Workers looking for a new job usually face the prospect of composing carefully worded cover letters and resumes, sitting through nerve-wracking interviews and enduring rejections.

Not university presidents. For such a high-stakes job, the employer, the Board of Regents, comes looking for them.In the search for a new University of Utah president, the committee is recruiting prospective candidates, not just reviewing applicants.

"We are trying to sell some of them on formal candidacy," said Utah Commissioner of Higher Education Wm. Rolfe Kerr.

Monday, the search committee whittled down its prospective candidates' list to 15, including those who still must be convinced to apply.

Their names have not been released, and the committee has made a commitment to keep their identities confidential.

Kerr said there are women, minorities and Utahns on the potential semi-finalist list, although the prospective candidates are from all over the nation.

The pursuit of top-flight candidates for Utah's premiere higher-education job intensified when the regents hired, for the first time, a national headhunter, Heidrick and Struggles. The search firm identified 132 of the original 240 potential candidates for the job.

Heidrick and Struggles has also assisted in the reference checks of each prospective candidate.

Such help doesn't come cheap. Kerr estimated the firm's fee will probably total about $40,000.

The exact amount is not known, however. A standard fee for such searches is one-third the president's first-year salary, which will be determined in negotiations with the new president.

That salary is also up in the air. Retiring U. President Chase N. Peterson makes $113,000 annually. But the search committee has discovered that is significantly below the going rate for presidents of research universities.

Kerr said the U. president's salary is $25,000 below peers at 10 comparable universities and $29,000 below the national average for research university presidents.

The U. president has several other perks besides a salary, however. Among them are a furnished house, car and entertainment budget.

The commissioner said no decision has been made on a presidential salary increase.

"We know what the marketplace is out there. We need to be prepared to make that kind of decision (salary increase) to get the kind of president that the U. needs," Kerr said.

If, however, the regents agree on a larger salary for the U. president, what will that say to the presidents of Utah's eight other public institutions?

"It could be a potential bit of problem because those other presidents are somewhat behind (in salaries), too," the commissioner said.

Kerr said no timetable has been set for the selection of the five or six finalists and their interviews with the regents.

He believes that a new president will be selected by the time Peterson retires July 1. However, an interim president may have to be appointed until the new president can leave his or her current position, he said.