Leadership Candidates: Have You Done Your Research?

By Joyce De Leo

Joyce De Leo

Joyce De Leo

The tools and methods that executive search firms use to research candidate backgrounds are extensive – from thorough reference checks to academic degree verification to review of applicants’ social media history. Leadership candidates must do equal due diligence on potential employers. This is an idea I discuss in a recent article for HigherEdJobs entitled, “Your Next Leadership Position: Dive Deep Before Signing On.” As the candidate, it is just as much your responsibility as it is the search firm’s to ensure your next institution is the right fit for you. That means doing some in-depth research of your own. There are several questions to ask (and answer) as you assess a new job—more advice on these can be found in the original article.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • How different is this institution from your current college/university/organization?
  • Will the leadership styles of the C-suite/your supervisor(s) match your leadership approach?
  • What challenges might you face if you decide this is not the place for you in a few years?

Some questions to ask others:

  • How long have the President and members of the C-suite been in their positions, and how are they evaluated?
  • How have past program creation/leadership visions been supported by the organization?
  • What has been the graduation rate of the institution for the past 10 years?
  • What is the history and/or trajectory of fundraising?

And some helpful hints along the way:

  • Find out how many searches the executive search firm has done for the institution in the past. A healthy relationship with a search firm shows that the firm understands the mission of the school and can efficiently match the most qualified candidate with an appropriate position.
  • Request to meet with the CFO to understand the budgeting process and review the resources available for your department/area. If you were to initiate changes, how would they be budgeted?
  • Research the school with the same amount of care and curiosity as you would if you were considering sending a student to that school. Can the institution offer a reasonable return on investment for you?

If you commit the same rigor to your “search” process as those who evaluate your candidacy, you will be more likely to find a leadership position in which you can truly flourish.

Joyce De Leo is a consultant in Witt/Kieffer’s Academic Medicine and Health Sciences practice.

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