Hiring Your First Business Administrator


It's Monday morning and your business manager is waiting to see you. The good news is, she landed that great job she mentioned she had an interest in last month. The bad news is, she needs to leave sooner rather than later for her new school district assignment.

After offering your congratulations, you begin the job of finding a replacement. This prospect can be overwhelming to the uninitiated, especially in smaller school districts. Yet done systematically, the search for a new business manager offers the chance to review your current needs, the description of the job and your administrative hiring practices.

Recognizing the need to recruit, promote and retain exemplary personnel, the superintendent provides leadership and guidance.

Start With a Plan
Creating a plan will enable you to conduct a successful search. Being precise and detailed helps carry out your strategies. Dividing the task into a series of connected steps also helps everyone work with the same goal in mind--hiring the best candidate.


  • Be well prepared. The plan should outline specific tasks to achieve the desired outcome. It also may reduce the stress associated with the search. Divide the search preparation into seven parts: needs, resources, involvement, sources, qualifications, performance and benefits.



  • . The plan should outline specific tasks to achieve the desired outcome. It also may reduce the stress associated with the search. Divide the search preparation into seven parts: needs, resources, involvement, sources, qualifications, performance and benefits.
  • Conduct a needs assessment. Is a direct replacement needed? Review your job description for the position. Analyze expectations and duties to decide your actual needs. This usually leads to modifications to the job description and a review of alternative ways to get the job done.



  • Determine the employment pool. Is your replacement coming from inside or outside your organization? The choice of an outsider dictates the scope of the search--local, state or national. Professional search consultants best conduct a national search.



  • Identify vital resources. Set time aside devoted to the job search. The superintendent should prepare a search budget for school board approval. Consider your interview location and make the necessary arrangements. Give special attention to identifying your interviewers. A properly motivated selection committee increases your success factor. The inverse is also true.


  • Share Responsibility
  • Start team building through the selection process. This creates ownership of action and adds to the likely success of the individual you hire. Determine early who will be active players in your search. Also decide their number. Make this decision public to avoid overlap, misinformation or territorial disputes. When identifying key players such as administrators, secretaries, teachers, school directors or community members, survey their expectations for the business administrator’s job. This will help structure your search.


  • Emphasize the team role. Provide your ad hoc committee with a specific time frame and role description. This reduces ambiguity during the search. Committee roles typically include listing candidate characteristics, paper screening, interviewing and recommending preferred candidates. Determining qualifications, benefit package and actual selection are not typical committee functions.



  • Avail yourself of multiple sources for candidates. National associations and other professional groups are excellent sources for attracting candidates, as are their state affiliates. Education Week or trade journals can be effective advertising sites. Don’t ignore your state employment service for referrals. Higher education institutes maintain active placement files for their graduates. Finally, tap your local business community for qualified candidates. One word of advice when recruiting in the immediate area: Do it openly with the support of area business leaders.


  • Avoid Surprises
  • Determine legal qualifications. It is an old adage that employees must qualify for the jobs for which they are hired. Define the qualifications, special skills or experiences your successful candidate needs. To avoid possible future litigation under antidiscrimination and preferential hiring laws, properly document your qualification mandates. Use a checklist to be sure you meet each requirement.


  • Complete reference checks early. Performance and reference checks are essential. Along with checks made by phone, make it a practice to obtain a criminal background and child abuse check. With few exceptions, school business officials become bonded employees. When practical, performance reviews should involve a work site visit. Examine work samples now. Take advantage of chatting with co-workers and subordinates, but confine your questions to previously identified job qualifications. Be a good listener.



  • Make salary and benefits competitive and incentive driven. A regionally competitive, incentive compensation package attracts candidates. Make provisions for professional growth. Keep in mind that your business administrator has access to all your existing employment agreements.


    Robert Harris is superintendent of Benton Area School District, Park Street, Benton, PA 17814. E-mail: Beverly Ribble is business manager for Benton Area School District.