The Classified Ad: Part 2 of a series on Personal Care Assistants: A Guide To Hiring, Training, And Firing

The time has come to put a classified in the newspaper. I've defined the position of PCA/caregiver as best I can. I know when I need a personal care assistant and I know what I want them to do. I also know what I can afford to pay.

Classifieds are very expensive. You want to use as few words as possible but also describe the position as completely as possible. The idea is to give the reader a fast overview of the position and to discourage the unqualified.

Text for the Classified

Here's an example of an advertisement I ran last time I hired someone:

Run Thursday through Monday

Personal Care Assistant needed for active disabled woman. Sun-Thur 6 pm - 11 pm. Some lifting, housework. Must drive, speak, read, write English. References required. $10 per hour. Interviews Monday July 14th, 4 pm - 6 pm. Home address. For more information see website. (Substitute your address and website address)

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Run Thursday through Monday

There is also the question of when and how long to run the advertisement. I live in a small town with one newspaper that is published six days a week. I try to run my ads for about a week but not every day. I always choose at least one Saturday and whatever day the ad circulars are to appear. That's usually a Wednesday.

Some newspapers will make you pay up front for the classified but I've run so many over the years that I have an account at my newspaper. Start by deciding how long the ad is to appear. Ask if your newspaper has any specials available. It might allow you to run your classified for five days for the same money as three days.

Decoding the Classified

I start out with the job name so someone scanning the ads will see the job title first.  Next I mention that I am an "active disabled woman."  This means that I am probably looking for a female PCA and that I don't want a "sitter."

I used to write in the advertisement that I wanted a female PCA.  The newspaper refused to put that in the ad starting about five years ago.  They felt it was discriminatory against men.  Normally, I would agree but I have no intention of hiring anyone but a female for a job that involves so much "personal care."  I thought it was fair to say that upfront.  However, over the years there have been very few male applicants so I guess my message is reasonably clear.

Sun-Thur 6 pm - 11 pm

Next I list the hours, duties, and qualifications I am looking for. The use of the words "lifting" and "housework" is particularly important. This is sort of a code. It tells the reader I'm looking for someone to do some physical labor. A good strong back will be necessary.

The next section can appear discriminatory but it's not. I am stating clearly that the applicant must have a legal driver's license and be able to communicate in English. I don't give a hoot about other languages or their native language. I am expecting this person to help me with computer work, mail, lesson planning, compiling reports, telephone contacts, and my writing. I only speak English and I will be working in English. My PCA must be fluent in English.

I had one PCA who worked for me for many years who was a German native. She spoke very little English in the beginning and training her gave me an object lesson in how much I depend on my PCA understanding English. Fortunately, this woman was very bright and became fluent in speaking and writing English quickly.

References Required

Next comes "references required." Very important also. This lets the applicant know that I will expect names and telephone numbers of folks she has worked for or knows personally. The prepared interviewee will come with this information written or typed up. I always take a second look at the ladies that don't bring this minimal information.

I have listed how much I'll be paying per hour. Again, I like this information upfront so I don't waste the time of someone who would be expecting a great deal more.

I list the time and date of interviews. When I first started, I put my telephone number in the newspaper so ladies wanting more information could speak to me directly. Never again!

I got tons of telephone calls from women who had no real interest in the position. Some were just bored and calling up people in the ads. Others were from the nutty group who wanted to heal me, convert me, or sell me something.

What people believe or practice is none of my concern but do not call me up and try to con me by pretending to be interested in a job. It's rude and unfair. I wasted hours talking on the phone with people who were never going to apply.

Interviews Monday July 14th, 4 pm - 6 pm

Over the years, I developed the attitude that if someone really wants the job they can show up for an interview. I always schedule my interviews during the time of day that I am actually hiring for. Many ladies have other jobs or responsibilities that make coming at other times difficult.

If someone wants the position but can't make the interview then they can, at least, drop-off some sort of resume so I can contact them later.

I include my web address where I have posted a complete job description. (See part three of this series for an example of a written job description.) That way they can look at my full requirements and make a decision about if they want an interview.

I set a two-hour window for the interviews so I don't kill an entire day waiting for people to wander by. I also try to run the interviews as efficiently as possible.  These women have taken time out of their day to see me.  This is time for which they are not getting paid.  Just as I don’t want to waste my time on a dead-end interview, I feel it’s unfair to waste their time by giving incomplete information about the nature of the job.

Overall, I feel that the more information I can give someone about the job before I meet them, the better chance I have that the women I am interviewing are serious about working for me.  I have to spend a lot of time and money to go through the interview process.  The last thing I want is to decide on someone who then decides that the job is not what they thought it would be. That means I have to start all over and spend more money on another classified. More than that, I have to waste time, which I have very little of, on another round of interviews.

I’ll write more about the interview process in the next part of this series.

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