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Provost's Search Committee Tutorial: A Primer

Please Note: This is not the tutorial but a narrative version of tutorial materials, a primer if you will. Reading through this material will NOT give the necessary certification for serving on a faculty search committee. It is designed instead to offer all who are interested a chance to become familiar with the material covered in the tutorial prior to taking the tutorial and/or a chance to review material and references for individual topics after you have taken the tutorial.

If you would like to actually take the tutorial please click here.


13. End of Game Strategies: The Role of the Search Committee after the Offer Has Been Made

After an offer has been made, there is usually a period of negotiation. Traditionally, search committees are not involved at this stage. However, if recruitment is akin to wooing or courting (Olson), search committee members could have a role to play during this period by staying connected with the candidates. The negotiating dean would, of course, need to approve this but it should usually be fine if search committee members don’t discuss salary with the candidate.

In his Chronicle of Higher Education article entitled “Don’t Just Search, Recruit,” Gary Olson says, “recruitment does not end once the finalists have visited the campus. Too often, a search committee will do a superb job up to that point and then drop the ball. It's like permitting the opposing team to rush in at the last minute and win the game, even though you have been ahead from the beginning” (3).

There are a number of things search committee members could discuss with candidates after an offer has been made, but before it has been accepted:

  • sell the department and UVa
  • ask if there are any hanging issues or points on which the candidate might want more information
  • contact top candidate references to see what they think it would take to get “their” candidate to accept an offer
  • make sure the dean or person making the offer knows what it will take to get the candidate to “yes”
  • keep in touch with other top candidates

Sell the Department and UVa. Search committee consultant Jean Dowdall encourages search committee members to emphasize the strengths of and “sell” their schools: “Be prepared to talk about the things that make your institution a great place to find colleagues and friends, the attractions of the community, work opportunities for spouses. Tell prospective candidates how shared governance works on your campus, and describe the ways in which your leadership is putting the institution on the map. Describe the beautiful and cheap housing, climate, recreational opportunities. If the location isn't so attractive, you can talk about the ease of getting to the airport and out of town” (Dowdall).

There are now several Web sites at UVa that search committees may find useful as guides to resources at UVa and in the surrounding community:

All About the University at (a portal site for a number of sites including Exploring the University of Virginia and Charlottesville, Top Q & A About UVa, etc.)

Faculty and Staff Guide: A Guide to the University of Virginia and Charlottesville Community at

Home Sweet C-Ville: A Guide to Charlottesville for the Law School Community at

This spawned a similar (and somewhat collaborative) site at the Curry School:

Home Sweet C’Ville: A Guide to Charlottesville for New Education Students at

Word of Mouth: Resources for Successful Balance Work, Life, and Family. School of Medicine, Office of Faculty Development at

Hanging Issues
. The candidate may want more information on any number of things at the University or in the community, expected and unexpected. One top candidate in the humanities unexpectedly wanted to know if there was a Chinese language school in Charlottesville. A little research on the part of those interested in hiring this candidate revealed several possibilities. This made Charlottesville more attractive to the candidate. This was not the only reason the candidate accepted the position but it played a role (Fraser). Another candidate might want help with dual career issues; another could have a special needs child. Candidates may assume that Charlottesville is a “small town” and not be familiar with the wealth of resources available in the area.

What Would It Take to Get this Candidate? Vicker and Royer suggest a plan of action: “Begin by compiling the collective information from your various contacts with the candidate. Next, review the feedback you received from the constituents who interviewed the candidate on campus. If any of your finalists are referred candidates, call the referring person and ask his or her opinion about what it would take to get the candidate. In checking the candidates references, ask the reference givers for their opinions about the drivers and rewards that are likely to attract the candidate” (p.78).

Keep the Person Making the Offer Informed. “Keep the decision maker fully informed of your interactions [with the candidate]. The candidate’s concerns and requests illuminate the critical issues affecting her or his decision, and by conveying the candidate’s concerns, you enable the decision maker to address them in a proactive manner” (Vicker and Royer, p. 78). One search committee chair regretted not being more assertive with her very busy dean about “the issues we knew were important to Jim [the top candidate].” Jim turned down the offer, saying the salary was too low. “I realized that I should have insisted on sharing our findings with the dean. There were other factors beyond the salary that were important to Jim, but how would the dean have known to include them?” (Vicker and Royer, p.78).

Keep In Touch with Other Top Candidates. During the negotiation period, it is important to maintain a relationship with the other top candidates in case the first offer is turned down. As Olson said, if you neglect your top candidates an “opposing team” may rush in and scoop them up. In fact, even once an offer is accepted top candidates who are not offered positions are ideal people to maintain connections with for possible future positions (Olson; Vicker and Royer). 

Dowdall, J. 2003. Going it alone: Even though they might not use search consultants, hiring committees can employ their tactics. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 50(7). Retrieved on February 3, 2008 from

Fraser, G. 2007. Personal communication.

Olson, G.A. 2007. Don’t just search, recruit. The Chronicle of Higher Education. 53(38). Retrieved on January 23, 2008 from

Vicker L.A., and H.J. Royer. 2006. The complete academic search manual: A systematic approach to successful and inclusive hiring. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

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