Recruitment Phase - Attract

Combining a strategic search with a targeted advertising campaign is a highly effective approach to reaching a broad diverse candidate pool.

This section outlines the steps to conducting the strategic search, create an effective advertising campaign, and also how to manage the expectations of candidates.

8. Guidance for strategic search for Associate Professor roles

The strategic search is a key tool for delivering inclusive academic recruitment with the aim to reach the broadest possible pool of suitable candidates. It is an active process that identifies and engages candidates with the requisite experience and skills to meet the specific requirements of the role.

This section outlines the practical steps to conduct a strategic search.


  • Identify a designated Search Lead

The department/faculty and college should identify a member of the Selection Panel as the
Search Lead. This will often be the Chair, but this responsibility can be delegated where appropriate, e.g. if the Chair is not a subject specialist.

  • Agree a broad scope for the strategic search

For academic posts, the search should always be international, and should aim to include as many continents as feasible. The broadest search provides the greatest opportunity to identify diverse candidates. The Search Lead should also consider candidates at universities other than the usual places of interest, or those with non-traditional career histories including time outside academia.

  • Consult with the selection panel and others with knowledge of the field

The Search Lead should consult with all panel members to seek suggestions and recommendations of potential candidates to approach. When requesting recommendations, emphasise the importance of considering diverse candidates. The Chair should take particular care to ensure under‑represented groups (e.g. women and/or black and minority ethnic) have been included in the search.

Additional parties outside of the Selection Panel should also be consulted. These may include the following:

  1. department/faculty colleagues
  2. external experts in the field
  3. academic and professional networks
    (including specific networks for under-represented groups)
  4. interest groups/think tanks
  5. contacts in industry
  • Compile the search list

At the end of the scoping stage, the Search Lead should provide a list of names, usually with accompanying biographical notes or links to online profiles.

  • Ongoing searches

Departments/faculties may wish to maintain a rolling list of potential candidates for academic posts, which should be reviewed periodically to identify any new names, taking into account the guidance above. This list can then be reviewed when a post is released, to see whether there are any candidates who meet the specific requirements of the post.

Search meeting

The Chair should facilitate a meeting of as many panel members as possible, to review the list of names gathered at the scoping stage and to agree which candidates should be approached and by whom (the Head of Department/Faculty Board Chair, the Search Lead, or another member of the panel who knows the potential candidate). Any panel members who cannot attend or otherwise take part in the search meeting should be invited to submit their views by other means.

The chair should take responsibility for challenging any bias in this initial review of the proposed search list. The search may be continued if that is considered desirable in the light of the number of individuals identified, their quality, or their diversity.

Approaching candidates (active search)

Messaging about the role and the department/faculty/college’s commitment to diversity should be consistent in all communication with candidates, whether through the advert and further particulars or via personalised approaches.

  • Approach the candidates

The assigned contact for each of the names on the search list should make the initial approach. Frame the tone of the approach to balance engagement and expectations. You can offer support and encouragement to candidates, but reinforce that the recruitment is a competitive process and there is no guarantee of progression to the interview or offer stage.

[Suggested template wording for approaching potential candidates will be added to these guidelines when available.]

  • Consideration of additional candidates

It is common for names of additional potential candidates to emerge during the active search phase, e.g. when a candidate who is approached indicates that they do not wish to apply, but recommends someone else for the panel to consider. The Chair should share any additional names confidentially with the selection panel, for them to decide whether they should be added to the search list.


Reporting and analysis

  • Complete the search report

The template search report (link here) should be used to record those candidates who have been approached. The Chair may wish to use this at the shortlisting meeting to monitor the success of the search, i.e. how many candidates who were approached went on to apply.

NB The Chair may decide to extend the search period if the quality and/or diversity of the applications is not deemed to be sufficient.

The search report also provides a mechanism to capture the reasons why candidates decided not to apply. Over time, this may help to identify if any particular groups are being deterred from applying, and help when defining and advertising future roles.


  • Contact with unsuccessful candidates

Where an individual has applied following an approach during the searches but is unsuccessful at the shortlisting stage, it is good practice for the Search Lead (or designated contact) to include a brief personalised note with the rejection letter. These candidates may well have future contact with the department/faculty, so it is vital to ensure that they have a positive experience of the recruitment process, whatever the outcome. For unsuccessful candidates at the interview stage, it is recommended to provide feedback against the selection criteria, again accompanied by a personalised note where appropriate.

  •  ‘keeping warm

Departments/faculties may wish to pay particular attention to second-choice or lower candidates who were deemed appointable at the interview stage. It may be appropriate to ask these candidates if they might be interested in applying for other positions in the future [see ongoing searches], and/or explore ways to maintain contact with them through departmental/faculty events.

10. Advertising strategy

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The placement of the job advert is an important part of the overall attraction strategy, and should complement the strategic search. Whilst it is important that the job advert clearly reflects the criteria in the further particulars, it is equally important to mirror the messaging on diversity.

Where inclusive imagery has been used on the further particulars, use these same images in external job adverts to build a consistent look and feel that speaks about the importance of diversity and inclusion in the college, department or faculty.

If no images have been used to date, the external job advert is the opportunity to make use of inclusive images. These can often be images and pictures that are already being using on the college, department or faculties own website.

To then ensure the job advert reaches the broadest possible audience, share the role in a mixture of social media and other communication channels that are used by the college and department or faculty. Where possible, use the same images in the social media posts to create a consistent aesthetic for the recruitment exercise.

This approach can help to build the story of the role externally, and can reinforce the message that equality diversity and inclusivity is an important strand of the role.

Search engine optimisation is also an important consideration to ensure the advert can be found easily via search engines. By using common key words that are specific to the academic discipline in the title and the body of the advert will help make the role discoverable to applicants. Obscure role titles and headings should be avoided as these will prevent candidates finding your role.

Ensure all social media and other communication channels direct the job applicant back to the job advert on the University job board so that all applicants have the opportunity to anonymously provide the equality data at application stage.

Finally, ensure the proposed interview dates are included in the advert, so that applicants know when they are expected to take place. You should invite candidates to confirm their availability on the proposed dates in their submitted application.

11. Candidate Support and Familiarisation

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