Search Committees

Employing search committees in the hiring process is now required by Notre Dame Research in support of the University's HR Diversity Initiative. When effective, search committees enhance the multidimensional, nuance-laden decision-making process required when looking for the best candidates for a job. We anticipate that Human Resources will provide guidance in due course. However, as many units have open positions they are hoping to fill soon, NDR is providing the following information culled from various online resources including the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed. The information available on the web is primarily geared towards hiring for faculty and leadership positions. However, the principles can be applied to most any position. NDR seeks to increase the diversity of our team no matter the level or job family.

Roles and Responsibilities

Empty black chairs around a long white table

Well-defined roles and clearly communicated expectations are the keys to creating an effective and successful search committee. 

  • The search committee chair should be a person who can solicit opinions from all committee members and manage disagreements between members or work through deadlock.
    • The chair should be mindful of power dynamics within the group that might keep a committee member from speaking up. 
  • Ideally, search committee members should represent a diverse cross-section of Notre Dame faculty and staff. However, serving on search committees should not fall only to our colleagues who are Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC). While Notre Dame proactively grows the diversity of its workforce, it may not be possible for every search committee to include members who are BIPOC. 
    • Keep in mind diversity is about more than race or skin color. Not all that makes us different is visible to the eye. 
    • Search committees should discuss what is meant by diversity and the role it will play in the search process at the outset of the hiring process. This will help build consensus before analyzing the candidates.
  • Not only should the applicant pool be diverse, but also the semi-finalists and finalists should represent different molds and ways of thinking.

Recruiting Search Committee Participants

Check Your Bias

  • Be mindful of bias (conscious and unconscious). Bias is human. It is unavoidable. Pretending not to be biased is a bigger problem than the bias itself. Instead, it can fool committee members into thinking about "fit," which is a slippery slope into prioritizing conventional candidates who meet the stereotypical expectations for a certain type of job. 
  • Ask committee members to explore their own biases. Harvard offers several implicit bias tests online. Please note, these tests should not be used to compare the levels of bias between individuals serving on the committee or in a unit. Rather, the results should be kept personal and used by the individual to reflect on their own cognitive habits.
  • Focus on competencies and not credentials. Many people in higher education will show preference unintentionally to candidates with more prestigious degrees over those trained at less well-known schools. 

Really  Use Your Search Committee

  • Suggest each member brainstorms 1 to 2 people they could personally invite to apply for a position.
  • Ask members to share job advertisements in their professional or social networking circles. 
  • Communicate expectations clearly upfront, for example:
    • Be dedicated to voicing and asserting your opinions.
    • Don't "mind read" and/or get caught up speculating about a candidate's motives for applying for the position. 
    • Kindness goes a long way towards making a favorable impression on a candidate. Remind committee members about the delicate balance between "selling the job/vetting the candidate."



If you have questions or ideas for additional resources in this playbook, please contact the Director of Finance and Administration