Investing in the Search Process

 This is a guest post by Alan R. Shoho, a contributor to the recent November-December issue of Academe. Shoho is a professor of educational leadership and policy studies and associate vice provost for academic and faculty support at the University of Texas at San Antonio where he has been for the past twenty years.

As Thanksgiving approaches, the academic hiring season is in full swing. Only time will tell who will have their turkey and eat it and those who come up empty or less than satisfied. There is something to be said about “The early bird gets the worm.” In this case, those institutions that start their searches early are more likely to reel in the best candidates and take them off the market before many institutions have even started their search process. I have always been a proponent of starting searches early in the fall (actually priming them in the late spring to get a head start) and wrapping things up before winter break. Unfortunately, due to a number of factors including budgetary issues including when the fiscal year ends and begins, institutional inertia, and the culture of some institutions prevent colleges or departments from starting their searches in a timely manner.

In this article, I emphasize the importance of making the search process a win-win engagement. This was exemplified to me recently, when I was involved in a search for a Dean’s position at an institution that chose not to use a search firm. In the past, I have interacted with search firms, so I had some experience with the process. To the credit of the institution and regardless of the outcome (it is still pending), they treated me with respect as a candidate. And although it felt like drinking water out of a fire hose, I walked away satisfied I had put my best foot forward. The Provost I interviewed with emphasized the importance of the interviewing process being a two way street with both sides trying to determine if there was a good fit. He is so right and I appreciate his thoughtfulness and candor. As someone once shared with me, you can tell a lot about a person based on the little things they say and do.

As my article notes, institutions invest huge sums of resources when searching for candidates at all levels and candidates devote a lot of time and energy preparing their application packets. Regardless of the outcome, whether you represent the institution or the candidate, you want to put your best foot forward, because in reality, academe is a small world and word gets around. And there are some things that pass the test of time as Robert Fulghum wrote in All I Really Need to know I learned in Kindergarten like share everything, play fair… These seem applicable to the search process.

Note: A fuller discussion of this topic may be found in the November-December issue of Academe in “Investing in the Search Process”, an essay by Alan R. Shoho.


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