A columnist, who has written about academic affairs and executive search for The Chronicle of Higher Education for over 20 years, calls Wheless Search & Consulting “the most effective search firm in higher education search today”. He recently wrote “I have some broad knowledge and understanding of the search firm industry… I have interviewed partners at many search firms and gotten a chance to compare the best practices in the search industry… While many fine search firms exist, several factors make me particularly impressed with the Wheless team.”
Now, perhaps more than at any other time in Higher Education, the need for leadership who can serve as a catalyst for growth, educational affordability for students and systemic financial and cultural health is essential. Those at the helm must be insightful, innovative and compelling leaders. Consequently, delivering a robust and accomplished slate of candidates for your consideration will be our mission and purpose. Period.
Wheless Search has successfully completed some of the most significant searches in higher education in the United States. Irrespective of political complexities, affiliations, geographic location and challenges faced by the institutions that have engaged us, we have navigated our engagements to positive conclusions that have surpassed the expectations of our clientele. As it should be and as you deserve.
The first and likely obvious question… is the Wheless team capable of conducting your search? Below are recent successes:
- System Chancellor – Designated Hispanic Serving multi-billion-dollar university/academic medicine system
- System Chancellor – Second largest university/academic medicine system in United States (including largest AAU university in the country and the world’s #1 cancer institution)
- System Chancellor – 14 institution university system
- System Chancellor – Multi-billion-dollar university/academic medicine system
- System President – (AAU) Multi-billion-dollar university/academic medicine system, including a “Top 50 University in the World” and significant health sciences enterprise
- System Chancellor/President – Designated Hispanic Serving university and community college system
We receive high accolades from our clients. The reasons we receive this positive feedback and produce great outcomes are rather simple. There are a few things we do that are uniquely different than other firms in the search industry.
- We do not rely on a database to find candidates for clients. Your search requirements are unique to you. Your culture at is unique. Your strategic projects and initiatives are unique, specific to your system and evolving. Consequently, that requires intentional research and candidate targeting/engagement specifically for you. A hypothetical example… perhaps one of the areas of expertise you might be seeking in your next CEO is someone who has deep understanding of how to systemically deploy analytics for strategic decision making at a high level. This will require employing targeted research to identify large and complex organizations that are excelling in the use of data analytics and the leadership that has led the charge organizationally. Not a generalized slate of candidates extracted from a database. Candidates that we will develop for you are likely happy, not looking and fully engaged in their work. These are the people we seek with near exclusivity. We do not have a “bench” of usual suspects to roll into the candidate pool on searches that we lead. Ever.
- We purposefully keep the number of clients we serve low. Why is this important to you? There’s a simple equation and it is as follows: the more clients a search firm has, the fewer exceptional candidates they can produce. That is because a firm cannot recruit from their clients. If a search firm is serving 40% of the organizations where your next leader is working, that means the nanosecond you engage them, you have eliminated 40% of the potential candidate pool. By keeping our client base small and serving only 4% of target worthy higher education organizations, we have access to nearly the complete array of candidates in the marketplace. Since access to candidates is the oxygen you require from your search firm… would you rather have 60% lung capacity or 96%. We will help you breathe easy.
- While our team is fully engaged throughout the entire process, we are a bit fanatical about how it begins as that sets the tone and tenor for the entire engagement. This will include spending sufficient time with the key stakeholders to truly understanding the successful candidate phenotype. Of course, through our experience with searches, we know what higher ed leaders do in general terms. But what do you want your next leader to accomplish? How will you know they have been successful after their first 12, 24, 36 months in the role? Is there an appetite for non-traditional candidates in the mix and from what background(s)? What perspectives would be a value-add to the organization and position? Are there issues and items that will require the skills and style to push over the finish line? What strategic initiatives are being prosecuted now and what new initiatives would you like to see explored? Diving deep at the onset of the search is critical to a great outcome and we do that very well.
For Those New to the Search Process
From our experience over thirty years in the search industry, many higher education search committees with whom we have interacted have been comprised of first-time participants, and many times the search chair is a “rookie” to the executive search process, even within the context of a President or Chancellor search. Because of this frequent dynamic on the search committee of little to no experience in an executive search process, our approach to the committee is very much an educational and mentoring approach. Essentially, every step of the process “Methodology” is in fact a learning and training opportunity involving training the Hiring Manager, the Search Chair, Committee Members, Board Directors, the System President/Chancellor, and other key stakeholders in the process. Because we have sat in key leadership positions and presided over hundreds of search processes, the expertise our team brings to the client experience is priceless.
Candidate Assessment Tools
With our firm’s skill in attracting top national candidates to engage them in conversation, and in combination with the use of Wheless Search’s candidate assessment tools, prospective candidates can be accurately assessed for desired technical skill sets, soft skills and motivations, and the organization’s key stakeholders and search committee members will be fully equipped and well prepared to select those candidates who are most viable and best “fit” the criteria for the role.
Our clients and search committee members frequently comment that our tools:
- Allow the search committee to truly compare and contrast one candidate against another
- Provide information that a resume cannot, such as insight into the candidate’s thought processes, flow of logic, and communication skills
- Provides valuable documentation to validate a hiring decision
- Allows every committee member to have an equal voice in the assessment process by evaluating each candidate based on elements of the Search Criteria.
- Assists the committee in determining those candidates who best fit the criteria for the role as well as the culture of the organization, and who are most suitable for advancement to the next phase in the hiring process.
- Provides the format for an apolitical process by which all candidates can be truly compared and contrasted.
Candidate Management and Engagement
As former executives, we have been a client of many search firms, have participated as a candidate ourselves in numerous searches, and experienced first-hand the impact of excessively long and frustrating searches, and infrequent and impersonal interactions.
Now as executive search leaders, we have translated our experience into a proven model of success. Our executive backgrounds and national network of trusted colleagues give us unique insights and an edge in understanding the viewpoint of candidates, and treating them with professionalism and respect throughout the process.
Our team members remain in close communication with all candidates, especially those who rise to the top as viable contenders for a job. Since we recruit and engage exclusively with passive candidates who are employed, happy where they are, and “not looking”, these candidates are more likely to resist initial efforts to bring them into a process of due diligence, and even when they declare themselves as candidates, they remain busy bringing value to their current clients, so there is hard work involved on our part in maintaining their interest and engaging them through every phase.
One of the secrets of our proven candidate engagement process is the toolkit we have developed and utilize in the assessment process, tools that are employed at various junctures to gather more information and data from the candidate, and as they progress deeper into the process, involving their spouse/family/partner as well. These built-in touchpoints, as well as keeping candidates apprised of search progress via phone, email and text, have proven to be successful time and time again over our consultant’s 80+ years of combined client service.