Candidates with medical conditions; candidates from particular religious groups; class diversity.

When do you typically eat dinner? A 7 pm dinner would get you back to the hotel by 9 pm—is that too late?

Candidates with medical conditions; parents; candidates from particular religious groups.

Do you prefer to be picked up at the airport by a committee member or would you prefer to secure an uber, lyft, or taxicab?

Candidates with medical conditions that require medication to fly; candidates from lower socio-economic statuses; gender diverse candidates.

Would you like to meet with someone on campus about benefits?

Candidates with medical conditions or with families; candidates from lower socio-economic statuses.

Do you need a pet-friendly hotel and/or accommodations for a support animal?

Candidates with service animals or other support pets.

2. Provide a draft for the candidate to adjust with a list of the moveable or change-able components of the campus visit itinerary

An early draft isn’t always possible, but if you can share a draft with the candidate and invite their feedback on the pieces of the agenda that are flexible, this provides the candidate an opportunity to tailor the agenda to their needs. Simply saying, “Is this okay?” does not create sincere opportunities for inclusive interviewing; inviting specific feedback (see table above) or offering opportunities for specific changes does.

3. Share how/whether marginalized groups are overtly supported on campus

This needs to happen with every candidate—not just those from marginalized and multiply-marginalized populations—for a number of reasons. First, marginalization isn’t always obvious or outward-facing. Some racial minorities pass as white; some neural, psychological, and physical diversities aren’t immediately apparent. Second, inclusive interviewing is an important part of building a more inclusive campus. All members of a community can benefit from clarifying the campus, college, and departmental approach to increasing diversity, creating a culture of inclusion, and working towards equity.

Additionally, an inclusive interview provides candidates—all candidates—with a vision of the department in all its diversity, from racial and ethnic diversity to gender diversity to appointment diversity. Avoid the temptation to assume Black candidates, for example, need all the “Black stuff” you know about or that the campus can offer. See table above

4. Offer breaks that are private

Before talks and throughout, offer breaks for thinking, reflecting, and recovering from the stress of a campus visit. Remember: we’re setting up candidates for success, and candidates with diverse abilities (both physical and psychological) require different considerations for success. Give all candidates the opportunity to take a deep breath before important meetings. Consider offering candidates a home station for their breaks where they can keep their bags, coats, and other personal items. Candidates who require medication or breastfeeding/pumping technologies will particularly benefit from a central location for their items. If you can’t provide a quiet, private and secure home base for candidates, ensure that candidates have access to a dedicated lactation room--be sure that members of the committee and other hosts know where these locations are to prevent hectic, last minute problems or confusion.

Also: don’t accompany candidates to the bathroom or sit with the candidates during their breaks unless the candidate explicitly asks. Candidates may need to take medication, adjust clothing, or otherwise engage in behavior that they wouldn’t feel comfortable doing in front of members of your search committee.

5. Communicate clearly about financial arrangements; if at all possible, have the department pay for the travel and lodging

Candidates on the job market are often juggling multiple campus visits, and those who are not already gainfully employed may struggle to pay upfront for airfare, lodging and other campus-visit related expenses. Best practice is for the department to cover all costs; if that’s not possible, make that clear as early as possible so that the candidate can make meaningful financial choices.

6. Don’t touch the candidate

If candidates want to be touched or hugged, they’ll let you know by asking for physical interaction. Otherwise, assume that touching the candidate (outside of a professional handshake) can function as an exclusionary or coercive practice. In interviews, as in all cases, consent matters. In an interview, members of the committee have much more power than the candidate, making coercion more likely. This means that even a request for a hug, for example, may force the candidate into a physical intimacy that’s unwanted, complicating traditional contexts for consent.

7. Share dress expectations for interview, non-interview events and dinner venues

This information can de-stress candidates with limited resources. Particularly for candidates who identify as women, the clothing expectations for interviews are both expensive and stressful to adhere to. Consider sharing what other attendees are likely to wear (jeans and a dress shirt; slacks and sweater; suit), but it’s also helpful to simply say business casual or formal. By advising the candidate about what to wear, you can create a more inclusive interview for many candidates, especially those from lower socio-economic groups, including graduate students and first generation college students.

8. Articulate policies that may affect the candidate: tenure and promotion, merit, benefits, including medical and parental leave and sponsorship possibilities

Although tenure and promotion guidelines are often discussed, an inclusive interview also includes additional clarity about how merit is recognized (if it is) and what kinds of leave are available. International candidates may specifically need to know upfront whether or not the university will sponsor their visa. Take care not to assume that candidates who identify as women would want to hear about parental leave—or that candidates who identify as men would not want to.

9. Keep the candidate informed about the visit, the campus, and the city

Be sure the candidate has information about where to go and who to contact throughout their visits, including numbers of anyone picking them up or dropping them off from hotels and airports. If you’ve scheduled a cab or shuttle, be sure those numbers are there as well. Provide candidates with information about the campus and the city, perhaps in a welcome bag so that they can ask questions that arise from the information. Consider connecting candidates with trusted real estate agents or others who might be helpful in discussing housing options.

Additionally, be sure to accompany the candidate to and from meetings. This seems obvious, but assuming candidates can get from point A to point B without an escort can prove a challenge for many candidates.

10. Have discussions about inclusion with the committee and department

Regardless of how well you’ve planned a visit, the people the candidate meets with are the primary vehicles for inclusion and equity. This list should be shared with faculty, but so too should faculty be asked to consider how the department is affected by implicit bias, micro-aggressions, and oppressive systems. Especially in STEM fields, the majority of faculty remain white, male and/or upper middle class, so the discussion within faculty must begin long before interviews and extend beyond it.

Welcome Bag Checklist

One step to providing your candidates with the information and preparation they need to be successful on a campus visit might be to provide a welcome bag in their hotel when they arrive. Items you might provide include:

❏     Water bottle (re-usable)
❏     Granola bars or other snack items (be mindful of allergies here)
❏     Copies of any important policies: T&P, benefits, etc., so the candidate need not search for them online
❏     Campus Map with gender neutral bathrooms and lactation room marked
❏     City Map
❏     Brochures from the Chamber of Commerce
❏     Brochures from local trusted Realtors
❏     Who’s Who Guide of the Department with Pictures
❏     Campus Visit Itinerary
❏     Sewing and/or First Aid Kit

Questions or Comments?

If you'd like to speak with someone in SEAS about inclusion, diversity, or equity, feel free to contact Dr. Letitia Thomas in the Office of STEM Diversity or Dr. Kristen Moore in the Department of Engineering Education.

The project of developing an inclusive school and department is ongoing here at UB. If you have suggestions, comments, or queries about any of this content, we'd love to hear from you and incorporate your feedback into this and other initiatives towards inclusion. You can contact Dr. Kristen Moore directly or if you prefer, complete the anonymous form below:

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