Academic Searches: Handling Dual Career Hires

Editor’s note: While we originally titled this the Two-body Problem, we changed it to Dual Career Hires to reflect that our partners are not “problems.”

It is interview season for academic faculty positions.  When visiting campus, one goal is determining if the institution is a good fit – both personally and professionally.  This might include considering the career needs of a spouse or partner.  In today’s tough economic times, some people fear that mentioning the career of a spouse or partner before an offer is made might remove them from the pool of competitive applicants. However, institutions want to know sooner rather than later if they need to consider accommodations or provide job assistance for a second person.  It is against federal law for an employer to ask any applicant about his or her marital or family status or to use such information in making a hiring decision. So no one can legally ask you whether your spouse will need a job too.  If you have been invited for a campus interview, though, chances are the topic will come up casually during meals or other social conversations.

Keep in mind that your potential new employer is not required to offer your spouse or partner a job, so asking for one is the wrong approach.  You can, however, state his or her career interests, and that both of you would appreciate learning more about local opportunities.  Universities are realizing that addressing the needs of dual-career couples is in their best interest.  In the corporate world, unfortunately, the career needs of a spouse or partner are usually not considered at all.  Many universities have formed higher education recruitment consortiums (or HERCs).  This allows applicants and institutions to use a formal network to help find both academic and non-academic openings in the local area.  Even if the institution does not have formal services available, it is still in the department’s best interest to help.  I once compiled a list of local marketing firms and passed it along to my department’s faculty search finalist, so her husband could look for job openings.

Sometimes the university can extend an offer to a spouse or partner.  Often this requires negotiations between the Deans of different divisions or centers in the institution, and those require time.   It may also require your spouse or partner to submit a research statement or do an interview, either by phone or on campus.  The sooner the institution knows of your needs, the sooner it can start to address them.

Academic interviewing can be stressful, but take a deep breath!  The OITE has a series of videos to help you prepare.  The series includes overview of the job interview, preparing a job talk, and evaluating positions and negotiating job offers.

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