Equal Opportunity Considerations in Faculty Hiring

In considering the equal opportunity significance in faculty hiring practices, you might find the following questions and answers useful.

Considering the scarcity of qualified minority candidates for faculty positions, how do I get a diverse applicant pool?

Your chances of having a diverse applicant pool for a faculty position are better than ever. As of 1998, the number of racial/ethnic minority doctorate recipients had more than doubled since 1978.* Even though this dramatic increase is encouraging, the high demand for minorities' doctorates still does exceed availability. Despite this competitiveness of the market, it is possible to have diversity in your applicant pool. However, achieving diversity in a search to fill a faculty position will most likely require an enhancement of some of the usual recruitment methods.

Consider the following when it is first ascertained that a position may open within your department in the coming months:

  • Contact Ph.D. granting institutions and inquire about recent or upcoming graduates. Try the institution's placement office or the Dean's office. Let them know that minorities and women are encouraged to apply
  • You and other faculty in the department may be able to find qualified minority candidates at professional conferences and meetings. If you meet individuals who might be promising candidates, include outreach to them by letter or phone call in your recruitment efforts when the position officially opens.

Consider the following when recruiting for an open position:

  • Have someone in the department act as a contact person for the candidates you recruit. A Ford Foundation and Spencer Foundation study showed that the most significant factor for minority candidates in finding a faculty job was having a contact person "who recommended the candidate and who provided support and advice throughout the hiring process." The study also found that usually this contact person had met the candidate previously at a conference or professional meeting. If they have not previously met, have the point person avail him/herself to the candidate by making initial and follow-up contacts.** This is a good practice for all of the candidates that you plan to interview, not just minorities.
  • Include in the position advertisement a statement encouraging qualified minorities and women to apply. This is a fairly easy one, but its effect can go a long way to let minorities and women know that they are welcome here. The phrasing usually included in our advertisements is: Swarthmore College is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Women and minorities are encouraged to apply.
  • Advertise the position in minority publications that are field specific or have a higher education focus. Even if a candidate is likely to see the ad in a mainstream publication, its presence in a minority publication sends a message about the seriousness of the college's and the department's commitment to recruiting minority candidates.
  • Contact field-specific minority organizations or minority subgroups of majority organizations. Many of these have job referral or posting services.
  • Do what works. Learn what attracted current minority professors to Swarthmore College. Where feasible, use this information from the very beginning of your search to attract minority candidates to your department's vacant position. This is definitely not an exhaustive list, but the idea is to be creative in coming up with methods of outreach to potential minority candidates. The Equal Opportunity Officer is
    available to discuss alternative methods of recruitment. You should contact the Office very early in the search process to receive the most beneficial effect.

Are there any questions or topics to stay away from when talking to a candidate? Or when talking about a candidate to third parties?

Yes! Remember this key point: when the question is unrelated to the position requirements, don't ask it! Interview questions, regardless of friendliness, should be related to the job to avoid any chance of real or perceived discrimination. Also, whatever is discriminating to ask the candidate is also discriminating to that candidate when asked of a third party (i.e., references). Congress and the courts have found questions based on the following topics to be discriminatory pre-employment inquiries in most circumstances:

a) Race and Color
b) Arrest Records and Convictions
c) Military Service for Another Country
d) Credit History and Records
e) Religion, unless it is a Bona Fide Occupational Qualification (BFOQ)
f) Citizenship, National Origin, or Naturalization
g) Birthplace of applicant or relatives, Birth Certificate, or Baptism
h) Applicant's Name, Previous Names or National Origin of Name
i) Marital, Parental, Pregnancy, or Family Status
j) Sex, unless a BFOQ
k) Height & Weight
l) Membership in Unrelated Professional Organizations or All Other Clubs, Social Fraternities, Sororities, Lodges
m) Child Care Inquiries, asked only of women
n) Worker's Compensation History and Lawful Use of Medications
o) Accommodations for Disabilities, when the disability is not visible and not revealed by the applicant.

Plan interview questions ahead of time. If you are uncertain about a particular question's validity, contact the Equal Opportunity Officer directly for assistance. There is most likely a good way to obtain the information you need without asking a potentially discriminatory question.

Once we get a diverse pool of candidates, how do we avoid unfairness in the way each candidate is evaluated?

Your recruitment process must be fair and equitable to each candidate from start to finish. Consider the attention that you plan to give your best candidate at each stage (i.e., reviewing applications, interviewing, questions asked, selecting finalists, etc.). Ask yourself whether that treatment is being similarly offered to the other candidates at that stage. Give candidates at any stage the same kind of scrutiny and opportunity. If you invite one on-campus candidate to give an on-campus lecture, invite all candidates to do the same, including internal candidates. Allowing special treatment for only certain candidates invites claims of discrimination in the process. Eventually you will make an offer to the top candidate based on qualifications and potential, but as you come to your decision you need to treat candidates in an even-handed manner in order to avoid any later disputes.

When making decisions, rely on professional judgment, not intuition. Intuition may give you a positive or negative hunch about a candidate, but you must be able to substantiate it with something more concrete. Stay focused on the position's requirements and whether a particular candidate has the necessary qualifications. Discriminating factors, such as stereotypes or bias based on a candidate's race, gender or any other prohibited characteristic (refer to the College's Statement of Equal Opportunity), should play no part in the evaluation process.

Candidates should be evaluated based on the following terms:

    • Can the candidate do the job?
      Examine talents, education, knowledge, aptitude, expertise, experience
      publications, etc.;
    • What will the candidate do in the future?
      The best predictor of future performance is past experience. Inquire about past challenges that are similar to expected responsibilities for this position. Explore the candidate's future plans, goals and vision, accomplishments, and career path; and
    • Does the candidate fit into the department and College?
      Be careful not to stereotype in this category! There may be cultural differences, which might require heightened understanding.

If you have questions or concerns about these matters we encourage you to consult with one of the folks listed below:

Sharmaine LaMar, Equal Opportunity Officer
Melanie Young, Associate VP for Human Resources
Constance Hungerford, Provost
Sarah Willie, Associate Provost

Their phones numbers and email addresses are available in the College Directory.