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Structural Problems with the Search Committee Process

Posted on: March 27th, 2012 by academickeys No Comments

Higher education search committees can make the search less cumbersome for some or more burdensome for others when hiring a new president or professor. An ideal search committee is made up of members from the faculty and students. The number of members depends on the size of the university, the department and the position vacancy.

Depending on the institution, a professor’s class schedule, time used in preparation for teaching, research, publication and administrative duties can dominate their schedule and detract from the committee’s true purpose. The search committee becomes a source of resentment for professors preventing them from concentrating on tasks that further their personal interests and the interests of the university.  This leads to short cuts in the search. The shortcuts may include skimming through resumes, handing them to assistants to read through or tossing them up in the air and picking the ones that land on top. Additional short cuts may be taken when conducting background checks, talking with references and not adequately preparing for the interview.

To further complicate the professor’s time constraints applicants may provide more information and materials then requested. Although this might be easy to disseminate and withdraw that application packet, it also takes time to distinguish which applicant followed the instructions for applying and which did not.

Divided interests can distract the members from focusing on the needed end result. If a member is invited to be on the committee but doesn’t have an interest in the new hire then an attitude of “this is not my problem” may occur resulting in a lethargic member. If a committee member will be working directly with the new hire they may try to put off the process due to fear of change or an uncertain future.

A common problem within search committee’s is the dominance of one or two members. A committee chair that is only interested in promoting his or her interests will not encourage the group to work for the best interest of the university and its students. At the same time a member who may have a personal agenda concerning the vacancy may sabotage the efforts of the committee.  Personal power struggles lead to intimidation, repercussions for disagreements, lack of opportunity to speak freely and general chaos within the group. A search committee that has a hard time working together will have a harder time finding an appropriate candidate to fill position.

The final decision can be made by the committee chair abusing their authority and making the decision without the input of the committee. If everyone is getting along and working well together it will come down to a group agreement. However, if one or two people are looking out for their own interest a decision may be made that will result in another search committee looking again for a suitable candidate.

Hard Work and the Successful Job

Posted on: March 5th, 2012 by academickeys No Comments

If you go to Google today and search in the news section for ‘Higher Education’, chances are you will see an article on the first page regarding the costs of higher education. Higher Education is something that drives each country toward success. The theory is that if you work hard, you will get into a good school, if you work hard in school you will get a good job, if you get a good job you will be successful. Several recent factors have worked to debunk this theory, between the economic downfall of the past couple of years and rising tuition costs, the theory might not hold true anymore.

It is known that we are in tough economic times. As the U.S. presidential election nears, the main topics for the republican candidates continue to be jobs and the economy. Europe is faced with many issues as countries like Greece continue to go deeper into debt. This does not bode well for students either entering a higher education program or exiting one. For those exiting, the job market is a slim one with plenty of competition. If you have excellent marks and scores, there are likely four or five other applications just like you, who have also worked hard to get where they are. For those entering higher education, the cost of tuition, books, room and board, becomes a burden to bear on the student.

Even with difficult economic times, the cost of tuition continues to go up. The cost of both public and private universities has risen and will most likely continue to rise. This puts a strain on the family’s income and/or the amount of debt that the student will be in once they graduate from school. Starting out with debt is a difficult thing, especially with the competition in the job market. The pressure to find a high paying job to relieve this debt and survive is very real. There are ways to supplement the rising cost of tuition. Financial aid, scholarships, and Government assistance will help students obtain a higher education so they can achieve success, but is it enough?

The rising tuition costs, as well as the difficulty in finding a well-paying job, make the higher education landscape a difficult one.  Is hard work and determination enough or have these external factors put a hindrance on our road success?

Supreme Court to Hear University Race Admissions Case

Posted on: February 21st, 2012 by academickeys No Comments

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Supreme Court said on Tuesday it would decide whether a state university may consider an applicant’s race to achieve a more diverse student body, revisiting a divisive social issue it last addressed nine years ago.

The high court agreed to hear an appeal by a white female applicant, Abigail Fisher, who was denied undergraduate admission in 2008 to the University of Texas at Austin.

She challenged the university’s admissions policies for discriminating against her on the basis of race in violation of her constitutional rights and the federal civil rights laws.

Her attorney urged the Supreme Court to reconsider its last ruling on the issue in 2003, when it reaffirmed that a diverse student population can justify use of race as one factor to help minorities gain admission to public universities and colleges.

Since 2003, the court, with the addition of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, appointees of then-President George W. Bush, has become more conservative and more skeptical of racial preferences in education.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in the case in its upcoming term that begins in October, with a ruling likely early next year. It will be one of the highest profile cases of the 2012-13 term.

The high court will consider the case with eight of its nine members, as Justice Elena Kagan did not take part in considering the appeal. She gave no reason for her recusal, but she has taken herself out of cases when she worked on the issue in her prior job as solicitor general in the Obama administration.

A federal judge and a U.S. appeals court upheld the admissions policies that the University of Texas adopted in 2005. The Supreme Court agreed to review the appeals court ruling.

Texas provides admission for those in the top 10 percent of the state high schools. Fisher did not qualify and was put into a pool of applicants where race is considered along with other factors such as test scores, community service, leadership qualities and work experience.

She was competing for less than 20 percent of admission slots that remained. Fisher and another white female student denied admission sued, but the other applicant has already graduated from another college and has dropped out of the case.

Fisher said in the lawsuit that her academic credentials exceeded those of many minority students, but that she lost out because of a coding system in which race is used as a factor in admissions decisions to increase classroom diversity.

In appealing to the Supreme Court, Fisher’s attorney, Bert Rein, said the constitutional issues in the case were “critically important.”

Texas officials disagreed.

State Solicitor General Jonathan Mitchell said university administrators should get deference, the university had properly identified under-represented minorities, the policy was narrowly drawn and there was no justification for the court to reconsider or overrule its 2003 decision.

The Supreme Court case is Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, No. 11-345. (Reporting By James Vicini; Editing by Vicki Allen)

The ruling will most likely spill over into hiring. Would like to hear your comments on this decision and diversity in general. The key question: If a diversity imbalance exists, does society have a responsibility to correct it? Should it be done by the ratios of diversity PHD’s to total PHD’s or by the population ratios or some other method?

Higher Education Hiring Frustrations, Time and Cost. There Are Solutions.

Posted on: December 20th, 2011 by academickeys No Comments

When hiring for upper level administration and faculty positions, you want to find the person who will make a difference in your organization. The right person can build strong relationships, inspire others, and contribute to the overall efficacy of the program.  But finding that one person is a challenge. You’ll have to research and interview a great number of candidates.

What sources of candidates are worth your while? Where should you look? The hiring process is lengthy and muddy. In fact, research studies have shown that the process is often highly subjective as a result of time constraints, exhaustion, and too many choices, not to mention ever shifting diversity requirements dictated by Human Resources.

Hiring Committees’ Quandaries

In one study, researchers sent batches of resumes to hiring committees and asked them to score and return the resumes. The researchers subsequently sent the hiring committees the same batch of resumes but changed the names on the resumes and again asked them to score and return them. Many of the resumes that received excellent scores the first time were rejected the second time and vice versa. Researchers concluded that decisions made by hiring committees are very subjective and are influenced by insignificant factors.

Research conducted by Barbara Jones-Kavalier, Suzanne Flannigan, and George Boggs shows that colleges and universities have been using hiring practices common in the 1960s and 1970s when many institutions were rapidly growing and hiring. Although these practices worked well in the past, they don’t necessarily fit the climate and work environments of today’s colleges and universities. For instance, while newspaper classified ads were great sources of candidates in the past, they’re too expensive and reach too few people to be considered effective today. The government finally realized this and stopped requiring that positions be printed in most circumstances.
Twenty-first century colleges and universities face shrinking budgets and increasing enrollments as well as increased public pressure for transparency and accountability. With the current recession, most hiring committees also find themselves with huge numbers of applications to look through. They must spend a great amount of time just winnowing applications down to a manageable group to interview. The average search costs over $20,000 and takes 4 to 6 months. Since reviewing candidates is not their primary, secondary or even tertiary jobs, and the task is in addition to all their other tasks, it has a low priority and major inconvenience and frequently is put off until the last minute. Then the  first priority is to get through the pile

Twenty-First Century Solutions

Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the task of hiring capable and valuable faculty and administration, find 21st century solutions to your hiring problems. Use online posting services to give your open position more visibility. Realize that people around the world will find your posting when searching for its keywords.

Instead of subjecting hiring committees to the overwhelming task of ranking candidates based on their applications, use products that can sort, rank, and keep track of candidates in more objective ways. With today’s technological capabilities, they don’t need to spend their time managing basic administrative tasks such as these.
Using algorithms to sort candidates based on the hiring committee’s criteria significantly cuts down on the work required by the committee. For any given advertised position, a certain percentage of applicants do not meet the basic requirements. There’s no sense in spending valuable human time going through such applications. If an algorithm can eliminate applications that don’t meet basic criteria, the hiring committee automatically has fewer candidates to sort through. When people have fewer choices, they usually make better decisions with far less uncertainty.

A number of products can help hiring committees with their complicated task of choosing the best candidate. One program separates the applications into small groups with scheduled due dates. The job of sorting through and reading applications is much more manageable in small doses than it does in a landslide of 300 applications all at once. When faced with large amounts of data, the priority subconsciously shifts to getting through the pile quickly. Frequently, a single criterion which can be scanned quickly is used. Again this is at the subconscious level. The criterion is frequently one but not the best or only gauge of a candidate and good candidates are lost.

As you read through dozens of applications, all of them can blend together, and you can lose a sense of each candidate’s individuality. To solve this problem, use a product that allows you to highlight text and/or make electronic notes as you read. These notes and highlights can be kept personal, or you can share them with others. The program keeps track of the frequency of notes and highlights, and can use these notes to rank candidates from high to low.

From the get-go, hiring committees can get better sources of candidates simply by writing better job descriptions. In addition to spelling out basic requirements of the position, a quality job description acts as a marketing piece, selling the department and the institution to the best possible candidates. When job descriptions are compelling, you’ll receive higher quality applications from candidates who have the ability and influence to raise the standards and morale of your institution. Again, programs exist today to help you with this task, which will improve your hiring process.

Let Technology Work For You

Higher education hiring methods of the past, such as using networking at professional conferences and posting job descriptions on bulletin boards of university departments, still have their place in filling positions. But as you’ve found in other areas of your life, technology can simplify the process and give you time for other priorities.

Using online posting services for hiring helps you tap into many sources of candidates for the positions you’re trying to fill. In addition, these services offer you programs and products that reduce the time and effort your committee must spend on the process. Extend your higher education hiring repertoire to online posting services to bring your institution up to speed with all that modern technology can offer you. As you reach more sources of candidates with these services, you’ll find excellent candidates to interview and to bring into your organization.


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We created AcademicKeys.com to offer universities a venue to efficiently recruit for higher-level faculty and administrative positions. In doing so, we enable our clients to target their recruiting efforts to the most qualified applicants.

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