Human Resources

Preparing your candidate pool

Recruiting talented staff to Reed is one of the most important aspects of a staff member’s job.

Having a candidate pool that’s diverse—in ethnicity and in all aspects of diversity—is the key to a successful search. It’s imperative to build your candidate pool ahead of time, so you’re making contacts and meeting prospective team members year-round. If you wait to start building your candidate pool when you have an opening, it’s already too late. Did you know that most faculty search committees are convened and begin work two years before the job is posted?

Developing a strategy for preparing the field of candidates

During those two years, the search committee and other department members are making contacts in the community and establishing their department’s reputation as a great place to work for people in that discipline. To develop your team’s strategy for preparing the field of candidates, you and your team should meet with a representative from HR. HR will help you to write a plan [link to sample plan] that’s appropriate for your team and your discipline.

Your plan will include outreach to not only potential applicants, but also people who may know potential applicants. It will include specific steps for establishing connections with communities and organizations who serve diverse constituencies. It will also include strategies for keeping in contact with potential applicants once you find them.

Hiring for Potential

Search committees have the tendency to want to hire a person who has already done the same job at another prestigious liberal arts institution. Often times, though, top candidates are unwilling to take a lateral transfer to do the same job that they’re already doing. Some of the very best candidates for our roles are those who are successful in their current jobs and ready to take a step up in responsibility.

In order to get the deepest candidate pool, then, it is imperative that we hire for potential, not identical experience at a different school.

If the preparation phase is executed properly, your searches will progress very quickly and a new team member will be selected and start work within 60-90 days. 

Building your candidate pool

Building a skilled and diverse applicant pool takes work. It is not enough to post the position and hope for qualified applicants to apply. Posting your position on local and national websites is helpful to get the word out, but according to a 2014 study, only 20 percent of job seekers find their jobs through online job postings.


The vast majority of job seekers find out about job opportunities by networking. To verify this, ask your coworkers how they first found out about working at Reed. This is especially true for passive job seekers. Those who are happily employed and not actively seeking a new opportunity are often the strongest candidates. This is why it is essential to share your open position with as many people as possible. Email your professional and personal contacts to let them know that you’re hiring, to ask their advice about your search, and to ask them to pass the word. Here is a sample networking email.

Developing a diverse applicant pool is an ongoing, year-round activity. The most effective way to develop a diverse applicant pool is to network and build relationships with ethnically diverse community organizations and individuals. Reed asks employees to build one diverse professional networking relationship each month. Then, when a position is open, you already have a list of diverse networks and individuals to contact.

For staff positions, we do not use application due dates. Often it takes a long time to get the word to passive job seekers that we have a position open. Those that do know of the opening may wait until the deadline, leaving you unable to gauge the depth of your candidate pool until it’s too late. Keeping the recruitment open until an offer is extended and accepted allows us to review the largest pool of candidates for the position.

The preparation phase is complete when you have a list of twelve candidates to invite to apply for your opening.