University uses firms in executive search processes

Graphic credit: Levi Brown

Over the last two academic years, the university has gone through the process of filling important university positions from the chancellor to dean of the College of Health. These search processes can take anywhere from a year to more and involve search committees made up of university constituent groups, candidate forums and community forums on university values. For six administrative positions, these search processes also involved a contracted search firm.

Human Resource Services Director Ron Kamahele said there is no university policy that requires the use of a search firm in a search process, but some university administrators believe it is a best practice to hire one. Beverly Shuford, new vice chancellor of Administrative Services, went through a search process for her current position at the university earlier this year.

“To prove that we’ve found the best fit and the very best candidate, a search firm can help us do that when we don’t have the internal resources for [a] nationwide search,” Shuford said.

For the six UAA positions that used a search firm since 2016, the cost of consulting with a firm ranged from $30,000 in fees and other expenses to $171,000 in fees and other expenses. The firm UAA contracted to help with the chancellor search was called Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates. They had a $70,000 consulting fee with up to an additional $23,000 to be spent on other expenses that could include everything from travel for candidates to advertising expenses.

“I guess, like many services that the university pays for, the value is in finding and making sure that you have a high quality pool of candidates from which to select, and then ultimately, you have a high quality individual who ends up getting the job, someone who can lead the institution for the next five to 10 years in a way that elevates the value of the education,” Managing Partner of Storbeck/ Pimentel & Associates, Alberto Pimentel, said.

Pimentel said there are four primary benefits to consulting with a search firm on executive positions:

1. Access to a larger, more diverse pool of candidates

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2. Ability to vet candidates using information that may not be available for public record

3. Ability to follow best practices in a marketplace to strategize how to interest and retain good candidates

4. Help with the transition of a successful candidate at the university

For the chancellor search process, the Storbeck/ Pimentel & Associates strategy included advertising in higher education publications including The Chronicle of Higher Education, Hispanic Outlook, Diverse Issues in Higher Education, Women in Higher Education, Journal of Blacks in Higher Education and Inside Higher Education. Their strategy also included recruiting and reaching out to lists of potential candidates who met the profile and qualifications of UAA chancellor.

“Primarily you’ll find that the vast majority of the candidates that were presented were individuals that were recruited not those who applied for the position — they applied after they were recruited,” Pimentel said.

When Shuford applied to be Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services, she was already being recruited by other search firms for several small or private institutions. She eventually came across an advertisement for the UAA position in a higher education publication and contacted the search firm to see if she was a viable candidate.

The six positions that used search firms in their process since 2016 were chancellor, vice chancellor for Administrative Services, dean of the College of Health, dean of the College of Business and Public Policy, Athletic Director and assistant vice chancellor for Admissions, Recruitment and Marketing.

“I wish it didn’t cost so much, but in order to get the candidates and to do it right, you usually need a search firm,” Shuford said.

Academic Search Inc. was used for three of the six search processes but declined to comment on this story. To see the contracts for each position, see the links below:

College of Health
UAA Chancellor
AVC Admissions