To recruit and hire diverse, talented faculty who can help them fulfill their vision of being “a model for inclusive and transformative education,” leaders at Salt Lake Community College (SLCC) are focused on creating a positive candidate experience.
“We understand that the candidate experience is very important,” said Roderic Land, Ph.D., special assistant to the president at SLCC. “Even when candidates are not hired, they might talk about their experience with Salt Lake Community College, so it’s important that we treat them well.”
Over the last two years, Roderic and other SLCC leaders have concentrated on three major initiatives to ensure they provide a positive candidate experience that appeals to diverse faculty: reducing time-to-fill, addressing implicit biases throughout recruitment and selection, and mentoring aspiring faculty from underrepresented groups.
1. Reducing time-to-fill
According to James Broadbent, human resources director of faculty services at SLCC, “There have been many cases where we have a good finalist, but by the time we make an offer, they have already accepted a position at another institution.”
“For a while, it was a situation where some candidates were taking more than 30, 60, 90 days to go through the whole process,” Roderic explained. “We revised some of our hiring processes to cut down the time from application to offer.”
The revised hiring processes include a checkpoint that keeps stakeholders apprised of the search committee’s progress.
“After 30 days, we look at where the committee is in the process, and we send a report to the provost,” James said. “Then, we can see if they are at least moving forward to the teaching demonstration or an interview with the dean, or, if they have not yet started the minimum screening, we can find out why.”
The checkpoint also allows them to address any issues with the candidate pool.
“If we find out they only have two applicants, we know something needs to change,” James said. “We need to invest in advertising or find new channels to promote the position.”
While the overall goal has been to reduce time-to-fill, James did stress that in certain situations the pressure to hire too quickly can reduce opportunities for underrepresented groups.
“If we have an open position in July and we start our courses in August, it is easy to rush and not allow yourself time to think critically about what you are doing,” he said. “That can result in unnecessarily weeding out people who have a diverse background.”
2. Addressing implicit biases throughout recruitment and selection
To combat the implicit biases of search committee members and hiring managers, James, Roderic and other SLCC leaders completed search advocate training at Oregon State University.
“We use that training to think about how we can bring hiring committee members together to question some of the implicit biases they may have,” Roderic said.
The process of questioning implicit biases begins as soon as a vacancy occurs.
“When a position becomes available, it is a wonderful time for hiring managers to reimagine the role they are trying to fill,” Roderic explained. “As a search advocate, I would say, ‘Here is who just left, and here is the position description that you have used for the past 15 or 20 years.’ Then I would question whether or not the position description is still relevant.”
During this process, he also identifies areas where the position description might unintentionally restrict the candidate pool.
“If the position description calls for three years of full-time experience, we may miss out on a great candidate who has worked as an adjunct professor for 15 years,” Roderic said. “So we try to help people think about that on the front end.”
The search advocate also works with hiring managers and search committee members to ensure they manage the interview process appropriately.
“We will help the hiring committee think about what questions they will ask and how they will frame them,” Roderic said. “Then we challenge how the search committee assesses candidate responses, and, as people are discussing candidates, we push to have them investigate why they may or may not prefer a particular person.”
“That is what being a search advocate really boils down to,” James added. “Throughout the process, we act as a soundboard for the search committee and help them identify where biases are affecting their selection.”
3. Mentoring aspiring faculty from underrepresented groups
Because a lack of teaching experience often prevented department leaders from hiring diverse candidates, SLCC developed the Diverse Faculty Fellowship Program — which “is designed to provide minority scholars at the beginning of their academic careers with the opportunity to experience fully the life of a community college instructor and to develop and refine their teaching skills.”
“We developed this program with the help of HR and the provost. It’s a way of growing our own.” Roderic said. “If you have a master’s degree but do not have the teaching experience that is required for full-time faculty, we will bring you in and mentor you for up to three years. During that time, you get the same benefits as a full-time faculty member, but most importantly, you gain experience.”
At the end of the three-year fellowship, participants have the opportunity to apply for a full-time faculty position.
“In theory, if we have done our jobs correctly, they should rise up to be one of the top candidates in their pool,” Roderic said. “But even if the department chooses someone different, they still got the experience they needed, and when they talk about their participation in the program, they become a mouthpiece for us, which strengthens our recruiting efforts.”
Making a lasting impact
With these three initiatives, James and Roderic believe they can help fulfill SLCC’s commitment to “create an equitable climate of learning, teaching, and working for all demographics, cultures and abilities.”
“Each initiative plays a role in creating a diverse and inclusive environment,” James said. “That’s good for our faculty, our students and our society.”