After nearly 30 years in academia, including 17 years as an academic administrator, I can still hear myself advising deans and department chairs that the most important thing we do is to hire the right people. Perhaps this is arguable, but even if one thinks the most important outcomes of higher education are student centeredness and academic achievement, those results depend upon having the right people doing an excellent job along the way.
So, how do we ensure that we are hiring the right person? One viewpoint is that we can’t really know until after the fact, when the person moves from candidate to employee. Their track record on the job then tells the tale. This begs the question of why go through a rigorous search process trying to attract people who are only likely to succeed?
If an institution believes that their most important asset is their faculty and staff, then the process it uses for position searches should be an institutional priority. All too often, however, more emphasis is placed on strategic and financial planning than on personnel planning.
Institutional planning is useless if talented people are not in place to develop and implement plans. In the end, hiring good and effective people is more process than procedure, and it is more important than most institutions realize. This insight is the beginning of placing emphasis where it belongs . . . on the practice of attracting the right people for the right position at the right institution. Doing anything less neglects the most important thing we do.