Part One: Preparing to Search
Any academic institution tasked with recruiting and retaining faculty leaders and scholars, scientists, administrators and researchers knows how challenging this assignment can be in a highly competitive recruiting environment.
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) projects a deficit of some 91,000 physicians by the year 2020. Academic nursing faces similar challenges as the rising need for RNs grows. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) indicates that nursing schools across the country are struggling to accommodate the rapidly rising demand for nursing professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the RN workforce is expected to grow to 3.4 million in 2026, with a need for 203,700 RNs each year through that timeframe.
Beyond the apparent numbers challenge given today’s supply and demand for quality talent, this ultra-competitive landscape means candidates at the leadership level are securely in the drivers’ seat – able to look for the right position that meets all of their professional criteria. Changing practice roles, economic disruptors, advances in medical technology along with an aging population, further complicate the complex process of hiring medical and health science talent today.
To compete for today’s best leaders, academic institutions must consider market dynamics such as the growing prioritization of work/life balance expectations and use of emerging technologies, the changing landscape of new leadership cultures, higher salary demands, and more.
Prepare First by Establishing the Search Committee
The initial step in preparing for candidate recruitment is to develop a search committee, comprised of members who are invested, positive and in sync with senior leaderships’ future direction and vision. Most importantly, the selected members must be highly committed and engaged in the search process – from attending all or most search-related meetings to championing the success of candidates and the institution throughout the process.
Members of the search committee can, and should, participate in the recruitment process by nominating potential candidates. Committee members should also be encouraged to share the position with colleagues, peers and anyone else in their professional and personal networks.
Consider these additional best practices when creating your search committee:
- Make sure committee members keep an open mind and are aware of unconscious bias dynamics. There is never a perfect candidate that will meet everyone’s specific expectations.
- Keep the number of committee members between five and eight people. Include community leaders and other external stakeholders when necessary.
- Charge the committee with confidentiality, even consider having them sign confidentiality agreements for senior leadership searches.
- Discourage committee members from conducting background/reference checks until the final stages of recruitment. Inform candidates that additional reference checks will occur before the offer stage.
Develop the Job Description (JD)
Now that you have your search committee in place, it’s time to turn your attention to developing a strong job description. As you consider what to include, be sure all search committee members and other key stakeholders agree with the hiring officer’s priorities and the specific skills, values and behavioral profile required to not only perform the job but to fit into the organization’s culture.
Remember, the job description should not only “sell” the position, but should also promote the organization, its culture and mission, the geographic location and highlights of the community. Other points to include in a sufficient JD are:
- The strategic goals of the specific position (not an endless bullet list of duties)
- A link to tenure guidelines, if applicable
- Links to city guides, resources and community highlights
- Only provide salary range if you are capped or have significant internal equity issues
Speaking of Salary…
With more job opportunities to choose from, candidates are less willing to compromise on salary for positions in today’s landscape, which means academic institutions need to become more competitive with their non-academic counterparts. To establish a competitive salary, you must evaluate your internal budget limitations, including the identification of any potential salary equity issues that could arise.
Search committees should consider loosening traditional requirements such as requiring current grant funding when candidates’ have a proven track record of recent funding. Begin by researching and understanding competitive salary data by region, public or private, rank/track and position. If you determine the market is higher than your internal range, be sure to address this before starting the search engagement. It may be that you need to find other incentives to include in the offer, such as signing bonuses, time/goal completion bonuses, more flexible start-up packages or others.
Other parameters to consider regarding salary and funding, include:
- Specify, when applicable, a portion of bonuses that would have to be returned if placed candidate leaves the position before the completion of one, two or three years of service
- Ensure any external (other schools, department, center and institutes) funding needed for a start-up package is identified in advance of an offer and documented by a formal, signed memorandum of understanding (MOU)
- Be very specific with written start-up package financial details – when will funds be available, what can funds be used for, what happens if not all funds are spent on schedule, etc.
- When feasible, clearly identify the portion of total salary that is base salary and how much is associated with an administrative/leadership stipend
Success is at the Intersection of Preparation and Opportunity
You’ve successfully prepared the organization and key stakeholders to embark on a candidate search engagement. Next, in our second installment of this series, we will turn to the “opportunity” part of the equation – meeting the candidates, understanding their motivations and conducting the interviews.
If you are interested in learning more about preparing for search engagements or require a consultation to secure top medical, nursing, cancer research or other academic leadership talent, contact Alan Johns, Executive Vice President and Managing Principal.