The Search Committee

The filling of positions can be conducted through the use of a Search Committee. It is important for every member of the Search Committee to thoroughly understand the requirements of the position to be filled, the needs of the department or unit, university policies regarding equal employment opportunity, and the mission of the university in order to assure the prospect of a successful search.

It is entirely possible for the Search Committee to be the only personal contact many applicants and candidates will have with the university. Therefore, the Search Committee is provided with an excellent opportunity to enhance the reputation and image of the university. Always bear in mind that while a Search Committee is evaluating a candidate, the candidate is also evaluating the Search Committee, the department or unit it represents, and, ultimately, the university.

Forming the Search Committee

The Search Committee should have members who have legitimate and direct interests in the selection process. Criteria used in selecting the Search Committee members often include the following:

  • knowledge of the substantive area
  • demonstrated ability in promoting a deliberative process
  • knowledge of the campus and its surrounding communities
  • strong interpersonal and recruitment skills

As a best practice, the committee should consist of at least three members, including the chair, who should be distinguished in her/his department and the university, who has participated in searches resulting in successful recruitment of diverse candidates, and who is familiar with equal opportunity and affirmative action principles. The committee membership should be diverse in gender and race/ethnicity, bringing different perspectives, expertise, and backgrounds to the process. The inclusion of women and members of underrepresented groups from other departments or administrative units is acceptable.

Ideally, a Search Committee should be as small as possible, yet large enough to include as many legitimate interests as possible. Keep in mind that the larger the group, the more difficult it becomes to arrange meetings when all can attend.

Personnel from Equal Opportunity, Compliance & Title IX are available to meet with the committee or to serve as a resource at any point in the search process. The Search Committee will want to evaluate all steps of its search in terms of affirmative action, with particular attention to the danger of unintentionally introducing any kind of discriminatory practice into the process.

The Charge

The charge to the Search Committee must be clear and precise. Ambiguity in the charge, in the role of the committee, or in the extent of its authority can create confusion that will hamper and delay the selection process at crucial points. The hiring official should state his/her expectation of the committee, such as whether the committee is responsible for identifying one top candidate, or a list of highly recommended candidates, and, if so, how many should be received.

The committee is also required to comply with university policies and procedures, ensure that all applicants are fairly considered, avoid conflicts of interest, and maintain confidentiality throughout the process. Any committee member who may have a conflict of interest (personal and/or professional) with any applicant should make the chair aware of the situation immediately. The chair will then decide how to proceed. If the chair has a conflict, the chair should inform the hiring official. 

Members of search committees must commit to maintaining the confidentiality during and after the search process. In accepting committee membership, each member agrees to preserve and protect the confidentiality of all applicant information. This responsibility includes non-disclosure of the names and/or status of any applicant participating in the search process and/or the deliberations of the search committee to anyone. A breach of complete confidentiality may disqualify a member from service on the committee. The integrity of a search depends on the strict adherence to the principle of complete confidentiality. The chair of the search committee or hiring official should be the only public voice for the search committee; members must refrain from making any public comments about the search process.

Charge of the Search Committee is to:

  • Understand the university’s strategic plan, as well as applicable equal opportunity/affirmative action and diversity goals.
  • Develop the recruitment plan to enlarge the applicant pool with women and minority applicants, particularly where underrepresentation exists.
  • Evaluate applicants fairly based on the qualifications advertised in the position announcement.
  • Be cognizant of unintentional bias that may overshadow the search committee’s perceptions of candidates.
  • Create an open and welcoming environment and establish positive rapport with candidates during the interview.
  • Maintain confidentiality about the search and selection process and committee proceedings.
  • It may be appropriate to arrange for candidates to meet with diverse university constituencies so that candidates can gain a more direct sense of the community in which they may work and live.

Responsibilities of the Search Committee Chairperson

  • Ensure that the search committee charge is understood and implemented.
  • Serve as a liaison between the committee and the hiring department.
  • Set a timetable for each search procedure.
  • Facilitate all committee meetings and administrative support.
  • Ensure that appropriate search records and meeting minutes are maintained.
  • Perform all the regular duties of a search committee member.
  • Perform other duties as requested by the hiring department.

Responsibilities of Search Committee Members

  • Attend all scheduled committee meetings.
  • Develop a list of core interview questions to ask candidates related to the essential duties of the position.
  • Screen applicants and select candidates for interviews.
  • Participate in the interview process.
  • Check applicants’ references (if so assigned).
  • Perform other duties as assigned by the chairperson.