In the U.S. we don’t hire faculty members sight unseen. Typically, a faculty candidate will travel to the university for a 2-3 day interview, during which time he will teach a class, do a research presentation and meet with all the faculty and dean. Here there are no campus interviews. They don’t even do phone interviews! Bear in mind this is for a full time position, so if this person is hired he will stay on faculty full time, forever. Thus, it is important not to hire the wrong person.Rather than ever speaking to job applicants the hiring decision is made based on a spreadsheet containing information about each person’s qualifications. We are expected to look at the information and determine, based on the job posting, whether each applicant is “appointable.” “Appointable” means the person meets the required qualifications and is eligible for hire. If ANYONE on the list of candidates is appointable, then someone must be hired. Thus, even if we know we don’t like a person, but that person is appointable, we are expected to hire that individual.
Ok, now that you have the background information, we had five applicants for the Lecturer job. Three were “not appointable” because they either didn’t have a graduate degree already or were missing some other major requirement. So these three were straightforward. However, the other two were mediocre. We didn’t really like them and didn’t want to hire them, but they were decent. However, the department chair insisted we make a ruling on them. And he kept reminding us that if one of them was deemed apointable that we would have to hire that person. Apparently he must go before a university-wide board explaining the department’s decision as to who was appointable, who wasn’t, why the decision was made, and other seemingly bizarre questions.As I was saying, we didn’t like the two candidates who appeared to be qualified. Both candidates had graduate degrees in Environmental Sciences, not Tourism, which was our preference. We referred back to the job posting which stated, “Applicants MUST have: a Master’s Degree in Tourism or RELATED fields, Bachelor’s Degree in the RELEVANT discipline, show evidence of engagement of research AND service.” For clarification, I added the capitalizations and bolding.
We spent no less than an hour discussing whether Environmental Sciences was a RELATED field or RELEVANT. Finally, we came to the agreement that it was related, but not relevant enough to qualify the person to teach Tourism courses. (Yes, you would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in this meeting!) However, we still needed to address the last part of the sentence: whether the person demonstrated “evidence of research AND service.” I immediately pointed out neither candidate had research experience. To which someone else replied, “Yes, both they both have service.” Naturally I took my observation of the RELATED versus RELEVANT argument and used it to my benefit, “Yes, but the advertisement states ‘evidence of research AND service.’ It doesn’t say research OR service. Since neither have both research AND service they both fail to meet the requirements. I vote they are both unappointable!”In the end we decided neither candidate met the requirements and elected not to hire anyone. It only took 2 hours and 38 minutes to reach that conclusion. I have to admit, after the first hour of this meeting I think I had a smile plastered on my face permanently because it was all I could do not to laugh. I just thought the entire debate about the EXACT meaning of words was ridiculous. But apparently when you are told to “choose your words carefully” you should really make an effort to do so because you never know when you are going to have to defend them in a fight to the death. I believe from now on I will have to carry a dictionary wherever I go, just in case.