Participating in leadership interviews is an important task for faculty and staff. In today’s campus environments, as we arise from the challenges of the pandemic and look to the future, leadership will be essential from those in positional authority.
However, like many other tasks that fall under the concept of “other duties as assigned,” there is rarely effective direction on how to participate in the process effectively.
Following are a few dos and don’ts when the opportunity to participate in selecting new leaders comes along.
It is important to treat all the candidates equitably. Don’t just go to selected interviews. Try to attend all of them. If possible, attend in the same way as well. Attending virtually will not give you the same information as attending physically. When you attend a physical interview, you can often see how the candidate prepares for the event. If they are early, do they introduce themselves around the room or sit in a corner and look at their phone. Oh–before I forget, turn your phone off during the interview, or leave it in your office.
Try to come prepared and review all of the information on the candidate ahead of time. A note to the human resources folks–ask the candidates to provide a summary, profile, or CV for distribution. When HR creates a summary, it risks errors in the materials and may not focus on what the candidate would want to focus on.
Particularly with regard to internal candidates, try to treat them the same as external candidates. Don’t spend time chatting about campus issues. Treat them the same as external candidates working only off the information that is provided about the candidate. It often takes a lot to step forward internally, so provide the internal candidates the same opportunity to share their experience and vision.
Do not answer the questions for the candidate. For instance, do not start your question with a soliloquy about why the issue is important–for instance, X and Y are essential for a health campus. Where you are currently working, St. Jedidiah, is known as one of the worst schools for X and Y, how are you going to address that issue here? Any candidate who was awake for the question would be able to understand the answer you are looking for.
Another thing to avoid is including statements like: “We all know that students come here primarily due to …” Even, if that is true, do not share that. It is a good opportunity to see if the candidate did their homework. Another example would be: “I am a professor of astronomy and a union officer, and I want to know your experience working in a union environment.” Sharing the second portion of the introduction gives clear direction on how to answer the question. Similarly: “I am a logic instructor and I have two children in the childcare program; do you value the childcare program?” Potentially, a better way to solicit a response would be: “How do you view our non-instructional programs in relationship to the core academic programs?”
Make sure you have a question. Statements about what you feel are important should be integrated into the vacancy notice, job description and or the interview process. Yes, the interviewee is also trying to learn about you, and it is a two-way street but try to get farther down the street than the interviewee. At the same time, when the interviewee does ask questions, be honest with them. No one wants to come to a position that was not honestly presented.
If you are connected to one of the candidates, overt support of your preferred candidate or clear animus towards other candidates is rarely helpful. If the second candidate comes in with a presentation that specifically addresses most of the questions asked of the previous candidate, a few folks might find that less than fair.
After the interview when you provide feedback, try to remove emotion. Address your support or concerns about the candidate factually and align them to the qualifications that were identified on the job posting. Remember that the university is providing you the opportunity to shape the future of the institution, take advantage of the opportunity.