Kathy Berlowe is Senior Vice President at Bert Davis Executive Search and a member of LinkedIn’s Higher Education Management Group. 

Textbook publishing is dealing with a variety of new threats: the rise of open source textbooks, illegal file-sharing, and a very public campaign to reduce book prices. Finding the great professionals that will lead education publishing through these challenges is key.

KH: Can you begin by providing us with a snapshot of the market for leadership positions in education publishing? What’s the level of demand? Where is demand greatest?

KB: It is becoming increasingly hard to find top positions in Higher Ed Publishing. There has been a lot of consolidation, and the opportunities are more limited than they used to be. Most companies will use people like us for strategic (senior-level) hires, because the stakes are high, as you have noted in your first paragraph. Presidents and top executives are looking for people both within and without the industry, and that requires a different kind of network—one with insiders and also candidates who can increase the gene pool (people who may have left the industry and want to come back, e.g.). We have charted people’s lives for years, and know where the good ones have gone and who wants to come back. Or someone with a strong background in strategic development who is passionate about education, but who may have come from another industry, like the consulting world. To circle back to my initial point, an ambitious candidate will want to be part of the confidential dialogue between recruiters and industry to gain the kind of proper exposure they deserve. It is hard to do a good job and look for a good job at the same time which is why we exist as part of the human supply chain!

KH: What’s the most common misunderstanding about recruiters?

KB: The biggest misconception about recruiters is that people don’t realize how important we are to the process of hiring, or changing careers. People who aren’t used to working with recruiters, people, for example, who have been internally promoted or have followed mentors to other companies, don’t necessarily know how to use people like us to their advantage. Good recruiters know what is happening (from a 20 thousand foot level, maybe) in their industry. The top ones have strong relationships with Presidents, VP types, heads of divisions. The executives like to talk to recruiters on a regular basis, especially if they have successfully placed with them before. A lot of the work gets done “off the radar”.

It is all about relationships, like any business. It is to a candidate’s advantage to befriend a recruiter that they are comfortable with, because they could change their career—if not for today’s job, then in the future.

KH: What’s on your desk this week?

KB: I’m working with one company to bring in new heads for marketing, technology and international. This is taking up most of my time. I also have a consumer editorial position and am working with private equity to find CEOs for new acquisitions.


  1. @Kathy… My wife is in recruitment as well (not higher ed focused) and I’d like to add a comment to your description of “top search firms”.

    Top firms that help with executive search do not fall within the label of “headhunter”. There is certainly a stigma attached to some recruitment organizations as they place a person and then ‘poach’ that person for another opportunity sometimes less than a year after initial placement.

    Top firms realize that the long-term relationship, and happiness with a placement, is the desired outcome. “Headhunters” ought to be avoided.


  2. Hi Kate, I only just now saw your note about Recruiting for Higher Education Publishing. I have been working the industry for many years (Prentice-Hall, Simon & Schuster, Longamn Education, Financial Times etc) and recently wrote a new article about the “Developments of the Dutch Book Trade” focussing on scientific education and its developments at universities and professional schools in Holland, a country always being judged as a ‘forerunner’ when it comes to education. If you happen to be interested in this article, please drop me a line.
    Bet regards,
    Jos de Jong, Just in Time Business Communications, Heemstede, Holland; jitprom@xs4all.nl


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