Academic disciplines are constantly changing as the maps of knowledge are redrawn. The institutional enactments of disciplines—subjects as taught and researched within university departments—change in response, but with a time lapse. The crucial move from the discipline, the concept of knowledge, to the real-world subject—department, cost-centre—is effected by the appointment of new staff, either young academics who will represent the discipline for the next 30 years, or professors who will define and direct the discipline now. In both cases, the discipline and the subject have their identities determined by the choices made and by the values enacted. But the process of recruitment in Britain is obscure—virtually undocumented and unresearched. This article represents a step towards better understanding of a crucial practice of the university. It presents a small number of specific cases, junior and senior, in one discipline—English—from the point of view of the candidates—successful and unsuccessful—the selectors, and, on occasion, both. Using this material it then discusses some of the key issues and raises the question of standard procedures or good practice.