One of my greatest frustrations as an administrator is that of delays in searches. Every institution where I’ve taught has experienced the kinds of exasperating hold-ups that leave finalists feeling as if they are twisting in the wind and search committees feeling stymied.
It is difficult for folks who are external to the inner workings of searches to understand just how complicated things are in the final stages of a search. Let’s say a committee has decided to invite two candidates to campus and the position is greenlighted for both interviews. The calendaring person must then poll to see when everyone in the department will be in town and match those dates with the dates when the candidates are also available.
In disciplines with spring professional conferences, that creates complications, as does spring break. Add in the complication of the teaching demonstration, which is usually limited to either a Tuesday/Thursday sequence or a Monday/Wednesday/Friday sequence to make sure that the two candidates have similar experiences. The department then typically provides three possible dates for each candidate’s visit and begins to vet those dates with the dean and the vice president for academic affairs or even the president’s office. The dates for the two candidates, of course, must be almost contiguous with one another so that the visits are close enough for fair comparison.
This is where it really gets complicated. Let’s say that there are a dozen searches active on campus and coming to fruition between February 1 and the end of March, which gives about 40 possible days for visits. That’s the coordination of as many as 24 campus visits, involving travel and so forth, across those dates.
Throw out days that just don’t work for anyone (large events or even local festivals that make logistics more difficult), and everyone is essentially fighting over the 24 to 28 days that are reasonably available. Now, heaven forbid that the latest Snowzilla storm or wave of the Porcupine Flu strikes and forces rearrangements of dates. Or that Candidate 1 for the position receives an offer elsewhere and pulls out of the search, requiring the committee to drop to Candidate 3, who must now visit campus two or three weeks after the other candidate, whose visit was already scheduled and who must then wait for the conclusion of the department’s deliberations.
All of this is to say that candidates and search committees need to be patient when the pipeline of interviews gets clogged. Sometimes institutions can communicate the reasons for the delays with the candidates, but sometimes they just can’t. It is, on many occasions, quite maddening. For candidates in particular, if a search seems to have mysteriously grown cold, it is perfectly fine to send a brief e-mail asking for an update on the search process. Delays are just part of the process.
What’s the longest wait you have experienced in a search (from either side of the table)? What was the most frustrating but unavoidable reason for a delay?