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Hiring & Retention Working Group

Search and Recruitment Process

McKinsey & Company observed that “[s]enior leadership needs to clarify the functions of Institutional Diversity and Equity and Human Resources with respect to hiring of new employees . . . [and] development of candidate pools” [see note #3] and recommended that “HR handle all the transactional aspects of the search and hiring process, and that IDE concentrate more on a broader institutional diversity program effort as well as on the development of diverse pools of candidates.” McKinsey also advised “HR should develop better support and clearer policies around advertising, the search process, and compensation and benefits packages.”

Clarifying the Roles of HR and IDE:

Currently, for professional, administrative and managerial positions, the Office of Human Resources advises hiring managers on the position description and grade/salary for the position. At that point, HR essentially leaves the process, and the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity enters. Although IDE’s direct responsibility is to promote compliance with College policies and legal requirements concerning equal opportunity and affirmative action, its energies and time are frequently dispersed into serving as general adviser to the hiring manager and search committee, a role usually filled by HR departments in most organizations. The current division of responsibilities frequently is confusing to managers and staff members.

We agree with McKinsey that HR should handle all transactional aspects of the search and hiring process. We recommend below changes to the hiring process and additional HR functions designed to expedite the hiring process and improve the quality of hiring outcomes.

IDE/EO-AA should continue to provide statistics on the “availability” of women and minorities for each search. As we discuss below in the section on “Diversity,” IDE/EO- AA should also continue to report annually to senior administrators and to the Dartmouth Trustees on our success in meeting goals for hiring women and minorities. HR can be instrumental in assisting the hiring process by developing pools of minority and women professionals.

Under this revised structure, responsibility for attaining a diverse workplace would reside with the hiring managers in each area. Therefore it would be up to the managers, rather than IDE/EO-AA, to review the applicant pool and the short list. If the composition of an applicant pool fails to reflect the availability of women and minorities by a significant margin, hiring managers would be expected to consult with HR regarding steps they might take to remedy the situation (including accessing resources maintained by HR, described below). Vice presidents and deans may wish to require that short lists include women and/or minority candidates with respect to positions for which these groups are “underutilized” at Dartmouth (i.e., where their participation in the Dartmouth workforce significantly lags behind their availability in the labor pool). Ultimately, managers need to harness their own efforts and also take advantage of the resources provided by Dartmouth in order to assure a strong and diverse set of finalists and to meet the hiring goals.

The Hiring “Infrastructure”:

Our committee was unanimous in the view that the search process is too slow and that the College does not provide sufficient guidance or resources for hiring managers.

Based on our own experience and information received from colleagues (including comments at the two open meetings held by our committee), it takes far too long for HR to review position descriptions and determine the grade levels/salary for open positions. HR needs to move more quickly. If the problem is a lack of resources, HR should reallocate personnel to this task or request and be granted additional positions (perhaps in the form of “recruitment consultants” as we suggest below).

Many commented that the delays they experience in the hiring process are not solely the responsibility of HR. Budgetary approval for filling vacancies and/or new positions has often been very slow; in keeping with the goal of giving more responsibility to managers our committee recommends that this step be eliminated. Similarly, under the current system we have heard many comments regarding IDE/EO-AA’s failure to respond in a timely fashion when permission is needed to go forward to the next stage of the search process. Several commented that slow searches have broad impact on the hiring unit: morale may suffer as remaining staff bear the burden of additional work caused by the vacancy, and promising candidates may become discouraged by the lengthy delays and lack of response and pursue other opportunities.

Once the appropriate offices have approved the position description and grade/salary, hiring managers need better guidance in conducting the search. Hiring for administrative positions is as much a skill—albeit a different skill—as hiring for faculty positions. Developing a pool of strong candidates, including strong minority and female candidates, involves far more than simply preparing a job description, publishing an advertisement, and awaiting applications. It requires proactive efforts through research and networking to identify and attract the best candidates available. Yet very few managers do enough hiring to develop these skills, and fewer still have received any formal training in the process.

Currently, HR provides no systematic support for exempt administrative hiring. Rather, such guidance as is available comes from IDE/EO-AA in the course of advising the hiring manager on equal opportunity and affirmative action. This is not sufficient, in our view. We believe the College should provide the following resources:

  • HR should establish a group of professional recruiters to serve as recruitment consultants for exempt searches. These recruitment consultants should work directly with the search committee or hiring manager for each exempt search to plan and carry out the strategy for the search including development of the position description and determination of grade level, pool building and outreach (including use of the resources to identify promising women and minority candidates, described below), evaluation of applications, correspondence with candidates, interview strategy, due diligence (e.g., reference checking), fulfillment of non-discrimination requirements and active pursuit of affirmative action goals, and record retention. Large units that hire on a fairly frequent basis may not need to utilize these recruitment consultants; we expect they will be most helpful to smaller departments with less experience in hiring.
  • The HR recruitment consultants should create a clear and concise search handbook for hiring managers with pertinent timetables, resource material, sample letters, and other information. There have been numerous comments from candidates who have gone through the application process that Dartmouth often does a poor job of simply notifying applicants of their status in a timely fashion. The handbook should provide clear guidance on these and similar matters.
  • Our Working Group heard several requests for improvements to the HR website. While some of these referred to issues outside hiring (e.g., the difficulty in getting clear information about benefits), it was noted that many peer institutions have websites that make it easier for applicants to find information about job opportunities and application status.
  • As we discuss below in the section on Diversity, the College should establish, within HR, a process for identifying and developing a list of qualified, diverse candidates for employment as well as contacts with organizations that may help us create a diverse applicant pool. A critical component of this is sustained efforts to establish ongoing relationships with potential recruits, i.e., an ongoing attention to networking. Hiring managers and recruitment consultants should utilize this resource during the search process.
Search Committees:

Over the years, use of search committees for exempt searches has become standard practice and can be perceived as mandatory at Dartmouth. [see note #6] As noted in the McKinsey Report, many administrators are dissatisfied with the search committee process and feel that it is over-used at the College. Our survey of other institutions indicates that Dartmouth utilizes search committees much more than most of its peers, including peers who have achieved greater workforce diversity.

Search committees have certain strengths and weaknesses:


  • Search committees provide the hiring manager with a broader range of views on the suitability of applicants.
  • Committees reduce the risk of hiring by making the decision more of a matter of collective judgment.
  • For certain searches, search committees augment the hiring manager’s knowledge concerning the backgrounds and qualifications of the candidates.
  • Committee members, in some cases, can help to build the pool.
  • Committees can serve as a counter-weight to the possible tendency of hiring managers to hire people with styles or backgrounds similar to their own. In particular, the involvement of women and minorities on search committees can help to promote diversity.


  • Search committees constrain what is perhaps the hiring manager’s most important responsibility: selecting staff. They therefore reduce accountability.
  • Search committees are time-consuming and cumbersome; the process of scheduling committee meetings frequently delays the hiring process.
  • In practice, search committee members generally find it difficult to assist with the outreach or pool-building effort.
  • Given that many people report being overworked, search committee responsibilities are often experienced as more of a burden than an opportunity.
  • Search committees have not been an effective means to attain diversity. Despite using search committees to fill exempt positions, the College still has a significant underutilization for both women and minorities in the Executive/Administrative/Managerial (EEO-1) and Professional/Non-Faculty (EEO-3) job groups.

Although some may think that the underutilization might be even greater without the use of search committees, we think it is time to try a different approach from the one that Dartmouth has relied on for more than two decades -- with results that still do not meet our expectations for increased diversity.

Balancing the pros and cons, we believe the College would be better served by eliminating the presumption that search committees should be used for all exempt searches. As always, the goal should be to make the strongest possible appointment for Dartmouth, while at the same time placing emphasis in the search process on the development and use of resources to identify and recruit highly-qualified minority and women candidates, as we recommend below in the section of this report on Diversity.

Specifically, we recommend that search committees be required only for searches at the Dean/Vice President level. Below that level, the decision whether or not to use a search committee for a particular search should rest with the responsible dean or vice president, bearing in mind the value that a search committee may add to the evaluation process given the particular field involved and the hiring manager’s own knowledge of that field.

Even where a search committee is not used, we believe the hiring manager can obtain valuable feedback and improve the successful candidate’s chances for a smooth transition by having the short-listed candidates interview with key administrators. Similarly, we believe that achieving diversity can be advanced by involving in the interview process women and minority staff members who are not part of the search team.

We recommend that when the changes we propose are evaluated, special attention be paid to the results of searches where committees were not used in order to see how well the new system has functioned and whether progress has been made toward achieving diversity goals.


At present it is possible to receive a waiver in order to avoid a full national search when a strong internal candidate exists for a position. Other schools have done away with this term and have made the process of receiving permission for an expedited search easier than it has been at Dartmouth. We recommend eliminating the term “waiver” and allowing deans/vice presidents to grant permission for an expedited search. Making the process less burdensome may help ease the impression that Dartmouth discourages internal hiring, an issue that came to the committee’s attention as it looked at retention. Deans/vice presidents would inform HR and IDE/EO-AA whenever such expedited searches are authorized.

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(6) IDE’s MANUAL OF AFFIRMATIVE ACTION PROCEDURES FOR EXEMPT EMPLOYEE RECRUITMENT AND HIRING states: “Exempt positions are filled by means of a search committee, typically composed of three to seven members, with one of the members designated as the chair.” at p. 5.

Last updated: 01/31/07