How To Write An Effective Job Ad

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Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, especially when it comes to a job listing. If you want to attract the right employees, then you have to view the job ad as a marketing tool rather than merely a help wanted ad.

“A spec should be an advertisement for your company,” says Mark Jaffe, president of Wyatt & Jaffe, the executive search firm. “It should be a net in which you catch the right fish rather than a screen designed to filter out people.”

Often times when companies set out to find talent they use the help wanted ad as a way to discourage unqualified people from applying. They’ll use phrases like “must have” or “minimum requirements” and set specific years of experience. They figure by being very specific they will weed out the under-qualified and speak to the qualified. A few weeks later when the position sits unfilled they wonder what they did wrong.

“If the whole focus is on weeding out the unqualified, it prevents people from applying because they find the job boring,” says Lou Adler, author ofThe Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired.  “The ad should emphasize what is in it for the candidate.”

According to recruiters and human resources experts, the person reading the advertisement has to envision doing the job rather than making sure they meet all the qualifications. Instead of focusing on a job title, Pat Sweeney, human resource manager at Old Colony Hospice and Palliative Care, says the ad should include four or five active words that describe what the person will actually be doing. If you want somebody that can communicate technical terms then say that, says Sweeney.  If you are looking for someone that can teach a new computer program, list the program in the ad. She also says it’s a good idea to stay away from any jargon, which can easily be misinterpreted by job seekers unfamiliar with the terminology.

Before a company can even start to craft a good job posting, it has to first figure out what goal it is trying to achieve by filling the position. According to Jaffe, the company has to ask itself what it wants the new hire to accomplish and how success will be measured. Instead of worrying if the candidate needs to have a VP title or ten years of experience it has to focus on how the objectives will be met. “You don’t want someone with a mechanical engineering background applying for a marketing role, but you also don’t want to eliminate an unlikely candidate that might bring wonderful experience to the table,” says Jaffe. He says the job posting should be like something the job seeker tries on. “‘I like the way I look,’ is what the qualified candidate should be saying,” after reading the spec, he says.

Companies also worry about going afoul of labor laws when writing job ads, and that’s why they list objective criteria like an MBA or five years of experience in their ads. But, according to Adler, if a company is looking for an accountant, stating the person will be in charge of upgrading the accounting system by year end meets the labor law requirements.  “Increase sales by 10% is equally objective as five years of sales experience,” says Adler.

Long gone are the days when companies would place help wanted ads in newspapers, which had limited space. In today’s world, all of the postings are found online, which means employers don’t have any space constraints. Because length isn’t an issue, companies also have ample space to make a job posting that isn’t boring.  After all, the whole idea behind the ad is to sell the company and the job to the best candidates possible. Because of that, it’s a good idea to put some flair into your ad. When Adler was tasked with finding a controller for a Los Angeles-based company, he made it creative by putting Oscar Winning Controller or Director of Accounting in the headline. In the advertisement instead of saying the candidate needs to have a degree in accounting, 15 years of experience and previous management background, he described the tasks the candidate would be in charge of during the first year. “Companies should emphasize the employee value proposition,” says Adler. “Highlight the work they will be doing and minimize the skills.”

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Author: Donna Fuscaldo

Freelance journalist. @donnabail

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