WASHINGTON, D.C. — If you want to be a chief academic officer, knowing the best strategies for your job search could make the difference between whether you’re selected or not.

Robert Holyer, a senior consultant with AGB Search and former CAO at three institutions, explained the process at a packed session at the American Conference of Academic Deans annual meeting.

Review his advice so that you’re ready for a successful search.

Work with the search consultant. Most CAO searches involve a consultant, Holyer said. They help the institution develop a better applicant pool, assist in making the search organization effective, and save time for faculty members and administrators. They are paid by the institution to help find the candidate with the best fit for the position. But they don’t select the semifinalists or finalists, Holyer said.

If you’re considering applying for a position, contact the search consultant for an initial conversation. The consultant can help you gain a better sense of what the position involves, provide you with background information about the institution, and help you understand whether your credentials match. And consultants will help you prepare your application and give you an honest assessment of where you stand in the search, he added.

If you don’t get the position, the search consultant should tell you why not. And getting to know the consultant could get you on lists for other searches.

Prepare your application. Start your application by researching the position. Review the profile carefully, explore the institution’s website, and speak with the search consultant, Holyer said.

Tailor your letter of application to the specific position and institution. Make the case for why you are qualified for this position and why you are interested. Keep your letter to two or three pages, and avoid listing information provided on your vita. “Search committee members are usually busy people,” Holyer said. And don’t forget to proofread.

Make sure your vita is current. Delete any information that’s out of date or irrelevant to the position. For example, you don’t need to list your graduate school courses, Holyer said.

Make sure your references are substantive. Annotate your reference list so that committee members know why they are important. For example, a comment might say, “I reported to this provost.”

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Full article, including Hoyler's advice for interviews and follow-up is available in the February 2012 issue of Dean and Provost