When applying for a faculty position, usually there will be an request to fill a self-identification form about things like race and disabilities. The request will mention that it is a “voluntary” form and will not affect the application. My question is whether applicants should spend some time and fill out all such requests or maybe just the ones for schools with which they have an interview?

  • Note that this is a duplicate of: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/16243/… – RoboKaren Jan 31 '15 at 17:56
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    @RoboKaren related, yes, but I am not sure it is duplicate. – StrongBad Jan 31 '15 at 18:04
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    I think they are 2 related but somehow different questions. The first is checking if the form is being send to all applicants and if it has any positive sign, while my question is asking whether it should be returned or not. Actually my question, can be connected with whether not returning it would have a negative effects. – Thomas Lee Jan 31 '15 at 18:34

You can fill them in if you want, you don't have to if you don't want to. That's why they are voluntary.

They are supposed to be either anonymous or confidential and not used to affect your file and/or hiring in any way. The reason they exist is so that if there is an allegation of bias in hiring at the school, they can have statistical data to prove that they were not biased at least in their solicitation for applications (e.g, "we had 300 applications: 48% were women and 12% were people of color"). This is a federal regulation for hiring, so they have to do it.

The school is obliged to send you the postcard. You aren't obliged to send it back. I usually did when I was on the job market, although I didn't if they didn't pre-stamp the postcard meaning I would have to pay for the stamp myself, which I wasn't about to do so for their benefit. Petty, yes, but the survey is for them, not for me.

Addendum: There seems to be three types of forms and I am unclear how and why some HR department select between them:

  1. Completely anonymous: No indication on them whatsoever as to which position is being applied to or who you (as the applicant) are.
  2. Position identified: The position (job opening) identifier is given, but not the job applicant identifier.
  3. Position and applicant identified: There appear to be coding for both the position and the specific applicant.

In my own job market experience (which is now 7-8 years old), I only remember getting types #1 and #2. I would have personally never responded to type #3 because of my own politics, but that would be a personal decision and you can decide yourself what to do.

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    I received one of those forms from the department and not the HR, which it seems #3. – Thomas Lee Jan 31 '15 at 18:13
  • When the form is part of an electronic application it is hard to tell if it is 1, 2, or, 3. – StrongBad Jan 31 '15 at 18:15
  • That's weird and troublesome (in response to both Thomas Lee and StrongBad's comments). In my day, we only had paper applications -- and we had to walk uphill 5 miles each way in the snow, barefoot. – RoboKaren Jan 31 '15 at 18:15
  • Regardless, if it says 'voluntary' then you should treat it as voluntary. – RoboKaren Jan 31 '15 at 18:18
  • @RoboKaren yes, all 1, 2, and 3 forms would mention 'voluntary'. Actually, one of those forms I received asks about the applicant name also. – Thomas Lee Jan 31 '15 at 18:23

The forms generally help HR departments comply with legal requirements and might be used to alert departments about bias in either the advertising or hiring process. There is no harm in filling out the forms since any university you want to work for keeps the responses confidential. The forms are generally pretty short, so filing them out is not a big deal. That said, a strategy where you only fill out forms when the application process is reasonable might be productive. If the HR department cannot be bothered to acknowledge your application or doesn't allow uploading a CV, then maybe you should make their job a little harder too.

  • I believe it is more than "confidential" - the responses should be "anonymous," only linked to the position # and not the candidate application #. – RoboKaren Jan 31 '15 at 17:54
  • It seems my own experience in this regard is limited, so disregard my comment and I amended my own answer. – RoboKaren Jan 31 '15 at 18:10

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