How do you attract top talent? Start with a thoughtful job description!


David L. Reitman, Esq.
Phone: 914-693-9165

I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up (still don’t!), so I took the LSATs, went to law school and became an attorney. I quickly realized I would have been a great lawyer if it wasn’t for all that darned fine print!



A few weeks ago, I received a job order from a small financial institution that looked as if it was scratched out on a napkin and hastily put into a Word document.  It didn’t go much beyond “Jr. Compliance Officer needed to assist CCO with general compliance duties.”  Not even a salary range.  I emailed and left a message on the hiring manager’s phone and waited, in vain, for a response.  A while back, I wrote an article discussing the value of prompt communication, so I won’t address that issue now.  I do want to talk about the actual job description and how it can help and hinder the candidate selection process.  

I was caught between a rock and a hard place, tasked with finding the perfect candidate, but hobbled by a lack of useful information.  It felt like I was trying to find a needle in a haystack, with a bandana wrapped around my eyes.  I had no answers for the questions my candidates would ask me.  I dissembled “well, I’m in the process of getting more information, and I will let you know as soon as I receive it.”   

I know, through experience, that no job description is going to answer every conceivable question.  Yet, a good JD should answer about 75% of them.  I maintain that devoting an extra 30 minutes to the development of the JD will save you hours, maybe even weeks, of searching!  Here are but a few things that can get in the way and slow down your search: 

  • Candidates will sour on the job due to lack of information.
  • Candidates who are actively and even urgently seeking new roles will not have time to wait endlessly for the slow trickle of information that is needed for them to make an intelligent decision and may end up accepting a rival offer.  
  • Hiring managers will become annoyed at the steady, constantattempts by the recruiter to reach out for the pertinent information.  (I know you all are busy, busy, busy, but I can’t tell you the number of times that I have composed an email describing exactly what I need to know, only to be met with a one-word response, or no response at all).  
  • A 2-3 week search will end up taking months.  

So how do we go about using the JD to streamline the search process in a way that minimizes stress and maximizes efficiency and transparency?  


A short blurb about who you are and why you are hiring is a great way to familiarize your firm to qualified candidates, especially if your company is not a household name.  Many candidates will conduct background research, and we all know that everything, EVERYTHING is on-line and findable.  Have you run into some issues with the regulators?  Mention the fact that your difficulties are behind you, and this is a great time to join the organization.  


I have often been tasked with finding the “unicorn,” the mythical candidate that will do the job of 3 people for an astronomically low salary.  One firm was offering $40k/year for a Junior Compliance Officer, but with no less than 3 years of experience.  After a few weeks of being ridiculed by every candidate I called, I went back to the hiring manager and gently explained that I was having no luck at all.  The firm wisely raised the salary to $60-75k.  I filled the role within a week (after a fruitless three week search).  Question:  if you had the money in your budget all along, why didn’t you use it?  You get what you pay for, and sometimes, that turns out to be nothing. 


Put yourselves in the candidates’ shoes.  What would YOU want to know about the role?  Conveniently, I have put together a list of questions guaranteed to expedite your search.  Beyond the basics (general duties, salary, etc), here are some sample questions that can be answered in the JD (note that this list is specific to financial services compliance):  

  1. Bonus structure plus any other perqs.  
  2. % of required travel (if applicable).  
  3. Minimum years of comparable experience.  
  4. Required level of education.  
  5. Official job title (in small firms, this may be somewhat informal).  
  6. Knowledge of products and business lines (retail, institutional, equity, fixed income?).
  7. Necessary licenses/certifications (Series 7, 24, CAMS, etc).
  8. Are you seeking someone with BD, RIA, insurance experience?
  9. How large is your firm (# of reps, etc) and how large is your team?  
  10. What title will the new hire report to?  
  11. Where is the job located (at HQ, another location?).  
  12. Reason for the opening (attrition, expansion?).  
  13. Are you hiring ASAP, or do you have the luxury of taking your time?  

These are some questions that candidates will want the answers to.  There are other questions that the recruiter would need to know as well (I won’t go into those here).   I have one checklist for candidates, and one for clients.  If I can get you on the phone, we can go through my checklist in 5-10 minutes, and I can hit the ground running.  


There is a plethora of qualified (and over-qualified) candidates on the market at any given time.  Many of my candidates have 25+ years of experience, and, for one reason or another, find themselves in the market.  Some have been laid off.  These people tell me that they just want to work, and will accept lower pay and position.  I know the facts of life.  Hiring managers may think that these more experienced folks would inevitably be dissatisfied with taking a more junior role at lower pay.  If your team is made up of people in their 20s and early 30s, you might worry that someone older might not fit in (for reasons not directly related to ageism).  But when I see a JD calling for “3-5 years of experience,” I have to wonder if you are unnecessarily narrowing your options.  Are two years simply not enough?  Are seven years way too much? 

A detailed, well thought out job description designed to play up your companies’ strengths will attract the qualified candidates you seek.  Happy hunting!

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Financial Services recruiter
DLR Associates Recruiting

David L. Reitman, Esq.
Phone: 914-693-9165

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