Faculty Searches and Appointments Guidelines

Original Policy Source APPM Section 2. Item 27
Primary Audience Faculty
Status Active
Effective Adoption Date 07-13-2010
Last Review Date 10-03-2016
Policy Category/Categories Faculty & Academics

"It is the policy of Northern Illinois University that equal opportunity shall be offered in the appointment of faculty and administrative employees in compliance with applicable state and federal equal employment opportunity laws and without regard to sexual orientation." (Regulations of the Board of Trustees, Section II, A, 4) In its mission statement, the university refers to its belief that "a democratic society requires an articulate citizenry, aware of the diverse multicultural nature of its national heritage." The statement further notes the university's intent to develop in its students an "appreciation of diversity" and an understanding of the "increasingly international nature of contemporary life." The university serves a region that includes a significant population of minority and ethnic groups, and it attracts a diverse student body reflecting the demographic composition of that region. The university's mission therefore asserts the need "to recruit and retain faculty of national stature from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds, attentive to developments in their respective disciplines, and capable of educating students who will be able to serve the region, the state, the nation, and the world with distinction in the coming decades."

The following guidelines are intended to assist the university in realizing this mission. These guidelines apply to full-time, regular, tenure-track faculty positions. In order to fulfill its commitment to recruiting a diverse and representative faculty, the colleges, the Provost's Office and Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance will monitor tenure-track faculty search processes to assure good faith efforts to increase faculty diversity. A designated affirmative action representative has been appointed in each college to monitor college search procedures and approve the Part I and Part II affirmative action records. Additionally, the Provost's Office will review and approve the search records at the Part I and Part II stages before forwarding the paperwork to Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance/HRS. Questions should be addressed to the Provost's Office, the college's designated affirmative action representative, or Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance.

Request to Fill a Faculty Position

Faculty positions funded from general revenue dollars become available when an incumbent resigns, retires, is reassigned, or in another way "vacates" the position; when a temporary appointment ends; or when an entirely new position is authorized and funded either through new state funds or the reallocation of existing funds.

The department/school seeking to fill a vacant position must be authorized to do so by the appropriate college-level administrator. This step involves the completion of the Position Request Form (PRF). In order to approve the request, the administrator will need to know the proposed rank/title and the maximum salary figure for the position. If the requested position will address programmatic needs that are different from those covered by the previous occupant of the position, those needs should be explained in the request. Individual deans may have additional guidelines for requesting permission to fill faculty positions.

Once the college-level administrator has approved the request, approval must be received from the Provost's Office. The Provost's Office provides additional guidelines to be used by the department/school and the college to justify the request. Once approval to fill the position has been obtained from the provost and from Human Resource Services (HRS), and the advertising copy has been approved by Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance, the unit may proceed with the search.

The university's success in providing equitable and, when appropriate, affirmative treatment of current and potential employees can be affected at several stages of the search process: selection of the search committee, development of the advertisement, networking and other recruitment strategies, screening of applicants, the interview process, the selection of the final candidate, and the offer of salary and rank. Policies and guidelines related to each of these stages, as they apply to full-time tenure-track appointments, are discussed below.

The Search Committee

Faculty search committees may be appointed by the department chair or elected by the department/school. Search committees must include at least three members, and ideally should include more (5-7). An odd number is useful to prevent tie votes, and a larger number is helpful in the event a search committee member becomes ill or is otherwise unable to complete the process. Ideally, department search committee members will be tenured members of the department and will reflect an appropriate representation of women and minority faculty members. The administrative officer responsible for the conduct of the search may, with the advice and consent of the committee, makes additional appointments to the committee to achieve such representation, subject to the availability of eligible women, minorities, and tenured faculty to serve. In the event that the department is attempting to hire at a senior rank, it is appropriate for the dean or a representative of the dean's office to also serve on the committee.

Development of the Advertisement

The department chair (or other hiring officer), in consultation with the search committee, should prepare the advertisement with a view to creating as large a pool of qualified applicants as possible. The advertisement also serves as a screening device, discouraging some applicants and encouraging others. The absence of qualifications listed as "required" will disqualify an applicant from further consideration. Qualifications listed as "preferred" may serve to rank some applicants higher than others, but their absence cannot be used to disqualify an applicant from consideration. The statement "Ph.D. required" means that applicants must have the Ph.D. in hand to be considered for an interview. The statement "Ph.D. required by the time of the appointment" means that applicants in the final stages of doctoral work can be considered. Advertisements should include a deadline for receipt of applications, preferably allowing at least 30 days for the application process. (Generally, the deadline is interpreted to refer to the postmark, not the arrival date of the materials. If a department wishes to use a cut-off date for receipt of materials, the ad must make that clear.) Materials required to make the application complete must be specified in the ad. Materials postmarked after an announced deadline cannot be considered in the search. Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance will include language indicating that "NIU is an Equal Opportunity Affirmative Action Employer" and may consult with the hiring officer on the optimum wording of ad copy before placing the ad. Any revisions to the preliminary advertising copy attached to the PRF must be approved by Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance.

In positions that have proved difficult to fill, an advertisement may include the statement "position open until filled, review of credentials will begin on…." In this situation, the committee must review all credentials received up to the point at which a recommendation is forwarded to the hiring officer.

Advertisements should be placed in those outlets that the department believes will result in the most qualified and diverse pool. If the department has filed a statement indicating the discipline's best advertising outlets and professional recruitment meetings with Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance, the documentation approving that advertising process can be attached to the Position Request Form (see below) when the PRF is forwarded to the provost. Ad copy can be forwarded to Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance at the same time, so that the ad copy can be reviewed and approved. The ad will not be placed until the provost and Human Resource Services (HRS) have signed the Position Request Form (PRF). Departments should not place their own ads unless authorized to do so by Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance. If standard recruitment efforts and advertising outlets are not appropriate for a given search, a position-specific recruitment and advertising plan should be attached to the PRF and to the advertising copy. Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance will discuss the recruitment and advertising plan with the department chair before approving the ad. Departments should recognize that their ability to recruit a well-qualified and diverse faculty will be greatly enhanced and may depend upon networking activities undertaken well in advance of a specific search.

Procedures Required to Initiate the Recruitment Process

The Position Request Form (PRF) should be signed by the chair or other hiring officer and should include all requested information, including the name of the last person occupying the position, if any. The PRF should be accompanied by a tentative ad copy, statement of approval of the advertising process or a position-specific recruitment and advertising plan (see above), and written narrative justifying the position to the provost. (Get information about guidelines related to position justification.)

The PRF and accompanying materials should be transmitted to the dean for approval and then forwarded to the Provost's Office for review in order to assure that programmatic, budgetary, space, personnel, and other planning implications are fully addressed. Particular attention will be paid to the ways in which the requested hire would contribute to the goals and priorities of the college, the university's priorities, and state goals that the university must address. Ad copy deadlines should be considered when forwarding these materials to the dean and the provost, both of whom must be afforded reasonable time for review and consultation. Search committee members should review the ad copy before the ad is placed to confirm that "required" and "preferred" qualifications will elicit the desired pool of candidates. Any revisions to the original ad copy that is attached to the PRF must be approved by Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance.

PRFs approved by the provost will be forwarded to Employment Services in Human Resource Services for processing and distribution. When Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance receives its copy, office staff will work with the department to implement the recruitment and advertising plan. A record of all advertising and recruitment efforts (including informal contacts and printed copy of ads placed on listservs and Web sites) should be maintained. These details will be needed to complete Part I of the Affirmative Action Recruitment Record.

Communication With and Screening of Applicants

In order to fulfill its obligations as an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer, the university must not only treat all applicants equally and, when appropriate, affirmatively; but it must be able to show that it has done so. Attention to the following guidelines will help ensure this end.

  1. As applications, nominations, and letters are received, the envelopes should be retained so as to maintain a record of receipt and validate the fact that the item was postmarked or received prior to the ad deadline or the designated date for beginning review of applications.
  2. The department should acknowledge all applications promptly as they are received, and should send immediately to each applicant an Equal Employment Opportunity Information Request Form (these forms may be ordered through Central Stores). Receipt of returned EEO forms in Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance allows for an independent review of applicants in protected class categories. The absence of such forms may raise questions about their timely provision and delay approval of Part I of the search record.
  3. If the advertisement included a deadline for receipt of applications, file review should not begin until after the deadline has passed. If the advertisement has described the search as "open until filled," the review of credentials should not begin until after the date specified in the ad. In the latter case, the files should be reviewed in groups according to date of receipt rather than singly as they are received. If the department intends to screen some applicants at a professional conference, it is desirable to bring all paper files (those forwarded by mail and those received at the conference) together for a final collective review by the search committee.
  4. The use of consistent criteria during the screening process can be furthered by the use of rating sheets. Rating sheets should list the criteria announced in the position description or ad copy, with adjustments for any desired weighting. A copy of the rating sheet for the search, if used, should be forwarded with Part I of the Affirmative Action Recruitment Record. Each member of the committee should review the credentials of all candidates.
  5. After the search committee has reached a decision regarding the interview pool, the department chair or the chair of the search committee should complete the Affirmative Action Recruitment Record, Part I (guidelines are available from Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance). The Part I indicates which candidates will be invited to campus for interviews and which candidates, if any, are to be treated as alternates. Alternates should be listed in priority order. The form should indicate why the interviewees and alternates were selected and briefly explain why the other applicants were not selected. The explanation should relate to criteria contained in the ad copy. This will permit Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance to determine the reasons why identifiable protected-class candidates were omitted from the interview process. Networking activities of the department carried out to help identify candidates for positions should also be described in the Part I. If the Part I information is not clear, Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance may request additional information on protected-class candidates who self-identify on a returned EEO form.

The Part I should be signed by the search committee chair and the department chair, if different; approved by the college's designated affirmative action representative; and forwarded to the Provost Office for review. After checking it for completeness the Part 1 will be forwarded to Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance for approval. Interviews may be scheduled once Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance notifies the department of approval of the Part I. Candidates should not be called to schedule an interview until the Part I has been approved. (On rare occasions, departments have had to revise their interview groups because of flaws in the process to this point.) After this stage, the search can be flawed only if the interviews and final selection are not carried out in good faith.

In the interest of making it possible to employ qualified international faculty, the department or search committee chair should send each of the candidates invited to interview the form letter Determination of Visa Status (available from Human Resource Services). If a candidate invited to a campus interview is on a temporary visa, he or she should return the completed form to the International Student and Faculty Office. That office can then begin to process the paperwork needed to secure an H1-B visa. This step (which is position-, not person-specific) will expedite the pursuit of an appropriate work visa in the event that the international candidate is offered the position.

The Interview Process

The committee should determine who is to be involved in the candidate interview process. All candidates should be interviewed according to a consistent process and schedule, and interview groups should be reminded that questions must be relevant and asked consistently of all candidates. Questions related to race, gender, age, marital status, family situation, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, physical disability or other characteristics unrelated to the professional requirements of the position may not be asked or considered in the process. The criteria stated in the ad and used in the screening process should continue to be the basis for the final decision.

Whenever possible, search committees should arrive at more than one acceptable name in the event that the preferred candidate declines the offer. In the case of chairs and other administrative appointments with rank, the Regulations of the Board of Trustees require that search committees provide the hiring officer with the names of at least two acceptable candidates. The role of the search committee is ultimately advisory in character, and the authority to extend offers of appointment to new faculty members belongs to the dean of the college. The dean may extend the offer only after the Part II Affirmative Action Record has been approved and the Personnel Action Form (PAF) signed. If the dean does not agree to extend an offer to the recommended candidate, he/she will consult with the department search committee.

The department or search committee chair should complete the Affirmative Action Recruitment Record, Part II (guidelines are available from Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance) and a Personnel Action Form (PAF) for the selected candidate. Appointments should be offered to the best qualified applicants; but the need for diversity of the faculty must be seen as an important consideration in the hiring process, and departments should provide explicit information that would indicate why protected-class candidates, if known, are not being recommended for hire. The Part II should describe the interview process, indicating the groups or individuals who participated. It should indicate whether or not the interviewed candidates are acceptable and should provide an explanation for these judgments in terms of the requirements in the ad. The Part II should also indicate the order in which the department wishes to offer the position to acceptable candidates, with appropriate explanations of the ranking.

The Part II and attached PAF should be approved by the department chair and submitted to the college for review and approval by the college's designated affirmative action representative and forwarded to the Provost's Office for approval. The PAF must be accompanied by a curriculum vita and three original letters of recommendation or substantive summaries of telephone interviews with three references. The Provost's Office will review the Affirmative Action Recruitment Record and sign the PAF. Both will be forwarded to Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance. Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance will review the Part II and, in consultation with the Provost's Office, resolve any questions or concerns with the college and department. Following final approval of the Part II by the Provost's Office, Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance will forward the PAF and Part II to HRS. HRS will verify information contained on the PAF and notify appropriate staff that an offering letter may be sent to the preferred candidate. The college generally sends offering letters. (The specific elements that must be included in offering letters are available from HRS.)

In the event that the first candidate who is offered the position declines, the department should prepare a new PAF (clearly labeled "second candidate") for the next-ranked candidate and forward or fax it through the college office to the Provost's Office, which will confirm its consistency with the PRF and forward it to Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance. After checking the PAF against the preceding affirmative action paperwork, Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance will forward the second offer PAF to HRS. HRS will review the new PAF for consistency with the hiring parameters and, after approval, notify the college that it may proceed with the next offer.

If a salary figure proposed on the PAF exceeds that indicated on the Position Request Form, a justification must be provided to the provost with a revised PRF showing the new figure. The provost must then approve the revised figure on the PRF.

All records related to the search are subject to review by Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance and will be maintained for a period of at least two years following the date of the report. The hiring unit should also maintain its search record for two years.

Contingency Appointments

New tenure-track faculty may be appointed with alternative titles pending clearance of a degree or visa contingency. In the case of a degree contingency, the title of "instructor" should be used. In the case of a visa contingency, the title "assistant professor" (or other rank as appropriate) should be used. In either case, the appointment will be considered temporary (i.e. recommended on a year-to-year basis by the unit chair/director and approved by the college dean and Executive Vice President and Provost) until the contingency has been cleared, and departments should inform employees of the department's right to terminate the appointment if the contingency is not cleared as expected. Time served in a contingent appointment may be counted toward tenure, subject to removal of the contingency.

Once the contingency is cleared and the position transition from temporary to permanent status occurs, the tenure date will be recommended by the department/school chair, with approval by the college dean and Executive Vice President and Provost.

Guidelines for Other Instructional Appointments



The title of "Lecturer" is used in the College of Law to employ practicing lawyers and judges to teach an occasional class on a part-time basis. The title is not available in other colleges. 

Applied Artist

"Applied Artist" appointments are limited to the College of Visual and Performing Arts. Applied artists are accomplished music, theatre, performing, or visual artists who are appointed on a less than 50 percent basis. Applied artist appointments are temporary for a period of one year or less. Such appointments may be renewed on a semester or academic year basis.

Visiting Faculty

The Regulations of the Board of Trustees recognizes three professorial ranks - Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor. Individuals who meet board and department criteria for appointment at one of these ranks may be appointed to a non-tenure-track position in any of these ranks in a "visiting" capacity. Individuals who receive visiting appointments must possess the appropriate terminal degree for the discipline (e.g., Ph.D., Ed.D., M.F.A., M.M.). A visiting appointment is appropriate when an individual is hired to replace a specific regular faculty member who is on leave or temporarily unable to teach, when a scholar with special expertise is brought to campus to make that expertise available to NIU students, or when the short-term filling of a vacant tenure-track position is necessary pending the initiation and completion of regular search procedures. Visiting appointments will often include research, graduate training/supervision, and/or service expectations normally associated with ranked faculty workloads. Visiting appointments are always temporary, with the anticipated term of appointment to be one year or less.

Adjunct Faculty

Adjunct faculty appointments are authorized in accordance with Board of Trustees regulations. Such appointments are limited to individuals who are not employees of the university, who have retired from the university, or who hold regular appointments within the university in units or departments other than the department making the adjunct appointment. Individuals are not, on the basis of their adjunct appointments, eligible for tenure or for participation in university benefit programs or the State Universities Retirement System. Ordinarily, adjunct appointees do not receive a salary.


Temporary instructional faculty may be appointed with the title of "Instructor." Ordinarily, positions filled by instructors require an appropriate baccalaureate or master's degree but do not require the doctorate. Each temporary appointment is a separate, non-continuous appointment, and there shall be no presumption of renewal or extension. The terms and conditions of employment for individuals appointed under this title are governed by a collective bargaining agreement. Questions regarding these appointments should be directed to the Director of Labor Relations in Human Resource Services  at 815-753-6000.

Guidelines for Research Appointments

The university recognizes several research and research-support titles under which staff may be appointed to membership on research teams or to work collaboratively with faculty on research and scholarly projects. Such appointments are ordinarily "temporary" because they will ordinarily be funded by grants and contracts. Such appointments can be renewed indefinitely, subject only to the availability of funds. Each such position requires approval of an exemption from the State Civil Service System. Search guidelines for supportive professional staff should be followed in the initial hire.

Post-Doctoral Fellows

Postdoctoral scholars advance institutional research and scholarship and enhance professional skills and research training for individuals who recently received a doctoral degree (or equivalent).

Individuals appointed under this classification must hold a recent degree, generally awarded within the last six years. Equivalent degrees include (but may not be limited to) a Sc.D or DEng, first professional degree in a medical or related field (M.D., D.D.S., D.O., D.V.M.) or foreign equivalent to a U.S. doctoral degree.

Postdoctoral appointments are temporary positions that include mentored advanced training to enhance the individual's professional skills and research independence to pursue his/her chosen career path. Mentorship occurs under the supervision of NIU senior faculty or research scholars/scientists. Postdocs may participate in all phases of a scientific or scholarly project and shall pursue publication and results of one's work during their NIU appointment.

Postdoctoral scholars do not engage in instruction except on a part-time and occasional basis and are not expected to supervise other professional staff.

Postdoctoral scholars are exempt from Civil Service under section 36e4 and are classified as temporary Supportive Professional Staff (SPS). Appointments are on a limited-term basis, generally no more than five-seven years and considered training positions.

Research Associates

"Research Associates" work collaboratively with research faculty to prepare reports, papers, and monographs reporting the results of research and other scholarly projects. They work under the direction of senior faculty and research scholars/scientists to carry out research and other scholarly and technical activities, most of which will be externally funded. Such individuals are ordinarily required to have sufficient knowledge of a specific academic discipline (generally evidenced by possession of an appropriate master's degree) to develop or assist in developing research designs; to plan or assist in the conduct of research and other scholarly operations; to supervise activities or support personnel; and to write or assist in writing interpretative reports, scholarly articles, monographs and proposals for additional funding.

Senior Research Appointments

The university recognizes two senior research appointments - "Research Scholar" and "Research Scientist." Doctoral-qualified individuals with significant research experience beyond the dissertation may be appointed as "research scholars" or "research scientists" by academic departments or research centers for the purpose of conducting research and scholarship. While the criteria may differ, research scholars and research scientists should be evaluated on the same schedule and according to the same process as used for departmental faculty.

The title "Research Scientist" should be used in those disciplines in which "scientist" best describes the activity of the researcher. The title "Research Scholar" should be used in those disciplines in which "scholar" best describes the activity of a researcher. In either case, the work of the individual so titled is likely to be that of the principal or co-principal investigator. This individual would be expected to plan, direct, and participate in complex scientific or scholarly projects. S/he would supervise project staff, administer all phases of a research project or scholarly investigation, establish problem areas, formulate proposals, design new studies and develop applications. A research scientist/scholar maintains professional contacts with colleagues in other universities and professional organizations, reviews domestic and foreign literature applicable to current research, prepares materials based on research findings for publication, and delivers speeches to professional and lay groups. Ordinarily, individuals appointed as research scientists/scholars will not engage in instruction (except on a part-time and occasional basis).

Endorsed by Council of Deans, September 29, 1999. 
Approved by Executive Vice President and Provost, Vice President for Administration, and 
Associate Vice President for Administration and Human Resources, October 15, 1999.

Editorial modification approved February 11, 2016
Editorial modification May 30, 2017

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