Eight Ways to Make a Hit with a Search Committee (First in a series)
There are two times when it’s good to look for a position:
When you need a job and will take an executive position at a college or university for the money.
When you’re happy and not looking to leave your position. Someone may approach you about a position, or you read about a position that looks perfect for you, or you want to move up to the next level.
You can land a position either way, but as a prospective candidate, you need to make sure to come across attractively to a search committee from the first moment you walk through the door. Experience has taught search committees what to watch for in a candidate. Most institutions they represent look for someone with gravitas and expertise. Thus, charisma alone won’t land a position for you. Above all, speak and act in a way to let committee members get to know the personal you. Here’s how:
When meeting with a search committee:
Arrive a few minutes early and visit the restroom before the meeting. Use the facilities and check yourself out in the mirror. This is a place where you can step aside and breathe before you go to the “batter’s box” to “hit a home run!” You wouldn’t want to be in the middle of an hour or two interview and need to use the facilities. You also want to make sure everything about you looks good, and you look refreshed. Be sure to wear your winning smile!
Men: Dress for success. Look the part for the position you seek. Check the institution’s website to see how senior administrators appear. Observe how they dress. Always wear a clean, pressed suit and shirt, and shined shoes. Wearing a sport coat with trousers is not appropriate for a top executive. Avoid wearing a suit jacket without matching pants. Find out the school colors and if possible, wear a tie to match. Go low key on jewelry and don’t look too flashy.
Women: Dress for success. A clean, pressed suit, with pants or skirt (whatever you are most comfortable wearing) works best. And please, no short skirts or low-cut tops. Be sure to have your hair and nails done, but go light on lipstick and makeup. Wear suitable business footwear. This is neither the time nor the place for stiletto heels. Also, arrive early enough to use the restroom mirror to make sure everything is in place.
Shake hands firmly, like a confident winner, with each committee member. This handshake should be normal; don’t go overboard and shake too hard. Make sure your handshake isn’t clammy or wimpy. This doesn’t exude confidence.
Good eye contact sets you apart. Look members in the eye as you introduce yourself and when responding to a question. Avoid looking too much to the left or right during a conversation, and don’t look upward or stare at the table in front of you.
Bring a personal touch to your meeting. Do your homework beforehand. If you remember what position someone holds, mention that. If a search-committee member attended a school you went to, bring that up. If you know someone in common, be sure to mention that. Gestures like these will endear you to committee members.
Vary your introductory remarks with each committee member. Avoid repetition, such as “I’m Jane Doe. Nice to meet you…I’m Jane Doe. Nice to meet you…I’m Jane Doe. Nice to meet you.”
Don’t flirt and don’t wink. Flirting is never attractive in a meeting with a search committee. Even if winking is your personal thing, it’s never ever appropriate in this setting.
These recommendations may look like simple, common-sense points. But remember that you may be nervous when meeting with a committee, so thinking these things through ahead of time will set you up for success.
Next in this series: 9 Ways to Make a Hit During the Interview Process.