Thomas S. Edwards, Thomas College
"Good advising may be the single most underestimated characteristic of a successful college experience." -Richard Light, Making the Most of College: Students Speak Their Minds (2001).
Good advising is often underestimated in the college experience, and we can trace part of the problem to the role which advising plays-or doesn't play-in the recruitment of new faculty. If we value good advising but fail to include it as part of our hiring process, we miss an excellent opportunity to influence the culture of our institutions.
The hiring process - and the stated criteria we use to measure candidates - reflect the values of our institution. So where does advising fit in? Is the importance of advising reflected in our hiring practice? Do we define advising as a key characteristic of our ideal candidate, or does it function more as an afterthought, relegated to a lower-tier status after research, teaching, and collegiality?
In recent years, the hiring process for faculty has seen dramatic shifts, especially at institutions that emphasize quality teaching and interaction with undergraduate students. Search committees review a candidate's teaching experience in addition to their research agenda. Samples of student evaluations and teaching statements are commonly reviewed. Many institutions now require teaching demonstrations.
The role of advising in the hiring process is often less prominent, however. Part of the problem lies in the lack of a commonly-held definition of advising and the fact that advising models differ widely across institutions. Some rely primarily on professional staff advisors. Others may define advising as concerned with course registration and thus may lack a more integrated approach with Student Affairs. Many institutions lack a formal way to recognize the advising provided by adjunct faculty or teaching assistants.
It is important that hiring committees understand that these different models will produce a great deal of variability related to advising within the applicant pool. At the same time, this variability allows us to explore what candidates understand about advising in general, and how they will be expected to perform at their new institution.
The first step comes in the formulation of the job description and the advertisement. Does the institution have a clear definition of advising roles and clear expectations of faculty contributions to that activity? As a committee designs its documents for a search, is advising included in a way that accurately reflects the qualities and experience the institution seeks with regards to advising?
If advising is expected, placing a brief mention in the ad alerts candidates to the importance of advising at the institution and signals that advising will be one of the criteria that will be used in their evaluation. The simple mention of advising in a job announcement (e.g., 'Evidence of successful undergraduate teaching and advising preferred') allows a search committee to include advising in all stages of the process: in the initial review of candidates, in preliminary telephone interviews, and in on-campus conversations.
Open-ended questions for candidates during an interview allow them to speak about their advising experiences, whether as part of a defined responsibility, or through more informal interactions with students. Asking a candidate to 'tell us about your advising experience at your last position' also encourages the members of the hiring committee to comment on their own institution's practices related to advising. The committee gains a clearer picture of how a candidate interacts with students, and candidates understand better how advising functions at the new institution.
The process shouldn't stop there, however. Reference calls can include questions related to a candidate's experience with advising, and new faculty orientation can include time devoted to advising practices, technical support, and professional development opportunities for advising.
An integrated approach to advising that begins with the hiring process sends the message that advising is central to what we do. Making a good match between a candidate and an institution is difficult enough. But if we fail to be explicit in our hiring practice about the expectations we have for advising, we run the risk of a disconnect between a candidate and our institution in an area that is critical to the educational process.
When teaching institutions highlight teaching in their hiring process, they send a message about the value they place on good faculty-student interaction in the classroom. When advising institutions begin to do the same, we may see a similar shift in the profile of advising on our campuses. We must practice what we preach: if we value quality advising in the way we work, a simple first step is to practice it in the way we hire.
Thomas S. Edwards
Vice President for Academic Affairs
Cite this article using APA style as: Edwards, T. (2007, March). Practice what we preach: Advising and the hiring process. Academic Advising Today, 30(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]