Search Committee Guidelines

Search Committee Guidelines

INTRODUCTION

These guidelines have been developed to guide and assist hiring officials and search committees in carrying out their search and hiring responsibilities and to ensure that these processes comply with University policies and Federal and State regulations.  For the University’s formal Search policy, please click here.  Please refer to the Faculty Handbook, as it may be changed from time to time, on the guidelines for Search Committees for Deans, Associate Provosts, Provost, President, Vice Presidents and other Senior Non-Academic Administrators. Support for all University staff searches is available from the University’s Staffing & Recruitment Department. Faculty searches are handled by each school/college.

All searches must be conducted in a timely and professional manner which respects the rights of candidates to confidentiality.  In addition, it is critical that applicants receive a positive impression of Pace University throughout the hiring and search process.  As an institution of higher education, and as part of its responsibility as a leader in education, Pace University commits itself to play an active role in developing a diverse workforce.  It is an important goal of Pace University to provide to students, faculty, and staff, opportunities to interact with colleagues from the widest possible range of racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

Please note that a search firm may be retained to assist in the recruitment for certain senior-level positions. When a hiring official decides to utilize the services of a search firm, he/she should work with the Director of Staffing & Recruitment, for assistance in selecting the search firm.

DEFINITIONS
Applicant:  An applicant is anyone who expresses interest in a specific position by submitting an application, resume or vita.

Candidate:  All applicants who are interviewed become candidates.

Finalist:  The top candidates (typically 2-5) who are identified and asked to come to campus for extensive interviews are considered finalists.

Hiring Official: An executive with a senior-level opening; a Dean with a faculty opening.

SELECTING THE COMMITTEE
The hiring official appoints the Chair of the committee, and the Chair will appoint the members of the search committee.   The Chair will work closely with the hiring official throughout the recruitment and selection process.  The composition of the committee should represent the diversity of the institution and advance the University’s commitment to the principles of affirmative action and equal employment opportunity. 

In an effort to minimize time spent on paperwork and increase the committee’s productivity, a support individual may be appointed by the hiring official to provide assistance to the search committee. This individual will assist and/or work with the search committee/firm in collecting resumes, maintaining an applicant log, preparing any required documents and handling correspondence with applicants.  He/she will also be prepared to assist with meeting arrangements and committee activities which should ease the burden on search committee Chairs and assure that all required contacts are made with applicants.

The Chair should also appoint a committee member to serve as Affirmative Action Representative.  This individual acts a liaison between the Affirmative Action office and the committee to assure that all University Affirmative Action polices, including applicant flow tracking, are followed.  The individual can also be responsible for other administrative functions for the committee, but should be clearly designated as the Affirmative Action Representative.  Affirmative Action Representatives should contact Lisa Miles, Affirmative Action Officer, for further information.

COMMITTEE SIZE AND COMPOSITION

Establishing a strong and credible search committee is essential for a successful search process.  Because decisions are made most effectively and efficiently by groups no larger than 5-7 people, search committees should be limited in size. 

When possible, a majority of the members should have experience participating in successful searches, be open-minded, committed to diversity and fair process, able to negotiate conflict to achieve group results and knowledgeable in the area/field/responsibilities of the advertised position. 

A diverse committee is more likely to generate diverse candidate pools and finalist lists.  Individuals from outside a hiring department may be invited to serve on a search committee to share insights, challenge assumptions and bring lessons of experience from other perspectives, disciplines and organizations.  A student is required to serve on every search committee and the Chair should select one. 

THE CHAIR’S ROLE
The search committee Chair acts as the committee’s facilitator, official spokesperson, and liaison to the hiring official.

In this role the chair must communicate the committee’s charge, articulate expectations for committee conduct, coordinate outreach efforts, manage communication with the University community, ensure compliance with state and federal laws and University policy, and facilitate discussion. 

SEARCH COMMITTEE CHAIR GUIDELINES

  1. The Search Committee Chair receives a charge from the hiring official regarding the search, committee make-up, criteria, interview questions, if applicable, and timeline.
  2. The Chair:
    a. Provides leadership to the committee members and manages the search process to ensure it is efficient, effective, and accountable. 
    b. Informs the committee of their role in the search process; i.e., if they will function as an advisory group to the hiring official, screen all applicants and make decisions regarding who is interviewed, recommend the finalist(s), and/or conduct professional reference checks.
    c. Communicates with the hiring official to keep him/her informed of the status of the search. 
    d. Collaborates with the Executive Search Firm, if applicable, as well as with the University’s Human Resources and Affirmative Action representatives.
    e. Provides the hiring official with the committee’s list of strengths and weaknesses for each applicant, and identifies those who were interviewed and those recommended as finalists. 
  3. After the hiring official has an accepted offer from the final candidate, the Chair will communicate this decision to:
    a. The Committee
    b. Human Resources to update the status of each applicant on the online job posting site to indicate who was interviewed, who was not hired, and the reason.
    c. The Affirmative Action office to ensure all reports are submitted in a timely manner. 

SEARCH COMMITTEE ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
The most effective search committee members:

• Protect confidentiality of applicants and the decision-making process;
• Draw upon connections to support recruitment efforts;
• Participate fully and consistently;
• Challenge conventional assumptions;
• Treat all applicants in a thoughtful and respectful manner;
• Set aside biases and preconceptions in order to fully consider all those who may be qualified to assume University roles;
• Give fair consideration to all applicants;
• Act promptly to ensure that top candidates are not lost to organizations that move quickly to hire top talent. 

ROLE OF HUMAN RESOURCEES
The Staffing & Recruitment Department within Human Resources is available to provide guidance throughout the search process. They collaborate with the Chair and Affirmative Action office in order to serve as liaison for external advertising.  Once finalists are identified, HR should be notified in order to conduct pre-employment screening, i.e., professional reference checks and background reporting.  HR will also work closely with the hiring official regarding the starting salary and offer of employment.
When an Executive Search Firm has been retained to manage the recruitment process HR will meet or speak with the search partners at the beginning of the search to clarify roles, and then partner with them at the conclusion in order to ensure a successful on boarding experience for the new hire.

SCREENING RESUMES
Using the approved advertisement, the search committee/firm will assess each applicant’s qualifications against the approved job description and qualifications to assure that all applicants are evaluated using the same criteria.  The initial screening of applicants should eliminate from further consideration those individuals who clearly do not meet the minimum required qualifications set forth in the job description.  Phone interviews may be conducted to assist in screening applicants. If using a search firm, the search consultant will screen all applicants against the hiring official’s and committee’s criteria and present only those applicants who meet the stated qualifications.

INTERVIEWS
Whether the Committee is selecting candidates to interview or an Executive Search Firm is presenting a slate of candidates for interview by the Committee, it is vital that all Committee members are knowledgeable regarding fair hiring practices.  Human Resources provides guidelines and sample interview questions that can be selected and tailored to the specific position and requirements.  Sample interview questions, developed in concert with Pace University’s core, management, and leadership competencies, may be found on the HR web site or click here.  Upon completion of interviews, the committee should provide a list of strengths and weaknesses on each candidate interviewed to the hiring official.  The Committee will recommend candidates for next round interviews to meet with the hiring official according to the method agreed upon at the beginning of the search, i.e. A and B list candidates; no more than 2-3 candidates, etc.

Note:  It is not the responsibility of the search committee to develop selection criteria.   This must be done by the Hiring Official and aligned with the position description as approved by the Compensation Department.

DECISION-MAKING
Clarity about “what are we deciding” is a key question for search committees (e.g., the hiring authority has requested the top three candidates in ranked order; the top five candidates unranked but with comments about strengths and weaknesses, etc.).  Once the charge is determined, “deciding how to decide” should be the search committee’s next task. 

Will the committee vote, try to reach consensus, or provide majority and minority opinions?  Contrary to what many believe, there is no one right way to make decisions and there are pros and cons to each approach.  For example, while many committees believe in secret ballots, the anonymity that supports difficult decision-making may inhibit productive discussions about candidate strengths and weaknesses.  The consensus approach feels friendlier, but sometimes results in a finalist list of mediocre candidates.  When there are no clear finalists, the chair should have a conversation with the hiring authority about appropriate next steps. 

A note about scoring matrices: Quantifying candidate qualifications though a scoring matrix is an appealing approach, but it is important to keep in mind that the individual with the highest score is not always the best candidate.  Scoring matrices are best used as a way to organize impressions of candidates in order to have broader conversations with other committee members (e.g., “I ranked candidate A as a 5, but you gave them a 1, why is that?”)

CONFIDENTIALITY
Confidentiality is the foundation of a credible search committee and trustworthy search process.  A breach of confidentiality threatens a successful outcome in two ways.  First, it may result in the immediate termination of the search, a serious loss of time and money and potentially viable candidates.  Second, it may cause the most qualified candidates to withdraw from the search, fearing that a premature disclosure of their candidacy will jeopardize their current positions.  In short, confidentiality is an absolute requirement to be understood and honored by everyone on the search team, from the first meeting until the conclusion of the search. 

COMMUNICATION
In general, it is best to designate one individual (usually the Chair) to communicate with Human Resources, applicants, constituents, the press, and others who may inquire about a search process. 

A committee communication plan should also be developed.  Because written documents may be subject to public records requests, judicious use of written and email communication is recommended to protect applicant confidentiality and the integrity of the search process. 

RESOURCES
For assistance with any senior-level staff search, contact the Director of Staffing and Recruitment.