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How to Write An Effective Help Wanted Ad

Updated on February 16, 2010

The ad read:

Front office receptionist needed with good people skills for medical office. Experience preferred.

So I called. I have tons of customer service and office skills, and once I learn the office routine, answering patient questions and making appointments should be a piece of cake. The first thing the woman at the medical office asked me was, did I have experience with dental insurance. I said no, and she replied by saying that the doctor wanted a person to do the insurance duties. To verify, I asked if that was what the job truly was. She said yes, and I told her that the ad was very misleading. She agreed and we hung up.

This was not my first encounter with poorly written help wanted ads. Many ads are deceptive or just plain inaccurate. When the doctor put experience wanted, he should have been clear that insurance experience was the only thing he was after.

Another ad read: Administrative skills, phones, clerical, good attitude. When I called, the first question they asked me was, “Can you lift 50 pounds?” I wanted to say, not without a forklift, but I answered no and she said, sorry, and hung up. Wow. Since this was such a critical element shouldn’t they have included it in their ad?

A vet clinic wanted: office/reception help with vet tech experience optional. My love for animals led me to this ad. I can do the office tasks and I have tended to my fair share of animal medical crisis, so I sent in a resume. The clinic called me in for an interview.

Turns out that their optional vet tech experience really meant they wanted someone to assist during surgical procedures. Yikes. They vividly described scenarios and asked if I could stand facing those situations. I wasn’t sure. They also wanted you to be able to drag 40 pounds of dog food to the front of the building when clients bought the product. Yikes and double yikes.

The ad should have read: Vet tech needed with some reception/office experience. They could have also added the lifting requirement.

How To Capture Your Audience

After reading Help Wanted Ads during the last year, I have a few suggestions for those writing the ads.

1. Know what you want the job to be.

This may entail writing out a chart or a short outline so you can see what the job really is. The title of the job is not as important as the duties. Think through everything you want the person to do and write it down. Once it is written you can condense the wordage.

2. If you have an essential requirement, like needing someone to lift heavy objects, include that.

This will eliminate unnecessary callers. If I see an ad about lifting, I now avoid it because if that task is that important to the job, I won’t be able to fulfill it.

3. Avoid phrases like; good attitude, clean appearance, happy people wanted, fun environment.

While it may be true that your employees have fun on the job, most businesses lack a carnival environment. Everyone wants to have fun on the job. Promising one might be a disappointment later if the applicant finds the job otherwise.

As for appearance and attitude phrases, everyone thinks they look good, and that they have a good attitude. What you deem as good someone else may not. These catch phrases are unnecessary and use up valuable words.

4. Mention if the job is full or part-time.

If someone is looking for full time and it is not specified, they will use up your time and effort if all you are offering is part-time. And those looking for part-time will be glad to see if the job they are looking for is really under 40 hours.

5. Be clear and mean what you write.

Don’t say, for example, that you “will train” if that training involves the applicant spending a $1000.00 on a course you are offering in order for them to fill the position. Likewise, if your office needs someone to have a license in real estate, for example, say so in the ad. Don’t wait to tell the interviewee that requirement once they show up in your office. Say so in the ad, as to not waste valuable time and resources.

6. Be short and to the point.

Phrases like; dental, vision, life insurance benefits, are probably not necessary. If you offer any benefits, simply saying “benefits” is most likely enough since everyone is looking for benefits these days.

And say you need someone to show houses for you on weekends. Instead of saying: Looking for fun people to aid me in finding new buyers in real estate market every weekend, say: Show Houses for realtor. Weekend hours only.

7. Make sure your contact information is correct.

This seems like a no-brainer, but there are those that don’t double check what they are writing or sending to the printer. Once I emailed a potential employer only to have it kick back saying the address was invalid. On another ad there was no contact info at all. This may have been the paper’s fault, but none-the-less, make sure you triple check the contact numbers and addresses with the media you are advertising with before you spend your money to advertise.

8. Give the job seeker a hint of what your company is.

Many ads leave this out. Especially ones that include an email contact. This can be disconcerting to the potential employee. When you have no idea to whom you are sending, you may be hesitant to send in a resume which contains personal information. If you don’t want to put the company name in the ad, include what you do. If your company sells shoes and your name is “Patterson’s Walk-About”, you could simply say; Shoe store looking for office administrator. This way the job seeker knows up front that if they hate shoes, this may not be the place for them to spend their time.


Don't Skimp

Writing a good help wanted ad can take a little time. Don’t skimp on the time necessary to write a clear concise ad. Telling a potential employee what you are really looking for is the most important element in finding a good candidate. Everyone’s time is valuable, even the unemployed. Someone looking for a job is facing many issues. You may think that they are sitting around all day watching television, but the fact is, those looking for work are carrying heavy loads of self-doubt and worry. They may also be facing terrible financial difficulties. When an ad misrepresents the position you are seeking, it becomes very discouraging to the unemployed and hard on you because those who may be qualified may be passing you by because you left out an essential element for the job you hope to fill.

Use your time and money wisely. There are many people hoping and waiting for that perfect position, and it very likely may be yours. Writing a crisp clear ad is a great way to start


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I think this is a real great blog post.Much thanks again. degfkkkbabed

    • Cindy Letchworth profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Letchworth 

      7 years ago from Midwest, U.S.A.

      Thanks Midasfx. I totally agree with you.

    • Midasfx profile image


      7 years ago

      It kills me when I see ads with no company name or hints towards what they do. The ad could ask for "strong labor help on graveyard shift" when they send you to the interview they didn't mention you'd be an assistant to an embalmer in a

    • Cindy Letchworth profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Letchworth 

      7 years ago from Midwest, U.S.A.

      Thanks Lisa. Hope it helps.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This is awsome

    • Cindy Letchworth profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Letchworth 

      9 years ago from Midwest, U.S.A.

      Thanks Sandi S. for your thoughts on this subject. Glad to see you again.

    • profile image

      Sandi S 

      9 years ago

      I agree with Frieda. That is a lot of great information.

      When you really think about it, it is a lot of just plain

      common sense but for some reason common sense goes right

      out the door.

      Thank you Cindy for the great information hopefully someone

      out there who is writing job wanted ads will take this


    • Cindy Letchworth profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Letchworth 

      9 years ago from Midwest, U.S.A.

      Thanks Frieda!

    • Frieda Babbley profile image

      Frieda Babbley 

      9 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

      Oh wow. Great info here. Thanks, Cindy.


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