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Effectively engaging search committees in the hiring process

AGB Search specializes in all aspects of higher education executive search
University Business, January 2018

What can institutions do to ensure active engagement from search committee members?

The key to an effective search committee is a high level of engagement, where the committee develops a clear sense of “ownership” of the search process, of the committee’s work and of achieving a successful outcome. Engagement and ownership flow naturally from an institution’s commitment to shared governance and a trust that the search committee will be regarded as a genuine partner throughout the process; they are encouraged at each step along the way.

Engaged search committee members are invited to serve through a process that is both professional and personalized. The importance of the committee’s role is emphasized, as is each individual’s participation on the committee. The committee’s purpose is clear and presented to the committee by the hiring authority,
and the expectations and responsibilities of each committee member are established at the outset
of the search process.

How can a search committee achieve a common vision?

I think the vision issue begins at the point of engaging the committee in the preparation of what we call the search profile. The committee needs to engage in active conversation around two important questions: What is the leadership agenda related to the position that’s being filled? And what are the key attributes of leadership that are going to be most important in a successful candidate? Those attributes become the selection criteria that the committee will be using throughout the search.

Discuss strategies to facilitate consensus building and decision-making during the development of the search profile, and eventually the selection of the candidate.

The development of consensus begins with the committee’s work on the search profile, as committee members together give expression to the goals and tasks that define the leadership agenda, along with the desired attributes of the leader. During the process, as committee members read applications, contact references and interview candidates, the leader of the committee needs to make sure that deliberations focus on these desired attributes, even as new information adds nuance and depth to their understanding. Through their deliberations, committee members gradually develop a similar understanding of what an ideal candidate will look like, and that becomes the frame that informs their decisions. The skill of the committee chair is crucial in supporting the committee, listening carefully, finding key points of agreement and building toward a consensus.

How does an executive search consultant ideally partner with a search committee and the committee chair?

Trust between the institution and the consultant is a critical component of a successful search process. Search committees partner with consultants not only to conduct the search but also to receive valuable advice and counsel on identifying position goals, navigating challenges and building consensus. AGB Search’s consultants have extensive experience in conducting leadership searches. Moreover, many of our consultants have served in institutional leadership roles. Search committees can leverage this expertise—and our deep connections in the industry—to guide the process and find the right leaders for their institution.

For more information, visit www.agbsearch.com

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