Guidelines for Search Committees

Each department or school should establish its own procedure for appointing a search committee and determining the Committee’s role in the search. Typically search committees for ladder‐rank faculty consist of three to five tenured faculty members from the department or school, including the Equity Advisor, but also may include an assistant professor, a graduate student or a faculty member from another department or school (or occasionally a non-Berkeley affiliate). If non‐Senate members are included on the search committee for ladder‐rank faculty, their role on the committee should be clarified at the outset. All search committees may consult with various constituents, including faculty, students, staff, alumni, and community members as appropriate in the course of the search.

Appoint a diverse committee

The search committee should include members with a demonstrated commitment to increasing equity and access in higher education. Whenever possible, the search committee should represent a diverse cross section of the faculty, including men and women, and majority and minority group members. Research has shown that a diverse search committee is more likely to yield a robust candidate pool. If there is a lack of diversity among department or school faculty, the unit should consider inviting faculty from related departments or schools to serve.

Select a chair of the search committee

One member of the search committee should serve as the chair. This individual has unique responsibilities to the search (see next page for more information on this role). 

Core committee

The search committee may consist of as many members as is necessary. Search committee reviewers have viewing rights to completed applications for a given recruitment and may comment on them and flag applicants.

Additional reviewers

This section is typically used to allow individuals not on the search committee to view applicant information. An entire department can be granted reviewer status to view the finalists in a search if necessary. To assign a non-Berkeley affiliate access as a search committee member see Appendix F for instructions. A complete description of user roles and access rights is provided in the AP Recruit User Guide. Please note: It is not necessary for analysts to have “additional reviewer” roles – all analysts with access to searches in a particular department automatically have analyst access to the search.

Define the Role of Graduate Students on the Committee

There are many potential positive benefits to including a graduate student on the search committee. For example, graduate students often understand how fields are shifting toward new areas of inquiry, they offer the perspective of consumer, and they are often positive advocates for diversity goals. There are a range of acceptable roles for a graduate student serving on the search committee. Some departments or schools invite graduate students to be full voting members on the search committees with access to all materials; others do not allow graduate students to vote but are open to all other participation; some redact confidential application information from view of the graduate student; and others use a graduate student member only to report back to the committee the recommendation of the graduate students as a body following applicant visits. It is increasingly common to have a graduate student on the committee who is a full voting member.

Avoid conflicts of interest on the search committee

It is important to avoid potential conflicts of interest when selecting members of the search committee and also when confronted with situations with individual applicants. It is best to avoid a committee make‐up that includes two individuals with a relationship that could lead to a real or perceived imbalance of power in assessment and evaluation, such as spouses or partners, or a tenured faculty and a close graduate student advisee.

After the committee has been established, set forth a consistent protocol for handling difficult situations of a real or perceived conflict of interest. These include when a student collaborator, former student, friend or close colleague, or someone related to a committee member applies for the position. Ideally these situations can be anticipated ahead of time and the affected individual can choose not to sit on the particular search committee. In other cases, it is appropriate for the committee member to disclose the relevant information and recuse himself or herself from committee deliberations about the individual. In particular, if the search committee member holds a powerful position in the department or school, recusing himself or herself from deliberations will not be sufficient because a vote for the individual will be perceived as unfair. In these situations it may be necessary to arrange for a committee replacement. Please consult with OFEW (642-1935) to discuss difficult situations.

Equity Advisor or Equity Liaison

There should be at least one individual on each search committee designated to advise the committee on best practices to promote equity and inclusion. The department or school Equity Advisor may play this role, or serve as a resource for the designated search committee member (see Search Guide section on the role of the Equity Advisor in the search). The department or school Equity Advisor is ultimately responsible for approving the search plan, applicant pool, short list, and search report whether or not they serve as a member on the committee.

Prepare and support the search committee

Adequate preparation is also important to an effective search. The department chair or dean of the school should refer all search committee members to this guide, and ask them to review it prior to commencing the search process. The search committee chair should brief the committee on equitable search practices described in this guide, on diversity/equity/affirmative action laws and policies, and may invite the department or school Equity Advisor to meet with the committee to discuss inclusive search strategies and answer questions about recruitment policies and practices. The Office for Faculty Equity & Welfare runs workshops on the search process and search practices for search committees each year in August and September, and requires that at least one search committee member from each search committee attend one of the workshops. The Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion, and the Academic Senate Committee on Diversity Equity and Campus Climate (DECC) are also campus resources available to each search committee. Department analysts also serve as a resource to faculty, many of whom are not regularly involved in conducting academic recruitments.


Confidentiality preserves the integrity of the selection process and protects the privacy of the candidates. All members of a search committee, including students and individuals outside the department or school, have access to confidential search information on a “need to know” basis. All members of the search committee with access to search records are ethically bound to the utmost level of confidentiality. Specifics of the committee deliberations should not be discussed with anyone outside the search committee, with the exception of the department chair, dean of the school, or OFEW. The requirement for confidentiality extends to all aspects of the search, including written and verbal communications, and through all phases of the search process. Discourage discussions about candidates that do not focus on the established criteria for the position. Demographic characteristics, family status, spousal/partner issues, or other non-job related information or rumors should not enter into deliberations about the candidates.

How to Avoid Having Active Recruitment Efforts Backfire

Women and minority candidates wish to be evaluated for academic positions on the basis of their scholarly credentials. They will not appreciate subtle or overt indications that they are being valued on other characteristics, such as their gender or race, which is also illegal. It is important that contacts with women and minority candidates focus on their skills and credentials as stated in the job advertisement.

Review Research on Bias and Assumptions

Regardless of the social groups we belong to, we all perceive people differently based on their demographic characteristics (race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, religion, politics, etc.). However, and importantly, most people try to overcome their stereotypic preconceptions. Understanding the nature of such biases and implicit assumptions may reduce the impact of irrelevant factors in the faculty selection process. Therefore, time should be spent educating search committee members about research on unconscious bias and cognitive errors in selection processes. See Appendix G, “Countering Selection Bias,” for more information. There is also a ready‐to‐print handout, “Research on Bias,” prepared by the UCLA Faculty Diversity and Development office on their Department Chair Resources webpage.

Summary of the role of the search committee chair

The Search Committee Chair has overall responsibility for managing a proactive, timely, fair and legal search process. Responsibilities include:

Establish processes and ground rules before the search begins

  • Thoroughly review past departmental or school searches and hires – pool sizes, demographics of applicant pools, diversity of hires, etc.
  • Discuss the overarching goals of the search based on the approved FTE allocation.
  • Ensure understanding and compliance with applicable laws and policies.
  • Create a plan for conducting the search, including how and when meetings will occur, how meetings will be conducted, and when and how topics of discussion will be raised.
  • Set up a process for the search committee to work effectively with the department or school Equity Advisor throughout the search. Clarify the roles of the Equity Advisor and Equity Liaison if applicable.\
  • Instruct the committee on confidentiality requirements of candidates and the search process.
  • Discuss any potential conflicts of interest that may arise, for example, individuals who may apply for the position who have relationships with search committee members, and how they will be handled.
  • Establish ground rules for participation and voting, particularly if there are graduate students or individuals from outside the department or school on the committee.
  • Instruct the committee on requirements to retain search related documents.

Lead the committee in all phases of its work

  • Develop a job advertisement that reflects the goals of the search.
  • Create a proactive recruitment plan to reach a broad and inclusive applicant pool, including soliciting suggestions for colleagues or organizations to conduct outreach with regarding the position.
  • Establish written evaluation and selection criteria and ensure that the criteria are applied equitably throughout the search process.
  • Submit the Search Plan for campus approval before beginning the search.
  • Review the applicant pool prior to and just after the final date to determine fit with the availability data as well as overall size, depth, and breadth of the pool.
  • Ensure that each candidate’s file is read by more than one search committee member at each stage of the search process.
  • Discourage discussions about candidates that do not focus on the established selection criteria for the position. Demographic characteristics, family status, spousal/partner issues, or other non-job related information should not enter into deliberations about the candidates.
  • Determine the short list of finalists to present to the department or school, and ensure that it is submitted for review and approval by the Equity Advisor and OFEW.

Maintain positive interaction with candidates

  • Ensure that the committee treats all candidates respectfully and equitably; all should have the same opportunities during a campus visit.
  • Ensure candidates are provided with appropriate information about the campus, the department, college, or school, and the surrounding community (for example, the Balancing Work and Life Booklet). 
  • Ensure that candidates feel welcomed—Berkeley’s reputation as a welcoming institution rests in large part with the search committee members’ treatment of candidates.
  • Maintain communication with candidates, keeping them informed of the process and timelines.

Put forward a candidate

  • Guide the search committee in voting procedures.
  • Write the Search Committee Narrative.
  • Prepare and submit the Search Report for review and approval prior to submitting the appointment case to APO.

Conduct post-search committee review

  • After the search has concluded, hold one last meeting to discuss what worked well and what did not.
  • Document in writing the search committee’s process and improvement ideas and pass them on to future search committees.