Search Committee Code of Conduct

Yesterday I commented on an interesting blog written by Allison Vaillancourt, PhD., VP HR at the University of Arizona—-here is the link to her blog

Allison’s blog received over 50 comments from various professionals at universities ( primarily) involved with the search process. Dr Vaillancourt’s idea that it is perhaps time for a “Code of Conduct” for search committees to observe. This makes some real sense if for no other reason than to let committee chairs and members know that there are basic ground rules that will be productive for them to follow. Good rules, generally help everyone — and, of course, in a civil society no matter how great it might seem to think that ultimate freedom = no laws—that notion went out sometime before Hammurabi.

For search committees the rules need to stem from the “Golden Rule”—treat others as you would have others treat you. Because search committees are composed largely of volunteers who are often selected by the administrative staff because they like and trust them, this should not be confused with the idea that despite their most often well-meaning intentions, the search committee chair and members, know how to handle the subtleties of the search process. This is not due to any lack of intelligence or willingness—it is almost always related to a lack of experience and knowledge about what constitutes a truly effective search process. At KULPER & COMPANY we have created guideline booklets for search committee teams that are used for both academic and corporate searches. The booklets help the committee members be better prepared for the interview process and touch on some basic ideas as: the inadvisability of “ad-hoc” back-channel reference checking, the best ways to conduct a candidate visit/interview and other fine points of the search process. We never assume that the guide books are read—but we are always pleased when they are, since it makes the guidance we provide to search committee members that much more easily accepted.

Like with good etiquette, a good search process is fair and considerate to everyone. And also like good etiquette when people are considerate of others, people become relaxed and are at their best. An interview is a very stressful experience for everyone involved. So, to the extent that a “Code of Conduct” for search committees can be adapted by accredited academic institutions, all the better—because it will make it that much more likely that the right hired candidate will get the job!
Nice work, Allison.

All the best,


Keith D. Kulper

Founder & President

Keith D. Kulper is the president and founder of KULPER & COMPANY, LLC an executive search consulting firm working in the area of senior level leadership for academia and corporate innovation. We are strong advocates of nurturing the linkage between academic investigation/research and corporate innovation/full commercialization of new product solutions. We specialize in attracting proven leaders who can effectively drive transformational change. The firm operates an Advisory Board that meets annually to bring together leaders from academia and corporate innovation to help drive continuous improvement of our professional practice. We are also an investor in early stage companies. We take pride in supporting the growth and development of business and engineering schools at leading universities throughout the United States.