Red X iconGreen tick iconYellow tick icon
Category Human Resources
Type Guideline
Approved by Vice-Chancellor
Date Guideline Took Effect 1 February 2020
Last approved revision 
Sponsor Human Resources Director and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)
Responsible officer Head of Organisational Development

Please note that compliance with University Guidelines is expected in normal circumstances, and any deviation from Guidelines – which should only be in exceptional circumstances – needs to be justifiable.


To provide guidance and information based on current practice relevant to the Head of Department (HoD) recruitment process across the University.

This is an example of best practice from within the University of Otago. We recognise that department size, culture and current practices need to be taken into account when preparing for the HoD recruitment process. These Guidelines should be read in conjunction with the Academic Staff Recruitment Process Guidelines.

Organisational scope

Recruitment and selection of Head of Departments throughout the University.


  1. Planning

    1. Academic Leaders including PVC/Dean will annually consider and plan for leadership requirements for their Division by taking into account the following:
      1. The Academic Leadership Framework (PDF)
      2. Specific department needs and considerations, for example, upcoming staffing factors that will impact department's leadership such as current HoD term conclusion, forthcoming retirements, and significant periods of absence such as Research and Study Leave.
      3. Time available to establish and complete the recruitment and selection process: ideally 12 months ahead of the current HoD's appointment end date. This will enable handover and leadership skills development. Please refer to the Illustrative Timeframes Table below for estimated timeframes.
      4. Establish a recruitment strategy aiming to have the new HoD in place on time to enable the appointee to attend the annual Induction Course for New Heads of Department.
      5. A review of department equity demographics and consideration of:
      6. Creation of Information for candidates, advertisement and HoD specification/attributes in consultation with department staff.
    2. If advertising/appointing externally, (please refer to the Academic Staff Recruitment Process Guidelines) factoring sufficient time for the appointee to establish themselves in the department, to establish grant funding and laboratory facility (where appropriate) and participate in the Academic Leadership Development Programme or other such considerations before taking up the HoD role.
  2. Department Consultation and Communication

    1. The PVC/Dean will scope to determine specific role requirements, consider channels to engage staff in the consultation process, as well as seek staff views about the specific leadership needs of the department.
    2. Consider establishing a consultation process that fosters inclusion of potential future leaders who may benefit from some encouragement to step forward.
    3. Options for consultation include staff meetings and availability for confidential one-on-one meetings with staff during the consultation phase.
    4. Communication with departments could include the following:
      1. Leadership requirements
      2. Length of HoD term
      3. Proposed selection process:
        1. Information about the various likely scenarios e.g. where no nominations are received potential subsequent steps that will be taken to appoint the HoD such as inviting applications from other departments or outside the University.
      4. Key dates, e.g. consultation timeframes and consultation date
      5. Agreed selection criteria
      6. Selection committee composition
      7. Nominee/candidate communication
      8. Communication of the outcome to department.
  3. Nomination Process

    1. Nominations/recommendations can be invited from staff for the HoD role including self-nominations. Where staff are invited to nominate colleagues for the HoD role, it is important to ensure that the staff member concerned has given their consent to be a nominee.
    2. Nominations from within the department could include a brief explanation of reasons for the nomination and confirmation that permission has been sought.
  4. Decision Process

    1. Nominations are reviewed by the PVC/Dean in preparation for interviews and/or consultation process (the consultation process enables department staff to share their view based on nominations received).
    2. For additional information please refer to the Academic Staff Recruitment Process Guidelines.
    3. At the conclusion of the selection process the PVC/Dean will seek the Vice-Chancellor's approval for the appointment of the recommended candidate. In recommending an appointment, the PVC/Dean will submit a brief statement explaining why the candidate selected is the most suitable appointee. The Dean will seek the Vice-Chancellor's approval through the relevant Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Division.
  5. Illustrative Timeframes Table

     Internal AdvertisingExternal Advertising
    Including getting approval from the Vice-Chancellor
    Up to four weeks Up to four weeks
    Department consultation Up to two weeks Up to two weeks
    Nomination process Up to two weeks N/A
    Advertising Up to four weeks Up to four weeks
    Longlisting Up to three weeks Up to three weeks
    Reference Checking (if appropriate)
    Reference template available from recruitment consultant
    Up to two weeks Up to four weeks
    Interview Programme
    Interview template available from recruitment consultant
    Up to one week Up to one week
    Appointment process
    Approval, verbal and written offer, relocation, visa etc.
    Up to two weeks Up to three months
    Commence role As mutually agreed As mutually agreed
    Induction As mutually agreed As mutually agreed

Related policies, procedures and forms

Contact for further information

If you have any queries regarding the content of this policy or need further clarification, contact:

Denise Lindsay
Head of Organisational Development
Tel +64 3 479 5431

Back to top