One of the most time-consuming parts of hiring a new employee as small business owner is writing a great job ad that will attract good candidates and then screening the resumes once your ad is published. For my small business, I always turn to Craigslist when looking for a new hire. An ad is only $25 and I always get a good response.

Apparently, I’m not alone. According to recent research, there are more than 60 million users on Craigslist posting more than a million job listings a month.

How to Write a Great Job Ad

When I was searching for a part-time research assistant for my firm just a few months ago, I did what I normally do: I placed an ad on Craigslist. And I got the usual overwhelming response—more than a hundred replies. How did I manage that? By writing a great job ad. It’s not easy, but it’s the critical first step in hiring the right employees. The right ad will draw in the right talent for your company and set the stage for a productive hiring process.

Here are the key components of a great job ad:

Introduce Your Business

What does your business do? What products or services do they provide to clients or customers? Every great job ad starts with a general overview of the company, as well as a description of the goal that the company is trying to meet by bringing on a new hire, such as research, product development, or customer service.

You can search online for examples. But let me save you the trouble. Here’s one that I really liked which I found on the job search site Monster.com.

EXAMPLE:

Customer Service Representative – Product Support at Bee Medic.
Bee Medic provides mental health professionals with high-quality neurofeedback systems and supplies while maintaining a high level of customer satisfaction through quality products and service. We are a small, dedicated team with offices in Switzerland and California who takes pride in making a dramatic difference in the field of neurofeedback. Our philosophy encompasses teamwork, respect, integrity and professionalism as a part of everyday life. We are looking to fill a full-time Customer Service Representative position to help our customers with troubleshooting support and product shipping.

Describe Your Ideal Candidate

You need to put in writing exactly the kind of candidate you’re looking for.What personal and professional traits will you be looking for during the selection process? Whatever they are, they should be clearly stated in your job ad, and they should form the basis for why a candidate was or was not chosen for the job.

EXAMPLE:

The Ideal Candidate

  • Customer-centric, consistently friendly and positive with a high level of patience.
  • Proactive and able to operate with minimal supervision.
  • Achiever with great attention to detail.
  • A strong desire to learn and grow with the real world challenges of a small company.
  • Self-starter. A team player who can work independently and within a group.

Detail the Duties and Responsibilities

Here’s where you need to get super-specific. What will this person do on a day-to-day basis? What will their tasks and goals be?

EXAMPLE:

  • Answering/directing inbound phone calls and emails.
  • Answering product questions.
  • Taking customer orders.
  • Preparing domestic and international shipments.
  • Maintaining product inventory.
  • Resolving first-level technical support issues via phone, email, and remote login, escalating when necessary.
  • Tracking customer support issues and updating the support database.
  • Maintaining/Enhancing current customer relationships.
  • Packaging deliveries for local courier services and running occasional errands.

List the Requirements

Here’s where you list out exactly what the job requires. The candidate will use this information to decide whether they are really right for the role. They may also use this section to compare this job with their own job or others in the field. In theory, this section will weed out those candidates who are not qualified (but, realistically, many of them will apply anyway).

EXAMPLE:

  • Advanced skills in Windows.
  • Bachelor’s Degree preferred.
  • Knowledge of QuickBooks a plus.
  • Ability to ship and process both domestic and international packages and required commercial documentation a plus.
  • Handle high volume and challenging calls while maintaining a professional demeanor.
  • Lift large, heavy/bulky items up to 50 lbs.
  • Experience with inventory maintenance and tracking a plus.
  • Communicative with excellent verbal/written communication skills.
  • Strong analytical and problem-solving capabilities.
  • Ability to multitask and learn new material quickly.
  • Detail-oriented.
  • Interest in learning about computer hardware and troubleshooting.
  • Ethical and honest, we built our success on long-term relationships, trust, and credibility.
  • A great attitude with the patience to teach and empower others.

Some of these skills—like having a “great attitude” and being “ethical and honest”—I probably wouldn’t include because who doesn’t feel they have these qualities? But in this section, I’m very specific as to the skills needed for the job, particularly the technical skills, and you should be too.

Provide Compensation Information

Most job ads leave out this last section, but in my opinion, compensation is kind of a big deal.

Up until this point in the job ad, the employer is explaining what they want their new hire to do for them. But what will the employer do for the employee? Remember, most people aren’t applying for your open position because they want to work. They’re applying because they have to work—because they have bills to pay and families to feed. So, how is your company going to help them meet these goals?

A salary range, offered benefits and other information that may be attractive to a potential employee (work from home opportunities, free transportation) should be included in your job ad. Employers need talent just as much as people need jobs. The more attractive you make your company and its jobs, the greater your chance of finding the right candidate.

How to Screen the Resumes

You’ve followed my advice and now you’re getting a bunch of responses. How do you qualify them so that you can choose the right candidate for the job? Here’s my process for screening resumes.

1. Categorize every resume.

For every job search, I create three folders on my computer and title them A, B and C.

  • The “C” candidates are my lowest priority and have very little chance of ever being looked at again.
  • The “B” candidates meet some of the qualifications and may be considered for the position.
  •  The “A” candidates are my top choices—definitely qualified and worth a reply.
  • Occasionally, I’ve been known to create an “AA” folder that holds a few outstanding candidates who I will consider immediately.

By the way, I keep all these resumes, particularly those of the A and B candidates. Even if they’re not chosen now they may have some use to me (or my clients) in the future. Who knows?

2. De-prioritize all Word documents.

We live in an age of malware, viruses and data breaches. And there are a lot of not-so-nice people out there who are looking for any way to spread their tech diseases. A macro fired off from a Microsoft Word doc is one of the easiest ways to do this. I’m not saying I immediately delete a Word doc, but if you send me a Word doc, I’m probably going to place it the back of the queue. I prefer PDFs—and I say so in my ad. Did you read my ad?

3. Delete anyone who did not read the ad.

If you’re living in California (or India or Russia) and you’re responding to my ad that specifically asks for someone in my local area (Philly), I immediately delete. As mentioned above, I de-prioritize a resume sent to me in Word when I specifically ask for a PDF. I also delete candidates who are seeking a full-time position when my ad states that the opportunity is part-time. If someone can’t follow the simple instructions I laid out in my Craigslist ad, how can I expect them to follow my instructions in the workplace?

4. Delete anyone who asks for more information.

For now, I’m the one asking the questions. And all I want at this point is an informative response to my ad so that I can begin the disqualification process. There will be plenty of opportunities in the future to ask questions about the job, but we’re not there yet. Almost everyone who replies to my ads gets this. I don’t have the time to deal with the few that don’t. Sorry. Delete.

5. Read cover letters.

I actually prefer cover letters to the resumes. A resume is important if a candidate makes it to the next step as it provides a lot more detailed information. But a cover letter provides a good overview of who that candidate is and what they’re about—or at least it should. It’s also a great way to determine if that candidate can communicate professionally (i.e., follow our language’s grammatical rules). (Note: I tend to disqualify those who submit materials with grammar or spelling mistakes. It’s a pet peeve.)

Finally, I don’t reply. I’m ashamed to admit this, but if you’re not in the A category, I just don’t reply.

I really should, though, and so should you because (1) it’s the professional thing to do and (2) it’s the right thing to do. Sure, I’ve had a few situations where when I do send a “thanks but no thanks” email, I get further inquiries, which just creates more work and a more difficult situation for me. But you (and I) should really work to reply to everyone, just out of courtesy.

Join writer and small business owner Gene Marks each Wednesday on the Small Biz Ahead podcast. You can submit a question for Gene to answer on the podcast.   

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