Thursday, June 10, 2021

The Future of Faculty Hiring

Faculty hiring in computer science is a process long due for an overhaul. The pandemic certainly changed some of the dynamics moving most of the interviews online and saving a ton of money and time. Will this be the start of a fresh approach to recruiting?

A typical search in the past few years had some schools flying in 30-40 candidates, typically costing over a $1000 each and a full-time job for a staff member during the search. We'd justify the expense as small compared to the millions we'd invest in a faculty member throughout their career, but it is generally the largest discretionary expense for a CS department. It also gives advantages to rich departments over others.

During the pandemic all those interviews moved online and worked reasonably well at virtually no additional cost. Also no need to scrounge around to find faculty willing to skip family meals to have dinner with the candidates. And if a faculty had a conflict with a candidate on the interview day, they could schedule on a different day. There really is no reason to have all the meetings on the same day.

With the pandemic mostly behind us, will we go back to in-person interviews moving forward. I suspect the airport interview, where you fly out 20 or so candidates to have hour long interviews in a hotel near an airport with a search committee for an administrative position, will be the first to go completely virtual. 

Even for regular faculty interviews, there will be great pressure to reduce the number of in-person visits, perhaps to just the top candidates, or just the ones who have offers--make the "second visit" the only visit. Richer departments may find the expense worthwhile to make a bigger impression on the candidates and that will only expand the advantage of wealthier universities.

Times like this are the perfect opportunity for CS leadership to come in and give some sanity to the hiring process but I'm not holding my breath.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that the online interviews have been quite effective for departments - there seems to have been comparatively little loss and even something to gain wrt ease of the process.

    However, the loss for faculty candidates has been huge. Candidates are being asked to make decisions with major lifetime impact about places they have never been to in person, and about departments where they have barely had a chance to meet many people or see them at all. The few faces one can see during a Zoom talk are nothing like the interaction one can get in person. One can get little or nothing of the sense of the environment over Zoom.
    There is never going to be enough time for second visits to make up for this because the length of time for interview season is much greater than for decision season and many institutions will need to be able to recycle offers and hence require short time-outs. With in-person interviews it can be easy for a candidate to make quick assessments that let them turn down offers at places they wouldn't seriously consider, even without second visits, which greatly improves the efficiency of decision season.