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“Nailing” That First Interview Question

“Nailing” That First Interview Question

Jamie Ferrare is principal of AGB Search and a senior vice president at AGB. Since 2000, he has led more than 100 searches for presidents, academic vice presidents, and deans. He is the co-author of A Complete Guide to Presidential Search for Universities and Colleges.

When invited to interview with a search committee or the board of trustees, it is important to nail the first question.  Typically, the interview begins with what might be considered a “soft” question, asking about your interest in the institution and your skills and experience. This is your opportunity to lean forward, look board members directly in the eye, and share your reasons for seeking this position.  You must speak to the mission of the institution, its quality and reputation, the work of faculty and talented students, as well as any areas of concern that you are prepared to address if appointed to the position.

This is your chance to impress upon the search committee how passionate you are about this opportunity and to consider the possibilities of how “we” can build a path to greatness.

Often candidates appear not to be prepared to respond to this question, and it leaves the committee wondering if the candidate has done any homework and seriously thought about leading the institution.  Too often, candidates choose to recap their vita and current responsibilities — sharing anecdotes about how they do it at their institution and what role they have played in resolving a particular issue. There will be time in the interview to share experiences, but this first question must focus on why you are interested in “our” institution–nail it!

Want more information about the hiring process from the perspective of the hiring committee?  Visit the "Searching for a New President" topic in AGB University.
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