As campus-visit season gets into full swing and decision-making season is about to begin, I'd like to offer a small piece of advice to search committees.
We job candidates know when you interview us that you might not invite us to campus. We know when you invite us to campus that you might not offer us the job. That's fine. You don't have to invite us to campus if you interview us, and you don't have to offer us the job if you invite us to campus. We'd love it if you did, obviously, but we know you don't have to. We know you don't owe us a job.
But that doesn't mean you don't owe us anything. What you owe to us is a nice note that thanks us for our time and wishes us well. You owe it to us to communicate with us one last time after the interview or campus visit. You owe it to us to let us know, from you, that we didn't get the job. You owe it to us even if we already found out, or will eventually.
Because the people you interview are people. And they traveled to Washington, DC to meet with you; or else they took the time to get together with you over Skype or on the phone; they invested time and energy into preparing for the interview, researching your school, your department, and their potential colleagues; maybe they even traveled to your town to meet with you and your colleagues and your administration and attempt to win you over with a presentation or two. And they did this because you invited them to do it—because you contacted them and said you wanted to interview them. Because you expressed to them that you were interested in them. And that goes quadruple for the people you invite to campus.
That means you owe something to the people you interview. You owe them courtesy. You don't owe them a job, but you owe them thanks for doing those things, which they did at your request and invitation. And then you owe it to them to wish them well.