Guidelines for Supportive Professional Staff Searches and Appointments

Original Policy Source APPM Section II Item 28
Primary Audience Faculty
Status Active
Effective Adoption Date 10-15-1999
Policy Category/Categories Faculty & Academics
Human Resources / Employment

"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, supportive professional staff positions. In order to fulfill its commitment to recruiting a diverse and representative staff, the colleges, and the administrative divisions, as well as the Office of Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance, will monitor search processes to assure good faith efforts to increase staff diversity. A designated affirmative action representative has been appointed in each college and in the major administrative divisions to monitor search procedures and approve the Part I and Part II affirmative action records. Additionally, the divisional vice presidents or their designees will review and approve the search records at the Part I and Part II stages before forwarding the paperwork to the Office of Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance. Questions should be addressed to the designated affirmative action representatives in the college or divisional offices or to the Office of Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance.

Request For Permission to Fill Position

Staff positions 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 funds or the reallocation of existing funds.

New supportive professional staff positions must be approved for exemption from the State Civil Service System. This requires completion of a Principal Administrative Position Exemption Request (PAPER), which should be accompanied by a job description. The unit seeking the exemption initiates the exemption request and forwards it to next administrative level for review and approval. The request must ultimately be approved by the vice president of the division, who will forward it to Human Resource Services (HRS) for signature and processing. Certain positions, which are primarily administrative in character, are exempted under section 36e3 of the statute. Other SPS positions, which are principally related to teaching and research, are exempted under Section 36e4. HRS will determine the type of exemption needed and will either approve the exemption or, if necessary, forward the request to the Civil Service Merit Board Office for review. Once the request is approved, HRS will contact the unit, which may then proceed with the employment process described below. Questions regarding the PAPER form and/or process should be directed to HRS.

A unit seeking to fill a vacant staff position approved for exemption from the State Civil Service System must be authorized to do so by the appropriate officers in the administrative line (dean/director and vice president). This step involves the completion of the Position Request Form (PRF). In order to approve the request, the administrator will need to know the official 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 and reflected in the job description. Once approval to fill the position has been obtained from the divisional vice president and Human Resource Services (HRS), and the advertising copy has been approved by the Office of Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance, the unit may proceed with the search.

Units wishing to consider an internal promotion, reassignment of a current employee, or a search limited to the current employee population should consult the section on Internal Position Administration.

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 title. Policies and guidelines related to each of these stages, as they apply to full-time supportive professional staff appointments, are discussed below.

The Search Committee

Search committees should be appointed by the administrator in charge of the unit to include individuals with expertise that will allow them to evaluate candidates' credentials. 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. The committee should reflect an appropriate representation of women and minority members. The administrative officer responsible for the conduct of the search may make additional appointments to the committee to achieve such representation, subject to the availability of eligible women and minorities to serve.

Development of the Advertisement

The hiring officer, in consultation with the search committee, should prepare the advertisement consistent with the job description and 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. (or other specified degree) required" means that applicants must have the degree in hand to be considered for an interview. The statement "Ph.D. (or other specified degree) required by the time of the appointment" means that applicants in the final stages of their academic 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 the hiring unit 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. The Office of Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance may consult with the hiring officer on the optimum wording of ad copy before placing the ad. Any revisions to the preliminary advertising copy that is attached to the PRF must be approved by the Office of 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 hiring unit believes will result in the most qualified and diverse pool. Ad copy can be forwarded to the Office of Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance early in the process so that it can be reviewed and approved, but the ad will not be placed until the divisional vice president and Human Resource Services (HRS) have signed the Position Request Form (PRF). The Office of Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance may need to discuss the recruitment and advertising plan with the search committee chair before approving the ad. Units should recognize that their ability to recruit a well-qualified and diverse staff 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 unit head and should include all requested information, including a position control number (if any) or the name of the last person occupying the position. The PRF should be accompanied by a job description, an ad copy, and a written narrative justifying the position to the divisional vice president.

The PRF and accompanying materials should be transmitted to the next administrative level/s and then forwarded to the divisional vice president 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 university's priorities and state goals that the university must address. Ad copy deadlines should be considered when forwarding these materials, since all administrative levels will need a reasonable amount of 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 the Office of Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance.

PRFs approved by the divisional vice president will be forwarded to Contracts, Records and Reports in Human Resource Services for processing and distribution. When the Office of Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance receives its copy, office staff will work with the unit 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 to each applicant a copy of the position description and an Equal Employment Opportunity Information Request Form (EEO) immediately (these forms may be found on the HRS website). Receipt of returned EEO forms in the Office of Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance allows for an independent review of applicants in protected class categories. The absence of such forms raises questions about their timely provision and may 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 hiring unit 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. The 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 chair of the search committee should complete the Affirmative Action Recruitment Record, Part I (guidelines are available from the Office of 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 position description and the ad copy. This will permit the Office of Affirmative Action and Diversity Resources to determine the reasons why identifiable protected-class candidates were omitted from the interview process. Networking activities carried out to help identify candidates for positions should also be described in the Part I. If the Part I information is not clear, the Office of 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 unit director, if different; approved by the designated affirmative action representative at the next administrative level and by the divisional vice president or his/her designee; and forwarded to the Office of Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance for review. After checking it for completeness, the Office of Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance will deliver the Part I to the vice president's office for approval by the vice president's affirmative action designee. Interviews may be scheduled once the Office of Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance notifies the hiring unit of approval of the Part I. Candidates should not be called until the Part I has been approved. (On rare occasions, units 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 staff, 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. The Regulations of the Board of Trustees require that search committees provide the hiring officer with more than one acceptable candidate. If the committee finds all but one of the interviewees unacceptable, it should interview candidates from the alternate pool until it can forward at least two names to the hiring officer. The role of the search committee is advisory in character, and the final authority to select new staff belongs to the hiring officer.

The search committee chair should complete the Affirmative Action Recruitment Record, Part II (guidelines are available from the Office of Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance) and a Personal Action Form (PAF) for the selected candidate. Appointments should be offered to the best qualified applicants; but the need for diversity in the workforce must be seen as an important consideration in the hiring process, and hiring officers should provide explicit information that would indicate why protected-class candidates, if known, are not being recommended for employment. The Part II should describe the interview process, indicating the groups or individuals who participated. It should clearly 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 and job description. The Part II should also indicate the order in which the unit wishes to offer the position to acceptable candidates, with appropriate explanation of the ranking.

The Part II and attached PAF should be approved by the unit director and submitted to the next level administrative office for review and approval by a designated affirmative action representative and forwarded to the vice president 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 vice president's office will review and sign the PAF and forward both the PAF and the Affirmative Action Recruitment Record, Part II to the Office of Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance. The Office of Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance will review the Part II and, in consultation with the vice president, resolve any questions or concerns with the hiring unit. Following final approval of the Part II by the vice president, the Office of 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. Offering letters are generally sent by the college office or the division head. (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 hiring office should prepare a new PAF (clearly labeled "second candidate") for the next-ranked candidate and forward or fax it through the college office (if applicable) to the vice president's office, which will confirm its consistency with the RPEF and forward it to the Office of Affirmative Action and Equity Compliance. After checking the PAF against the preceding affirmative action paperwork, the Office of 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 hiring office that it may proceed with the second offer.

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

All records related to the search are subject to review by the Office of 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 retain its search records for two years.


Ordinarily, regular new or vacant positions, or temporary appointments exceeding one year in duration, will be filled by means of an external search. In certain circumstances, however, the hiring officer may wish to request a waiver of an external search in favor of an internal promotion, the reassignment of existing staff, or a campus search that is limited to the campus employee population. Approval of the waiver will depend on such considerations as the likelihood of identifying qualified external candidates, the degree to which the promotion or reassignment furthers the university's interest in achieving diversity at all levels of the workforce, and the extent to which an employee's responsibilities have changed in response to reorganization processes. Internal promotions, reassignments, and campus searches should not be used to circumvent university affirmative action/equal employment opportunity goals but rather to further them and other institutional priorities.

The following procedures apply to the assignment of qualified internal candidates to new or vacant positions.

  1. A new or vacant position is defined as any position for which a Position Request Form (PRF) is required. The immediate supervisor may evaluate the status of any internal candidates who are identified prior to the initiation of standard search procedures. For purposes of this evaluation, updated job descriptions are required.
  2. In reviewing the status of potential internal candidates, the supervisor must determine the scope of employee eligibility and the level of internal mobility appropriate to the position. Internal candidacies will generally involve one of the following situations:
    1. Internal Promotion
      Internal promotions involve pre-established lines of progressive responsibility associated with a particular position or group of positions within the same organizational unit. In cases of internal promotion, an obvious successor to a new or vacant position will have been identified and approved by the supervisor. In such cases, a search is determined to be unnecessary and inefficient. The search process is then replaced by an internal affirmation process.
    2. Reassignment
      Reassignment involves a lateral move or transfer to a related position and similar level of responsibility within the same organizational unit or across organizational units. Following a review of potential internal candidates, a search may be determined to be unnecessary. The search process is then replaced by an internal affirmation/selection process.
    3. Campus Search
      A campus search involves consideration of all qualified individuals within the employee population. Campus searches are particularly appropriate for positions at salary levels that are unlikely to attract candidates from outside the immediate area and for positions in which knowledge of the university, the university community, or specific university procedures are especially important. Campus searches should not be used to recruit current employees away from positions that are difficult to fill.
  3. If the hiring officer wishes to conduct a campus search, a Request for Waiver of External Search form must be completed and forwarded to the appropriate dean/director, vice president, and HRS/Affirmative Action for approval. In all other respects, campus search procedures mirror those described in the section entitled Guidelines for Supportive Professional Staff Searches and Appointments.
  4. Following identification of internal candidates for promotion or reassignment, the hiring officer should forward a Request for Waiver of External Search form to the appropriate dean/director, vice president, and HRS/Affirmative Action. If the waiver is granted, an affirmation process should be conducted by the hiring officer or a committee appointed for this purpose. This process should involve careful consideration of the qualifications and performance demonstrated by the internal candidate. Input should be requested from positions or administrative units reporting to the position; and the hiring officer should confer with other departments, offices, and programs that would be directly affected by the appointment.
  5. Following receipt of this feedback, the hiring officer will either recommend the appointment of the internal candidate or initiate a more extensive search for the position for which interested parties (including the internal candidate) may apply.
  6. In the event that the hiring officer recommends the promotion or reassignment of an internal candidate into a new or vacant position, this recommendation should be made in written form (confirming that the steps outlined above have been completed) and should be forwarded through all necessary approval levels along with the completed Request for Waiver of External Search form and an appropriate personnel action form (PAF).

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.


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