We talked about recruiting these employees from the perspectives of a selection committee and an industry recruiting committee. One of the common patterns that emerged is that the successful recruiting committees were proactive, they weren't reactive. That proactiveness seemed to help make those recruiting committees work.
We also noticed that there were champions: successful candidates who came out of the recruiting committee process had a champion who said, “Did you see this one?” They had somebody to speak up for them. So champions were very important.
Finally, we talked about some of the diversity programs—seminars, talks, and the like. One of the programs that was mentioned was Pat Heim's “She Said/He Said” program,1 which talked about communication styles.
This is where we started bringing into our discussions the question of problem solving for employment procedures. We talked about hiring strategies and, particularly, the differences between academia and industry. Industry's hiring practices are more formalized—there are procedures and people know how they work. There are some trends that ebb and flow—they may be cyclic—such as going from a central corporate environment to a business-unit-type environment.
What is happening in hiring practices is very similar. Some industries are focusing on recruiting from a core group of universities, while others are branching out once again to get more diversity in their hiring pools. One thing that did come out for the academic institutions was the existence of human resources (HR) departments. The fact that corporations used HR department structures did seem to help the recruiting process, whereas academic institutions frequently must develop these structures every time they hire a professor. While HR departments aren't the solution, they provide a structure. They are going out and doing the same things every time, so search committees do not have to recreate procedures every time. Academic institutions are at a disadvantage there.
What are the problems in recruiting, and what are the effects of locations—where the candidate visits during recruiting—and culture perception? Once a candidate submits a job application, what happens next? “First perceptions are killers,” was a recurring theme. There is something about the first perception, when a candidate is out in the organization or in the department for the first time, that can be a killer. Even though everybody is trying to be proactive, something frequently happens to cause a negative perception during these visits. The question came up, Is it a hostile environment? How do you define a hostile environment, and how do you address a hostile environment? These are significant questions.
We also talked about flexibility in hiring. If you go looking for the person you think you need, sometimes you may be defining that person too narrowly. You may be saying, “I need a biochemist in XYZ area, and the candidate needs to be a female, needs to be a minority. ” You have actually defined that person so narrowly that you may not be able to find that person.
Finally, one difference between industry and academia emerged—and this shows why human relations departments may be good things. A lot of industry hiring practices are structured in response to federal grants and take into account that they will be audited against a particular regulation. For example, you may generate a candidate pool, but the auditor comes in and asks what you specifically did to ensure that a woman, a minority, a Vietnam veteran, or any one of a whole host of other candidates was listed. What did you do that would let you say you went that extra step in recruiting for the position?
We talked about different approaches to the equal opportunity philosophy. In industry, a lot of these approaches have been driven by knowledge of what the auditor is going to look for. When you are in an academic environment, you don't necessarily have that structure.
Pat Heim, “She Said/He Said: Gender Differences in the Work Setting,” audiocassette, The Heim Group, 1995.