In the past couple of years, I have been a part of several job searches at my current institution. Whether that be a search for a position on my staff or serving as a member of a search or screening committee, I have seen my fair share of search processes. The following are five tips that I have gathered over that time.
- Search and Screening Committees
There is a difference between the two. Search committees tend to hold more power over the final decisions of who to hire. Screening committees usually sift through applicants and play a part in the phone and on-campus interviews. They may make recommendations as to who they feel is the best fit for the position but do not typically get a say in the overall decision-making process. There’s value in both types of committees and you definitely need to have one no matter what the position is you are looking to fill. Outside opinions are crucial in the search process. Be clear with the committee from the get go about what your expectations are for them and what their roles will look like. Try to give a good indicator of time it will require them to be away from their offices, too. Sometimes these committees may take upwards of 5-10 hours a week away from your regular job duties and they will need to know that ahead of time to plan accordingly. In the same vein, no one likes wasted time either so if you are chairing a committee, make sure you are prepared before each meeting so you won’t drag anything out or waste precious time.
- Do’s and Don’ts of Interviews
Ask an HR rep or someone in your university’s Affirmative Action or Equal Employment Opportunity Office to come speak to the committee before you get started. If this is the first search you are in charge of, go see them as soon as possible individually, too. There are things you can and cannot say in an interview process. There are ways you can and cannot conduct your searches. And each institution also usually has recommendations or suggestions as to how to run your process. It is so very important to be familiar with these before you start so you don’t end up in a sticky situation.
- ALWAYS Check References
This might be the most common sense of all the tips but I have seen this not happen dozens of times. You owe it to everyone that will end up working with this person to check their references; even if they came highly recommended and even if you have worked with them before. Try to get outside opinions from several different institutions if possible, too. Have a list of questions made ahead of time that you will ask each reference for each candidate you are checking on. Ask pointed questions like “would you hire this person again?” and not just basic questions like “tell me about them.” Provide them with a copy of the job description and basic facts about your office and institution ahead of time so they can be prepared to give you answers about the candidate in the context of the position you are looking to fill.
- It’s All About Fit
It’s all about fit for the candidate and for your institution. The reality is that in today’s market, you might have over 100 applicants for an entry-level student affairs position. There will probably be a lot of people that look good on paper or that you think can do the job. The question is really not just “are they qualified for this job?” but more so, “are they the right person for this job?” Outside input and a robust interview process can help immensely in getting to know candidates aside from their resume and cover letter. This can go a long way in determining a person’s fit in the position, the office and the institution. I would also mention though that while outside opinions are important they should not overpower those of the co-workers and supervisor who would be working directly with this person everyday.
- The Candidate is Interviewing You, Too
Remember that just as much as you are trying to determine if the candidate is a good fit for this position and your institution, the candidate is also interviewing you, your office and your institution on whether or not this is the best fit for them as well. There is a lot besides just salary that goes into determining whether or not you want to take a job. Some things you cannot control like the location of your institution, the demographics, etc. but candidates are also looking at their ability to get along with those they would be working with. Be mindful of your behavior, professionalism and personality when you interview candidates on the phone and in person. While you certainly don’t want to sell something that isn’t real, you want the candidate to have the best impression possible of the people and the institution for which they are interviewing. Make sure that you and those involved in the search process uphold the utmost respect and professionalism at all times.
This is just the surface of what to be aware of when you are involved in a search process. What are some things you’ve learned over the years that you would share with those conducting a job search?
> BONUS <
Podcast With Danny Malave on New Professional Retrospective on the Job Search