Provost's Blog

The Provost’s Blog: Search Guidelines

Hofstra Provost Herman Berliner
Hofstra Provost Herman Berliner

We are in the process of completing a search for a new Vice President for Student Affairs and we are in a very good position, with a solid pool of finalists.  Each of these individuals has the skill set necessary to do well in the position and our president will not have an easy choice in making this key decision. Every time we do a search, we review our parameters and at this point in time, we know what we want in terms of a search process and what works well.

I believe in using a search firm.  Unless there is a person on staff who has the dedicated time to do all that needs to be done in generating a sizeable pool of qualified candidates, a search firm will help expand the candidate pool and also serve to reassure the community that everything possible is being done to assure there is a choice among qualified candidates.

I believe in looking at all resumes.  Search firms always offer to provide a screening so that the client is only reviewing the qualified candidates.  And you can be certain that for almost any search, there will be applicants that are not qualified and have not looked carefully at the job specifications.  Nevertheless, there may be candidates at the margin who the search firm doesn’t recommend, that you may think should be interviewed.  Without looking, you will never find those candidates.  In my cynical moments which are few and far between, there is also the possibility that a search firm may want to save a candidate for another search they are conducting and that is the reason the person isn’t being recommended.

I believe in interviewing more candidates rather than less candidates.  I think it is a mistake to overly narrow the search prematurely.  I know from years of firsthand experience that it is much more work for a committee to interview ten people rather than five.  I just don’t want to miss a chance of finding the right/best person for the job.

Check references carefully.  Every candidate will give you a list of individuals that you can check with regarding their qualifications.  Very rarely have I heard anything but strong positives from these individuals. When you are ready to choose a Vice President or Dean or whatever position you are searching for, make sure you can call anyone you choose to whether the person is on a candidate’s list or not on a candidate’s list.

Think about how you would answer one of the toughest questions.  Sometimes in a search the choice comes down to a person with a strong record but not yet at the level of the position you are searching for and a more experienced person with a strong record, who already has the level of experiences called for.  The former are often individuals at an earlier stage in their career.  The easy answer is to take the more experienced person but here I would advise due diligence and a very careful look at the record of each individual.  If you look carefully at each person’s record, experience may at times be trumped by accomplishments and innovations that should be given greater weight.

Searches are time intensive.  Cutting corners doesn’t work but due diligence will most times give you the results you are looking for.

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