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4 elements of an inclusive job ad

The job ad is an important opportunity to communicate departmental needs, highlight the strengths of the university, and capture the widest possible pool of applicants. However, most limit themselves by listing overly specific disciplinary requirements and relying on a cut-and-paste equal opportunity statement.

In our work studying institutional efforts to improve faculty diversity, we poured over hundreds of faculty job postings to identify where the greatest opportunities to demonstrate a true commitment to faculty diversity and inclusion were. Below are the four key elements we discovered:

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This resource is part of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice Initiatives in Higher Education Resource Center.

1. Highlight cross-campus interest in collaboration, community building, and inclusive family policies

A few institutions on the cutting edge are moving beyond boilerplate equal opportunity statements to craft their own tailored declaration of how and why they are committed to a culturally and intellectually diverse academic community. For example, some institutions have recognized how intellectual and cultural diversity plays a role in their objective to support cross-disciplinary study. In this case, one might highlight specific opportunities for cross-campus collaboration to explain the climate the institution seeks to build, and simultaneously attract more diverse candidates who are often in newer, interdisciplinary fields. The University of California, Los Angeles, for example, included this in an ad for Plant Diversity and Evolution:

“There are many opportunities for collaboration across a broad group of partners on and off campus, including the UC NRS Stunt Ranch Reserve and White Mountains Research Center, the UCLA La Kretz Center for California Conservation Science…”

An explicit statement acknowledging various familial circumstances that may impact career choices also encourages candidates who may have otherwise self-selected out of applying. And while dual career concerns can be a barrier to any potential candidate, women are statistically more likely to have spouses in the academy, making this often a more pressing issue for female candidates. One large research institution included language like the below:

“The College is also committed to addressing the family needs of faculty, including dual career couples and single parent. For more information about relocation or career needs of accompanying partners and spouses, please visit this website.”

2. Clarify why your department in particular seeks diverse talent

A strong job ad should both emphasize that improving faculty diversity is a priority for the department, not just the institution, and explain how inclusion relates to other departmental priorities, like mentoring an increasingly diverse student body. For example, the University of California, Los Angeles included:

“As a campus with a continually growing diverse student body, we encourage applications from women, minorities, and individuals with a commitment to mentoring under-represented demographics in the sciences.”

This specificity of experience or skills sought also provides the search committee with clear evaluative criteria for their review of applications.

3. When possible, expand the acceptable disciplinary backgrounds listed for the position

Although there are cases in which a department may need to fill a narrow disciplinary gap, when possible it is important to solicit a broadly trained scholar in the desired field. Narrowing the language used in a job ad limits the candidate pool and only further diminishes the number of eligible historically underrepresented candidates. This job ad adapted from a small private institution encourages as large a pool of candidates to apply as possible:

The Department of History at Marcus College seeks to make a tenure-track appointment at the rank of assistant professor in Russian history. The department welcomes all areas and periods of specialization and expects the successful candidate to be a committed and imaginative scholar with a Ph.D. in hand or expected by September.

4. Request information on the candidate’s interest in or experience with issues of diversity and inclusion

Soliciting an explicit statement about working with underrepresented students or a commitment to inclusion and diversity can be an important prompt for a thoughtful conversation with applicants about how they plan to contribute to departmental goals and set expectations about inclusive teaching and learning.

Although some institutions have seen positive effects from requiring diversity statements, job advertisements can alternatively request that another required statement address a particular issue of inclusion, for example:

Applicants must send a detailed résumé and cover letter, a statement of teaching interests, a statement of research interests, and at least two publications. As part of the cover letter, we invite candidates to describe their experiences engaging a diverse student body.

Beyond the job ad—attract and support diverse faculty

By considering how the institution sees diversity and inclusion playing a role in each of these four areas and demonstrating that careful thought in the job advertisement, institutions can help attract a wider pipeline of potential faculty.

Still, composing an effective job advertisement is only the first step in diversifying the academy. Download our study, Instilling Equity and Inclusion in Departmental Practices, to explore how small changes to the hiring and promotion process from faculty line allocation to mentoring and tenure can create a more inclusive campus.