First, a series of tweets from Chris about how to think about applying to graduate school.
Second, a longer comment from him about the process in hiring a new professor. It's longer, so I'm putting it below the jump:
So, it seems as though lots of people would like a glimpse into the process from the other side, if only from a purely logistical standpoint. When a search is authorized (usually late spring, early summer for an R1 -- I don't claim expertise for PUIs or others), the first step is creation of an ad and a search committee. The ad may target specific areas (because of identified needs) or it may be area-open. The latter is WAY better from the standpoint of maximizing diversity in the pool (area, gender, ethnicity, etc.) but sometimes real teaching needs dictate a focused search. Generally, the ad will specify either a “deadline” or a date at which evaluations will begin. The latter is far more honest than the former – every department wants the best possible person, so the idea that someone would be rejected for being one day late is just silly, especially since usually a HUGE slew of applications arrive in the last day or two (as everyone polishes their proposals one. last. time.) and the committee doesn’t have a hope of getting through them all in under four weeks, so a late arrival or two is hardly noticed.
In addition, as I noted in an above post, it is OFTEN the case that not all letters for a candidate have arrived on time, and the Chair of the search committee generally devotes some time at this stage to rustling up those missing letters if a candidate’s file seems to be of interest. Finally, HR rules can be rather constraining, so by not using the word “deadline”, one does not eliminate individuals who arrive a day late…
In any case, at Minnesota, at least, our goal is for the search committee to narrow things down to 20 or so candidates (from a pool of a few hundred, typically) and that process generally takes about a month – so, an October 1 formal start leads to a reduced pool by about November 1. At that stage, we ask for feedback from the faculty as a whole on that reduced pool to determine whom to invite to interview, generally shooting for, say, 6-8 interviews per position available. [Note, as an aside, that search ads for an assistant professor position often say something like “appointment at the tenured level and/or to a higher rank will be considered as appropriate”. This is again an attempt to preserve the maximum possible flexibility. If someone senior unexpectedly shows up in the pool, or inquires indirectly, steps will be taken to assess the desirability of exploring such an option. That’s a story for another day, as it tends to be considerably more subtle and complicated.]
Calls then go out to the short list. The time frame I’ve outlined above tends, at least for us, to mean we interview about half our short list before the winter holidays and half afterwards. There’s always a desire to frontload things as much as possible (out of the paranoid fear that someone, somewhere else is moving faster) but somehow beating the holidays never seems to happen. We often discuss the initial batch of candidates before those holidays. The goal of that discussion is to share impressions, but also potentially to decide that we are SO enthusiastic about someone that we want to persuade the Dean to let us make an offer immediately without foreclosing the opportunity (and obligation) to see the remaining candidates.
At a large institution, the ability to take such risks is easier (the worst thing that can happen is you hire more wonderful people than you were planning, and you mortgage away some future lines to bridge the funding issues), but many times there is not overwhelming enthusiasm, so the interviewing continues afresh in January. Once all invitees have been seen, there is a long and intense hiring meeting. For what it’s worth, the discussion is very, very detailed, and a remarkable number of options (in terms of prioritization, mostly) tend to be discussed.
In my experience, and you might be surprised to hear it, RARELY are start-up costs considered – if you want someone, you want them, and you do whatever it takes to make it work. That’s also true for partner situations, although again, you might not believe it. That one is personal for me. My job as associate dean means I spend most of my spring trying to solve two-body opportunities, and if they were revealed at an earlier stage (everyone seems to be counseled to keep them secret) it would certainly make MY life easier. In any case, we often emerge with a fairly detailed plan of, say, make offer to person A, set deadline B, depending on outcome move to person C (or simultaneously offer to A and C, with decanal approval), keep D and E in reserve, etc. Sometimes the decision is made to go back to the pool and bring in other candidates who were not seen as being as well suited originally, but who were nevertheless still considered perfectly viable.
Every year is different, frankly. At that point, the rest is negotiation and nimble reaction to evolving events, so hard to be general. Happy to answer questions to anyone who wants the curtain pulled back further!Thanks to Chris for the revealing look!