The Search Process from A to Z

The Search Process from A to Z

This section of the Diversity and Inclusion Recruitment Toolkit provides specific tips and best practices for all stages of the search process. The end of each section contains a link to the Duke Office of Institutional Equity’s Faculty and Staff Recruitment and Hiring guide. Use these links with our Recruitment Checklist when planning your search process.

Establishing the Search Committee/Interview Team

This section contains tips and best practices for creating an effective, diverse committee of representatives that insures inclusion of different perspectives, fairness in decision-making, and greater success in hiring and retention of diverse faculty and staff.

  • Define minimum number of search committee members and ensure that the search committee consists of diverse members of the department or recruiting unit across a broad spectrum of diversity (ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, staff/faculty roles, etc.: if appropriate, include others as ex officio committee members)
  • Involve people from outside the hiring department who are committed to reducing bias, on the search committee or as “trainers” to assist committee members in recognizing hidden bias as it relates to hiring decisions. (, 2016)
  • Increase accountability for those who make hiring decisions (, 2016)
  • Provide information (handouts, manual, guidelines) as a resource for faculty search committees to review the requirements before beginning the search
  • Engage search committee members in critical conversations about unconscious bias prior to search
  • Request individuals involved in hiring to take the Implicit Association Test.
  • Discuss how subtle and unintentional bias can affect perceptions based on gender, race, presentation style, accent, dress, weight, and other factors.
  • Review Diversity Leadership Interview Questions to examine applicants' experience in supporting diverse environments
  • Targeted training for faculty to meet needs of lab staff/research staff, fellows/residents/postdocs/ students – use Duke Office of Diversity & Inclusion and Office for Institutional Equity for training resources (see Implicit /Unconscious Bias Resource section and Additional Diversity Recruitment Resource section).
  • Conduct mid-process review to evaluate effectiveness of search committee process
  • Entrance/exit surveys – conduct questionnaires to assess effectiveness of strategies used in search process
  • Appoint a diversity advocate on each search committee to raise awareness of potential bias in committee discussion
  • Include representatives from campus groups on search committee (i.e. Black Faculty Caucus, Senior Women in Natural Sciences)
  • Involve graduate and professional students in faculty recruitment

Additional Resources

Click the following links for other resources from the Duke Office of Institutional Equity which includes additional tips and best practices for both faculty and staff search committee formation.

OIE Resource: Faculty: Formation of Search Committee

OIE Resource: Staff: Formation of Search Committee

Search Plan Development

This is a critical stage in the search process. Consider the following when creating position descriptions that do not infer bias, but insure hiring teams target and attract the most qualified diverse talent, maximize equity in hiring decisions, and assess individuals to identify those who value and embrace team and workplace diversity.

  • Make hiring process more transparent (, 2016)
  • Determine process for reviewing applicant CVs
  • Identify candidate sourcing avenues/strategies
  • Develop objective criteria used for candidate evaluation ; only use limited subjective criteria as appropriate and unbiased
  • Delineate qualities of “ideal candidate” and necessary qualifications: background and training
  • Create an outcome framework listing key characteristics with notation of suitable substitutes or allowable similarities
  • Set minimum number of candidates to be interviewed prior to beginning interview process
  • Establish milestones and timelines for search process
  • Develop advertisement template for search committees to use as a model for their posting
  • Complete job summary/description

Click the following links for other resources from the Duke Office of Institutional Equity which includes additional tips and best practices for creating faculty and staff position descriptions.

Sourcing and Building a Diverse Candidate Pool

Many organizations cite the reduced candidate “pool” of underrepresented applicants as a reason why diversity efforts are not successful. The reality, however, is that search leaders rarely are intentional about the candidate pool and generally rely on existing networks. These networks are often not broad enough to capture the candidates to diversify the “pool.” Leaders should be creative and intentional in finding applicants from outside of traditional sources. The bullet points below include talent acquisition strategies designed to broaden and diversify the candidate pool.

  • Include stated institutional commitment to diversity and inclusion in advertisements
  • Use gender-neutral language in advertisements
  • Diversify the applicant pool through the use of electronic job-posting services, websites, listservs, journals, publications, targeted at diverse groups such as minority and women’s caucuses or professional networks. Leverage enhanced recruitment sources such as LGBTQ+ sites and URM professional sites e.g., SACNAS, NOBCChE, AISES,, and ABRCMS.
  • Establish and leverage ties with historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
  • Maintain contact with outstanding underrepresented minorities and women students as they advance through graduate and postdoctoral studies or medical school and residency, and then into positions for faculty recruitment. Track Duke graduates and maintain lists (Alumni, Mellon Fellows, etc.).
  • Consider cluster hiring, utilize interdisciplinary hiring; use targeted searches in areas where there are more potential candidates.
  • Conduct open searches to avoid narrow field that limits women and URM applicants.
  • Be open to all sourcing avenues: industry, government, business, private practice, and others.
  • Collaborate and work with consortium of peer schools to enhance pool of URMs.
  • Foster pipeline development via high school students, former Duke students, students from HBCUs, postdocs.
  • Collaborate on faculty hires (i.e. partnership hires).
  • Utilize conferences to bring URMs to campus.
  • Evaluate speakers as potential faculty candidates.
  • Identify creative ways in how and where to seek talent, going beyond the usual places and “casting a wide net” to reach out to URM and women candidates who might not come forward on their own.

Expand and use pipeline programs to enrich the applicant pool for college, medical school, residency and fellowship training, and faculty positions. Programs at Duke include:

Click the links below for other resources from the Duke Office of Institutional Equity which includes additional tips and best practices for diversifying the candidate pool.

Candidate Selection and Interview Process

Once the search committee and leaders have built the foundation of an inclusive and broad candidate search, the work of candidate selection can begin. Committees that begin interviewing candidates without a clear framework or consistently applied guidelines and questions risk introducing bias in the search process. Remind committee members should of their potential for bias at this stage and have standardized processes in place to limit subjectivity. See below for some specific suggestions and tips to better ensure that a broad range of opinions are solicited and considered in the selection criteria and decision.

  • Review applications with diversity and inclusion in mind (where possible, exclude information that could lead to bias)
  • Be aware of subtle and unintended bias when reviewing CVs (educational institution, location of prior employment, type of experience, gender, etc.).
  • Identify a list of core questions to ask all candidates that are all related to the job description.
  • Insure that search committee is aware of illegal questions.
  • Interview process should be the same for all candidates.
  • Consider that cultural differences can affect first impressions of candidates. For instance, the standard interview in the United States uses the criteria of self-confidence, goal orientation enthusiasm, and leadership even though these qualities may not be apparent in groups such as women or people of more reserved cultures
  • Reserve ample time for interviews and evaluations as bias emerges more when evaluators are limited by time pressure.
  • Ensure diverse candidates have opportunity to engage with other diverse individuals during the interview process.
  • Provide opportunities for candidates to engage with diverse faculty or leadership on their interview day, either as interviewer, over lunch/dinner, etc.
  • Ask applicants what diversity and inclusion means to them.
  • Encourage candidates to speak about their views on diversity and inclusion, including their plans for implementing diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
  • Ask applicants in faculty searches to provide a statement on diversity and inclusion to assess their sensitivity to diversity and inclusion issues.
  • Have the applicant provide a statement describing their previous experiences and/or future goals in mentoring and fostering diversity in science.
  • Look beyond academic excellence in making shortlists of successful candidates for qualities such as the ability to interact with diverse colleagues/trainees/students, mentoring abilities, and experiences gained from non-traditional career paths.
  • Emphasize enhanced culture of safety in surrounding community.
  • Highlight policies that support family needs and work/life balance (e.g., parental leave, extended time to tenure, flexible work options, etc.)
  • Support a systematic mentoring program and share the strength of the mentoring program with candidates
  • Discuss opportunities to enhance careers in traditional and non-traditional ways.
  • Emphasize support for dual career transitions.
  • Emphasize opportunities to support work/life balance.
  • Emphasize competitive salary and adequate time to do research.
  • Respect candidate’s privacy, avoid personal question.

Click the links below for other resources from the Duke Office of Institutional Equity which includes additional tips and best practices for selecting candidates for interview.

Selecting Candidate for Hire

Once candidates have been interviewed, the committee will need to evaluate each potential hire and determine who will be offered the position. The search committee will either make a recommendation or provide the summary of the candidate evaluations to the department/center/institute chair. As stated previously, reminding committee members about the potential for “bias creep” will be extremely important. Members should also make sure to review the suggested ideal candidate criteria and specifically avoid language and discussions related to “fit”. Members may need to recuse themselves or decline to participate in certain discussions if there are conflicts or personal relationships. The search committee chair will also need to work to ensure he/she manages his/her potential influence on search committee members related to power dynamics within the group.

  • Evaluate interview feedback and disqualify candidates based on pre-determined objective criteria
  • Develop “short list” and assess reasons for eliminating other candidates
  • Hire those whom we expect to promote and retain
  • Avoid excessive selection factors or hiring expectations that can unconsciously restrict the number of accepted diversity applicants (i.e., requiring excessive years of experience, medical school they attended, grade-point average etc.
  • Be cognizant that recommenders likely hold unconscious bias

Process Review

This is an often missed opportunity to improve upon the search process for future hires. Search committee chairs or department leadership should consider gathering qualitative and/or quantitative feedback on the process itself and then consider sharing this with department/center/institute members. It will also be important at this stage to acknowledge the search committee and chair broadly, thereby recognizing their service to the department/center/institute.

  • Consider creating a formal evaluation of the search committee process and/or chair. Share this information with search committee members.
  • Send a message of thanks and the outcome of the search process.
  • Assess the effectiveness of the search process and recommend any improvements for future recruitment
  • Track hiring patterns and identify the ones who have a low and high diversity hiring success rate. Leverage the activities of the high success rate manager to coach and guide managers with lower success rates.