Working Hard for a Living: Efficient and Effective Adjunct Faculty Hiring Practices

Concurrent Session 1
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Brief Abstract

Hiring adjunct faculty often involves merely verifying credentials and teaching experience, and a quick interview. Knowing the needs of the course and institution, and folding faculty classroom expectations into the interview can prove valuable. Learn how a fully online university approaches hiring from a student success and institutional expectation perspective. 


Dr. Kathleen Embry currently serves as the Online Program Chair for General Education at American InterContinental University. She holds a Ph.D. in Postsecondary and Adult Education from Capella University and has presented and co-authored on the supervisory relationship with virtual faculty members. With more than 20 years’ experience in on-line and face-to-face higher education teaching and administration and an additional 15 years in marketing, management, and entrepreneurship, Dr. Embry brings a plethora of experience to her engagement with online faculty and students, and within the online classroom. Positions held in higher education include adjunct instructor, Program Chair, Dean of Design Studies, and Director of Education; with additional corporate experience in Regulatory Compliance.

Additional Authors

I am Kelley Mansfield, and I am currently an Administrative Faculty manager with American InterContinental University Online. I have a BA degree in Philosophy from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a MS degree in Education from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. I started my career teaching eighth grade math, Algebra, and English before moving into higher education. I taught at several community colleges in Virginia and Indiana before moving into an administrative role. For fourteen years, I worked as a Director of Education/Academic Dean at two different colleges in Indiana. In May 2015, I joined AIU. I love what I do, and I love working with faculty! I have a true passion for education, and believe life is full of learning opportunities. When I am not working, I enjoy spending time with my husband, Clint, and our two precious Golden Retrievers, Shenanigans and Maggie May.

Extended Abstract

For an institution that hires faculty to facilitate and instruct in a virtual classroom of mainly first generation, first time, post-traditional students, the hiring process must be consistent and efficient. Key to success in the General Education department hiring process is identifying candidates who can enter the fully online classroom knowledgeable about online facilitation and instruction, how to be a work from home employee, along with an understanding of how to approach the institution’s student population. In addition, the interview process is approached as an opportunity for both the interview team and the candidates to determine if the position is a good ‘fit’ for all.


From May 2019 through September 2021, the General Education department hired 55 adjunct faculty to teach in a variety of courses, at times bringing on 8-9 faculty during one hiring round. Hiring at this rate takes a high level of organization and planning, a group of interviewers who are experienced at overseeing adjunct faculty classroom performance, along with enough candidates to fill our needs. The attrition rate of newly hired faculty during this period was about 15%, with the majority of new faculty departing during orientation or within their first session of teaching. Reasons for separation ranged from personal challenges, acceptance of full time positions, and pay. Both the rate of hiring and new faculty attrition informed our approach to hiring new faculty, from working with talent acquisition on vetting application materials to the interview questions, as well as hiring decisions.


Most often, hiring of online adjunct faculty involves one or more of the following: verification of educational qualifications (highest degree earned), confirmation of online teaching experience (reference checks), and/or an in-person, telephone, or video interview (Magda et al., 2015). Yet the General Education department goes beyond. Similar to what Laura Lohman (2020) recommends in her research on strategic hiring, we begin the hiring process with a review of application materials. This includes a check of credentials and transcripts, moving to what Lohman refers to as a work sample test. As the discussion forum is the cornerstone of our online courses, all candidates are required to provide a written response to a student discussion post prior to the interview. Referencing this discussion response during the interview is a show of respect by ensuring the candidate knows their preparation is part of the interview and selection process.


At our institution, hiring is the responsibility of the individual school or department, with assistance provided for job posting and the initial vetting of candidate applications. Interview questions were initially developed to focus on trying to understand if the candidate could grasp our institutional model and wondering if they could be successful following our faculty classroom performance expectations. Questions were multi-layered, clunky, and often needed an explanation; and candidates tended to repeat themselves.


In the fifth review of interview questions, we took the faculty classroom approach into account – a student-centered Tenets model focused on what the institution considers the most important elements of faculty engagement in the classroom. This approach focuses on the following five tenets: Presence, Facilitation of Learning, Connection with Students, Instructional Agility, and Innovation. The new questions were framed around the tenets, seeking to understand how candidates facilitate and instruct, adjust their instructional practices, and create a unique classroom experience; while allowing candidates an opportunity to showcase who they are as instructors, illustrate how they support students, and provide examples of problem-solving and critical thinking. In an effort to answer the commonly asked questions up front, we began to outline the components of the classroom and the content topics. What we have experienced with this new set of questions and approach is a more focused interview, allowing plenty of opportunity for shared examples and explanations related to classroom approach, and clarity around expectations and the position.


The process does not stop with hiring. Once a candidate joins the General Education department, plans are put into action for new faculty orientation, peer mentoring, and supervisor coaching – all with a focus on prepping the new faculty member for a new classroom experience and ultimately to consistent performance and improvement in the classroom and with students.


 The following questions will drive the focus of this session:

  1. Do your hiring practices yield adjunct faculty that meet the needs of the classroom and the institution?
  2. How often do you review and adjust your interview process?
  3. What influences adjustments to your interview process?


  1. Participants will share, via polling, the screening techniques they utilize for hiring online adjunct faculty.
  2. Participants will share, via Google Docs, the interview question/s they have found are most impactful and provide the most information from candidates.


  1. Participants will examine how a student-centered approach to classroom facilitation and instruction was incorporated into a set of interview questions.
  2. Participants will compare several iterations of interview questions to determine if the approach taken may work for their department or school.
  3. Participants will analyze an adjunct faculty hiring process from job posting to new faculty orientation, with a specific focus on the interview process itself.

Lohman, L. (2020). Strategic hiring: Using job analysis to effectively select online faculty. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 23(3).

Magda, A. J., Poulin, R., & Clinefelter, D. L. (2015). Recruiting, orienting, & supporting online adjunct faculty: A survey of practices. The Learning House, Inc.