Higher education is looking for inspired, innovative leaders. The field has gotten so complex and competitive that trustees, search committees, and HR managers are swinging for the fences, looking for home-run hires. This is especially true regarding presidents. It applies as well to chief diversity officers as the demands of their positions have expanded dramatically.
Yet boards and hiring authorities are petrified of striking out. Selecting the wrong president, CDO, advancement officer, CFO, or other top administrator can have dire consequences. It can set the institution back years or, in an era in which colleges and universities are literally going out of business, worse. It pays to exercise caution in key personnel decisions.
How can institutions reconcile these seemingly paradoxical goals of hiring big while assuming less risk in doing so? Especially at the senior leadership level, a more sophisticated recruiting process is in order. Allow me to outline a few fundamental practices for reducing risk in key hiring decisions:
The position profile, succession strategy, interview findings and assessment results provide context and guidance for a new hire’s early tenure. They set the stage for success. In hiring, it is possible to think big while still protecting oneself against undue risk.
Robin Mamlet is managing partner of the Education Practice at the executive search firm Witt/Kieffer. She draws on nearly 30 years of experience in education, including 23 years in college and university leadership.