Creating a Short-List

Once you are satisfied that you have a pool which represents sufficient depth, breadth and diversity, you are ready to create a short-list.  Short-listed candidates represent the recommendations by the search committee to the Department Chair or Dean of potential faculty members for the advertised position. 

Creating the Short-List

The process of determining short-listed candidates will be made easier if there has been clear discussion and agreement of the criteria for selection that will be used in choosing a candidate.  Most importantly in reviewing your list of candidates you need to include a number of ‘check-points’ at which to re-evaluate your decisions.  You might want to review the PowerPoint presentation entitled ‘Faculty Recruitment – The Search Committee’ which highlights several points at which evaluation bias may enter the selection process. As we determined in these earlier discussions gender-blind or merit neutral policies are impossible to implement because evaluators are never gender-blind or merit-neutral.  There are a number of strategies discussed below which we can employ to ensure the process is equitable and open to diverse approaches to scholarship (see also ‘Selection of the Short List’ in the Academic Administrative Procedures Manual http://www.provost.utoronto.ca/procedures/search.htm#sec2.8bot).

Criteria and Consensus

One means to assist you in selecting a diverse short-list will be by having consensus on multiple criteria.  Different criteria will produce different candidates so you may want to think clearly about how the criteria you are selecting will relate to the goals of the department or to your initial discussions of the position and area of scholarship. 

Be sure to discuss the relative weighting of the criteria you establish and make sure that the range is broad enough that it would be difficult for one candidate to rank highly in all areas.  Frequently search committees parcel out the applications so that each member reviews a portion.  In order to ensure that the same criteria are being used across the applications, it is important that at least two members review all of the application materials.

Checkpoints

Sagaria (2002) found that there were several stages at which bias can enter the process of evaluation.  She discussed these as ‘filters’ which are applied to the materials under review.  The first of these she discusses is the ‘normative filter’ where assumptions about a traditional academic career path and reliance on established understandings of excellence may limit a search committee’s ability to recognise excellence in different forms.  This filter was most often applied when search committees were reviewing CV’s and letters of reference. 

Second, Sagaria discusses the ‘valuative’ filter which is applied when search committees look for someone who would ‘fit’ within the department.  She was concerned that discussions of ‘fit’ were more about how similar the candidates were to others in the department rather than about the way in which their scholarship might align with or challenge the current departmental composition.  The values used to assess candidates were often vague, value-laden and class, culture or ideologically based.  Ensuring that your search committee has diverse representation from across your department should help to challenge this filter.

The Ontario Human Rights Code protects against Sagaria’s third filter which she terms ‘personal’.  Similar to the valuative filter, the personal filter screens candidates for their personality, character traits, attitudes, habits, family composition, and sexual orientation.  While the valuative filter is professionally based the personal filter encompasses public demeanour and personal life.  The interviewing guideline provided in the next section gives guidance on appropriate and inappropriate questions.

Finally, Sagaria found that women and visible minorities were also subjected to a fourth filter which she has called the ‘debasement’ filter where assumptions about candidates are made based on their gender or ethnocultural background.  She writes that “first, some search chairs doubted the seriousness or genuineness of black men and women’s interest in a position.  A second form of debasement was the chairs’ perceptions of professional invisibility.  The third form was the devaluing of experiences and competencies.  The fourth form was essentialising being black and expecting blacks to respond to black issues” (p. 697).

For example, the following scenarios would represent instances of the ‘debasement’ filter:-

  • Making assumptions about or speculating on the relationship between women’s age and their desire for a family may mean that search committees would take women’s applications less seriously. 
  • Assuming that visible minority candidates will be interested in issues of race or ethnicity or will want to work specifically with minority groups.
  • Concerns regarding accommodations for dual career issues (particularly in the case of women who are more likely to be married to other academics) should not be relevant to the process of short listing.

Guarding against these filters and checking for their application throughout the process of short-listing and interviewing are essential to a fair and equitable hire.

Recognizing Excellence

We tend to assume that we have a shared understanding of academic excellence.  For most academic careers this would mean following a fairly traditional route of doctorate, post-graduate research, publications in recognised academic journals and indications of peer esteem.  Yet this established path may result in the exclusion of some individuals who may be excellent researchers and teachers but who have taken a different direction into academia.  When evaluating CV’s you may find these guidelines useful:-

  • Interdisciplinary work is creating some of the most significant new areas of research and teaching.
  • Interdisciplinary research may result in publications in journals that are not specifically discipline-based.  It may be helpful to speak to your colleagues in another department/faculty to evaluate the value of these journals/publications.
  • Scholars working in new or non-traditional areas offer the opportunity for the University to expand its knowledge base and to better serve the needs of its diverse community.
  • Knowledge and academic excellence can be developed in many different settings, not only within the walls of the academy.  Individuals from NGO’s, the public or private sector and research institutes may provide a different and exciting range of knowledge.
  • Look for excellent candidates who have flourished in less-prestigious institutions or who have not earned enough recognition for their work at more prestigious universities.
  • Be aware that cultural values impact on the way in which letters of references and cover letters are written.  For instance, language used by British or European applicants and referees may be more understated.  There may be a variety of ways to describe the contributions an individual may have made to a discipline including discovery, integration, application, collaboration and teaching.

Multiple Short-Lists

One of the most effective means to ensure diversity in your short-list is to create multiple short-lists based on the different criteria you have established.  For instance, if the areas you are most interested in are teaching, research and service, you could create three separate short-lists which rank applicants within these categories.  You may then want to invite the top candidate in each category to interview. 

Some universities also create short-lists within different equity groups (e.g. women, visible minorities, etc) and invite the top two candidates in each group to come for interview.  Interviewers evaluate women more fairly when there is more than one woman in the interview pool.  When there is only one woman, she is far less likely to succeed than women who are compared to a mixed-gender pool of candidates, probably because of the heightened salience of her gender (Valian, 1999).

Short Listed Candidates

Short listed candidates should be invited to the University for an interview and campus visit.  Details of these two aspects are discussed in the next section.  The Family Care Office (familycare@utoronto.ca) has recruitment kits that can be distributed to the candidates.  The kits include important information about the University community, Faculty Relocation Services, Dual Career Connection, housing, health and immigration matters.  Each short listed candidate should be sent a kit which can be personalised by individual departments/faculties.  Kits are available by emailing faculty.support@utoronto.ca .  It is recommended that an appointment is made for short listed candidates to meet with a representative of the Family Care Office or the Faculty Relocation Services.  These specialists are often able to answer many of the questions and allay the concerns of candidates thinking of coming to the University.

Direct short listed candidates to the www.faculty.utoronto.ca site where full details and information is available of the services and benefits offered by the University.