4.29 Opportunity Hire


The University of Northern Iowa is committed to hiring and retaining the most qualified faculty and staff in order to support its vision:  “The University of Northern Iowa will be nationally known for innovative education, preparing students for success in a rapidly changing, globally competitive and culturally diverse world.” This policy designates parameters for facilitating Opportunity Hires consistent with the university’s commitment to equal opportunity and affirmative action in accordance with state and federal law.

Policy Statement

The UNI Opportunity Hire Policy provides a framework and support for employing highly-qualified individuals who will make beneficial contributions to the university and its community.  This includes individuals who offer diversity in areas where historical under-representation exists, spouses or partners* of current or prospective university faculty and staff who themselves have talents that match the needs of the university, or individuals who bring a unique or different perspective because of their professional or personal backgrounds, interests or expertise. These appointments often represent opportunities that require rapid response to exceptional persons with competing career options.


The Opportunity Hire Policy includes a process for requesting an Opportunity Hire search waiver.  The criteria for evaluating these requests include:

  • No immediately available hiring line or open position exists in the hiring unit, although there is an anticipation of one in the coming years.
  • The individual being hired would meet or exceed qualifications typically required by the hiring unit or as documented in the position description, where one exists.
  • Each candidate will be reviewed and approved according to the hiring unit’s normal hiring processes, in line with the University’s hiring practices.  This includes a positive evaluation of their likelihood of success in future tenure and promotion decisions, where applicable. 

It is important to note that Opportunity Hires are not intended to circumvent a normal search process.  In all cases where a candidate could readily be considered through a competitive search process, then, that should be the preference.  In short, this hiring practice should be the exception and not the rule.   Office of Compliance & Equity Management (OCEM) approval is required for all Opportunity Hire search waivers.

Appropriate Situations for Opportunity Hires are:

  1. Where the accompanying spouse/partner of a UNI faculty/staff member or recruit is also looking for a faculty/staff position and no immediate hiring line is available that aligns with the spouse’s/partner’s expertise. 
  2. When there is a unique opportunity to provide diversity where under-representation exists.
  3. When the unit is searching for a restricted set of skills and experiences and the pool of qualified candidates is limited.
  4. When a unique window of opportunity to hire a desirable faculty/staff member presents itself outside of the normal search frame, i.e. when there is a mismatch between the “opportunity” to hire an individual and the availability of an open position.

The following are to be considered in making an opportunity hire:

  1. Excellent applicant qualifications:  Individuals are outstanding in their field; these are candidates who would rise to the top of an applicant pool in a normal, open search process.
  2. Financial support: 
    1. Bridge funding may be available to support the costs of the hire in the initial years (the bridge period) until the hiring unit can fully fund the position. As part of the documentation, the hiring department must include a plan for full funding in no more than four years.
    2. If bridge funding is used, in the instance of a tenure-track hire or non-temporary staff position, an open position is anticipated at some point during the bridge period.
    3. The hiring unit must have the financial strength to provide total compensation after the bridge period [typically one to four years].

If an opportunity hire involves a spouse/partner, the Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs or Human Resource Services (HRS) should be notified by the unit hiring the recruited or existing faculty/staff member as soon as it is clear that a spouse/partner is seeking an appointment at UNI. The Provost’s office or HRS can then facilitate discussions with the appropriate units and administrators relevant to the Opportunity Hire.

Once the appropriate Vice President has reviewed and approved the request and documentation, all materials will be forwarded to the Office of Compliance and Equity Management (OCEM) for final approval of the Opportunity Hire search waiver.   

*For the purpose of this policy the definition of "partner" is:  the partner, regardless of sex, of a current or prospective UNI faculty or staff member who either files an Affidavit of Domestic Partnership or a State of Iowa Affidavit of Common Law Marriage with the HRS office.

Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, approved June 11, 2014
President’s Cabinet, approved February 2, 2015
President and Executive Management Team, approved February 9, 2015