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  • Writer's pictureMike Vachow

Rolling Search

In the past, faculty searches in most independent schools were funnel shaped, and the process of winnowing or comparing a great number of candidates to one another made for a much more efficient process, put the school in the driver's seat, and imparted gravity and confidence to the process once the final candidate was selected. It also allowed for a lot of looseness in what happened in the funnel--undisciplined materials reviews, poor communication with candidates that left them swinging in the breeze, drifty interviews and reference calls, often even ambiguity about how the decision was going to be made, all openings for various biases to slip into the process.

But times have changed. Because of the fewness of candidates, most searches are now rolling searches, candidates trickling through one by one, some in multiple searches others just sending up a balloon, occasionally ghosting the school deep into the process, sniped by a school down the street with a better offer. So, schools must be prepared to hire when they find the right candidate. That is, it is so clearly a candidates' market now that defining a large window of time for a rolling search is untenable as good candidates will not be waiting at the end.

So, how do you confidently identify the right candidate? Schools that have organized a schoolwide conversation to create a "portrait of a teacher" document have a strong foundation on which to build a disciplined process. This document should underpin the position description, the interview questions, the rubric the search team uses for final decision making, the internal and external statements you make to introduce the successful candidate. The discipline to be found in head searches is instructive in this case, particularly the creation of a position prospectus in which the school outlines the Opportunities and Challenges and Ideal Characteristics for the position. Consultants help search committees form these lists with the end in mind: what are the must-have characteristics and what are the nice-to-haves. A deliberate walk through the list to separate the nice-to-haves and must-haves helps the committee begin to understand that they won't be able to have it all and allows them to structure the interview, the reference calls and the other "observable behaviors" parts of the process. Constructing a rubric that defines these must haves and need to haves helps instill normative confidence that a rolling search demands. It moves beyond the without-a-net gut feeling you'd have to rely on otherwise in this situation.

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