Advice to Search Committees and Job Seekers on Entry-Level Faculty Recruitment and Hiring
Prepared by the MLA Committee on Academic Freedom and Professional Rights and Responsibilities
I. General Principles
- Timely, accurate, and open communication between candidates and departments can ensure an atmosphere of collegiality, even when the job market is tight or institutional circumstances are uncertain. Departments help create such an atmosphere when they recognize how vulnerable candidates may feel during a job search; candidates help when they recognize that departments may be affected by institutional policies largely beyond their control. All parties involved in a job search should conduct themselves professionally.
- All job candidates should be treated equitably. Departments should adhere to nondiscrimination and affirmative action guidelines, taking particular care not to discriminate on the basis of race, ethnic or national origin, religion, disability, age, gender, or sexual orientation. All parties need to respect principles of confidentiality.
II. Advertising and Initial Screening
- Advertisements for an opening should be as specific as possible about the availability of the opening (definite, likely, or possible), the type of appointment (tenure-track or non-tenure-track), minimum degree requirements, field(s) of expertise, minimum teaching experience, and any other requirements or criteria.
- Applicants should be allowed ample time to respond to advertisements of openings, and deadlines for applications should be specified whenever possible. Applications should be accepted for at least two weeks after the announced publication date for a given print issue of the Job Information List (about 15 October, 15 November, 15 February, and 15 April). In all cases the online edition of the JIL is the most current and complete. After October some positions posted online may not appear in any print issue.
- Applications submitted in response to announcements should be acknowledged promptly and courteously. Following the initial screening, all applicants should be informed of their status and the department's projected timetable for making decisions about interviews at the MLA convention.
III. Preparing Applications
- The candidate should prepare a dossier, including a letter of application, curriculum vitae, transcript(s), and letters of recommendation, by mid-September, when the JIL becomes available for searching online. It is the candidate's responsibility to make sure that all requested materials are supplied. Candidates may wish to designate a faculty advisor to review the completed dossier.
- For the purpose of initial screening, a letter of application and dossier should normally suffice. Candidates should realize that the application process can be costly. To save all parties time and money, the committee recommends that departments request writing samples and other material only after a preliminary list of candidates has been chosen.
IV. Setting Up MLA Interviews
- Candidates should realize that the department advertising in the Job Information List normally expects candidates to attend the MLA convention for screening interviews. Candidates who do not attend the convention may therefore be at a disadvantage. In such cases a telephone interview may be an appropriate alternative. Departments and candidates should realize that convention attendance is generally the most efficient and least expensive way to conduct interviews. Departments should make every effort to be represented at the convention by at least one member of the search committee.
- Departments need to be able to reach candidates quickly to schedule MLA convention interviews. Candidates, especially those who plan to travel during the holidays, should supply departments with complete itineraries including telephone numbers. Because of the expenses related to convention attendance, departments should notify all candidates, including those not invited for interviews, of their status as early as possible.
- Candidates applying from outside North America should have a contact in the United States to receive mail and messages. Since few departments have resources to bring candidates to on-campus interviews from outside North America, candidates who reside abroad should determine arrangements for any on-campus interviews during MLA convention interviews.
- Departments need to be sure candidates know where the interview is taking place. The Job Information Center is set up to provide this information. If you plan to conduct interviews in the Job Information Center, you must come to the center in person and be assigned a table in the interview area. If you are interviewing in a hotel room, remember that hotel switchboard personnel are not authorized to disclose room numbers. The Job Information Center will provide either a cell phone contact number or hotel room number to candidates with whom your department has set up appointments, as you direct. To take advantage of this service, you need to register information about the location for MLA convention interviews by logging in to your department's JIL listings at the MLA Web site and filling out the online convention interview location form. Information may be entered and updated at any time between 1 November and the dates of the convention. Departments scheduled to begin interviewing on the first afternoon of the convention may need to arrive the day before, to avoid missing appointments because of travel delays or delays in checking in to hotels.
- Departments and candidates should plan realistically and adhere closely to schedules. When arranging interviews, candidates should leave as much time as possible between appointments, keeping in mind that they may have to deal with crowded elevators, slow meal service, or delayed shuttle buses. Departments should remember that interviews that run late may prevent candidates from keeping other appointments and that one instance of lateness can multiply into a whole series of missed or delayed interviews.
- Whether held on or off campus, in person or by telephone, interviews should be conducted in a professional manner, permitting candidates adequate opportunity to explain and demonstrate their qualifications. Candidates and departments should review "Dos and Don'ts for Interviews," revised in 2007 by CAFPRR and reprinted each October in the Job Information List.
- Interviewers should make every effort to accommodate candidates with disabilities.
V. Interviewing on Campus
- Departments inviting candidates for on-campus interviews should pay candidates' expenses, following standard institutional policies for travel reimbursement. Candidates should be told approximately how many others are being invited for on-campus interviews.
- On-campus interviews represent a large investment of time and money for departments; therefore, candidates should not accept on-campus interviews if they are not seriously interested in the position. Before traveling to a campus, candidates should thoroughly research the department's faculty and programs. Candidates should determine whether a salary range and teaching load have been established for the position and should decide in advance what their own minimum requirements are. It is important that candidates also determine in advance whether their decisions may be influenced by special circumstances that should be communicated to the chair.
- A department that invites a candidate to interview on its campus has an obligation to (a) arrange the logistics of the candidate's stay (local transportation, lodging [including disability accommodations], meals); (b) set up interviews with faculty members and administrators; (c) accommodate candidates' special needs; (d) provide a tour of the campus and its facilities; (e) provide adequate information about the department, the university, and the community; (f) plan social activities for the candidate; and (g) inform the candidate of the procedures and timetable for reimbursement.
- Candidates and members of search committees should be aware that visits to a campus, meals and other social activities included, are all inherent parts of the interview and should be conducted accordingly.
- Members of departments and search committees should not discuss other candidates with a visiting candidate.
VI. Negotiating an Offer
- To minimize misunderstanding and anxiety during negotiations about offers, departments should establish ground rules in advance and let candidates know what these are before any offers are made. Departments should communicate with candidates regularly and openly about the status of the search process. All parties should be aware that, especially in times of fiscal uncertainty, circumstances beyond the institution's control may delay or disrupt the hiring process.
- No candidate should be required before 22 January to give a final answer to an offer of a position without tenure for the following academic year, however early an offer is tendered. A formal good faith offer is a written document on official letterhead from an authorized representative of the institution (e-mail transmission of offers is not recommended). This document should stipulate the terms of appointment. Candidates should be afforded a minimum of two weeks following receipt to accept or reject a formal offer.
The committee welcomes comments and suggestions from members. Direct correspondence to Staff Liaison, Committee on Academic Freedom and Professional Rights and Responsibilities, MLA, 26 Broadway, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10004-1789, or to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Rev. March 2006.