March 20, 2015

writing the perfect job ad to get the best employeesAttracting not only a good applicant, but the right applicant, to read and apply to your job ad centers around a very important solution: advertise to the employees you want to keep. How? It starts with writing the perfect (and legal) job ad.

First, you need to create a list of what your ideal candidate might look like. Is he or she a manager? Years of experience or a recent college graduate? What skills do require him or her to have, and what others would you prefer he or she also have? What type of personality are you looking for? Remember, a personality that will complement not only yours, but also everyone else’s in the office, is worth just as much to you as technical skills.

Once you have a list of what your ideal candidate might look like, you are ready to create the ad for your position. An effective job advertisement is like any other marketing material: it represents the culture of your business. You also want to make sure your advertisement is legal, without any wording that could be interpreted as discriminatory. Remember that if it’s in print, or on the net, it’s a permanent record!

Here are some tips for writing the perfect job ad:

  • Start off with a catchy title that is descriptive and includes the position title. Many job searchers online will only see the title and pass over many that are too general or sound boring.
  • Make your ad attractive to the best candidates. Assume you are competing for them and make your ad stand out from the rest with content that creates desire by describing the opportunity and its benefits with enthusiasm.
  • Make it about them. Traditional job ads focus on what the employer needs, but the best candidates want to know what is in it for them.
  • Motivate the candidate to take action. Put a sense of urgency in the ad so they know the opportunity won’t last long, so they must apply now.
  • Use bulleted lists for easy reading when applicable.
  • Include the rate or range of pay. Top candidates will be looking for that! You can be vague about benefits, e.g., “$15 – $20 per hour, DOE, plus production bonus” or “We offer above-average benefits.”
  • Include any certification, experience, or education requirements.
  • Include whether the job is part-time or full-time.
  • Avoid being “too clever.” Use short sentences with specific language.

Now, CEDR’s # 1 BEST Screening Tip: With the large number of applicants that can come in these days, you need a strategy to deal with the volume and filter out the candidates that are wasting your time.

The best tip we’ve found to help weed out unqualified or undesirable candidates with your job ad requires including a specific request outlining exactly how they should respond. We all need someone who follows directions well and who is paying attention to what we ask for, so give them a few steps to follow in order to apply. Ask them to respond to the ad in a particular way. If they don’t, you can automatically weed them out because they don’t have the focus, attention to detail, or ability to follow directions that you are looking for. You will be amazed at how many people will not follow your simplest directions, fast-tracking themselves to the “pass” pile.

Here’s an example of a specific job application request that works really well:

To apply, please send the following two items via email to______________________:
1. Your resume with contact information
2. Your short and thoughtful written answers to at least three of the following questions:

  • Tell us a little about yourself
  • What is the best thing about you?
  • How would your previous co-workers describe you and your work?
  • What about this job is attractive to you?
  • What does “being in service to customers” mean to you?

But more importantly, keep it legal!

Discrimination laws cover all stages of the employment relationship, from hiring to firing. You need to be careful not to state or imply that you won’t hire people from protected groups. Protected groups include people of a certain race, color, ethnicity, national origin, gender, age (over 40), disability, pregnancy, or veteran status. To be safe, use gender-neutral language. Also, avoid language that may exclude applicants based on their age or ability. For example, avoid saying, “recent college graduate,” “young and energetic,” “athletically inclined,” or “she will have organization skills.” Also, be cautious when creating your screening task. Don’t create something that would make it more difficult for someone in a protected class to comply with your request. For example, requiring someone applying for a janitor’s position to have a high school degree or write a dissertation on 12th century pottery is not a defensible filter. Keep it related and reasonable.

Finally, include a statement of “Equal Opportunity Employer” or “EOE”. This will indicate that you know the laws, and your intent is not to discriminate.

Remember, you are putting to work the concept of attracting better candidates and employees who fit exactly what you want! Keep in mind that you are choosing from a massive pool of qualified potentials. Caution: Don’t settle for the first person who comes along. You will be surprised how much the first couple of people who walk through your door match your initial list of ideal attributes and skills. Still, be patient and let the process play out so that you interview everyone.

If you have any questions about writing job ads, or if you would like to request a job ad, please call us anytime toll free at (866) 414-6056 or email us at One of our Solution Center experts will assist you.

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Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace individual guidance about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. The information on this page is general human resources guidance that is believed to be current as of the date of publication. Note that CEDR is not a law firm, and as the law is always changing, you should consult with a qualified attorney or HR expert who is familiar with all of the facts of your situation before making a decision about any human resources or employment law matter.