Advertising For and Actively Recruiting an Excellent and Diverse Pool of Candidates

This document is based on Searching for Excellence & Diversity: A Guide for Search Committee Chairs, a guide developed by the Women in Science & Engineering Leadership Institute (WISELI) at the University of Wisconsin Madison.

(Pages 15‐33 in WISELI Book)


Ideally, the search committee will be engaged in developing the advertisement for the position and in deciding where to publish the advertisement. Committees are encouraged to think broadly as they advertise the position. The Provost’s Office produces and updates a Faculty Advertisement Guide for your use. Early advertisement is also encouraged as it helps to create a larger candidate pool.

1. Language for the advertisement

The tagline —

We are an equal opportunity employer and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law. We are a VEVRAA Federal Contractor.

— is required by federal regulation and must appear in all advertisements. To be more attractive to potential candidates, additional language should be considered. Proactive language conveys a level of commitment beyond that required by regulation and tells potential applicants that the University values diversity.

Proactive language can be included as a specific job qualification or as a summary statement at the end of job announcements. Examples of proactive language include the following:

    • BU is committed to building a culturally diverse faculty and strongly encourages applications from female and minority candidates.
    • Women, minorities, individuals with disabilities and veterans are encouraged to apply.
    • BU is dedicated to the goal of building a culturally diverse and pluralistic faculty committed to teaching and working in a multicultural environment and strongly encourages applications from minorities and women.
    • Candidates should describe how multicultural issues have been or will be brought into courses.
    • Candidates should describe previous activities mentoring minorities, women, or members of other underrepresented groups.

2. Places to advertise position openings

The ad should appear on the college and department websites. For print or web advertisements, determining where an ad is placed is as important as the wording of the advertisement. Departments should be cautious about spending large sums of money to advertise in special diversity newsletters or publications. Reputable publications such as the Chronicle of Higher Education or those distributed by national discipline‐based organizations can be counted on to actually reach intended audiences.

The growth of the internet has introduced a large number of additional venues for placing ads. A thorough list of resources concerning professional and academic organizations, professional publications and web resources, and organizations that maintain databases of potential recruits can be found on our recruitment page:

Please consult this website for ideas on where your faculty position advertisement could be listed.

3. Public Relations for the University

The process of advertising for a faculty position provides the University with a public relations opportunity for the University, College, and Department. The search committee, in conjunction with the Dean’s office, should consider preparing an information packet to be sent to all candidates who respond to the advertisement upon receipt of their application. All search committees are encouraged to present final candidates with an information packet that is tailored to the school or college that is conducting the search. General information that may be of interest to all faculty candidates may be found in the Guide to Faculty Life at Boston University. This includes links to maps, governance documents, assistance with information about childcare, the current Research magazine for the University, and more. The Faculty Central website is also publicly available, and may be of interest to prospective faculty. Finally, the Strategic Plan for Boston University is easily accessible, and prospective faculty may be curious about it.


1. Statement on diversity in searches (pp.16‐17)

Diversity is an issue that inevitably surfaces in every search. The diversity of the university’s faculty and staff influences its strength and intellectual personality. At the campus level as well as at the departmental level, we need diversity in discipline, intellectual outlook, cognitive style, and personality to offer students the breadth of ideas that constitutes a dynamic intellectual community. Diversity of experience, age, physical ability, religion, ethnicity, and gender contributes to the richness of the environment for teaching and research and provides students and the public with a university that reflects the society it serves.1

In order to build a diverse pool of candidates, it is necessary to consciously strive to do so as it may not happen by simply advertising an open position. The time to discuss diversity is at the beginning of the search. It is too late to address the issue when and if you are asked, “Why are there no women or minorities on your finalist list?” Frequently, search committees answer such questions by claiming that “there weren’t any women or minority applicants,” or “there weren’t any good ones.”2 One goal of your search should be to ensure that there are outstanding women and minorities in your pool of candidates. Think broadly and creatively about recruiting candidates. The typical route of placing an ad and waiting for applications is no longer sufficient. In this competitive hiring market, some of the best candidates may not see your ad or may not see themselves in your advertised position without some encouragement.

Finally, it is important to emphasize that every person hired at Boston University should know that they were hired because they were the best person for the job.3 By generating larger and more diverse pools of applicants for every position, the best candidate for the position will be a woman, minority, or disabled person more often than in the past.

2. Common views on diversity in hiring—and some responses (pp. 17‐19)

Previous search committee chairs have sometimes heard the following, or similar, statements from their search committee members and other faculty in their departments. These views may be raised during your discussions of diversity. Some suggestions for responding to such statements are provided.

“I am fully in favor of diversity, but I don’t want to sacrifice quality for diversity.” No one wants to or recommends sacrificing quality for diversity; indeed, no qualified minority/female candidate wants to be considered on the basis of diversity alone. The search committee should be responsible not only for finding and including highly qualified minority and female candidates, but also for ensuring that the candidates and the department/university in general know that they were selected on the basis of merit.

“We have to focus on hiring the ‘best.’” True. But what is the best? If we do not actively recruit a diverse pool of candidates, how will we know we have attracted the best possible candidates to apply? What are the criteria for the “best?” What is “best” for the department? The university? The students? Diverse faculty members will bring new and different perspectives, interests, and research questions that can enhance knowledge, understanding, and academic excellence in any field. Diverse and excellent faculty members can help attract and retain students from underrepresented groups. Diverse faculty members can enhance the educational experience of all students—minority and majority. Interacting with diverse faculty offers all students valuable lessons about the increasingly diverse world in which we live, and lessons about society, cultural differences, value systems, etc.

“Campuses are so focused on diversifying their faculties that heterosexual white males have no chance,” or “Recruiting women and minority faculty diminishes opportunities for white male faculty.” A study examining the experiences of scholars who have recently earned doctorates and won prestigious fellowships (Ford, Mellon, and Spencer) found no evidence of discrimination against white men. Indeed, white men who had some expertise related to diversity had a significant advantage in the job market.4 Another study examining nationwide faculty hires in Sociology in 1991–92 also found no evidence of disadvantages for white men. Indeed, this study found that, despite some improvement, disadvantages still existed for “[white] women, minority men, and most especially minority women.”5

“There are no women/minorities in our field, or no qualified women/minorities.” Though women and minorities may be scarce in some fields, it is rarely the case that there are none. The search committee, as part of its efforts to build its pool, must actively seek out qualified women and minority candidates.

“The scarcity of faculty of color in the sciences means that few are available, those who are available are in high demand, and we can’t compete.” In a recent study of the recipients of prestigious Ford Fellowships, all of whom are minorities, the majority, 54%, were not aggressively pursued for faculty positions despite holding postdoctoral research appointments for up to six years after finishing their degrees.6Only 11% of scholars of color were simultaneously recruited by several institutions, thus, the remaining 89% were not involved in “competitive bidding wars.”7

“Minority candidates would not want to come to our campus.” The search committee should not make such decisions for the candidates, but should let the candidates decide if the campus and/or community are a good match for them. The search committee should show potential candidates how they might fit into our campus, provide them with resources for finding out more about our campus and community, and help them make connections to individuals and groups who may share their interests, race, ethnicity, etc.


  1. How to build a diverse pool of candidates (pp. 19‐23):

    • Develop a broad definition of the position and the desired scholarship, experience, and disciplinary background. Narrowly defined searches may tend to exclude women or minorities because of pipeline issues. Narrowly defined searches may limit your ability to consider candidates with a different profile who, nonetheless, qualify for your position. Be clear about what is really “required” and what is “preferred.” If appropriate, use “preferred” instead of “required,” “should” instead of “must,” etc. when describing qualifications and developing criteria.
    • Use the resources listed at to advertise the position as widely as possible.
    • Consider including “experience working with/teaching diverse groups/diverse students” as one of your preferred criteria.
    • Make calls and send e‐mails or letters to a wide range of contacts asking for potential candidates. Ask specifically if they have diverse candidates to recommend.
    • Make an effort to identify contacts who have diverse backgrounds or experiences. Such contacts may help you reach highly qualified minority/women candidates.
    • Make lists of professional meetings, professional societies, members of these societies, etc. and use them to recruit candidates.
    • Call potential candidates directly to encourage them to apply.
    • Remember to actively involve your search committee members and delegate specific tasks to them. For example, ask each member of your search committee to call ten colleagues and ask them to recommend potential candidates.
    • Above all, remember that at this point your goal is to EXPAND your pool of potential candidates. Sifting and winnowing will occur later in the process.
    • Finally, don’t lose sight of the “Equal Opportunity” half of the EOE/AA assurance. All candidates deserve an equal opportunity to be considered, and may emerge as the candidate of choice in a search process.

BU resources that may be of interest:

2. Dispense with assumptions that may limit your pool (pp. 23‐24)

Previous search committee chairs report that the following assumptions may hamper efforts to recruit a diverse and excellent pool of candidates. Some potential responses include:

“We shouldn’t have to convince a person to be a candidate.” In fact, many of the finalists in searches across campus—for positions as diverse as assistant professor, provost, and chancellor—had to be convinced to apply. Some candidates may think their credentials don’t fit, that they are too junior, or that they don’t want to live in Boston. Talk to prospective candidates and ask them to let the committee evaluate their credentials. Remind them that without knowing who will be in the pool, you can’t predict how any given candidate will compare and ask them to postpone making judgments themselves until a later time in the process. Once they are in the pool, either side can always decide that the fit isn’t a good one, but if candidates don’t enter the pool, the committee loses the opportunity to consider them. Another argument to use with junior candidates is that the application process will provide valuable experience even if their application is unsuccessful in this search. Remind them that going through the process will make them more comfortable and knowledgeable when the job of their dreams comes along. Individual attention and persistence pay off—there are many examples from other searches of “reluctant” candidates who needed to be coaxed into the pool and turned out to be stellar finalists.

“Excellent candidates need the same credentials as the person leaving the position.” There are many examples of highly successful people who have taken nontraditional career routes. Some of our best faculty were recruited when they had less than the typical amount of postdoctoral experience, were employed at teaching colleges, had taken a break from their careers, or were working in the private sector or in government positions. At the national level, it is interesting to note that none of the five female deans of colleges of engineering in the U.S. were department chairs before becoming deans, and they are all highly successful deans. Think outside the box and recruit from unusual sources. You can always eliminate candidates from the pool later.

“People from Group X don’t make good teachers/administrators/faculty members, etc.” We all make assumptions about people based on the university granting their degree, the part of the country or world they come from, and their ethnicity or gender. Encourage your committee members to recognize this and avoid making assumptions. Your pool will only be hurt by comments such as, “People from the South never adjust to Boston’s weather,” “We never recruit well from the coasts,” or “There are no women [in a given field].”

  1. A valuable literature review and an extensive annotated bibliography of research on the impact of diversity on college campuses can be found in Daryl G. Smith, et al., Diversity Works: The Emerging Picture of How Students Benefit (Washington, D.C.: Association of American Colleges and Universities, 1997). See also Congressional Commission on the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering and Technology (CAWMSET), Land of Plenty: Diversity as America’s Competitive Edge in Science, Engineering and Technology (Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation, September 2000), 1, 9–13; and Caroline Sotello Viernes Turner, Diversifying the Faculty: A Guidebook for Search Committees (Washington, D.C.: Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2002), 1–2.
  2. Daryl G. Smith, et al., Achieving Faculty Diversity: Debunking the Myths (Washington, D.C.: Association of American Colleges and Universities, 1996).
  3. For a discussion of the potential negative consequences of “affirmative action” and how these can be eliminated by focusing on the centrality of merit in the decision‐making process see: Madeline E. Heilman, Michael C. Simon, and David R. Repper, “Intentionally favored, unintentionally harmed? The impact of sex‐based preferential selection on self‐perceptions and self‐evaluations,” Journal of Applied Psychology 72 (1987): 62–68 and Madeline E. Heilman, “Type of affirmative action policy: A determinant of reactions to sex‐based preferential selection?” Journal of Applied Psychology 83 (1998): 190–205. See also Virginia Brown and Florence L. Geis, “Turning lead into gold: Leadership by men and women and the alchemy of social consensus,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 46 (1984): 811–824.
  4. Smith, Achieving Faculty Diversity, 4, 65–70.
  5. Joya Misra, Ivy Kennelly, and Marina Karides, “Employment chances in the academic job market in sociology: Do race and gender matter?” Sociological Perspectives 42 (1999): 215–247.
  6. Smith, Achieving Faculty Diversity, 4, 95.
  7. Turner, Diversifying the Faculty, 16.