A past search committee member who would prefer to remain anonymous writes in (thanks to Helen De Cruz for obtaining the submission!):
I’ve served on tenure-track search committees at two universities, both large, public, land-grant schools, and both classified by Carnegie as RU/VH (“very high research activity”) institutions. At the first school, our department had a (not very highly ranked) PhD program; at the school I’m at now, we have an MA program, but no PhD program. I’ve served on more than a dozen search committees for tenure-stream hires within my discipline, a few search committees for tenure-stream hires in other disciplines, and a few search committees for administrative positions at the dean-level or above. As the latter are very different in many key ways from faculty searches, my experiences with those searches is probably irrelevant, and I won’t discuss those below. I participated in a few searches for tenure-stream faculty in a rather different role when I was a Department Chair, and in that role I was also a big part of the process of hiring fixed term (“adjunct”) faculty. But again, for the below, I’ll focus on my experiences as a member of search committees for tenure-stream hires.
There are (what are considered by some people to be) ‘best practices’ for academic hiring that are, alas, followed by at best relatively few committees (to the best of my knowledge). These include at least: developing operationalizable screening criteria clearly related to the job that the candidate is expected to perform before beginning the search; developing a search strategy likely to successfully encourage those people with the relevant skills, especially including people from traditionally under-represented groups, to apply; the implementation of an initial screening system designed to identify those candidates who meet the previously developed screening criteria, in a way that minimizes the effects of implicit biases, while following all relevant state and federal laws; and a way of fairly selecting a reasonable sub-group of those applicants identified by the initial screening as highly qualified for further evaluation. (Readers interested in contemporary best practice guidelines for minimizing implicit bias in hiring should consult the extensive literature on the subject.)