The Search Committee

Hiring the right candidate for higher education positions can be a difficult, time consuming process, involving not just time and money, but human capital too.  One of the important keys to initiating a successful search process is in building an effective search committee.  Developing a solid search committee begins with the assignment of the committee chair.

The chair should be an organized leader; one who uses interpersonal skills to lead in lieu of brash authority.  The chair should be a “doer” and a “delegator”.  It’s also important that the remainder of the committee is comprised of interdisciplinary faculty and administrators from across the campus, so as to provide a depth and breadth necessary for successfully managing the responsibilities of screening, selecting, and developing the interview questions and interview itinerary for the incoming candidates.

The search committee for any academic jobs will develop the advertisement, screen the ‘pool’ of candidates (which may also consist of a pre-screening phone interview) in order to select the most qualified interviewees and; assess the fit, based upon the interview.  Another important responsibility of the committee is to develop a list of specific questions (e.g., questions on how they handled a successful situation and the converse—how they handled a situation that was unsuccessful and what, if anything, they may have learned) for the candidate to address—even to the extent of asking the same questions, in different settings, leads to a greater in-depth analysis of the candidates’ personality and ability to fit.

Finally, at the point at which final candidates are selected, the committee will undertake the process of contacting the references to obtain feedback in order to incorporate this valuable information into the final selection process.  Depending upon each institution’s protocols, the committee may be the ‘recommending body’ for selection of the candidate to hire. 

John McCarthy is Associate Dean for the College of Education at Kutztown University, Kutztown, PA.

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