TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Sham National Search

ChronicleChronicle of Higher Education, The Professor Is In: The Sham National Search:

We’re in the process of hiring a new faculty member right now and everyone in the department (and everyone in the administration) knows that it’s basically a sham search. There is an inside candidate, and the job ad was written specifically for them. But of course we have the other finalists coming to campus, and everyone in the department is expected to do all the things you would expect — go to the job talks, the teaching demos, and the dinner meetings.

It seems like such a waste of everyone’s time, and I feel bad for the candidates who think they actually have a shot at this job. Is all this really necessary?

What you are describing is a scenario that is unfortunately common enough — and probably the nightmare of every candidate who is on the market now and in the campus-visit stage. I completely empathize with feeling bad for the duped candidates, and resentful at being forced to go through the charade of evaluating future colleagues who don’t stand a chance of actually becoming future colleagues.

In answering your (very reasonable) question — "Is all this really necessary?" — I would suggest you try to think of it as "the least of all possible evils."

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This is so not just in academia.

Posted by: Old Ruster | Mar 26, 2018 7:25:29 AM

Actually asked in my last interview if they had an internal candidate, and they said that they couldn't tell me. I knew then that it was a waste of time.

Posted by: James Kirkley | Mar 26, 2018 11:26:24 AM

Look, you are defrauding the outside candidates of time and money if there is an inside candidate that "everyone" knows is the favorite. Go ahead and bite the bullet and tell the world you are hiring from inside. The breathtaking honesty of it all will be good for everyone involved.

Posted by: Steve | Mar 26, 2018 11:30:38 AM

Idunno, as a job candidate having been subjected to processes like this in the past, it sure seems pretty damn evil to me.

Posted by: West | Mar 26, 2018 11:48:16 AM

I have never understood how this is not an actionable fraud against the candidates who are wasting considerable time to attend interviews. At a place I used to work to run such a process would get you fired, as legal protection against people running such a process.

Yes, positions are written against candidates. But if somebody comes in for an interview, you treat them fairly... not only because it is right but because you are begging for a lawsuit.

I did actually witness somebody from HR walk up to my boss and let him know there was a problem with a employee referred candidate for a job description written to the candidate (not yet an employee, but referred by an employee) because an another candidate who had met the requirements had applied. My boss said (I paraphrase years later):
"No problem. We will hire both. And the next
person you can find to meets it too. Bring
[the new candidate] in for an interview."
But it was clear that if we did not want every engineer that fit that bill, the both candidates would have been interviewed fairly.

If you wanted to promote or "move and promote" an internal candidate, you had to do it clearly. It was a matter of avoiding any discrimination in the process. If a position was listed to the outside world, you treated the outside world fairly... or HR would have words for you.

(Sorry, but I think I will keep some anonymity on this comment.)

Posted by: Mr Smith | Mar 26, 2018 3:25:55 PM