1. Work with your Information Technology team to assess and choose the best technology for your virtual search committee meeting.
Many institutions have software in place and preferred providers for executing video conferences. Your choice may be based on the size of the committee and the accessibility of the platform, among other factors.
2. Make sure that the search committee is comfortable with and has practiced the video and audio technology that you choose.
Try a one-on-one check-in with search committee members that are first time users. This is a great opportunity to have a conversation with search committee members individually in advance of the search committee meeting.
3. Develop a plan for ensuring that each committee member participates and determine a protocol for speaking – be it as nuanced as a nod or as traditional as a hand raise.
In a virtual interview, conversation does not always flow as organically as it does in a physical space, and it is easy for committee members to be overlooked. The search committee chair will need to manage and moderate the interview to a more significant degree than in a physical space.
4. Create user-friendly materials for each search committee member that they may refer to seamlessly during the interview.
These should include relevant, consistent information on each candidate (number of staff managed, alignment with mission, etc.) as well as the critical skills and experience desired in the candidate. It is difficult to focus on one’s screen and access documents simultaneously. Bios are preferable to resumes which may be in a variety of formats – long or short.
5. Share search committee member biographies with each candidate in advance (a link to their bio will suffice).
To save time, rather than going through the roster making introductions, have each search committee member introduce themselves and share their role when asking their first question. Sharing pre-reads, such as the institution’s strategic plan, with the candidate will add depth to the conversation.
6. Develop your questions as well as the order of your questions in advance and assign questions to committee members based on their expertise and interests.
This is another way of ensuring that every committee member participates. Ask the same questions of each candidate to create an equitable experience for the candidate that will allow you to appreciate the nuances of their responses. Consider sharing questions with candidates in advance. This encourages thoughtful responses and creates a more stimulating conversation for the search committee.
7. Schedule both the semi-finalist and finalist interviews at the start of the search – as early in the process as possible.
These are challenging to coordinate later. This will also allow you to coordinate with your IT professional on the best possible technology for your search committee meeting. Your search consultant can hold the dates on candidates’ calendars for efficiency. We also recommend scheduling the follow-up search committee meeting at this time – when all candidates will be reviewed by the search committee.
8. We recommend 30- to 45 minutes for first interviews and no more than 60 minutes, with a break, for final interviews.
Video conferences lack the physical freedom of in-person interviews, and search committee members and candidates may tire of sitting in the same position and looking at a screen for long period of time. It is wise to make virtual search committee meetings more efficient and structured than in-person interviews and proceed at a robust pace. An agenda crafted in advance is recommended. We have also found that conducting additional one-on-one video conferences with the finalists, by the search committee chair or a committee member, provides insight into the candidate that might otherwise be gained during a meal or coffee. These may be informal – focused on a topic such as how the institution’s mission has personally impacted the candidate or how they were shaped by a particular experience.
9. Inspire the candidate.
The candidate’s visit to the institution – whether it be a campus, a healthcare facility, an arts institution or a nonprofit – excites and inspires them and places the work in context. Your own enthusiasm and stories that you share during the video conference will help recreate that environment for the candidate.
10. Design a system for receiving feedback following both the semi-finalist and finalist interviews that can be shared with the search committee chair within 24 hours.
A consistent format, shared in advance, will make consolidating and assessing this information much more efficient. Solicit feedback on the format and execution of the semi-finalist search committee meeting to allow for adaptations and improvements before conducting the finalist interviews if necessary.