lot easier if the candidate also wants the job.
Committee members don’t respond well if there
is ambiguity on that point when the candidate
leaves the room. This can be tricky, of course,
especially if he or she has been invited (lured?)
to the conversation by someone like me, a professional advocate. Remember that there is a
sort of social contract between search committees and candidates. An invitation to a preliminary interview may sound like “Please come
and talk to us about being our leader,” but really
it is “Please come and let us consider whether or
not we want you to be our leader.” Likewise, the
candidate’s stating an interest in the job may
sound like “I want to be your leader,” but it is
actually code for “I want to consider being your
leader.” Use the code to convey your interest.
Silence is deadly on this count.
2. Talking, talking, and then more
talking. That is especially deadly when a
candidate is trying to respond to a ques-
tion for which she really has no answer.
More words almost never help. I once had a
candidate talk for 37 minutes in response to
the first question posed; the committee was
disinclined to ask the second question. I like
to give candidates the same advice that an
administrative assistant gave me years ago:
When looking for a pithy way to wrap up a
thought, try a period.
And, finally, at No. 1: Not acting like
a leader. I used to advise candidates just
to be themselves. That is still pretty good
advice. Now, however, I give it some nuance: I tell them to be the selves they are
going to be when they have the job. That is
particularly important for candidates trying
to move up on the organizational chart. You
need to walk into the room like you belong
at the head of the table, and converse with
the search committee as if this is the state of
Search committees are equally apt to do
things that, while seeming sensible and advisable, are actually counterproductive. Turnabout being fair play, tune in for a follow-up
column on committee foibles. In the meantime, look for me at the airport; I’ll be the one
trying to keep two nervous-looking people in
their Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes from running into one another.
Dennis M. Barden is senior vice president
at Witt/Kieffer, an executive-search firm
with headquarters in Chicago specializing
in searches for academic and administrative
leaders in higher education, health care, and
Cultivating Partnerships in the Digital Humanities
What teaching colleges and research universities have to gain from collaboration
AS ACADEMICS we can be too snug in our institutional silos. We sometimes think of one another as competitors for students, and as a result we duplicate scarce resources in
mutually damaging ways. Without more coordinated programs, will we go on teaching the
way we have since the Industrial Revolution?
Will our students, knowing it doesn’t have to
be that way and worried about their future,
lose patience with us?