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Help Wanted: How to Write a Job Advertisement

By Mariah Collins, SHRM-CP on Sep 02, 2021
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How To Write a Compliant Job Advertisement

When a small or mid-sized business has a job opening that it cannot fill internally, the next logical step is to create a job advertisement to get the position in front of the public. However, writing a job ad is not always such a simple proposition. The task can be especially challenging when HR professionals are not sure of which things to include. As they soon discover, there is more to posting the ad than describing the daily duties.

Job Advertisements Must Be Compliant

Small business owners are busy people who do not always have time to research the latest federal and state compliance regulations. Unfortunately, lack of time or knowledge is not a defense against creating unintentionally discriminatory job descriptions. Many of our clients have discovered this the hard way by accidentally violating mandates of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) with seemingly harmless job ads.

What Should a Job Advertisement Include?

Assigning an appropriate job title to an opening is essential to attract high-quality applicants with the right skill set to apply. On a base level, a job ad should identify what the applicant will do and at what level within the company.

For example, the job title of Sales Manager describes the department applicants would work for and the primary expectation of their position. The goal of including the job title with an ad is to pique the curiosity of job applicants enough for them to keep reading. The job title draws their attention, while the remainder of the ad provides the details they need to decide if they may be qualified enough to apply.

We have noticed a recent trend here at Axcet where companies replace standard job titles with ones that they think will draw more attention. Instead of advertising for a Sales Manager, a small or mid-sized business might use the term Sales Warrior or Motivation Chief instead. The problem with this approach is that serious job candidates may feel put off by it. Another thing to consider is that online job boards optimize certain search terms and anything out of the ordinary may receive little attention from job seekers.

five tips for writing a compelling job advertisement

Describe the Purpose and Primary Duties of the Role

Every job exists for a reason, and it is the responsibility of the organization offering the job to define that reason. The role objective is similar to a thesis statement in a college paper in that both provide a high-level overview of the detailed information to follow. The role objective should briefly describe why the company is hiring for the position, what the company expects the person who accepts the position to accomplish, and how they should go about accomplishing it. It should be the opening statement that really draws in the potential applicant.

The job objective should naturally segue into a description of the specific responsibilities of the role. Since most people skim when they read, using bullet points is an effective way to present the information in an easily digestible manner. Even so, each bullet point should provide an adequate description of the duty and the company’s expectations related to it. The more detail an employer provides, the more likely it is that a person reading the ad will recognize several of the duties from a current or former position.

It is important for businesses to use precise industry terminology when creating a job description. Providing descriptions of duties that are too broad will make it more challenging for applicants to recognize their own previous experience and cause them to bypass applying for the open position.

Related: Job Seeker and Employer Ghosting; a Rising Trend >>

Outline What the Applicant Needs to Bring to the Position

All employers expect employees to bring certain knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) to the job without the company needing to provide training for them. To attract the desired caliber of applicants, employers must be specific about the KSAs they expect new employees to have acquired from previous jobs, education, and life experience. Here is another way of communicating expectations regarding KSAs:

  • Knowledge refers to fundamental information required for the position the prospective employee must already have. For example, an insurance agent must know the distinct types of policies available to commercial clients.
  • Skills refer to actions that employees must be able to complete immediately after starting with little training or oversight. A good example here would be an administrative assistant knowing how to operate the Microsoft Office suite before starting the job.
  • Abilities describe certain behaviors required to perform the job according to employer expectations. The director of a small preschool would be perfectly reasonable to expect new teachers to have patience and the ability to present new information to students in an age-appropriate manner.

The job ad should also cover education and experience requirements. Many organizations use a combination of years of formal education and on-the-job experience to determine whether to target entry-level, mid-level, or experienced job applicants. Although employers can be flexible in how they calculate years of education and direct experience, the job description should state the minimum acceptable requirement for each.

The most important thing to keep in mind when determining education and experience requirements is to be mindful of just how necessary those requirements are to the position. If employers put unreasonable education and experience requirements that would be hard to prove necessary to the position, this could lead to unintentional discrimination against applicants.

Related: 7 Reasons Up-to-Date Job Descriptions Are a Must >>

Salary Range for the Open Position

Businesses do not legally have to list a salary in a job advertisement but providing a range can prevent frustration for both parties. On the other hand, being too specific about salary expectations can lock employers into paying more than they expected to entice the best candidate to accept the position. Here are some tips we recommend based on our years of experience assisting clients with job postings:

  • Companies should list the salary range directly below the job title when it is highly competitive, or if they want to emphasize it.
  • Businesses that pay a consistent, pre-determined amount for specific positions can include a salary range anywhere in a job description.
  • If the applicant’s starting salary is entirely dependent on qualifications, companies can consider listing the minimum salary for that position and note that those with more experience or other qualifications may expect to earn more.

Related: Recruiting - How to Get More Job Applicants >>

Be Sure to Include Instructions About the Application Process

Prospective employees need to know how to submit their resume and cover letter, along with any other applicant instructions expected of them. Employers should end a job advertisement with this information to ensure that people do not miss it.

Writing an effective, compliant job advertisement is no easy feat, but Axcet HR Solutions is available to offer guidance on this and much more. We welcome small and mid-sized business owners in the Kansas City metropolitan area to schedule a consultation to learn more about our services.

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