Best Practices for Online Recruitment

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Faculty recruitment is important because it is the first step in the process of developing qualified and engaged faculty. Over-recruiting makes it challenging to fully engage faculty and under-recruiting makes it difficult to efficiently staff courses. Effectively recruiting faculty to teach in the online environment poses unique challenges, which can be addressed through careful planning.

Forecasting faculty needs is an integral part of the process (Meyer, 2017). Steps for forecasting include:

1. Develop a spreadsheet with programmatic courses by term.

2. Utilize estimates from Admissions departments to inform determinations regarding the frequency of each course offering.

3. Conduct regular evaluations of forecasting documents and adjust based on expected vs. actual class size.

Forecasting teaching needs allows for accurate expectations which can be used to inform recruitment efforts. The next step, position descriptions, is equally important, as it sets the expectations of prospective faculty members (Portugal, 2015).

Position Descriptions           

It can be useful to include the anticipated course load and a general list of the types of courses the prospective faculty member will teach in position descriptions. Sharing institutional policy regarding the level of expected engagement with students and other faculty members helps to increase the odds that prospective faculty members whose vision is consistent with that of the organization will apply.

Importance of Diversity

Bias in recruitment may limit institutional efforts to increase diversity among faculty (Godechot, 2016). Diversity benefits institutions in important ways and it is integral to actively work to reduce bias during the recruitment process. Recognition is the first step and can be accomplished by encouraging leaders to engage in regular self-awareness training. Further efforts to establish a culture of inclusivity can significantly reduce bias. Regular diversity training for faculty, staff, and leadership is one strategy for nurturing organizational inclusivity. Additionally, involving multiple stakeholders in candidate evaluations can facilitate shared decision making, which has been shown to reduce bias and improve outcomes (Sekaquaptewa, Takahashi, Malley, Herzog & Bliss, 2019).

Evaluating Prospective Faculty

Processes for evaluating prospective faculty should be carefully designed and may be unique to individual institutions. An important first consideration for evaluating candidates is to design a process that will be applied consistently. Consistency improves the ability of decision makers to exercise objectivity. The process should include a detailed plan for screening, which details the minimum qualifications that are required for consideration. In situations where the online faculty member will be full-time, outreach may be initiated by an assigned search committee chair.  Additionally, a screening call should be conducted, during which a set of questions are posed. Follow-up questions are not easily kept consistent but should be as similar as possible, to reduce the likelihood of subjecting candidates to disparate treatment (Railey, Railey, & Hauptman, 2016).

Following screening, qualified applicants for full-time positions are typically interviewed by a search committee, which should include stakeholders from diverse areas of the university. Directors from multiple programs should serve on the committee, and all members should complete an evaluation form following the interview. As a best practice, a meeting to discuss qualified candidates can help to facilitate better decision making. After this meeting, several top candidates should interview with senior leadership. Part-time faculty recruitment involves key differences.

Part-Time Faculty Candidates

Part-time faculty candidates are typically screened by the director of the program for which they have applied to teach. Clear guidelines regarding minimum qualifications should be applied in an objective manner during the screening process. Following the screening, qualified candidates are usually asked to interview with the director. As a best practice, part-time faculty candidates should meet with an additional member of the leadership team to provide a more diverse perspective, and allow for shared decision making and the reduction of bias.

Online Faculty Recruitment

Online faculty recruitment involves a means for identification, resources, and strategies for the assessment of fit. Candidates are typically identified by posting position descriptions on job boards that cater to professionals seeking academic opportunities. The boards which are selected tend to be determined by institutional policy. It is important to consider board usage, as the selection of boards impacts candidate diversity. Word of mouth recommendations are often used to identify candidates (Meyers, 2017). Following the identification of candidates, resources are required to support effective evaluation. 

Resources for the recruitment of online faculty include documents to inform the search and faculty to aid in the evaluation. A forecasting spreadsheet, position description, screening questions, and an evaluation form will help guide the process. These documents will facilitate objectivity throughout the search.  Full-time faculty searches typically involve greater resource allocation. Overall, the level of resources will impact the ability to evaluate fit.

In the recruitment of online faculty, the most important consideration is the ability to teach online (Bigatel, Ragan, Kennan, May & Redmond, 2012). It is important to assess experience teaching online and key competencies for online teaching to evaluate the degree to which candidates would be able to fulfill the role. Core competencies for online teaching relate to organizational and time-management skills and the ability to facilitate collaboration and teamwork, pose questions effectively and present and engage fully in virtual environments (M’hammed, 2011). A second consideration is likely dedication to the institution. There are many strategies for engaging part-time online faculty, such as the provision of community building, professional development and programmatic faculty meetings (Eney & Davidson, 2012).

Despite the utility of these efforts, faculty who demonstrate key qualities are more likely to remain committed to the institution (Bigatel, Ragan, Kennan, May & Redmond, 2012). The first quality is a personal vision which is consistent with the mission of the organization.  A second quality is a strong perception of value regarding online education (McKenney, Peffley & Teolis, 2010). There are many innovative strategies for assessing prospective online faculty, such as virtual teaching simulations.

Virtual teaching simulations allow leaders to observe the online teaching skills of candidates in much the same way as an administrator in a brick and mortar institution might observe a guest lecture on campus (Gargani, & Strong, 2014). Virtual teaching simulations involve installing the candidate in an online course shell and asking them to facilitate a discussion forum, which includes members of the search committee. This allows the committee to evaluate the quality of engagement and the effective use of Socratic questioning.   Mock papers can also be presented to allow the prospective faculty member to demonstrate their ability to provide balanced and helpful feedback and grade effectively utilizing a rubric. These guidelines, when applied in a manner which is consistent with the mission of an institution, will inform the recruitment of effective and engaged online faculty.

Dr. Michelle Dennis joined Adler University in 2010. She currently serves the Online Campus as Chair of the Department of Leadership and Applied Psychology. Dr. Dennis previously served as the Director of the MA and PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology programs. Dr. Dennis also serves as the Vice Chair for Diversity and Inclusion for the Online Administration Network of the Association for Professional, Continuing and Online Education and holds a graduate credential in Online Teaching in Higher Education.


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Finch, D., Deephouse, D., O’reilly, N., Tyler, M. & Hillenbrand, C. (2016). Follow the leaders? An analysis of convergence and innovation of faculty recruiting practices in US business schools. Higher Education, 71(5), 699-717.

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Meyer, J. (2017). Administrator perspectives of advantages and challenges of employing part-time faculty in nursing education programs: Two sides of the same coin. Nursing Education Perspectives, 38(2), 80-84.

M’hammed, A. (2011). A process-oriented framework for acquiring online teaching competencies. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 23(1), 60-77.

Portugal, L. (2015). Hiring, training, and supporting online faculty for higher student retention efforts. Journal of Instructional Research, 4, 94-107.

Railey, M., Railey, K. & Hauptman, P. (2016). Reducing Bias in Academic Search Committees. JAMA, 316(24), 2595-2596. 

Sekaquaptewa, D., Takahashi, K., Malley, J., Herzog, K. & Bliss, S. (2019). An evidence-based faculty recruitment workshop influences departmental hiring practice perceptions among university faculty. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal, 38(2), 188-210.

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