Building Consensus in University Hiring Decisions

Let’s start by saying it is very hard to build consensus in the university hiring process.  If you have an easy time hiring someone, you either have group-think or the decision is simply a rubber-stamping process. Neither “group-think” nor “rubber-stamping” is good.  Generally, the failure rate is as high (or higher), when compared to less straightforward hiring.

Here are four great ways to build consensus during the university hiring process for professionals:

  • Assume you won’t have unanimity or consensus.  That way you can find ways to better rank prospective faculty, deans, provosts, and higher education administrators, both qualitatively and quantitatively through pre-defined measures.
  • Counsel individuals NOT to look for a “mini-me.”  In other words, seek diversity of thought throughout your organization  - in personalities, backgrounds and skill-sets.
  • Appoint a tie-breaker.  Often in the hiring process, two (or more) camps evolve on finalists – some want Candidate A and others want Candidate B.  Having an individual, often a Department Chair or Search Chair, as the tie-breaker helps define accountability and also allows participants to freely speak their mind knowing they do not have to be the final say in the process.
  • Accept that not every decision will be the correct one; all you can do is manage the higher education hiring process and hope that the checklists, criteria and gut feelings lead you to the right decision.  Have a good exit strategy defined should the candidate not work out, and confirm the accountability during the higher education hiring.

Listen to those around you, and don’t look back.

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