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Finding the Candidate with the Right Fit

Finding the Candidate with the Right Fit

This question is taken from AGB Search's monthly newsletter, "Securing Leadership," which features two questions—one frequently asked by search committee members and another often posed by candidates. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.

An institution asks:  How can we identify an accomplished vice president who can forge a strong partnership with our president and, at the same time, add value to the senior leadership team?

Institutions can foster partnerships and team building in the senior leadership team by pursuing three search strategies:

  1. design a search process that is sensitive to “fit” from start to finish;
  2. encourage the active participation of the president and cabinet members at key junctures in the search process; and
  3. implement a transition plan for the newly appointed vice president.

An inclusive search process is essential to finding a senior leader who will fit, because it seeks input from all constituencies about campus culture, organization and leadership needs.  While presidential and cabinet input about necessary skills and attributes is essential, obtaining board, faculty, staff, student, and alumni viewpoints helps to shape a more complex and nuanced view of expectations.  A representative search committee, with a strong connection to the cabinet and a comprehensive understanding of campus-wide needs, can ensure that “fit” is on the radar screen throughout the search process and, particularly, during the candidate recruitment and review process.

The importance of presidential/vice presidential partnership is prompting search consultants to recommend to presidents and search committees that the president meet with candidates at the neutral site interview (semi-finalist) stage, prior to the committee’s selection of finalists. The search committee retains the responsibility of selecting the finalists, but that important decision is now informed by insights from the campus leader.  Presidents who have participated at this preliminary review stage have reported that it was well worth the time they carved out of their schedules.

At one time, transition planning was focused primarily on the presidency, with boards playing a leading role in introducing a new leader to the campus and community.  AGB Search finds that transition support contributes to the successful launch of vice presidential leadership too. To that end, institutions can take advantage of consultation on transition planning as part of their contracted search services.  While each transition plan must be tailored to the appointee’s and institution’s needs, all new vice presidents can benefit from a thoughtfully appointed team of mentors and opportunities to seek advice about campus culture during the first months in office.  A new vice president’s effectiveness as an advisor to the president and member of the senior leadership team is greatly enhanced by a well-executed transition plan.

Seeking more information about creating an effective cabinet? "Marshaling the President's Cabinet for Effective Governance" is available from Trusteeship.
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