I was curious to find out if there were any "tells" in faculty searches that someone is going to get a formal offer before the official paperwork is received. Are candidates who are about to be hired asked to fill out extra forms or provide additional documentation that might not have been needed earlier in the process, or something similar?
Positive early signs:
- you helped write the job specification;
- one or more of the selection panel advised you to apply for the vacancy;
- they take up your references;
- you hear through the grapevine that members of your target department have been asking around, about you, after your interview;
- you get an additional interview, where the main topics of discussion are pay & other benefits, when you could start, and what facilities you'd require in post.
Regarding formal paperwork,: all applicants at our place are required to show eligibility for employment, at time of interview. So there's no additional requests for paperwork between final interview and job offer.
For many searches the "official" paperwork is often only received very late in the game such that at the time you receive the contract nothing is left to negotiate. There will often be a very early congratulatory call saying saying we would like to make you an offer (which is not quite the same as making an offer), let's talk about salary and startup. Searches often move quickly once they decide they want to make an offer. Sometimes there is a hold up, for example, waiting for Dean's approval, but generally, I would say once a decision has been reached, they let the candidate know ASAP.
I suggest asking at the interview when a decision will be made. You can then follow up when that date passes and sometimes find out if things are not promising.