Questions to Ask Registrar Candidates

Registrar QuestionsWe all know the questions to ask when interviewing a candidate for a position on our campus.  We want to get to know him or her as a person and as a professional, whether it’s as a faculty member or a new member of the administration.  As a president or as a dean or vice president, we know what we’re looking for to fill most positions on our campuses because most of us came from one of them.  But there is one very important position on any campus in which few deans or presidents started their careers.  That position is the Registrar and associated registrar questions.

An experienced registrar has a certain set of skills necessary to operate an efficient, professional, and ethical office.  Technical skills, management skills, and organizational skills are the keys to success for a registrar.  There are, however, important philosophical aspects to the position of registrar that can give the office the respect and trust it must have to be successful or the lack of which can be disastrous to the operation of the office.  These important aspects of the job are the ways in which the registrar approaches his or her job, on how the office should be managed, and the relationships between the registrar and the many campus communities that interact with the office on a daily basis.

As an interviewer of a registrar candidate, these are the questions you need to ask in order to get at those important qualities in a potential registrar, and they need to be asked of each candidate by each interviewer or search committee.

  1. How do you balance the need to follow regulations with the occasional need to allow for exceptions?

A registrar needs to be flexible when appropriate. Not all requests get an automatic “yes” or “no” response.  There are shades of gray in many requests; it’s not all black and white.

  1. What has been/will be your reaction to a decision by the Dean/President to make an exception to policy with which you do not agree?

There will come a time when a decision by the registrar will be appealed to the next level up (or two.)  That appeal will be approved, reversing the decision of the registrar. The reaction of the registrar to that decision is significant.  It must be accepted, but the reasons of the original decision must be made clear to the Dean/President.  The approval of the appeal must be made in writing and placed in the file of the student and maintained by the registrar for future reference.

  1. How do you view the faculty? What is your relationship with the faculty as a whole?

The response to this question is obvious.  The registrar must see the faculty as another recipient of the services provided by the office; but more than that, there must be a level of cooperation, trust, and respect going both ways. The more friends on the faculty the better, especially department and committee chairpersons.

  1. What is a student to you? What is your relationship with students?

A student is more than a customer as many institutions see them.  The registrar plays a role with students unlike any other person on campus. The registrar is part adviser on the academic program, part parent setting limitations on what can be done, and part counselor when things don’t go right (like not graduating on time.)  Therefore, the relationship with students has to be more than the “no person”; it has to be that of the “know person.”

  1. Is your office door open or closed?

Accessibility is a significant aspect of the job of a registrar, whether it’s being available to faculty, staff, or students.  An office door must be closed during confidential discussions or work of course, but an open door says “I’m available to talk to you about whatever problem or concern you have. Come in.”

  1. What is it that you need to avoid in the job to help you be successful?

We all have certain things that get in our way when we’re trying to work.  It might be interrupting phone calls, unnecessary meetings, or tasks we just don’t like to do.  Success depends on the best use of time and skills; the registrar needs to be put in a position to be successful by avoiding things that get in the way.

  1. What would you rather have other people in your office do so you won’t have to? Why?

Along those same lines, it can be very advantageous to have staff persons who can do those things that the registrar prefers not to do or who are more skilled in certain areas (like technology or social media) so that the registrar does not have to do them.  This situation results in a much more efficient and well-run office. The opposite situation can work also.  There may be (or should be) things that the registrar does so that others in the office don’t have to do, even if it is “below” his or her paygrade.

  1. What do you need to be successful in the position?

This question shows what’s important to the future registrar. The interviewer should know some of the answers: support from above, a good staff (including replacing current staff if necessary), current technology, and sufficient work space for all.  But also listen for a few things mentioned above: trust and cooperation from faculty and staff and time to get adjusted to new policies and procedures. Those “P & P’s” could be very different from what the new registrar was used to at the previous institution.

  1. What professional development activities are you involved in or want to be involved in?