Writing the Position Announcement

Position announcements should include specific language describing the criteria skills and experience needed for the successful performance of the position. Key questions to answer are: What knowledge, skills, abilities, and attributes are critical for the new hire to succeed in this position? How will this candidate support the land-grant mission and other UNL priorities? Answers to these and similar questions can be translated into objective criteria and incorporated into all candidate evaluation processes. (see Appendix IV, Section C, for further questions.)

After the position description is defined, it should be announced to recruit candidates for the position. The job announcement, too, is a recruitment tool, outlining the job description and qualifications. A thoughtfully-crafted position announcement will allow screening processes to be clearly defined, deliberate, and equitable. It will also allow the candidate that best meets the needs of the hiring unit to be identified. The position announcement should interweave inclusive excellence (including objective criteria) and should also include persuasive information about UNL’s commitments to diversity and inclusion. It is important that these issues are addressed deliberately and early in the search process (see Appendix lll, Section C).

The following questions should be addressed for each search:

  • Would the position description attract candidates with experience in mentoring a wide or diverse array of students?
  • Would the position appeal to people with experiences successfully leading, mentoring, collaborating with, and/or working with diverse faculty or staff teams?
  • Does the position description appeal to individuals with experience promoting a diverse environment?
  • Is the description overly prescriptive or too detailed in ways that significantly narrows the pool and eliminates strong candidates?

Common practices include:

Use Inclusive Language. The persons writing the job announcement should carefully consider the language used in order to attract the widest range of candidates. Care should be taken in describing the job responsibilities in a way that does not inadvertently communicate bias.

Use Objective Criteria. Job announcements should not be written with vague language such that candidate selection becomes vulnerable to unintentional biases. Precisely identifying the qualifications and performance expectations make announcements more transparent, thus increasing equity in the search for the most qualified candidate.2

Include Only Necessary Criteria. Including unnecessary criteria may make it difficult for candidates and search committees to distinguish what is really important for the incumbent to be able to demonstrate to do the job. It may also unintentionally discourage candidates, who might otherwise be qualified, from applying for the job. For example, there are some research findings that suggest that white men may be more likely to see themselves as qualified for a job (or a promotion) when they only meet some, or a few, stated criteria, whereas women and minorities may be more likely to see themselves as unqualified when they don’t perceive that they’ve met all (or the vast majority) of the criteria. Reducing the number of criteria to only those that are essential for determining whether or not someone is qualified for the job will increase the likelihood of a deep and diverse candidate pool.

Identifying Minimum and Preferred Qualifications. Minimum qualifications are those qualifications considered to be essential for the job. If an applicant doesn’t meet all of the minimum qualifications, they cannot be considered for the job. In crafting job announcements, it is best to keep the list of minimum qualifications as short as possible. The shorter this list, the greater the likelihood of attracting a deep and diverse applicant pool.

Preferred qualifications are those that, if an applicant possesses them, will be favorably looked on, but they are not deemed essential or required. Applicants do not need to meet any of the preferred qualifications to still be considered for the job. There is no requirement to even list preferred qualifications in a job announcement, however, to attract the broadest diverse applicant pool, one should consider the inclusion of preferred qualifications.

It is essential that hiring criteria directly relate to the demonstrated skill requirements of the position and are clearly understood and accepted by all members of the committee. For example, if a new hire will be required to teach forestry courses, the following question should be asked:

Does the individual need a degree in forestry or does previous teaching experience combined with research or work experience satisfy the job requirement? Such discussion will help in determining ways to broaden the description of job requirements to attract more diverse applicants. (See Appendix IV, section C for more examples of skill requirements.)

Search committees and hiring officials should determine the weight of individual hiring criteria and not default to all criteria having equal weight. Before the search committee members review applications, they should meet to discuss the minimum and preferred qualifications and their relative importance to the job, along with the evidence that they will be looking for to determine if an applicant has met the criteria, and where they are likely to observe the evidence. (See Appendix IV, Section D for an example ‘Qualification Matrix’.)

Search Criteria for Diversity and Inclusive Excellence. While every job search will involve criteria unique to the open position, the University has a set of core values and beliefs that should guide the goals and actions of each of its units (https://diversity.unl.edu/our-core-values-beliefs). In accordance with the UNL Core Values & Beliefs statement, every employee is responsible for creating and supporting an environment of diversity and inclusion. Position descriptions should be structured to attract a pool of individuals who align with these values and beliefs. Key competencies for the job should include diversity- and equity-related skills, as defined by the institution and department relative to position apportionment (i.e., research, teaching, service, outreach, administration). To support a climate of inclusive excellence, it would be helpful to specify minimum or preferred qualifications that would contribute to our pursuit of inclusive excellence at the University of Nebraska and the hiring department (see Appendix lll, Section A-2).

The following are examples of diversity skill-based requirements to include in a job announcement:

  • Experience developing and implementing programs, services, and/or courses that are designed to meet the needs of the increasingly diverse university community.
  • Demonstrated potential to mentor students and new colleagues from a wide array of backgrounds, ethnicities, and dimensions of diversity.
  • Experience developing and implementing programs, services, and courses designed to meet the needs of diverse staff, faculty, and student populations.
  • Demonstrated ability to collaborate and partner with colleagues to design and deliver innovative programs, research, and services to support the academic success of all students on campus.
  • Demonstrated ability to work effectively with students, faculty, and staff from the full range of differences reflected on college campuses, including, but not limited to: age, distinct physical and mental abilities, economic privilege, family status, English proficiency, ethnicity, national origin/citizenship status, race, religious/spiritual expression, sexuality and gender identity.

Note: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines require that applicants must only be screened using criteria stated as a job requirement. Search committees may include criteria that explicitly evaluate the candidates' potential to contribute to intellectual diversity, and ability to meet the needs of underrepresented students, staff, and faculty colleagues as referenced in the job description.

2 Cocchiara, F. K., Bell, M. P., & Casper., W. J. (2016). Sounding “Different”: The role of sociolinguistic cues in evaluating job candidates. Human Resource Management, 55(3), 463-477.