Guide to writing job adverts – for small business owners

Advertising for a new member of staff is something many business owners will need to do. Whether it’s because an existing employee is leaving, or a new role is being created, advertising for job vacancies is part and parcel of running a business.

One of the first steps for many businesses seeking a new employee will be to write a job advert. However, there are legal implications, as well as practical concerns regarding the advertising of job vacancies, that employers need to be aware of.

If you get this crucial part of the recruitment process right, the next steps are more likely to go smoothly, but get it wrong and you could get into hot water.

Why it’s important to get job adverts right

Having a well worded, comprehensive advert will help attract the right type of candidate and target the correct pool of candidates. This saves the business time as employers will not have to sift through a large number of unsuitable applicants before choosing those to progress to the next stage.

The advert is also the first step in the recruitment process so getting this right ensures that hiring can proceed without delay.

From the start, the advert needs to attract the best person for the role as having the right people significantly impacts whether a business succeeds or not.

It will also save time and money in the long run as it will hopefully avoid having to carry out another recruitment process if this person is not capable of carrying out the job.

What to do before writing a job advert

Before creating the advert itself, employers need to consider the operational side of advertising a role. This includes deciding how applicants should respond to the advert, whether this is by application form, CV or covering letter, and deciding what the next steps in the process are.

Some employers use later steps such as an assessment centre or a written test to examine whether applicants have required skills and this needs to be decided in advance.

Creating the job advert

When writing the advert, employers need to ensure it has all the necessary information contained in it to make it clear and understandable.

The first step is to consider the job itself; what does the role entail and what skills, qualifications or aptitudes should a person carrying out the job possess?

This is the most important information and should be contained within the advert or, if there are space restrictions, an indication of where this information can be found should be included.

The advert should also contain information on pay, location, the type and duration of the employment contract, how to apply and a closing date for applications. The closing date should be as clear as possible; rather than using “by” a certain date consider using “on and including” the date to avoid any interpretation issues.

Discriminatory risks when recruiting staff

The wording of an advert is an area where discrimination crops up unconsciously. The Equality Act 2010 applies to job candidates so adverts should not discriminate on the grounds of any of the nine protected characteristics, including age, sex, disability, etc.

Wording such as “youthful”, “energetic” and “mature” should be avoided as this indicates the advert is only aimed at those of a certain age. Instead, employers should consider what they actually require and set this out instead.

For example, if the employer wants an experienced candidate, rather than using the word “mature”, the advert should specify that the applicant will need to provide evidence they have prior experience or can demonstrate the necessary skills.

Gender specific job titles should also be avoided where possible as this indicates the preferred sex of the applicant i.e. employers should use waiting staff rather than waitress or waiter.

As well as avoiding discriminatory phrases, employers should ensure the advert asks applicants whether they require any reasonable adjustments to be made to the recruitment process. This highlights the employer’s positive stance regarding equal opportunities and will remove any risk that the employer’s duty to make reasonable adjustments has been missed.

In some cases, the role may require the person to contain a particular protected characteristic, for example, the requirement for nurses in a domestic abuse facility to be women.

In these situations, the employer needs to show that the discriminatory requirement is an occupational requirement which is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

Examples of a legitimate aim include the requirement for authenticity, safety or privacy, however, the aims of achieving this still need to be necessary and employers must have a sound business reasons for using a discriminatory advert.

Placing the job advert

Again, this is an important consideration for employers as placing an advert in the wrong place will limit the number of suitable people who see this. Employers should advertise in more than one place to avoid restricting the audience unnecessarily.

Advertising internally is a great starting point for employers. The best applicant may already be working in the business and the employer is already aware of their skills and personality from their current performance. Not only does this give current employees the opportunity to develop, it also saves costs and time.

Internal applications should be dealt with in the same manner as external candidates to avoid any claims of favouritism or discrimination.

Placing adverts on the internet or in newspapers also needs to be carefully considered to ensure these are best placed. Factors such as circulation, target audience, cost and sector will have an impact on how successful these methods are.

This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Peter Done, Managing Director of Peninsula Business Services – the UK’s leading specialist Employment Law, HR and Health & Safety service.

Last updated: 23rd March, 2022

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