Best Practices for Hiring the Most Qualified Faculty

Women now make up around 16% of graduating Ph.D. students. Very often, these women have strong academic credentials, because they have been filtered at a higher rate than men. They are also in high demand. The following strategies for searches will help to ensure a diverse and excellent candidate pool, making it more probable that the search will result in a strong and excellent group of candidates:

  1. Conduct some open-area searches: Widen the definition of the physics subfelds where you are looking. In particular, explore emerging subfelds which are not already represented within the Department. There tend to be fewer nontraditional candidates in the established subfelds compared to those felds which are emerging. Examples of newer physics subfelds include experimental cosmology, biophysics and nanoscience.

  2. Identify the women who are giving invited talks, as these are most likely to have active and successful research programs. Study the list of plenary speakers at prestigious conferences over the last two or three years. Alternatively, examine the colloquium series at top universities.

  3. Contact candidates individually. A personal e-mail is more likely to elicit a response than a global mailing or advertisement.

  4. Talk to your own faculty. Your own faculty may already be aware of excellent potential candidates.

  5. Many young stars are already identifiable half-way through their postdoc. Why wait until they “go on the market"? Encourage stars to apply early, with the promise that, if hired, you will wait until the postdoc career is completed. This is a win-win situation. You have the opportunity to hire to a star before other schools are in competition.

  6. In the case of programmatic hires, encourage women in related felds to apply. Many young postdocs may not have thought of making transitions which are actually very sensible.

  7. Take a good look at your own postdocs. You hired them because they are good. They may be great candidates.

  8. For senior candidates, look at who held office within the professional societies (e.g., executive committees of divisions of the APS, the APS Council, etc.). This identifies women with a broad view of their physics subfield. These are also women held in sufficient esteem to be elected. A corollary of this is to look at who is selected to serve on panels organized by funding agencies. These are women who are considered highly by the funding agents, and thus likely to have a lot of savvy about maintaining a strong research program.

  9. Expand your search for a senior candidate to women beyond those in traditional research university positions. There are many women at national laboratories and in industry who would do well in careers in academia. The opportunity to teach and have graduate students can be a strong attraction for these women. These candidates can be harder to identify, since they may not be attending the same conferences as the faculty in the Department. Therefore, it is important to utilize your connections with colleagues to help identify them.

  10. Do not eliminate a name from the list until you have established from her that she will not come. Too often, good potential candidates are struck or the list before they are contacted based on assumptions about their personal life. In our experience, this affects women much more than men. An inquiry costs you nothing. The answer may surprise you.

  11. Give attention up front to the common “2-body opportunity” which involves moving a spouse who is already professionally established. Think of this as an opportunity for your institution to hire two strong people who are likely to stay. This opportunity tends to affect female physicists more, since they have a higher probability of being married to professionals in the same or related fields. Since the situation is common, it is best to prepare for this possibility ahead of time.

  12. In discussions with the Dean, negotiate for spousal hires not to count against Department hiring caps. When you have a candidate in mind, if you are also in favor of hiring the spouse, make the joint offer up-front, without singling out either candidate. Treat the couple as a pair of colleagues - because that is what they are when they are in the work environment.

  13. Work with your Dean to develop innovative programs that will place you in a good position for targeting candidates in the future. An example of such a program would be a gender-balanced visiting scientist program which attracts senior scientists by providing additional support for them to take sabbatical leave at your institution. This could lead to a lively intellectual program, which exposes the department faculty and students to many women physicists. A well-regarded visiting program would be a great asset for your rankings. It is also an opportunity to identify future targets of opportunity.