Hiring a Director of Athletics – The Benefits of Partnering with a Search Firm – A Vice President for Student Affairs’ Perspective

Category: Search Process

Guest Blogger: Brian Haynes, Ph.D., Vice President for Student Affairs, California State University – San Bernardino

In my role as a vice president for student affairs at California State University San Bernardino (CSUSB), I am responsible for over 20 departments including athletics, and athletics plays a significant role within the Division of Student Affairs. With an opportunity to undertake a search for a new athletic director, I wanted to ensure that we had a robust pool of viable candidates. Although we have managed high profile searches internally, we made the decision to use a search firm for this search. This blog will characterize some of my observations from both perspectives.

Timing and Importance of the Hire

Higher education searches should move expeditiously and a search firm will be very cognizant of this and equipped to efficiently facilitate the process. Firms have developed processes through working directly with institutions and CSUSB has had great success working with specific firms through several important hires for our institution. Partnering with a search firm enhanced and added value to the depth and breadth of our pool and improved our ability to effectively complete the search in a timely manner. When the relationship with a search firm works, it yields much success in the selection of institutional transformational leaders.

History and Partnership

We partnered with a search firm, leading to the hire of our current athletics director Shawn Farrell. As with all searches, CSUSB wanted to ensure that the candidates had been fully vetted. The search firm provided timely information and relevant references to aid us in determining our best fit.

Why did CSUSB engage a search firm?

CSUSB set out to have a search where we had a comprehensive, expansive, and diverse candidate pool. We knew the firm would help through their network. We also knew that we wanted diversity to be a priority. We were able to achieve both goals. We had 111 applicants and a deep and diverse candidate pool. The dialogue on the candidate pool at each step of the process was spirited amongst the search committee members relative to diversity of gender, race, ethnicity, educational background, experience, as well as thought. The conversations confirmed that the search committee was being challenged. The process and partnership provides me a platform to speak specifically to three things that are applicable to working with a professional executive search firm.

  • Clear and consistent communication during the search process.
  • In-depth screening and vetting of the candidate pool.
  • Full search committee empowerment and inclusivity.

I oversee many executive searches on campus and finding the right search partner is essential. I hope my observations set the stage for you too to have a successful search firm experience. We did!!


Guest Blogger