Selection Committee

The Selection Committee is the group of people responsible for choosing the next year’s batch of Harvard-Cambridge scholars. It reads applications, conducts interviews and selects finalists. For this reason, a successful selection committee must be organized and thoughtful. They should be aware of the impact their deliberations have and aim to avoid implicit bias, e.g. gender, age, employment sector or (where possible) ethnicity.

To avoid bias, a selection committee should have a diverse group of members. Including members from underrepresented groups can help to reduce implicit bias, for example by providing access to a wider set of networks. Similarly, members with different professional experiences and backgrounds can help to avoid assumptions about how a candidate should perform in the role.

It is important that each member of the selection committee has sufficient time and enthusiasm to be committed to the process. Taking up a role on a selection committee is an intensive and time-consuming undertaking. Selection mistakes can have very serious consequences, so all members must be able to offer full support and commitment to the search process.

In order to ensure that all committee members have an opportunity to contribute, the chair of a selection committee should moderate discussion, ensuring that all voices are heard. It is also useful for the chair to keep the proceedings on track and to ensure that all relevant information is presented. The chair should also be prepared to write a short report on the committee’s deliberations which justifies the recommendation. This can then be forwarded to the officer approving the appointment.

During the interview, it is important that selection committees provide an environment that is welcoming and non-intimidating. This includes a seating arrangement that avoids pitting committee members against each other, as well as an appropriate questioning structure.

In addition, it is a good idea to have a chairperson on the committee, who can take on the responsibility of sealing any final decision. This can help to speed up the process and prevent a tie, particularly in cases of close competition.

A common mistake made by selection committees is to become too focused on the technical aspects of the position, and forget that the role is about more than just competence. A selection committee should be able to think about what makes the candidate’s personality and character fit the job and the organization.

It is also important for candidates to prepare for committee meetings. Interviews with selection committees can be more intimidating than one-on-one meetings, so it is important that candidates take the time to prepare thoroughly. Candidates should prepare a list of questions for each committee member, as well as preparing answers to the typical interview questions.

It is also important for applicants to remember that the committee’s work and discussions are confidential, and it is forbidden for them to discuss anything about the selection process or its outcome with anyone other than the committee chair or nominated referees. In the event that an applicant feels that a member of the selection committee has breached this confidentiality, they should contact the chair directly to discuss an appropriate course of action.