Throughout my career in higher education, the worst part of participating in faculty and administrator search committees was when the results led nowhere. In spite of huge expenditures in effort, time and money, writing job descriptions, placing advertisements, contacting colleagues at other institutions, and arranging campus visits for finalists, too often the desired candidates accepted positions elsewhere, or the committee decided not to support any of the applicants.
I remember how discouraging it was to drive unsuccessful "last chance" candidates back to the airport, knowing full well that the advertised positions would remain unfilled, and more than a year of work would have to begin again. Recruiting by conventional means was tedious and ineffective, and there was simply no efficient way to publicize openings as soon as they developed. Furthermore, searches were limited by how many announcements were sent out and where they were sent, and we were never certain that our efforts reached the entire pool of potential applicants across the country.
ONLINE RECRUITING POWER
The Internet has now changed forever how colleges and universities recruit faculty, and each institution needs to implement Web-centered strategies in order to compete. The first time we posted a job opening on an online discussion group we were amazed by the results, as our announcement reached thousands of people instantly and initial responses were received within hours. And now the power of the Web is multiplied many times over, and prospective applicants anywhere can use search tools to locate positions by keywords, post resumes at job sites and even submit applications online. Furthermore, announcements can include unlimited amounts of information about the institution, include multimedia content such as film and audio clips, live camera shots, virtual campus tours and links to related resources such as faculty handbooks.
The Web also changes the recruiting emphasis from trying to send out targeted announcements to having prospective applicants seek out Web sites, available anytime. In this regard, our University of Connecticut site typically receives more than 200,000 hits each month, and anyone who visits the main administrative page sees links to job openings, policies and procedures displayed prominently. Other sites also link to those resources, and the university is in the process of setting up a separate counter to monitor hits to that area, says Barbara D. Proulx, the associate director of human resources.
The Web is a great equalizer, and it allows even small institutions to compete with large institutions toe-to-toe.
INCREASING DEMAND AND COMPETITION
Employment of college and university faculty is expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations through 2008, as the traditional college-age population (18 to 24) grows again after several years of decline, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This increase, coupled with growing numbers of part-time, minority, female and older students will spur enrollments, and necessitate hiring more faculty. But at the same time, job applicants will face stiff competition, particularly for full-time, tenure-track positions at four-year institutions, and it will be difficult for colleges and universities to find the right candidates, especially for senior positions with specialized requirements.
For example, at the University of California, Davis, a task force on faculty recruitment found that in recent years recruiting a diverse faculty remained an elusive goal, as the percentage of new faculty from underrepresented groups remained low and the percentage of new women faculty declined. The group calculated that increased enrollments and faculty retirements would require recruiting more than 500 new faculty in the next four to six years. And since those decisions will "affect the campus for the next 30 years," the task force concluded the university has "arrived at a pivotal moment for the examination of past hiring and the implementation of new practices. …