Lessons From The Field: Three Reasons You May Not Have Been Selected

Dr. Ian Newbould
Registry Senior Consultant


[Editor’s note: This “Lessons From the Field” series seeks to draw from the experience of The Registry’s Senior Consultants in order to educate Registry Members on how to improve their campus visit, interview, and placement experiences. This is the second article in the series.]

Over the course of the past three years, I have led about three dozen interim placements. Prior to that, I took part in the process for the three interim positions that I was chosen for myself.  Commonly, no reason is given for the institution’s choice. That said, it is often clear why someone was or was not chosen. From my experience, there appear to be at least three common reasons why a candidate was not chosen for an interim assignment.

  1. The Candidate Did Not Do Their Homework.

Successful candidates take the time to learn as much about the interim assignment as possible. Those candidates study the school, the documents provided by the institution, key challenges presented in the media, and so on. But there are some candidates who, strangely, do not do their homework.

I can think of one candidate for a position at a single-sex college who displayed a complete lack of understanding of the issues facing such campuses. The candidate did not perform even cursory research through common sources such as the Chronicle of Higher Education or other higher education resources. The puzzled looks on the faces of the interviewers left no doubt that this candidate was not being considered. Answers to questions are better when your knowledge of the situation is made clear. 

  1. The Candidate Was Not Engaged in the Process.

Some candidates fail to show much energy throughout the interview process. Others appear to rely on their track record to impress the interviewers/decision makers. What these candidates do not appreciate is that their earlier successes and a good c.v. got them to the interview, but more is needed to land the position. What have you accomplished that can assist this school to face the issues that prompted the need for an interim? What evidence can you bring to bear during the interviews that indicates a real understanding of their needs as opposed to yours?

In one position that I handled, a single candidate was chosen for a unique job at a non-traditional institute. The candidate had a solid background fitting to the position and the school. It seemed a done deal. But at the dinner with the president, the candidate did not speak unless pushed for an answer and had not a note or a question. It was painful. The lack of inquisitiveness during the subsequent interviews was striking. The candidate clearly believed that their track record was enough to secure the interim position. But the institution ultimately did not make an offer, and I couldn’t blame them.

  1. The Candidate Attempted to Dominate the Interviews.

A five-minute introduction to a group should not stretch to a half hour. How you answer a question is often more important that what you say. You needn’t be too lengthy in letting the interviewers know that your aim is to meet their expectations. You need not sell yourself short, but you should avoid gilding the lily! If you are asked about topic A, avoid spending your time answering about topics B and C. Stay on task. A pregnant pause in the conversation is fine. No need to keep on talking. On the other hand, continued silence is a negative. Failing to read your interviewers can be fatal.

In the end, the choice usually comes down to fit. All of the candidates have a good track record.  Connecting with the decision makers by avoiding these pitfalls can make the difference.

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