How Long is a Long-List?

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Much like the proverbial piece of string, there is no single answer. Indeed, an internet search regarding the piece of string results in the following: between 1 and 8 feet; twice as long as half its length; 10-35 metres (according to theoretical physicists). Not really that helpful. The challenge faced by the Committee on the Office of the Vice-Chancellor was to develop the long-list so we can proceed to the next stage of the recruitment process –  so in this instance, the answer to the question in the title of this blog is at the bottom of the page.

Firstly, a bit of information about our applicants. In total, after the advertising and search process, we had 54 applicants (that compares to 38 when we last ran this process in 2018 and is strong compared to other similar competitions).

87% of applicants came from the University sector, broken down as : 18 from Russell Group Universities, 13 from other pre-92 Universities, 5 from post-92 Universities and 12 from overseas. Of those from overseas, we attracted candidates from Australia, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Spain and Zimbabwe.

Of those from the University sector all were in senior roles, and all but a few have pan-University experience and significant leadership responsibility. In terms of academic background, as expected, we attracted a good range of STEM candidates, but there was still a good mix:

  • Scientist                           16
  • Social scientist               13
  • Engineer                          10
  • Arts & Humanities          7
  • Medical                             3

There is often much interest in the diversity of applicants. We have reviewed the analysis with Perrett Laver and the applicant pool is very much as we would expect for a Vice-Chancellor role, showing a good spread of characteristics. Ensuring inclusivity continues throughout the recruitment process and becomes even more important in design of the selection process as the field narrows.

To create the long-list, the Committee reviewed the experience as laid out in applicant’s cvs in relation to the job description, and the content of their letters of application. The long-list document ran to 1356 pages, so that’s 25 pages per applicant! Our good friend, the internet, seems to conclude that 2 pages of A4 is about right for a job application, with eight pages being an absolute maximum. Academics might take note of Mark Twain’s well-worn words - “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead” but I expect that I’m fighting a losing battle!

We were particularly keen to see if applicants really showed that they understood this University and had really thought about what will be needed to lead us in the next stage of our life. This is never easy based simply on paper applications, so while a traditional long-list might be 8-10 people, we do tend to try and keep the long-list quite long for appointments like this, to enable us to learn more about the applicants before we narrow the field further.

After considerable pre-reading and a four hour meeting, the Committee came up with a long-list of fifteen people. The next stage will be for our recruitment agents, Perrett Laver to undertake a structured interview with each of these applicants, then present their findings at our shortlisting meeting later this month. Then we can find out how short is a short-list?


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