Red Flags in Faculty Applicants

If I had a fool-proof method to identify good workers before they started a job, I would be a billionaire.  This question haunts hiring managers constantly.  You NEVER know if someone will be good at the job before they get into the thick of it.  Having personally hired faculty who were both outstanding and subpar, I can say it is VERY difficult to identify the subpar ones a priori.  

Nonetheless, there are definitely some applicants which I can spot as  likely to be bad faculty members from the outset.  If I can identify that they do not respect others, are lazy, are arrogant, or are unpleasant, I would not hire them.  Most faculty hires are made by the department head and dean, so really it’s up to what they think is important.  It definitely differs by individual, so take my advice with a big grain of salt.

Do Not Respect Others

This usually manifests in how the applicant interacts with staff.  If they don’t give staff (administrative assistants, technicians) a reasonable level of respect, they will probably cause problems as a faculty member.  We’re all part of a team.  Anyone that has an ego so big that they think the “little people” don’t matter is someone with whom I don’t want to work.

Laziness

Obviously, no one wants to work with someone who doesn’t do the job.  If I get the sense that the person wants to skate by on the bare minimum- or less than the bare minimum- I don’t want to hire them.

Arrogance

This ties closely in with not respecting others.  If someone doesn’t have at least some humility, they are going to be a pain to try to supervise.  This can be surprisingly difficult to pick up in an application or interview.  Indicators I look for are how they treat other people and talk about them.  If they think they’re the best thing since sliced bread, I’d rather kick them to the curb.

Unpleasantness

Someone who is unhappy, or seems disagreeable, or only focuses on problems is not someone I want to supervise.  I can just imagine them constantly darkening my doorstep with another imagined problem.

It’s difficult to spot problem faculty before they start.  Obviously, if you could do so, you wouldn’t hire them and there would never be any problem faculty ever.  In reality, that is not the case.  Every department has some members which are difficult for the supervisor, staff, and/or students.  If I can spot any of these characteristics during the application process, great, I know not to hire them.  But it’s hard to do.

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