Case Studies

Norwich University

Vice President Academic Affairs

May 03, 2010

Norwich University

Search Assignment Case Study: “PAR” Problem, Action, Resolution

When the search for a new Vice President Academic Affairs was first begun in fall 2009, there was no search consulting firm involved. It was initially felt by the search committee and University administration that a search firm would not be needed to assure the right hiring outcome.   The problem that began to become evident after several months of effort on their own was that an insufficient number of qualified candidates were being produced and that the search might not meet the charge of the president.  
A discussion between KULPER & COMPANY president, Keith Kulper, and University administrators as well as members of the  VPAA search committee about the issues they were encountering led to the conclusion that the assistance of a professional executive search firm would have an important impact on the outcome of the VPAA search.   The committee members, co-chairs and administrators believed that KULPER & COMPANY would be able to help them better address their key issue: an insufficient number of qualified, motivated candidates who would be RIGHT for the VPAA role.   
The co-chairs spoke with KULPER & COMPANY client references and hired candidates.   After discussions with client references,  the committee decided to ask KULPER & COMPANY to be retained by University administrators to advise them on the VPAA search and the consulting engagement was formalized.
It was agreed that KULPER & COMPANY would advise and guide the search committee in pursuit of the following key deliverables:
1)    Define the VPAA opportunity more clearly and compellingly for potential qualified candidates by creating a new Position Description.
2)    More effectively market the job opportunity to potential qualified candidates by way of a sustained, targeted advertising campaign in the right media outlets as well as through KULPER & COMPANY’s extensive confidential Contact Network and Advisory Board members.
3)    Produce a “slate” of well qualified candidates within 30 days of the renewed start of the search.  
4)    Forward “qualified candidate packages” (CV and candidate assessment form derived from the Position Description) to the search chairs for distribution, review and discussion with search committee members.
5)    Advise and guide the search committee and administration on candidate perception and feedback relative to the opportunity.
6)    Work closely with qualified candidates and search co-chairs to assure clear and accurate communication relative to: VPAA  responsibilities and Key Performance Indicators/”by when”; University strategic vision, history and culture;  level of candidate motivation to accept the position if offered and help assess whether or not the qualified candidate really possesses what it takes to be happy in the role and a long lasting success.  
7)    Schedule and plan semi finalist and finalist candidate campus interviews, review feedback with the candidates and search committee co-chairs and, work with the human resources director and president of the University to assure that the right job offer and compensation package is prepared that will be acceptable to the finalist candidate.
The search commenced in mid January of 2010. 18 first round candidates were presented for review by the search committee and then selected for initial telephone interviews.   This group was narrowed to 8 semi finalists who were invited to the campus for in person interviews and then further refined to 4 finalists, one of whom became the hired candidate.   The duration of the search was approximately 3 ½ months.    The hired candidate arrived on campus in July of 2010 and is actively engaged in his duties at this time.  
In the client feedback reports we were repeatedly told: “we could not have completed the search with the level of confidence and timeliness without your help; your assistance was invaluable”.  
We are very gratified that our client, Norwich University, is pleased with the outcome of the search assignment and we look forward to being of continued service to the University. The hired candidate, is excited to be in his new role at Norwich University, as VPAA of one of our Nation’s oldest and most unique higher education institutions. 
KULPER Comments:  There are many good reasons for the kind of challenge described in this “case study” to develop for a client even when they have carefully selected the most motivated and hard working colleagues to lead and participate in the search committee. For starters, search committees are composed of full time professionals with full time responsibilities in areas, other than recruiting and hiring. Search committee members are excellent at assessing potential fit for a given key role within their University or company, when they have good –well matched-candidates to interview! 
Typically, even senior level job descriptions are not crafted to the depth needed to clearly describe what it will take for the hired candidate to be successful in his or her new leadership role.   We know that well qualified candidates need to be able to clearly visualize themselves in the job and that they need to talk through the opportunity with someone who is well informed–a role the lead search consultant often performs.  
The marketing of the opportunity goes well beyond posting the job description on a website or in a display advertisement with the right publication.   Top candidates are always difficult to interest and hire, so, the first phone call with the search firm or search committee member is very important in helping to make sure that the candidate comes away enthusiastic about the job for all the right reasons.
As with most professions, high quality executive search consulting service produces many key benefits for clients and candidates: reduced search cycle speed and revenue enhancement for our clients and job satisfaction for our hired candidates..  
We very much enjoyed our working relationship with the Norwich VPAA Search Committee as we progressed with the search, as well as the many in-depth conversations we held with the terrific group of qualified candidates who were attracted to the VPAA position.   We look forward to helping Norwich again, in the future and to working with other clients who need and want the level of personalized and professional service that KULPER & COMPANY is now, increasingly being recognized for delivering.