Search Committee Fundamentals for other than Departmental Faculty Searches

Search Committee Composition

  • Diverse search committees demonstrate a good faith effort to generate a diverse applicant pool.
  • Select members on the basis of the skill and judgment they can contribute to the search process, not solely because they represent a particular constituency.
  • Representation of constituency views may be achieved by asking for constituent input on recruitment strategies and interview questions, and by holding open forums.
  • Limiting committee size makes it easier to make decisions and schedule meetings.

Search Committee Chair’s Responsibilities

  • Clearly articulate the specific charge to the committee (e.g., is the committee to select a candidate or to recommend a list of candidates?).
  • Oversee record keeping; maintain the official record of all committee activities.
  • Manage search committee business so that the committee can conduct its work effectively and efficiently.
  • Serve as the official spokesperson for the committee.
  • Communicate expectations for committee conduct to members of the committee.
  • Mediate conflict.
  • Identify, and where appropriate, contact resources that may assist the search committee, including the Office of Legal Affairs (ext. 7-5732) and Employee Relations/Affirmative Action  (ext. 7-0661).

Logistics and Protocol

  • Keep committee business confidential; it must not be shared outside the committee.
  • Remember that the committee chair is the official committee spokesperson.
  • Early in the process, decide how screening and selection decisions will be managed (e.g., committee members will assign points which will be tallied at the end; majority voting will occur; the committee will strive for consensus; but will use negative voting if consensus cannot be reached).
  • Remember that the search committee is searching for the candidate who best meets the stated requirements of the hiring unit.
  • Design a search process that is respectful of and courteous to all applicants.

Recruitment Strategies

  • Be creative: Look for ways to assure that every worthy candidate has the opportunity to be considered.
  • Use multiple recruitment sources (e.g., journals, newspapers, websites, listservs, professional contacts, etc.).
  • Target appropriate professionals/disciplines.
  • Target sources that will reach women, minorities, veterans, and persons with disabilities.
  • Use recruitment resources that will reach all qualified applicants.
  • Use the Affirmative Action Officer as a resource.

Selection Criteria

  • Establish screening criteria that are job-related and taken from the position description. What are the basic qualifications that an applicant must demonstrate in order to be considered? Be sure that each screening criterion is job-related.
  • Determine selection criteria in advance of the initial review of applications. What are the specific attributes or dimensions along which qualified applicants will be distinguished?
  • Develop operational definitions of each selection criterion.
  • Be consistent in procedures used for each applicant, i.e., ensure that each applicant is evaluated in the same manner.
  • Be consistent in applying selection criteria, i.e., ensure that each applicant is evaluated according to the same selection criteria.
  • Use tools such as screening matrices to quantify your evaluations.
  • Avoid commonly used but usually indefensible screening criteria:
    • Years of experience (age)
    • University/college/graduate advisor reputation (hard to justify as job-related; may discriminate by race or gender)
    • Degree requirements (unless essential to successful job performance)
    • Uninterrupted periods of employment (which may adversely affect women in their childbearing years and persons with medical conditions or disabilities)
    • Recency of degree (age); if the criterion is education in a specific, recently developed sub-discipline, state the criterion in terms of the sub-discipline, not recency of degree.


  • Prepare questions before you review applications and use same basic questions with all interviewees.
  • Avoid illegal and improper questions.
  • Remember that even social situations are a continuation of the interview process.
  • Remember that past performance is often the best indicator of future success.
  • Ask questions and set up situations that will require a candidate to demonstrate (not just describe) competencies necessary for successful performance in the position.


  • Develop a list of standard reference questions to ask all those contacted.
  • Ask for examples of behavior (e.g., "tell me about a time when the candidate has had a difficult encounter with a fellow employee," "give an example of the candidate’s ability to work under pressure").
  • If as a search committee member you possess personal information about a candidate, share that information with the committee, acting as an additional reference.
  • Be consistent in requests for references (contact the same number of references for all candidates, etc.).
  • Note that a requirement to submit letters of recommendation often screens out applicants who wish to conduct a confidential job search and those in fields where letters of recommendation are not traditionally provided.
  • Do not be overly swayed by letters of recommendation; most people can find three people to say positive things about them.
  • Remember that there is no such thing as an "off the record" reference.
  • If a contact is unwilling to speak candidly and on the record, ask for the name of someone who would be willing to do so.
  • While search committees are not obliged to confine reference checks to the names provided by the applicant, common courtesy dictates that an applicant be notified if additional inquiries are planned.


  • Search committee members should keep detailed notes on all screening and selection decisions.
  • Search committee notes must provide a basis for defending screening and selection decisions.
  • Do not write down anything that you would not wish to be made public.
  • Forward all search committee notes to the Office of Human Resources when the search is closed.

Applicant Communication

  • Notify applicants in writing as soon as they have been eliminated from consideration.
  • Send regret letters that are courteous and express appreciation for the applicants’ efforts. Do not offer to keep application materials on file.
  • Direct questions about why an applicant was not selected to the search committee chair or to the department chair. That individual should consult with the Office of Human Resources before responding to an inquiry. Communications to applicants should focus on what the committee was seeking, rather than what the applicant is lacking.
  • Notify candidates if the search process is delayed or takes longer than expected.
  • Applicants who feel that they were treated in a courteous and respectful manner during the search process are less likely to be angry if not selected and less likely to file a complaint about the decision or process.

Adapted with permission from materials developed by Beatrice E. Brown, Program Director, Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Office, University of Arizona