By Reid Ricciardi, Executive Director of Talent Management University Advancement
NC State University
Whether you’re filling a position that’s been recently vacated or adding a new role in the organization, talent acquisition is daunting these days. It’s especially challenging if you’re someone that’s wearing multiple hats and doesn’t have the HR resources of a large institution. Finding qualified candidates is one thing; finding candidates that have the necessary skills and experience, candidates who align with your mission, culture, AND have chemistry with your team? Not easy. But fear not! There is plenty you can do to position yourself (the unflappable hiring manager) and the opportunity at your organization to attract great professionals, even in this weird job market.
Step One: Breathe in, Breathe out…
Before you start the paperwork, before you start stressing out about the process, before you allow your brain to launch into the endless “what if’s” we all go through, I’d like to suggest you give yourself permission to do some reflecting. What do you enjoy about your job, about your team, about the organization where you work? What are the positives, what’s compelling? What gives you a sense of fulfillment? What gets you up in the morning? The reason I bring these up is sometimes in the midst of doing “the work of the work” (as a former boss of mine used to say) it can be easy to lose sight of the big picture and the fact that you are “selling” an opportunity. And in order to sell, you better have some authentic convictions about why someone else would want to work for / with you and at your organization.
Step Two: Crafting the Job Description…
Now that you’re in a good headspace, get a copy of that old job description for the role you need to fill. Go ahead and give it a quick read for familiarity sake, then re-read it more closely, as if you’ve never seen it before. Really force yourself to see it through fresh eyes, as if YOU were applying for the job. Does it adequately cover the who, what and where of the role? Does it provide important context? Does it sound interesting, dare I say, exciting? It’s fair to say that not every job is exciting, but in the current marketplace, everyone has choices. So consider that job description and the case you’re making for why someone should choose this job over another job or organization. What are you offering? Sell the aspects of the work, the role and the organization that are compelling to you and your colleagues.
While there is no proven template for job descriptions, below are some tips that I know from experience have helped me and my team:
- Make it easy (not too long) and interesting to read
- Provide enough information to cover the basics and address obvious questions
- Do not try to include every single job duty the person in the role would have
- Describe the key competencies / traits you are seeking
- Include the anticipated salary range (no one needs mystery here)
- Share some unique aspects of the organization and the opportunity (Hint: a good culture is worth bragging about)
- Highlight how the organization invests in staff, highlight perks and benefits
- Describe the work space and flexibility (Hybrid? Remote?)
- Share the interview process and timeline
Step Three: Crafting Your Advertising and Marketing Strategy
All hiring managers have that initial talk with their HR rep (or with themselves if they don’t have HR support) about what the magical formula for advertising is in order to attract a deep and talented pool of candidates. And we all know, deep down, that magical formula does not exist. It never did. There are, however, a number of places where people expect your jobs to be posted. From the national platforms, to local platforms and depending on what kind of organization you work at, those professional organizations that align with your cause. Broadly speaking, regional / local AFP chapters are always a good and cheap option too. (Yes, that’s a shameless plug. 🙂
It is certainly hard knowing or predicting what will get noticed. Don’t overthink it. Craft a plan that makes sense, one that covers the bases and consider routinely trying a new platform or organization to advertise with. For us at NC State, it’s advertising in large professional organizations like CASE, Higher Ed Jobs and the Chronicle. We also rely heavily on LinkedIn, a critical resource for mushrooming the marketing and promotion. By “mushrooming” I’m referring to the force multiplying effect of others (colleagues, volunteers, donors, friends) who “like”, share and repost your position to their networks.
“Timing is everything” is an expression we’re all familiar with. It applies with searches too. You might do all the same things promoting the same position 6 months apart, but for whatever reasons, one effort generates a deeper candidate pool than the other. We see this happen regularly. Another reason why it’s important to go easy on yourself and your team when searches stall or fail. Too often it’s simply a matter of timing and a reflection of the ebb and flow of the marketplace.
HOW You Communicate With Candidates is as Important as WHAT You Communicate With Candidates…
If you made it this far, you might be thinking that most of what I’ve shared sounds pretty basic, and you would be correct. Similar to a lot of processes we deal with and manage, there is no magic sauce, there is no truly unique approach that will transform your hiring process and candidate pools. That said, there are plenty of things you can do or change to set your search up for success. I would suggest that how you communicate with potential candidates (and especially those candidates who progress through the search) is critically important. Here again, imagine you are a candidate and review your materials, email templates, interview questions, etc. with that lens or filter in mind.
Before a candidate is invited to interview:
- Start with sending a thoughtful acknowledgement that you / your organization has received their materials. Early personal touches make a big difference.
- THANK candidates for applying, for investing their time in the process.
- Share what the process and tentative timeline look like.
- Being honest and transparent with candidates is a must these days. Fromprocess, to salary range, to providing feedback if asked – candidates crave thisand for good reason. It can also avoid wasting everyone’s time.
- To be clear, follow your HR policies, but provide the kind of information you wouldneed and want if you were the candidate.
- While it’s important to treat everyone the same, I advise making a point ofspending more time / paying special attention to the high performers in your candidate pool – they are the ones who have lots of choices, you want them to consider choosing your organization.
Once a candidate is participating in interviews:
- If you get them to campus, help the candidate connect with other people, help them visualize what it would be like to live and work in the area – from tours to strategic introductions with colleagues who you know will make a positive impression and relate well to the candidates.
- Ensure you have people on the search committee who “get it” – the ones who will represent your organization well and who you can trust to make a positive case on behalf of the organization.
You set the tone for the search process and ultimately, the candidate experience. Something I remind myself and my team regularly: We want the least qualified applicant to have the same positive experience that our strongest candidate has. It’s a guiding principle. You’re asking candidates to invest their time and energy, submitting their materials, applying and possibly interviewing. Oftentimes applicants are taking a calculated risk, it can be stressful and emotional. So make job opportunities compelling and give them a positive impression throughout their interactions with you, that it was worth their efforts applying regardless of their final status in the search. A reminder: Everyone has a network. What will they say about their experience applying to your organization?