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If employers complain about one thing above anything else, it's the lack of good people, something universally referred to as "the crippling skills shortage".

But have you ever asked yourself the question: "Why aren't the right people coming to me?"

You have a vacancy and you need someone to fill it. Whatever medium you decide to use to advertise it, be it newspaper, magazine or Internet, you need to do it in a way that makes people want to come and work for you.

A job advertisement is exactly that - an advertisement. You are selling the job and the company to the reader. Ironically, the biggest mistake recruiters make when writing a job advert is exactly the same as that made by poor applicants - they just don't sell themselves.

A good ad, no matter what size, can be easily split into five key areas and all need to be covered:

  * What is the company and what does it do?

  * What is the actual job?

  * Who exactly is the company looking for?

  * How much are they going to get paid?

  * How do they apply?

First, never assume that the reader knows who you are and what you do. And don't just tell them what you do, tell them why you're the best at it. Tell them why you're a great, successful, growing business and anybody coming to work for you will be so lucky they'll never leave.

This sounds over the top, but remember, it's a sales job. Here's an example:

Sales manager needed for 60-bedroom, five-star hotel in Wynfield. Job will also cover restaurant.

Compare that with the next one. Which would be more likely to get you reaching for your CV?

The Grand Hotel in picturesque Wynfield needs a dynamic new sales manager. With 60 bedrooms, we're one of the biggest hotels in the city and our restaurant has won the Wynfield Eats Out award for the past three years. Have you got what it takes to makes us even more successful?

The trick is, don't be shy.

Second, you need to tell the potential applicant exactly what the job is. Make sure you detail exactly the level of responsibility and the main duties, but sell the challenges and what the job may lead to in the future. If the job has become vacant because the previous incumbent has been promoted, then slip that in.

Again, look at this example:

Sales manager needed. Will manage sales team of three, covering conference and hotel side of the business.

Yawn. Now compare it with this:

Sales manager needed. Heading up a tight-knit team of dedicated sales staff, you will be responsible for a budget of $1m a year covering our award-wining conference hotel. We plan to double the size of our facilities in the next two years and need you to help us grow the team to 12. Our last sales manager has been picked by the head office to cover the whole country. Can you step into his shoes?

Third, you need to tell the reader all the skills, qualifications and attributes you think anyone filling your vacancy will need. This is as much for you as it is for them, as it will filter out an awful lot of people who aren't what you want.

You still need to apply the hard sell, but many companies put lots of buzzwords in this part that sound good but are of little practical use.

For example:

We want a sales manager who can think outside the box, inspire, lead, and deliver quality and excellence.

Yes, I'm sure you do, but that doesn't help the applicant reading the advert decide whether he has what you're looking for.

Stick with the hard facts:

We want a sales manager with at least three years' experience in a tough hotel conference sales environment. He or she must be of graduate caliber, have at least one industry qualification and be able to prove an outstanding sales track record.

In other words, leave the questions about "thinking outside the box" to the interview - that way you can ask for examples.

Fourth, you need to tell them what they're going to get paid, or more precisely, what the benefits package will be. Most people scanning a page of ads gauge their suitability by the title and the wage. They may be a sales manager on $20,000, so if they spy another sales manager's job for $120,000, they know it's out of their league.

Again, the reader wants the detail as succinctly as possible. Bullet points are useful here, for example:

  * $25,000 a year salary
  * 25 days vacation
  * Company car
  * Pension
  * Relocation package

Of course, not all companies like to give details of salary and benefits, preferring to hedge their bets with phrases like: "An excellent competitive salary and benefits package is available to the right candidate." Which, to most potential candidates, is about as helpful as the obsession with thinking outside the box.

The reasons for not wanting to specify a salary are obvious, but it means you will have to spend a long time making sure the details of duties and responsibilities are completely clear. Otherwise you'll get applications from totally inappropriate people way above, or way below, the level you're looking for.

One way around this is to specify a salary range, such as "$25,000- $35,000" which will at least help the bemused applicant. The problems will probably then come when you offer them the job and they get the $25,000 rather than the $35,000, but at least you will have found someone you want.

Finally, how do you want them to apply? The covering letter and resume is traditional, but many people have e-mail these days and this is more convenient both for you and them. However, e-mail has an air of informality about it that many employers don't like.

Do you want to give out a phone number for anybody who is after more details? Potentially irritating if you're expecting a lot of applicants, but it does give you a chance to further assess applicants.

Don't be afraid to ask for extra information if you need it. Details of current salary is the most common thing to ask for, but if you want references, or examples of their work, then stick that in as well.

The job advertisement is the potential applicant's window into your company. If you want to attract the right people, you need to make sure they know you're there, know what you're about and why you need them. Think of it like reception in a hotel: no matter how nice the rooms are, if there's nobody at the desk then customers can't check in.


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