Get Wired - Get Hired

Things to do online today: check e-mail, order groceries and apply for a professorship at California State University (CSU). No, really. Channel Islands, CSU’s newest campus, is looking for about 25 professors, and the only way to apply for the job is in cyberspace. Is the Web the way for colleges to find faculty and staff?

As common as it is in the private sector, particularly in the computer industry, accepting resumes online still remains uncharted territory in academia. However, as schools take a look at the advantages, chances are the process will become more acceptable.

One of the biggest advantages is the cost. ‘As a brand-new, start-up university, our budget is modest,’ says Dr. Ira S. Schoenwald, associate vice president for academic resources. ‘Another recent start-up school, Florida Gulf Coast University, spent millions on a traditional recruitment process. By only accepting online applications we expect to pay about one quarter of that.’

Exactly how do the cost savings work? When it comes time to assemble a faculty evaluation team to review applications, the financial burden will be cut greatly. ‘The team can start their evaluations online at their convenience,’ says Schoenwald. ‘The costs of flying evaluators in and providing hotel rooms and meals just disappeared.’

As potential professors make it through the levels of the selection process, eventually some ‘face time’ will be required. ‘Once we narrow the field to between three to five candidates, then the process becomes more traditional,’ Schoenwald says. ‘But before that we can use teleconferencing, which will again save us money.’

Aside from erasing room and board fees, the system allows the college to do more with less. CSU-CI is faced with a short timeline to get the university up and running and just three administrators and two staff members to get the job done. By keeping all of the applications, vitae and cover letters in a safe, secure database, organization remains effortless and there is no paper to tear, lose or otherwise fall through the cracks.

Online applications have other advantages as well. By filling out a standardized form, a fairly consistent body of information is available to Schoenwald and the evaluators. ‘Academic resumes can be 10 to 20 pages long,’ says Ron Rieger, principal of Rieger and Milliken Corporation, the firm that designed the software. ‘By asking pointed questions, the product distills that information into easy-to-track bits.’

This information is stored in a relational database that allows a real-time picture of the applicants. ‘I can manipulate the collected data in a variety of ways,’ says Schoen-wald. ‘For instance, I can call up all English professors with 10 or more publications and 15 years experience or Computer Science professors with various experiences in the private sector.’

The software allows the applicant to include a one-page cover letter and curriculum vitae; however, that information will not be reviewed until the final stages of the hiring process. ‘The system is designed to make resumes less important,’ explains Rieger.

Taking nine months to develop, the software package is found on CSU-CI’s Website . The college posted advertisements for positions in traditional professional journals. Interested professors go to the Website, click ‘Faculty Positions Available’ and start the process. As the application is long, a user name and password are assigned, allowing applicants to revisit and revise as often as they like.

So far the process appears successful. After only four weeks up, the site had received a phenomenal 233,000 ‘hits’ from all around the world. More than 1,500 potential professors are in the process of filling out the application, while 600 have submitted the final copy. Professors have until January 15th to finish, after which they can check on the status of their applications and if they are making the cuts.

Despite the early success, some remain wary of online applications. ‘While it is laudable to keep professors informed of the status of the resumes, I suspect that some people just can’t present their records this way,’ says Jonathon Knight, an associate secretary in the academic-freedom-and-tenure office at the American Association of University Professors. ‘I doubt the university will want to chance missing resumes because of this.’

Yet so far Schoenwald has seen no problem. ‘We have a phone number for those who cannot respond online,’ he says. ‘A few people have called it, and we found computers with access for them. There is also a service that ‘reads’ the applications to blind prospects.’ A provision is also in place for an administrator to plug in an application for a professor who just can’t - or won’t - get online, but so far that hasn’t happened.

The program cost $60,000 to design and install. CSU-CI has already had inquiries from other universities interested in the software. That’s good for CSU-CI because they will get five percent of all future profits, which they will put toward a scholarship program.

‘This is the wave of the future,’ says Schoenwald. ‘We are committed to new technology, and we want faculty who feel the same way.’ In fact, they are planning to accept only online applications for other positions as well. ‘This will be our modus operandi for every post,’ he says. ‘Except, of course, the two that don’t rely on computers: janitor and president.’

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