Ink-Dipped Advice: An Ad That Attracts

Last week, I talked about ads looking for writers that guarantee I won’t pitch. This week, I’ll talk about common-sense elements to include in your ad, especially if you’re a small business.

Your business. It amazes me how many ads don’t detail the focus of the business. A bit of background on where you were, where you are, where you want to go, helps. Just a sentence or two. I’m too old for that kind of mystery. I want to know what you do. “Fast -paced office” isn’t enough. I want to know if you’re a realtor, a construction business, a landscaper, a dentist — tell me what you do.

Job description. Detail the responsibilities and expectations. Think about what you want. Then do some research on job scopes to see what is realistic. If you want to hire a writer to create advertising, marketing, and promotional materials, you want to hire a writer, not someone who answers the phone and jots down a few things in between calls. If you want something with visuals, bring in a team of writer and graphic designer. Few graphic designers write well. While more and more writers are adding graphic and web skills, that design eye of a graphic artist will take the material to the next level. It may be that what you want and need requires more than one individual. Be clear about perks and benefits included. If none are, state that. You have to know what you want and need, and balance it with realistic skill expectations.

Hours expected per week and work location. Be specific on the hours or hour range you expect every week. Do you expect your writer to work in the office? If you do, make sure you have a place for them to work. Perched on a chair with a laptop across the knees in the garage is not an acceptable work space. Lighting is important. Make sure you have good light for the tasks required. (That doesn’t need to be in the ad, but it’s something to consider when setting up work space). What kind of breaks do you offer? How much time for a meal break? Is the meal break paid or unpaid? Check with your state’s Department of Labor to make sure you follow their guidelines. Is the job remote? Is the job onsite? Are you willing to do a mix of on site and remote? Are there hours outside of normal business hours, and, if so, what are they? What is your policy on holidays?

Your target market. Who is your market? Who is the market you want to reach? What kind of gap is there between them? You’ll expand on this discussion in the interview process.

Length of job. Are you looking for someone to join the staff, or contract for a particular project? Be clear. Don’t dangle “this could lead to more work.” Most skilled writers will roll their eyes and move on. Maybe-somedays don’t cut it. If you wind up being a good match on this project, then suggest working together in a longer-term capacity.

Pay. Is it fixed or is there a range? If you list “negotiable,” listing the range is even more important. If you do the latter, be willing to negotiate. That means, when the prospect comes back with a counteroffer, you give it serious thought and return with another offer. A real one, not re-iterating the original price. If you’re not willing to negotiate, state the rate. Don’t hope a candidate will offer you a lower one. Again, do your research. Look at the salary ranges for the position and don’t assume you can lowball and get quality. Salary.com is a great resource for individuals on both sides of the hiring table.

Contact Information. Email address or mailing address to which materials can be sent. Contact person. If you do not want phone calls, state it in the ad. Candidates who don’t respect your preferred contact method can be tossed.

The above information should be in clean, error-free copy with a tone that matches the tone of the work environment. Is the workplace Formal? Flexible? Don’t call it a “creative” environment when what you mean is “disorganized.” There’s a difference. Read the ad. Would you want to work for this particular business, in this particular environment, if it wasn’t yours? Let an interesting, vivacious ad reflect your business.

Material to Ask From Candidates:
Cover Letter. A cover letter should address the job, why the candidate is interested, relevant experience, and express some of the candidate’s personality. It should also demonstrate grammar, spelling, and writing skill, and be free of typos.

Resume. This gives you an idea of the person’s experience. If the experience is vastly different from the job, go back to the cover letter to see why the candidate wants a change, and see if the reason resonates. The out-of-the-box choice could be the right one. If the candidate doesn’t mention the disparity between resume and reason for pitching for this job, it’s a red flag for you.

Website link. Most professionals have their own website. Many have samples on the site or links to samples. Ask for the link and take a look around.

Samples from portfolio or clip file. Decide if you want links, attachments, and in the format you want them. Do you want .doc? .docx? PDF? Do not expect a candidate to write a sample specific to your company unless you pay for the test. You should be able to read one or two samples and get a sense of the candidate’s style, and see if that works with what you do.

Contact information. Most candidates will have it on their resumes and/or cover letter. It doesn’t hurt to ask. Also, let them know how you plan to contact them to set up an interview.

Where do you post?

Chamber of Commerce. Most chambers allow job postings. You’ll get to support other chamber members and, since it’s a community of businesses and those who want to work for them, a high quality of business-savvy responses.

Your Own Website. You’ll often get a high quality of candidate, because the candidates made the effort to find and research you. They can also look through your site, to see if it’s the right fit. Make sure you put the link to the job on social media.

Media Bistro. A good place to find professionals from all over the country. You’ll get great candidates. They will also expect solid rates well within the range for the position.

Hire Culture. If you’re in Massachusetts, or willing to work remotely with a MA-based writer, Hire Culture is a site that pairs arts-based professionals with business. Arts-related businesses and non-profits in particular can find solid candidates here.

Career Centers. In Massachusetts, the Department of Labor partners with “Career Centers.” Job candidates use these for unemployment filing, resume writing workshops, and career retraining. These sites offer job boards. It’s a good place to find both early-career and mature workers with experience who are looking for a new job because their position was eliminated, or because they want a career change. Check with your state’s Department of Labor for the equivalent.

Indeed and ZipRecruiter are popular, often used by larger companies. It’s a way to get the ad out to a large pool; but you’ll also receive a large pool of unqualified applicants.

What about Craigslist? Many small, local businesses post on Craigslist. It’s hit or miss. I glance through Craigslist here and there if I need a quick fill-in project. It’s rare the ads interest me or the pay meets my range. Every now and again, there’s something that makes me take a second look, but I don’t count on it. Small business owners I know who post on Craigslist complain to me about the low quality candidates who respond. I don’t recommend posting on Craigslist if you want a seasoned, professional writer. As an FYI, the above-mentioned Career Centers in my area warn job seekers they are not allowed to list Craigslist ads in their weekly job search logs that are submitted for unemployment benefits.

As a writer, I am far more likely to pitch to a business who provides the above and asks for the above. If I’m sent to a link that has a form to fill out, unless the job pays well above my normal rate, I usually don’t apply. You’re hiring a person, not an algorithm. Algorithms don’t find creative thinkers. They find people who’ve learned the game of filling in boxes the way the computer wants (which has little to do with the person’s actual skills, other than being able to outwit an algorithm), or whose lives fit into boxes. At a certain point, professional, creative people decide to ditch the boxes and those who use them, because they’ve earned their way beyond the forms. Most forms have little to do with the actual job. You get more from reading a well-written resume. I’d rather create my own pitch packages, relevant to an individual company. I also expect to be treated like an individual. Please don’t expect me to re-key my resume into your form, especially if I’ve attached said resume. That’s insulting.

Next week, I’ll focus more on writers, and where I’ve found the best (for me) jobs.

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