Finding Faculty: Hiring Practices That Work (from personal experience as academic hiring leader)

By Stacey Scott, MEd
Asst. Director Maine Educator’s Consortium, Adjunct Online Instructor, Author, School Administrator

It’s a monumental investment of time and money when you seek to hire quality faculty. There is no magic bullet or system of guarantees when you want to add the best of the best to your team. As a 20 year educational administrator, I understand the tremendous responsibility it is to secure high performing faculty. It is the shared desire of all building leaders because we understand the link that faculty has with improving morale, professionalism, and ultimately our student learning. I remember in my early leadership years, I spent many painful hours selecting candidates that were not “good fits”. This was discouraging and my ego was bruised. I needed to improve my strategy, so I swallowed my pride and realized I didn’t have all the answers. I began to seek out colleagues that I respected and asked questions on how they were finding such great matches to bring on board. This was one of the single and smartest decisions I ever made. Over time, I began to utilize very specific methods that helped to secure my choices in matching people to positions. I began to have such success with building my teams with longevity that I was often sought out for advice on the topic. Although there are many opinions regarding best practices, I have compiled my KNOWLEDGE of 9 essential tips that focus on HIRING PRACTICES THAT WORK!


KNOW the discipline you are hiring for inside and out. If you are not confident in your understanding of a particular job you are trying to hire for, then KNOW when to step out of the lead. Look to a colleague that has the skill set or subject matter expertise to offer insights and questions to assist in your screening, interviewing and share in the decision making process. If you don’t thoroughly comprehend the job you want performed, then you are not going to be able to find the right fit for the job.

N = NARROW the scope

I recommend specificity when looking to advertise your open position. Be as precise as you can with a detailed description of what you are looking for. Offering a salary range up front helps to show transparency, attract serious applicants, and saves time. Target your audience so it’s clear to a potential contender if they are a match with qualifications. This level of detail will help limit your competent job seekers and not open the floodgates to excessive resumes to sift thru. Invest your time advertising or choosing job candidates from avenues that are utilized by your targeted group. For instance, if you want to fill an online instructor position, you need to NARROW your focus by investing heavily in online resources, including business and networking sites. After all, this is where your target group of online potential hires tend to spend the most time.


There are times when you review a CV or resume and you automatically believe due to a person’s high level of degree and expertise, he or she will negotiate above the pay grade and not be interested in the role. It is also a tragic assumption to review an applicant’s information, and pre-determine that someone is too busy in their lives to possibly focus on the job you are offering. Do not make the mistake of putting a seemingly OVERQUALIFIED or OVERCOMMITTED individual in the discard pile. Many well established and esteemed professionals have climbed a ladder only to realize they were happier on a different step of their careers. Many well educated people are at a place in their lives where $ and high level positions or titles are not the end all and be all. Many of these hardworking individuals offer invaluable expertise to positions because they have the passion for the work and the clarity to seek what they want. There are many folks who enjoy their lives operating at full throttle. These folks tend to be extremely productive, are well read, involved in their field and take advantage of ongoing learning opportunities. These uber- organized, busy folks tend to have high energy and offer resources and inspiration to a team. Please consider overqualified and overcommitted individuals as they are often the best faculty to find.

W = WHY?

Instead of asking the interviewee the question of “Why do you want to work for my institution?”, I choose to flip the dialogue and begin a conversation as to WHY I WORK at the institution. This often puts the candidate at ease and it allows me to explain why I have chosen to work in this particular field and location. I share how I feel about working in my environment, what the professional atmosphere and training is like and I get time to share my passion for my workplace. This always opens up a discussion that sets a tone where pride and longevity are valued. This is a gateway to me receiving a sense if my candidate wants to belong to a community like I have described. I appreciate being able to know at this point if my interviewee has passion for their job.


Be sure you are clear with the law and the kinds of questions you can LEGALLY ask in an interview. Consult with your school or agency’s handbook or Human Resource department for guidance before you actually begin meeting with applicants. You want to be certain you are respectful and representing all processes and procedures that your institution has outlined in their policies. There are often detailed steps to follow in a reference manual, that outlines expectations for you to strictly adhere to. It is imperative that when you have the responsibility of hiring faculty, you fairly assess all of your candidates equally and in a non-discriminatory manner. When needed, seek out training and brush up on skills in this area. In the end, being prepared and professional will accomplish your goal of a successful hire


When you are the lead with hiring faculty and your goal is to acquire the best for your team, you will need to commit and be willing to work evening and weekend hours occasionally. This one behavior can make or break whether or not you obtain the best person for your opening. Consider that many excellent candidates currently hold full-time jobs and they have less time available to interview. Your devotion to your top choices may need to show flexibility to meet outside of traditional office hours. In the world of 24/7 functioning, it is now commonplace to virtually connect day or night with prospective candidates. It is well worth your time to EXPAND your schedule for your top tiered, currently employed applicants. These potential faculty members are usually current with best practice and trainings.

Also be aware that your initiation, dialogue and response time in getting back to people matters. EXPEDITE your attempts to communicate with your candidate and you will demonstrate that you are organized, serious, and impressive. It certainly is imperative that you are thorough with your considerations, yet you can not afford to be slow. Your aim is to be simultaneously comprehensive and swift. If you have a strong feeling that a particular person is going to be a fit for your job, chances are another person actively hiring feels the same way about the individual. Top notch candidates do not typically stay available long, so if you want the best, you must adjust and promptly respond to your prospects.

D = DEEP Screening of References

It is key that you take time to question a minimum of 3 references and then if the person is a final candidate I ask for 2 more. I ask very involved and DEEP questions, including what are the skill sets and areas for growth needed. I ask references if they would hire this specific contender back again. I can tell from the willingness or hesitancy of the response, just how my candidate is viewed. This leads me to valuable information to consider and very often my answer lies in the pregnant pauses.


Trust your GUT. Be mindful and listen to what your gut is telling you about a candidate? Ask yourself questions like “Do I need a second interview to dig deeper into anything?” “Do I need to delve into more references?” “Would it be helpful to request a colleague to join me in discussing my impressions?” “What is this candidate reminding me of that is giving me such a personal reaction?” Pay close attention to your instincts during the interview. If you get a gnawing sense to revisit an interview question or to disengage with a particular candidate, then do exactly that. Document your reasoning in your own notes so you will recall your reactions. Learning to value your instincts takes time and practice, yet is very beneficial to the process.


The best way to find out if someone can do the job is to actually provide the candidate with tasks and scenarios typical to the role. This can be done verbally, face to face, or virtually, as long as you offer some pseudo performance duties. For example, pretend the applicant works for you and set the stage with a real life issue that could be faced in the job. Then, EVALUATE together how the person managed this exercise. Another idea is to ask a question about a time when something went wrong in their work and share how it was handled. How would it be managed now? A person that can share how they learn, take feedback and grow, demonstrates the ability to reflect and have insight.

When you can, try to observe your candidate because it helps to see how the person manages stress under pressure and how easily a person attempts to recover if need be. This provides a snapshot into skill, a level of flexibility and risk taking in a person’s character. This is valuable conversation material that helps to determine how a person could fit on your team. Throughout the interview process, you are continually interacting with your candidate and determining if you feel the candidate can effectively EXPRESS ideas clearly. In some cases, you may have a portion of your interview be online, and you will have an opportunity to review the writing and video skills of your interviewee. I highly recommend that you always ask for a writing sample because how a person speaks, is not necessarily a reflection of how a person communicates in writing.

KNOWLEDGE is indeed power, so If you can follow these 9 essential tips of hiring KNOWLEDGE, you will find faculty hiring practices that work!

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