Peter Romary uses a Martin Center column to offer advice to top University of North Carolina leaders.

Given the trouble the University of North Carolina system has had in thoroughly vetting job applicants and keeping top officials for their full term, I have some lessons for current officials as they look for not one, but two replacements for key roles in the UNC system.

As a partner at a risk management and employee screening company staffed by former CIA officers, we use a systematic approach to interviews, interrogations, and investigations that make us “check our bias at the door.” We’re expected to figure out whether applicants are deceptive or honest. The UNC system needs to adopt a similar approach.

To ensure success, university administrators need to prepare hiring committees for the three most important actions of a search: preparing for the interview, investigating the applicant, and conducting a rigorous interview.

One of the biggest problems in the job search comes from a lack of skepticism toward resume information and the psychological biases of reviewers. …

… Unfortunately, many people are often hired to run a university with only the most perfunctory of “background” checks and pro-forma interviews. Candidates are questioned by a committee of non-professional interviewers who may have a list of pre-approved questions, or may be fed bad information from university counsel. My company has seen people who lied during their interview about easily verifiable things, but often, committees miss them entirely because they were afraid to conduct independent research.

So, given that reviewers face a one-in-three chance of a job candidate “misrepresenting” their qualifications, work experience, or prior salary, it is imperative for reviewers to do their homework. They need to verify the information and conduct interviews using a proven, systematic method.