Part 2: Compelling Position Descriptions = Compelling Candidates

Over the past twenty years, I have worked with hundreds of organizations seeking to hire senior leaders. Most of my clients are colleges and universities, and I am retained because my clients think that, on their own, they will not be able to attract the best pool of candidates: a pool that possesses the talent, experience, credentials, and personality that will advance the institution’s goals.

My clients are making a good investment in retaining me: a good search consultant is a proactive researcher who identifies the top talent in the field and aggressively networks and woos that talent, converting prospects into candidates. A search consultant understands that it is not about hiring, it is about recruiting.

A good search consultant is also a good “story teller,” who prepares and communicates a compelling narrative about the hiring institution, the position, and the opportunity.

Oftentimes when I begin work on a search I am handed the “position description,” a detailed outline of job responsibilities and qualifications the institution is seeking. These descriptions usually include phrases like:

  • Manage daily activities to ensure work flow within the office is efficient and priorities are known
  • Provide vision and direction
  • Ensure effective communication
  • Effectively balance projects using time management skills

Most of the time, the position descriptions provide very little in the way of context for the role. Sometimes the description fails to mention the reporting structure, so that candidates would not know to whom they would report or how many staff they would supervise. In my experience, institutional position descriptions fail to mention goals or projected outcomes for the position.

The descriptions very often have a laundry list of required and desired qualifications. I have seen requirements like “the candidate must be able to navigate difficult relationships and competing demands, while reducing costs and improving morale.

As a search consultant, I help a client prepare an interesting, attractive position description that tells a story: about where the institution is at this point in time; that describes why this is an important hire; that explains how this person will be both valued and supported, and to show how the position is a great opportunity to consider.

A well crafted position description is a first, and very important step in attracting a great candidate.