A3D3 Graduate Student/Postdoc Recruiting Best Practices

A3D3 is committed to excellence and inclusivity by creating and maintaining an environment that is diverse, inclusive, and free of discrimination.

This document is a set of best practices for recruiting students and postdocs to work within the A3D3 community.  Note that these are only suggestions and guidance, not requirements; each investigator must work within the requirements of their own home institution, and their home state, which may impose constraints on how hiring is conducted.

This document focuses on the process of selecting and recruiting new members of A3D3 constituent research groups.  Thus, for departments that admit students to graduate school as a department-wide activity, with those students subsequently joining individual labs as a separate step, this document focuses only on that latter step.

Recruiting Process Overview

Although it is tempting to focus recruitment on standard, local channels, often the best candidates may come from outside these circles.  Thus, it is important to advertise any opportunities as widely as feasible, in order to attract a stronger, more diverse pool of applicants.  PIs should develop a job description, including a clear list of required and desired skills related specifically to the opening.  There should also be a clear list of what materials should be included in an application.  A rubric should be developed to evaluate candidates on the listed criteria, based on the requested materials.  The job description then becomes the basis for advertising and outreach.

Advertising and Outreach

Investigators should develop a recruitment and advertising plan that will increase the likelihood of  generating a diverse pool of applicants. Some recommendations:  

  • Reach out to relevant professional organizations, including organizations representing diverse groups.
  • Attend conferences, seminars, job fairs, and networking events
  • Use social networking such as LinkedIn or Facebook. Join groups and connect with professionals in your field to increase your networking activities.  Consider paid posts to related organizations representing diverse pools of potential candidates.
  • Develop relationships with Minority Serving Institutions.  U.S. Department of Education maintains a list here:  https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/edlite-minorityinst.html


Rubrics can be key to providing a fair and consistent recruiting process.  For in-person interviews, this can also involve a standardized set of questions to ask each candidate.  A strong rubric will typically evaluate a candidate on each of the following criteria, based on materials such as a Statement of Purpose (SOP) or other candidate-written research statement, a CV, and Letters of Recommendation (LOR):

  • Research potential (evidence from SOP, CV, and LOR)
  • Academic preparation (evidence from current and/or prior institutions, transcript), including both course performance and degree of rigor in the courses selected.
  • Fit to the proposed research
  • Community Service / Leadership (evidence from SOP, CV, LOR)
  • Contributions to DEI (Contributions to community, commitment to diversity and inclusion), not including any self-reported demographic information.

Whether or not standardized tests (such as the GRE general or subject tests) should be used in this evaluation is a complex question without any commonly accepted answer.  However, good practice would be to either require GRE results for all candidates, or avoid using GRE scores completely even for those who include them when they are not requested.

The A3D3 website maintains a set of example rubrics from various member institutions.  They can be found here:  <link>


Portions of this document are based heavily on recruiting processes and documents from A3D3 member institutions, especially: the UIUC Recruitment and Hiring Guidelines and the UW ECE Ph.D. Admissions Review Instructions.

Further links:

An example of holistic admissions from UCSD

Equity in graduate admissions

U Pitt postdoc admissions guidelines.