An Institution Asks: How do we handle questions from our colleagues regarding internal candidates?
Two and possibly three issues are connected to this question. The first is the institution’s willingness to consider internal candidates. It is in the institution’s best interest to be clear from the beginning of a search that not only will internal candidates be considered, but well qualified internal candidates will be encouraged to apply. Such willingness sends an important message to leaders and those seeking leadership positions of their value as members of your academic community.
The second issue is connected to the importance of confidentiality in the search process. Search committees should always have one spokesperson (typically the chair) for these and other questions about the search process and progress. Even though an internal candidate may make it known he or she intends to apply or have applied, search committee members must never confirm or deny that anyone has or has not applied. Confidentiality on this issue continues indefinitely, even after the search has ended. The reputation of your institution and the work of future search committees is put at risk when confidentiality is not maintained.
Finally, when an interim is holding the position and either institutional policy prohibits interims from being considered for the position or when the interim has acknowledged that he or she will not be seeking the position, such information should be shared with those expressing interest in the position. Often potential candidates will not apply for a position being held by an interim if the interim is allowed to apply for the position.
A Candidate Asks: Is the institution interested in considering only those who have held a similar position elsewhere or is it willing to consider someone who is ready for the next step?
While on the one hand the answer to this question should be self-evident based on the stated required qualifications for the position, in reality candidates may be reading between the lines that only those currently in a similar position need apply. I encourage hiring authorities to be open to considering rising stars and to state their required qualifications so that they will not preclude such consideration. Candidates looking for the next step in their careers need to craft their letter of interest to help search committees understand how they are well prepared for the leadership challenges and opportunities at the institution. You need to help them see you are not only well prepared but a potentially high-reward candidate based on what you bring to the table.