Position Description

The position description and job posting should be drafted/updated in a partnership between the hiring manager, search committee (including search chair and search advocate) and unit/department head. The UHR Classification & Compensation specialist is also available as a resource and to review the completed draft. Like most systems, OSU’s system takes the position description (position summary, duties and qualifications) and adds application instructions to create the job posting. A position description is intended to serve as a management tool, while a job posting serves as a marketing resource; it is difficult for one document to perform both functions well. Here are specific strategies to write an inclusive position description that is more likely to appeal to a diverse candidate pool. See below section Posting and Recruitment for advertisement guidance.

  • Disciplinary focus – make the scope as broad as possible while still meeting the unit’s needs:
    • The department welcomes all areas of specialization within [the primary field]
    • The position is defined broadly within [field A] and [field B]
  • Position summary – Include the mission of the position and the terms of employment (rank, tenure status, 9-mo vs. 12 mo, etc.). Briefly summarize current department, college and institutional context and priorities, including the university’s strategic diversity and inclusion goals as articulated in the strategic plan and describe how this position will contribute to meeting those goals. If relevant to the position, considerations such as the following will increase the job’s appeal:
    • Interdisciplinary collaboration – OSU is seen as having low barriers to interdisciplinary work
    • Cohort hiring – people may be more likely to apply if they won’t be the only new hire, particularly if the cohort hire is part of an initiative to achieve a particular goal or goals.
    • Include language that is appealing to a broad range of candidates with a variety of backgrounds, identities, career paths and lived experiences, including groups that are minoritized in U.S. society. Keep the position summary as broad as is reasonable, paying attention to key words that may be negatively interpreted.
  • Position duties - Cluster the duties into broad categories such as teaching, research and scholarship, outreach and extension, service, etc. Most positions include between three and five broad categories of duties; describing them in these clusters makes the position description more readable. Focus on the impacts the person in this position is expected to have (rather than just describing functions) and be certain to include impacts related to equity, inclusion and diversity. 

Each qualification should clearly support one or more aspects of the position as described. Write the threshold qualifications flexibly (“doctoral degree in discipline A, discipline B, discipline C or related field, OR doctoral degree in any field with relevant experience in X”) to include candidates who have pursued a variety of pathways.

  • Required/preferred qualifications - Required qualifications are necessary for the appointee to begin working in the position; a candidate may not be hired unless they meet all required qualifications. Preferred qualifications predict better performance in the position. Too many required and preferred qualifications may reduce the percentage of applications from women, as research shows that women are less likely than men to apply if they aren’t certain they meet all the preferred qualifications. Review the preferred qualifications carefully – to sponsor an international faculty member for permanent residency OSU may need to demonstrate that the faculty member met all the required AND preferred qualifications in the original search.
  • Language – avoid adjectives that may limit the appeal of the position – words like “superb,” “outstanding,” “unique,” “superior” and others may be off-putting to people with collaborative/high-context styles (which can be related to sex or cultural background). Use web resources such as Gender Decoder to scan your qualifications, job descriptions and ads for these potential impacts.
  • Diversity qualification – OSU’s default diversity qualification reads “A demonstrable commitment to promoting and enhancing diversity.” If you have accurately described the expected equity, inclusion and diversity contributions and impacts in the position description, you can write more meaningful and less confusing qualifications to replace the default language. Applicants may assume that qualifications are listed in priority order, so be sure to notice the location of the diversity qualification(s) and correct as needed.

A screening matrix is a tool developed by the search committee to mitigate potential bias in the screening process by clearly and collectively defining screening criteria, identifying transferable skills, determining the relative weight of various criteria and designating the stage(s) at which each qualification will be assessed.

  • The Screening Criteria Matrix is best completed before the job is posted, as the process of developing the matrix may point to needed adjustments in the job description.
  • The Screening Criteria Matrix needs to be finalized by the screening committee before they begin their review of any applications. 

At the application stage, request only those materials that are necessary for the initial review of applications. Typical faculty applications include:

  • Application letter
  • Statement of research interests
  • Statement of teaching philosophy
  • Diversity and inclusion statement – requiring a stand-alone document or a statement that is a specific component of the application letter can help attract candidates interested in helping to build an inclusive work environment and signals that commitment to diversity and inclusion will be considered in the hiring decision. Since this is an emerging practice, it’s a good idea to explain what is expected from this statement in the application instructions and relate these to the diversity/equity/inclusion impacts described in the duties.

The recommended application process typically does not include:

  • Transcripts (especially official transcripts) – these can be costly for the candidate to obtain and may be over-analyzed by committee members
  • Reference letters – unconscious implicit bias has been demonstrated to be a factor in how letters of reference are written. Further, requesting letters of reference may discourage some candidates from applying as they fear “wearing out” their referees. If the committee believes that reference letters are necessary:
    1. Consider only asking for written references for semi-finalists
    2. Use caution in making use of written references. Consider factors that might cause screening committees to over-read a reference letter (i.e. writing style, prestige of referee) or to over-interpret the meaning of a statement.
    3. Do not assume that something is a weakness simply because it is not identified as a strength in a reference letter; follow-up with telephone reference checks.

Depending on the college, the dean, associate dean, or other hiring official may wish to review the job posting and search plan for adequacy before it is sent to University Human Resources.