When a department head needs a faculty member, how is the process of hiring one started and conducted (at least in US and UK universities)?

Of particular interest is the following;

  1. Finance: Department head should ask the Dean for financing the salary? Who is the final decision maker?

  2. Selection: Is the department head responsible for forming the search committee? and is he responsible for approving the qualifications? Can higher officials (e.g. Dean) interfere in the selection?

  3. After the selection, how are the official matters handled? Who signs the contract? and who can terminate it (if not tenured)?

  4. What is the role of human resources in this process?

  • 2
    This will vary significantly between countries, if not within a country. Apr 9, 2014 at 10:45
  • 1
    Around here it will vary significantly between now and Tuesday!
    – Bob Brown
    Feb 2, 2015 at 13:37

2 Answers 2


(US-specific; public university)

You'll find a huge variation in procedures across universities. There really isn't one standard method. Having said that, I can at least suggest what happens in (one) American public universities (private universities have different financing structure)

  • Financing: In our universities, "slots" are line items that are approved by the legislature and are created ultimately by approval of the president of the university in conjunction with the dean of the college. There's a lot of negotiating that goes on to acquire one of these slots, and it's typically based on some "soft" arguments: "look how much research money we're generating, and how many students we're bringing in" and hard arguments: "We can only get this gigantic grant if you promise to give us a faculty slot" and so on.

  • Selection: departments are usually quite protective of the search process, and control most aspects of it. Again, the degree of shielding depends on politics: it's not unheard of for deans to get actively involved, especially if the department is weak. Within the department, the chair might take charge of selection, or assign a committee to do it, and so on.

  • Official stuff: a contract is ultimately signed by the university, and all official paperwork must go through them. Negotiations also happen with the dean via the chair.

  • HR: They're usually involved initially, to make sure job ads are posted correctly, and in compliance with university, state and federal employment laws. They're also involved after the offer is made, especially if there are legal requirements, international issues and so on.

  • 1
    Except for the bit about the legislature, this is also a decent description of how things work at my US private university. Apr 9, 2014 at 7:44

EDIT: Added dates to give a sense of the timeline.

Here's how the process works at my university (US).

  1. The department votes (March or April 2014) to request a new hire or not. Usually at this point they will also specify--is this a hire in some particular field, or do we just want to try to get the best person in the field, regardless of speciality. This request is passed to the provost and dean.
  2. If the request is approved (May or June), the department forms a search committee which writes and circulates the job ad (Sept or Oct).
  3. Once all the applications for the job are in (Nov), the search committee reads the applications and selects between 15-25 people to interview at our big disciplinary meeting (January 2015). This is a first round interview that will usually discuss scholarship and maybe a little bit about teaching.
  4. Of that field of 15-25, the committee will select three finalists to bring to a second, on campus interview. (February) The on campus interview is much more strenuous, usually lasting a day or two. At our institution it always includes a public job talk, which presents some facet of the candidates current research before the full faculty and graduate students. Some places it also includes a teaching demo. Invariably there is also a dinner after the talk at which the candidate still needs to be pleasant, conversational, and collegial.
  5. After all the on-campus interviews have been conducted, the department meets and discusses who they want to pick. (Late Feb, Early March) Usually this involves a vote. At some places the faculty's vote is binding, at some places the faculty vote is simply advisory and the committee makes the official recommendation. But, at every school I've heard of it is the Dean or Provost who actually makes the final decision.
  6. So, let's say the department has recommended candidate X to the Dean and the dean has no objection. Now the dean will call candidate X and offer him or her the job.
  7. Usually some rounds of negotiation will follow. If the candidate has other offers, then usually the dean will have to improve the offer. Once a verbal agreement is made, the dean sends a contract to the candidate to sign and return.
  8. Once the dean signs the returned contract, then, presto the candidate is officially a tenure track faculty member. (April or May 2015)
  • 1
    Which department/field? (My field doesn't have a big disciplinary meeting.)
    – JeffE
    Apr 10, 2014 at 1:12
  • Philosophy. history and english seem similar.
    – user10636
    Apr 10, 2014 at 1:56
  • 2
    Many math jobs are similar, though typically research oriented places skip the stage of interviewing at the JMM. Apr 10, 2014 at 20:52
  • +1, but a small clarification sought - in point 3, does ''scholarship'' mean scholarship, or 'scholar'ship, i.e. how good a scholar he/she is?
    – 299792458
    Sep 7, 2014 at 4:22
  • 1
    @New_new_newbie Scholarship = research, as opposed to teaching or committee work. Typically, for an entry level hire a hiring committee would expect one to be able to talk about several papers that arise from the dissertation (if those aren't yet published), but also to be articulate a second larger project distinct from the dissertation. The idea is to make sure you've got a sufficient number of ideas to work on over the next five to six years to make tenure.
    – user10636
    Sep 7, 2014 at 11:31

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