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HR Leaders and Faculty: Friends or Foes?

At a recent meeting for academic leaders, the No. 1 piece of advice for running faculty searches was, “Get the human-resources folks involved as quickly as possible and have them stay involved.” The legal experts said this (to avoid liability issues related to interview questions and other factors), the presidents said this (to ensure that the searches went smoothly and quickly), and the chief academic officers said this (to make certain that credentials and references were actually checked).

There seems to be, however, a resistance from many academic-search committees to any involvement in the process by the human-resources office. Many academics view this as an inappropriate encroachment on the process by the administration. More than one faculty member has claimed that his or her particular discipline’s traditions for searches trumps the institution’s posted policies about how searches should be conducted (an attitude, I might point out, that can create huge legal liabilities). On the other hand, I’ve heard HR leaders say that they should be able to run the entirety of faculty searches, giving the search committee a short list of acceptable candidates and letting them choose from that abbreviated list.

What is the best way to harness the strengths of HR offices and academic-search committees? How can we help both groups know where to defer to the expertise of the other?

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