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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Friday, September 7, 2018

A Search Firm's Advice For Nailing The First Dean Interview

Chronicle of Higher Education op-ed:  In a First-Round Interview for a Leadership Post, Make Sure You Show the Love, by Zachary A. Smith (Witt/Kieffer):

A job announcement in senior administration lands in your inbox. Perhaps you weren’t intentionally looking for a new job, but something about this one grabs your eye. Maybe it’s the location, the institution’s innovative reputation, the leadership team. Or perhaps it’s simply an opportunity to take a next-level position that stretches your abilities and offers career growth.

Whatever the reason, you decide to explore the opportunity further. As a search consultant, I can tell you: There are appropriate and inappropriate times to kick the tires. But if this is a position you think you really might want, make sure the search committee can’t tell you’re doing that, or your candidacy will fall flat.

In a previous column, I wrote about the "best" attributes of executive-job candidates. This column is about why you need to express sincere interest in the organization and the position in a first-round interview — and how to show the love.

Search committees spend hours locked in hotel conference rooms listening intently to the candidates, observing expressions and presentation styles, deciphering who might be the best fit. They want to see candidates who are equally as invested. Certainly you’re assessing how you would fit them, too. But if you fail to convince the committee that you genuinely want the job (assuming you do), you won’t advance in the process, let alone get an eventual offer. ...

The next step is deciding whether to go if you are offered a first-round interview. My advice: Do the interview only if the odds are greater than 50/50 that you would take the job if it’s offered. ...

How to show the love. So you’ve accepted the first-round interview and are preparing for your initial exposure to the search committee. During the 60- to 75-minute session, your goal should be to put yourself in a position to be invited to the next interview stage. You may have lingering questions, but they will surely go unanswered if you don’t move forward in the process. And you won’t move forward unless the committee members are convinced that you’re truly interested in the job.

Here are some ways to convince them:

  • Don’t be late for the interview. ...
  • Do your research about the job and the campus. ...
  • Stay positive, even if the hiring institution is facing obvious challenges. ...
  • Ask smart questions, then listen. ...
  • Close with a comment that shows you want the job. Committees have set questions and are often told by campus HR officials to stay on script. It’s not uncommon to go through the interview process without a timely opportunity to express sincere interest in the position. As a candidate, make a mental note to do so at the interview’s conclusion. A few phrases that, expressed with sincerity, can help end the discussion on the right note: ... "Let me be clear: I would love to be your next dean and to work among you."

Interviewing is like dating, with genuine interest needed from both parties. Showing the love can take many forms. Among candidates for a leadership position, following a few basic practices will increase the likelihood of advancing in the process, and receiving an offer.

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