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Many schools are now looking for heads for July 2023, even though it is late in the game to be launching a search. Increasingly, schools are planning 18 or up to 24 months for a search timeline. Sitting heads who leave on their own volition do not like a lengthy publicized search timeline as they believe it renders them “lame ducks” even though they plan to be fully energized until their tenure ends.

Here are some questions/pointers for search chairs, board chairs, search committees and yes, heads to think about in choosing a search firm:

  1. How many searches has the firm done? Remember that quantity does not necessarily equate to quality.
  1. How many searches has the partner assigned to the search done? How well does he or she know your school? Is there chemistry between the partner and the search committee? Among the heads that the partner has placed, how many are still employed by that school five years later?
  1. How many other searches is the partner conducting? Will any of them compete with your school for candidates? How much of the partner’s time and attention can your school expect to receive?
  1. Has the firm managed viable internal candidates as well as inside candidates who are unlikely to get the job?
  1. How is the search fee determined? A flat rate? Based upon school size or by first year’s head’s total compensation? What other expenses are anticipated?
  1. Has the firm talked about the optimal timing of the launch of the search? For example, After July 1, of any calendar year, the majority of sitting school heads in good standing with their boards, are required by contract to give 12 months’ notice. In general, most candidates in the pool after October 1 are either “aspiring” head candidates or they may have been “fired”, i.e., not renewed.
  1. Has the firm discussed the importance of striking an appropriate balance between transparency and confidentiality? Stakeholders need updates on the search’s progress, but many candidates will demand confidentiality.
  1. Will the firm guide the school in the composition of the search committee?
  1. Has the firm talked about the role of advisory committees, i.e., parents, students, faculty, alumni, who do not become engaged until finalists visit?

These are SOME of the questions that every search firm interview should include, and the answers will prompt additional ones.

Littleford & Associates has an excellent track record in head of school and executive placements. John Littleford, search consultant, is prepared to answer these questions and others unique to your search opportunity.