Opportunities and Barriers in Academic Recruitment

Oftentimes in an academic recruitment, the search process will unfold efficiently. There will be a slate of highly qualified candidates from which to choose, and candidates will have embarked on a successful interview process. However, if hiring institutions are not cognizant of internal and external factors that could impact the search, progress toward a positive outcome can stall.

The internal decision-making process tends to move at a more deliberate pace in the academic sphere than in the business world, whether it is with regard to science, programmatic issues or recruiting. Grant Cooper Senior Client Partner Corey Lohnes, Ph.D., offers advice on leading an efficient academic recruitment process and closing the deal. “When we, as qualified academic recruiters, partner closely with the search committee, we can help facilitate a more streamlined process with a sense of urgency,” Lohnes shared. “But once the search moves into the offer stage, there is a risk of the discussions falling into a more traditional academic timeline.” The key is to work through the process at a comfortable pace without letting the conversations stall. “If you have a finalist, discussions should ideally unfold as efficiently as possible,” Lohnes added.

Common Barriers

Hiring entities should remain apprised of barriers that may impact a candidate’s decision to accept a role. Below are common obstacles that can be addressed early on:

Focusing too soon on one candidate. “Perfect is the enemy of good,” Lohnes remarked. It is important to take an objective look at multiple candidates to determine the best fit for the institution. Keeping multiple candidates under consideration can help ensure a better outcome in an instance where the top choice candidate may not accept the position. Ensure that the search committee is engaged, motivated and has a positive attitude about the process throughout its entirety.

Bias, either unconscious or conscious. Most people tend to lean toward candidates similar to themselves, whether it is in terms of age, race and gender, or even hobbies and background. Working with an outside agency helps hiring teams steer clear of unconscious bias early in the process. Setting specific diversity goals that are communicated early on helps ensure that an organization is fairly evaluating the most talented candidates in the hiring process.

Relocation barriers. Issues can crop up if an institution’s top candidate has a spouse/partner who also is an academic physician or scientist, children in school or a very different lifestyle or geography from that of the role. Be aware of and sensitive to these concerns and determine ahead of time if the organization has a mechanism in place to assist as the family works through these questions.

Salary/financial package setbacks. Academic institutions should be prepared to match resources to the caliber of candidate being sought and identify those resources up front. Ensure the hiring team is aware of the expected salary for the role and resources available to attract the level of candidate desired. Additionally, highlight up front any attractive non-salary considerations that will be likely to encourage highly qualified candidates to apply. For example, is there a true opportunity to enhance a candidate’s academic career through research collaboration strengths, mentorship programs, unique institutional resources, and endowed Chair/Professorships? Candidates can be enticed with a variety of creative compensation models or incentives. Recruiting firms can act as intermediaries, mediators and coaches in this process, but regardless of outside involvement, transparency is paramount.

Stalled communication. Keep an open dialog with candidates going at all times. If work is being done in the background to put together budgets or work through proposals, communication with candidates to ensure them that the process is unfolding and they’re still in consideration is vital to their continued interest in the role. Setting timelines and expectations both on the institution’s side and on the candidate’s side, as well as having both sides commit to adhering to the timeline, will go a long way in developing trust and a solid working relationship with the candidate.

Length of process. While recruiters can help candidates understand that academic recruiting takes time, if too much time elapses, candidates will move on in their search. Invite finalists for interviews promptly, and when a candidate is selected, begin discussions as quickly as possible. “Timing is key,” Lohnes remarked. “Reacting and responding in a timely manner, along with open dialog, is the best recipe for success.”

About Corey Lohnes

Corey Lohnes, Ph.D.Corey Lohnes, Ph.D., Senior Client Partner, joined Grant Cooper following six years of experience in clinical research and business development with Washington University in St. Louis. His executive search experience includes clinical and scientific leaders for clients ranging from academic medical centers, integrated delivery systems, cancer centers, and children’s hospitals. Corey’s specific knowledge and expertise regarding extramural funding mechanisms, basic and translational research, multi-disciplinary and team-based science, as well as academic medicine adds unique value to Grant Cooper’s recruitment efforts.

About Grant Cooper

Grant Cooper, a Diversified Search Company, is a retained executive search firm working principally in healthcare to identify and recruit superior executive talent. Boutique in size, but not in scope, Grant Cooper’s collective partnership applies decades of hard-won executive search expertise to its search engagements.

About Diversified Search

In July 2019, Grant Cooper was acquired by Diversified Search, one of the top 10 and the fastest growing executive search firm in the United States. Founded by Judith M. von Seldeneck in 1974, Diversified Search is today the largest woman-founded executive search firm in the world. In addition to its 16 U.S. offices, the firm also has representation in 54 offices in 34 countries worldwide through its partnership with AltoPartners, the international alliance of independent executive search firms that spans across the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific.