Faculty recruiting is our department's opportunity to grow and change by injecting new blood into our faculty. This process varies slightly from school to school, and was probably largely opaque as an undergraduate. This page is designed to walk through the general process so that students can know what to expect and how to give input to this extremely important department priority (see Hank's slides about the recruiting process, targeted at older students who are about to head out onto the market themselves). This page includes:

A word on confidentiality

The first thing to realize about the process is that this is all highly sensitive information. There are a number of reasons for this. The first is that the department trusts us enough to tell us information some time even before the applicants know about it; we don't want to spoil the process by having them find out good or bad news by accident. The second is that faculty recruiting is very competitive; we don't want to give any other department an advantage. The third is that some candidates haven't decided that they want to leave their current positions, and if other people found out that they were interviewing, it could be extremely uncomfortable for them.

So who can you tell what? In general, never broadcast anything about candidates to a group of non-department members. Don't talk about people we are interviewing, and don't talk about the offers we have made. Once people have accepted offers, you can talk about them.

We've worked very hard to be trusted with this information; please help us to keep that trust.

An overview of faculty recruiting

Advertising

The process begins each year by deciding in which areas we want to hire and publishing an ad. In general, finding high-quality people is a higher priority for us than filling a slot in a particular area. Note that this is not the norm in all departments; many departments will decide which area to hire in and only consider candidates from that area. This is also traditionally the time when the department would consider how many people we can hire. In steady-state, a department of our size can expect to make 1 or 2 hires per year.

After the targets have been set, an ad is placed in a number of publications that advertises our positions. Since word of mouth is more persuasive than an ad and we can't hire anyone who hasn't applied, department members often talk to those who they know are looking for a faculty position and encourage them to apply. If there is someone who you think would make a good candidate, you may want to talk to your advisor or the faculty recruiting committee so that they can be encouraged to apply.

The ad is typically placed in November or so, and the priority consideration date for applications is usually around the beginning of February.

Deciding who to interview

Applications usually start arriving around the end of December. The department receives a lot of applications; ~500-600, depending on the year. It is the job of the faculty recruiting committee to decide who to offer interviews to. In order to do so, they talk with other faculty members, particularly those who are in the area of the applicant, and review the letters of reference for promising candidates.

The committee schedules interviews on a rolling basis; while they do not fill all slots before the priority deadline, some interviews may be scheduled early (moral of the story: apply early when you are a faculty candidate!) We typically interview 12 or 15 people in a given year. You can find out who has been invited so far here.

The interviews

Typical interviews last for two days; they are almost always done either Tuesday/Wednesday or Thursday/Friday with the talk in the appropriate colloquia slot.

The interviews take the format of a series of meetings, and, of course, the talk. You can see each candidate's exact schedule for CSE and ExCEL candidates.

Most of the individual meeting slots are taken up by faculty members, but occasionally interested graduate students may sign up for one. The most important meeting from the graduate perspective is the meeting with the graduate students. This meeting typically lasts an hour and a half and is typically held at 1:30 on the first day of the interview (the time is primarily scheduled then to allow the faculty to attend the faculty meeting).

Making job offers

After the candidate has visited, opinions are gathered, and the candidate is discussed in one or more faculty meetings. The entire department faculty must decide whether or not to extend an offer to a candidate. Typically we do not reject anyone who we have interviewed before the end of the recruiting season; they are under consideration until that time.

How grad students can help in the process

There are two different ways in which grad students can help in the process. The first is by telling the faculty what we think of the candidates; this will help to ensure that we hire the best candidates. The second is by helping to convince the candidates that this department is the best department around. Conveniently, in many cases both goals can be accomplished with the same actions; namely, by participating in recruiting events. By going to the talk and the grad student meetings, we can both show the candidates that the department cares about them and we can learn enough about the candidates to make intelligent remarks about them. By using the web-based feedback form, in addition to personal contacts with faculty, we can make sure that our opinions are heard.

The grad student meeting with the candidates

The grad student meeting is our chance to meet with the candidate. This meeting serves a number of purposes:

  • To allow us to get a chance to meet the candidates and decide what we think about them. The faculty want to know what we think about the candidates, how we feel they would do as advisors, etc. This is impossible to do without meeting with the candidate, so this meeting allows us to form informed opinions on the candidate.
  • To give the candidates a chance to meet the graduate students. One of the facets that all (good) faculty candidates will be considering is the caliber of the graduate students with whom they will be working. For the most part, this meeting is the only chance that they will have to meet with the grad students, and thus it is crucial that we give them a chance to meet us.
  • Many candidates say that they can find out more about what departmental life is like from the grad students than they can from the faculty. Faculty only have half an hour to meet with the candidates, so they aren't going to spend their time talking about what the department is like unless they have already made up their minds about the candidates. Candidates may also feel more comfortable about asking departmental life questions to grad students, and the grad students tend to be more open than many faculty about these types of questions.
  • Showing the candidates that so many students are interested enough in them to show up to the meeting.

An important factor to realize is that you don't have to be in the candidate's area to attend the grad student meetings. Having diverse points of view will make the feedback more valuable. If you're interested in the area or feel like coming for any other reasons (including just to see what these sessions are like), please come; this interaction is important.

The talk

Attending the talk is also a vital part of the interview process. First, it allows us to gain a better idea of what the candidates do academically; typically the grad student meeting does not give us a good feel of this. So going to the talk is your best opportunity to learn what the candidates work on. Secondly, it makes sure that the candidates know that people here care about their work. It is demoralizing to speak to a large, empty room, and EE-105 is a really big room. We want these people to come away with a good impression of us, and having people at the job talks is an excellent way to do that. Please make an effort to try to attend. This is really important. The department gives you credit for coming and sitting; if you're feeling stressed, bring work to do and sit in the back, but please come.

Giving feedback

Finally, after you have done these things, please be sure to give feedback; if you don't give feedback, the faculty can't take your opinion into account. This year we are using a new web-based feedback system so that our feedback for each candidate comes in a uniform and easy-to-access format for the faculty to consult. Please give feedback as soon as is possible after you've met the candidate. It can happen that a faculty candidate who interviews on Tuesday will be discussed at the Thursday faculty meeting two days later. If your feedback comes in weeks after the candidate has visited, it will have been missed by the faculty in all of their evaluation discussions. Generally student feedback will be read in full and compiled into a summary by the candidate's faculty host--make sure you get your feedback to them by the end of the second interview day to ensure that your opinions are included in this summary.

The web-based form asks a few demographic questions (are you in/out of the candidate's research area, etc.), but the rest of the feedback is free-form. In order to provide faculty with information that they can use, we've provided a set of questions that you should think about when providing your feedback. The questions are things that the faculty are particularly interested in hearing about, although all comments are welcome.

You can find the feedback form for CSE or ExCEL candidates, and it is also linked off of the page with the list of questions in case you'd like to look at them first.