Tenure-Line Faculty Search Process Guidelines


This document, which is based on a similar one available at MIT, is intended to help faculty members and search committees in the Penn State (University Park) mathematics department as they seek to find and persuade world-class scholars to become part of the Penn State mathematics community.  Our goals are: with every hire, to improve the overall quality of the department in scholarship, education, and climate; In the long term, to recruit a faculty that will place our department securely among the top twenty departments in the nation in research and scholarship; With every search, to represent our department to all candidates, whether successful or not, as an attractive, welcoming and vibrant mathematical community. Prospective faculty colleagues should be viewed as prospects that we are courting. In addition to learning about their strengths and accomplishments, we also need to tell them about Penn State and the values that we prize. We should not assume that they know everything about Penn State that might be important to them, and we should take pains to ferret out and dispel any misconceptions they may harbor about Penn State. This handbook is intended to help us to make sure that all prospects emerge from the search process holding Penn State in higher regard than they did before the contact was initiated, and to increase the likelihood that the person to whom an offer is extended will accept that offer.


The mechanics of the search process involve:

  • defining the search
  • appointing the search committee
  • advertising the position and outreach
  • reviewing applications
  • interviewing a short list of candidates
  • recommending a final candidate to the department head and the dean
  • role of faculty in evaluating and recruiting faculty candidates
  • oversight/review

The following sections describe appropriate search practices for each aspect of the search.


  • Develop specific hiring goals. Get consensus on the areas of specialty and other specific requirements. Develop a clear position description. The Department Head and Personnel Committee will discuss and solicit recommendations from the faculty for the upcoming academic year. This discussion will ordinarily occur at a faculty meeting in the spring semester prior to the upcoming academic year. Recommendations and suggestions should be solicited from the full faculty at this meeting. Based on these discussions and the consensus of the full faculty, the Department Head and Personnel Committee will then proceed to develop a proposal to the dean for faculty searches for the upcoming academic year. The proposal submitted to the dean must also include a plan (The Recruitment Diversity Plan) for generating a diverse applicant pool and recruiting applicants from under represented groups (See Diversity).
  • Department Head seeks approval of the proposed faculty searches from the dean of the college. The dean will determine if sufficient resources are available for the search. The dean must also approve the Recruitment Diversity Plan.
  • Write advertisements to conform to HR and AA requirements.  Note:  See HR11 for Penn State affirmative action policies.  Advertisements should be developed by July in order to appear at an early date in Notices AMS.
  • Develop a realistic timeline for recruiting applicants and interviewing candidates, working backwards from a target completion date.
  • Establish a system for managing records, including nominations, applications, letters to candidates, affirmative action forms, and search committee notes.  (Much of this is handled by MathJobs)
  • Document how the committee will actively recruit women and minorities. At least one member of the committee should be assigned the specific responsibility to see that an active search for minorities and women candidates is carried out. Prior to selecting applicants for interviews, the search committee chair or department head must report to the Dean the following: (1) Specific actions taken by the committee to increase the diversity of the applicant pool. (2) Statistical assessment of the applicant pool with respect to race, ethnicity, and gender. (3) Summary of under represented applicants and evaluation of top applicants in this category. (4) Evaluation of top candidates overall and recommended list of the final candidates to be interviewed.
  • Discuss confidentiality issues with committee members and faculty members in the department.
  • Educate faculty on fair pre-employment enquiries.


The search committee for a position consists of the members of the standing Personnel Committee afforced by other faculty members who bring specialist expertise in the area of the hire.  These additional members of the search committee will be appointed by the department head, having regard to the advice of the Personnel Committee.  All search committees will be chaired by the department head.

  • Include individuals with different perspectives and expertise
  • Identify at least one member who will serve as an advocate for women and minorities.
  • Identify at least one member who will serve as an advocate for the instructional mission of the department.
  • Determine how the committee will communicate with each other, other members of the Department, the campus community, and with candidates.
  • Identify departmental staff member(s) who will support the committee in its work and manage the MathJobs process.  Note.  All committee members will be issued individual MathJobs user accounts.  Any tenure-line faculty member may request such an account in order to contribute to the reviewing process.


  • Advertise the position for at least 30 days in an appropriate print medium.
  • Include language required by law.
  • Advertise in appropriate online media (newsgroups, math websites, departmental website, academic job sites)
  • Advertise in media specifically targeted at a more diverse audience. See the college guidelines and suggestions for outreach and advertising (See Outreach)

Conventional advertising methods are valuable but can never be as effective as personal contact. Search committee members and department faculty should take every possible opportunity to make personal contact with potential candidates at professional meetings/conferences.


  • Selection criteria should include research record/potential, teaching record/potential, leadership record/potential, mentoring and advising record/potential, and commitment to fostering collegiality, diversity and inclusion. Note that age, gender, or personal circumstances are not appropriate criteria.
  • Ensure the criteria are applied consistently for all candidates.
  • Guard against the “moving target” syndrome: changing the requirements as the search proceeds in order to include or exclude particular candidates.
  • Our advertisement normally states, “outstanding candidates from all areas of mathematics will be considered.”  The search committee will set a high standard in considering applicants from outside the search area.  In order to reach the shortlist, an out-of-area candidate should be prima facie manifestly superior to all shortlisted in-area candidates.
  • Obtain references, including references specifically related to instructional ability, before selecting the short list.  (These will have been provided automatically through MathJobs)
  • Include all search committee members in the evaluation process.
  • Select a short list of candidates.  We have done this in a two-stage process; first, obtaining a short-list of ten or so candidates for a particular position; then, reducing this to an “interview list” of three or four.
  • The proposed interviewees and the faculty search diversity report are to be presented to the dean for review and approval.   The purpose of this review is to ensure that female and underrepresented minority candidates have had every opportunity to be included in the interview process.  No interview invitations may be issued until this review is completed.

Each candidate on the interview list is assigned a “host”.  (It is permissible that the same person be a “host” for more than one candidate.)  The faculty host will usually be a member of the search committee, but can be any faculty member. The host is to assist the Department Head in providing a friendly face to the job candidate, acting as a knowledgeable faculty contact, and offering simple assistance when needed. (Department staff will assist in arranging accommodations, etc) A host may choose to host a dinner or social event for the candidate during his/her visit in consultation with the Department Head. The role of a host is different from that of a faculty advocate. The faculty advocate role is reserved for the search committee, which is to explain clearly and convincingly to a department meeting the depth and significance of the candidate’s work and the reasons why s/he would make a positive difference to our department. 


Components of our interview visit will include

  • Seminar presentation
  • Lunch/dinner
  • Meeting with Department Head, meeting with the Dean or his/her representative; meeting with administrative assistant to provide Penn State employment information
  • Formal committee interview (by the entire search committee)
  • Opportunities to meet with individual search committee members and other faculty members
  • Other opportunities can be offered as appropriate: e.g. opportunity to discuss AA/climate issues with appropriate representatives, real estate tour, social/cultural activities, etc.
  • All faculty are expected to attend the candidates' seminar when possible.
  • Arrange the visit carefully in order to make a good impression
  • All faculty should be collegial during the interview.
  • Making negative comments or discouraging remarks to the candidates or aggressively questioning their credentials during interview is unprofessional and a violation of the spirit of college’s Code of Mutual Respect and Cooperation.
  • All faculty are encouraged to complete a multipoint evaluation of the interviewed candidates. The evaluation should be submitted immediately following each interview. The Department Head and Personnel Committee are required to carefully consider each evaluation. A statistical and narrative report of all of the evaluations (without evaluators names) for each interviewee will be compiled by the Department Head and be given to the entire tenure-line faculty.


  • After all candidates for a given position have been interviewed the search committee will meet and make a recommendation based upon the application materials, the interview, and consideration of the faculty evaluations.  The recommendation should be in the form of an ordering of the candidates interviewed together with an indication (yes/no) of whether the committee feels that each one meets the criteria of excellence for our department.
  • The Personnel Committee and the Department Head will present the recommendation to the entire faculty at an open faculty meeting and lead the discussion of each candidate interviewed. The Department Head will encourage all of the faculty, including junior faculty, to participate in the discussion of the candidates. After a full discussion of each interviewed candidate, the Department Head will conduct an anonymous advisory ranking of the candidates by the faculty who are in attendance. The Department Head will report the advisory ranking to the faculty following the meeting.
  • The Department Head and the Dean will make the final decision and extend the formal offer.  The Department Head and Dean are not obligated to choose the candidate with the highest ranking by the faculty and Personnel Committee. However, if a lower ranked candidate is chosen, the Department Head should explain the basis of the decision to the faculty and the Personnel Committee.
  • Salary and conditions of employment are negotiated by the Department Head and do not fall within the purview of the Personnel Committee.
  • Faculty are encouraged to urge applicants to accept an extended offer but under no circumstance should they discourage applicants from accepting offer. The latter is considered a serious violation of the spirit of the college’s Code of Mutual Respect and Cooperation.
  • If no candidate is found to meet the required standard of excellence, an offer will not be extended.
  • If an interviewee needs an early response due to competing offers, the Head will consult with the Dean for a solution.
  • If the first choice candidate declines an offer, an offer may be made to another candidate but the Personnel Committee may need to be reconvened to discuss this.  If two or more candidates are deemed to meet the high standards of the department by the faculty and the Personnel Committee, the Department Head and Dean may elect to make a subsequent offer if the initial candidate offered the positions declines.
  • The Department Head will personally call all applicants who were interviewed but not selected as soon as the candidate selected has accepted the offer or the search is terminated. Follow up with a formal letter.


The faculty play an integral role in the evaluation of faculty candidates and successful recruitment as outlined herein. The following are important “dos” and “don'ts” in this process:


  • Share your opinion regarding future faculty searches particularly during the annual spring faculty meeting to discuss the upcoming year.
  • Share your opinion and evaluation of each candidate.
  • Participate in the interviews and most importantly attend the candidate’s seminars.
  • Present a positive and collegial attitude to all faculty candidates interviewed.
  • Attend faculty meetings in which faculty candidates will be discussed and ranked.
  • Encourage faculty candidates who have been offered a position to accept it.
  • Support and promote the success of every hired faculty member in our department independent of whether or not you recommended hiring them.


  • Coerce other faculty members to support your position regarding a faculty hire. Examples of coercion include senior faculty pressuring junior faculty in private conversations, threats of retaliation particularly as related to promotion and tenure, and public harassment of other faculty.
  • Sabotage a faculty candidate that you disfavor. Examples include aggressive lobbying and spreading unsubstantiated rumors, humiliating faculty candidates during their interview either publicly or privately, telling faculty candidates that Penn State/State College is not a good place for them, and in general doing anything that is not supportive of recruiting each candidate that is interviewed. The time and place to register opposition to a faculty candidate is in the evaluation form and at the faculty meeting to discuss the faculty candidates.



A formal report on the search will be prepared as soon as it has been concluded.

The search report will include a serious written discussion of the relative merits of the candidates, especially the women and underrepresented minority candidates. Searches that do not identify women and underrepresented minority candidates may be viewed skeptically by the Dean.

The Department's Administrative Assistant prepares data on the search for Affirmative Action purposes.  Such data should be prepared as soon as possible after the conclusion of the search, and included in the written report.


JR 8/28/08; Revised Yuxi Zheng / Dean Douglas Cavener 1/15/2017