How to Improve Non-Tenure-Track Faculty Hiring & Recruiting


The Association of Governing Boards' (AGB) Trusteeship magazine reports that over the years the composition of tenure-track, non-tenure-track and adjunct faculty at universities and community colleges has changed dramatically.
In fact, AGB states that in 1969, tenured and tenure-track positions made up about 78.3 percent of the faculty, while non-tenure-track and adjunct positions only accounted for about 21.7 percent.

But by 2009, the amounts had flipped. Non-tenure track and adjunct positions made up the majority at 66.5 percent while tenured and tenure-track only made up 33.5 percent. Additionally, of the non-tenure-track faculty, 47.7 percent were part-time adjuncts.

The problem is that most universities and community colleges have not come up with unique processes for recruiting and hiring non-tenure-track and adjunct faculty. The AGB asserts that the lack of process negatively affects the school.
For example, waiting until the last minute to hire these positions means they have less time for a formal orientation process or to prepare for their classes.

So to help your institution, we've put together some suggestions for improving the recruiting and hiring process for non-tenure-track and adjunct faculty.

Job Descriptions

The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges recommends the first step should be forming hiring objectives. They state, "The development of the objectives should be the product of extensive dialogue such that the whole committee has a common understanding of what characteristics are desired in this new faculty member."

Then, you can use these objectives to develop the job description. And within the job description, it's important to think about standard minimum qualifications that will be needed to perform the objectives, and it's also important to think about your desired qualifications.

"Committees should identify the desirables that, when teamed with the minimum qualifications, will result in a candidate that meets the characteristics of your ideal candidate," according to the Academic Senate for California Colleges.

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Sourcing Candidates

Once you have the job description in place, the next step is sourcing candidates. This is particularly important because it's an active process instead of a reactive process - which is the typical way hiring is done.

For example, instead of placing the job advertisement on your website or on a job board and then waiting for people to come to you - you go out and find the qualified candidates. Some ways to find candidates include:

  • Mentoring programs: Existing faculty can volunteer to mentor and help graduate students.
  • Conferences: Faculty members and staff can network and make connections at conferences.
  • Community Organizations: Faculty and staff that participate in various community organizations can foster relationships with those groups.
  • Job Applicants: Keep in touch with candidates that weren't selected for positions so that they have a chance when another opportunity comes up.

The Interview

The next step is the interview process. First, it's important to have questions ready. The questions should relate back to the objectives formed at the beginning of the process.

We also recommend asking behavioral-based questions while making sure to stay away from questions that relate to protected classes.

Another part to the interview process is to find out how candidates will perform when they're on the job. For example, you can ask them for a draft of a lesson plan or syllabus, or you can have them perform a teaching demonstration.

But keep in mind that these exercises should yield you answers that relate back to the objects - just like the interview questions.

New Hire Orientation

After you select the candidate to fill the non-tenure-track or adjunct faculty position, the next step in the process is the new hire orientation. This should include the basics such as I-9 forms, a tour of the campus, review of the employee handbook, and any required training courses such as Title IX/Clery Act and campus safety.

And you should also think about providing additional training to add value for the new faculty members. For example, as part of its orientation process, Columbus State Community College has a special monthly series to help faculty and staff learn about different departments - such as marketing, academic affairs, human resources, etc.

This is something that helps faculty feel a deeper connection to your campus because they feel included in the campus culture.

Retention Strategies

Finally, the last step in the process should be your retention efforts. Because after you've gone through all the trouble to recruit and hire the best candidate, you want them to stay.

Anthony Walesby, at the University of Michigan, writing for HigherEdJobs states, "I hear from faculty and staff who say how much they appreciated the institutional efforts to recruit them - that they felt special and excited about becoming part of the campus community - only to get there and feel completely abandoned. Then, the person ends up leaving and we start the process all over again at great expense to the institution."

So to help keep your new faculty, you can try providing any of the following:

  • Professional development opportunities
  • Benefits for part-time faculty
  • Diversity initiatives
  • Inclusion in curriculum development
  • Clerical support and office space
  • Work-life balance programs


To improve the quality of education at your university or community college, it's essential to create a process for recruiting and hiring non-tenure-track and adjunct faculty. Our suggested framework for the process focuses on job descriptions, sourcing candidates, the interview, new hire orientation and retention strategies.

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