Jolie Kanat

How to Write the Perfect Job Ad for The Perfect Administrator

How on earth do you write a job ad for that perfect executive assistant, administrator, or executive office manager?  They will be the key to your peace of mind, your organized life, and possibly your very sanity.  So this is an important search!

The secret is basically this: just like you want the right candidate, your perfect candidate wants the right job, for the right salary, in the right environment.  So know what you want and ask for what you want.  Be certain, clear, concise, and complete.

What to Do

Your potential candidate will be offering their skills, their dedication, and a lot of their time to the position.  And in exchange, like any of us, they want to know what the quid pro quo will be.

From your point of view, you want to weed out those who are unqualified, attract your star candidate and get the most bang for your buck.  So, it’s a two-way street.

Just clarify your requirements, so your potential star can discern whether or not yours is the right job, for the right salary, in the right environment.

What Not to Do

What not to do, is to demand an encyclopedic list of super human requirements or ask one person to do what would actually be four jobs in a more well-organized company.  One example of this common mistake would be listing requirements that include bookkeeping, marketing, sales, office management, payroll, and human resources.  And calling that your executive or administrative assistant.

Understanding the Difference Between You and the New Hire

For administrative jobs particularly, the most common errors are too short an ad, or more commonly, the four-page job description that implies “just do everything and always be available.”  When you are a business owner, there is a tendency to expect from your potential employees the same degree of fervor that you display for your business.  The truth is that “just do everything and always be available” is a great job description…for the business owner.  That is how businesses get built.  And the owners share in the profits and success of their boundless labors.  However, when it is time to finally expand your business and get that first, or subsequent administrative employee, it is important to understand that an employee is not you.  They are an employee with a clear and defined job description, and a clear and defined salary or compensation agreement.  And unless you are running a co-op, they will not own the business.  Because they are not going to reap the same benefits as you do, they should not be asked to be as infinitely dedicated as you are for considerably less compensation.  This practice has actually been frowned upon since the feudal lords freed the serfs.

Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say

First, plan and understand the exact parameters of the job itself. And then be clear, concise, and complete in your description.

What works best is a very succinct, legally acceptable definition of the job.  The template lines can look like this:

The Job Title

The Chain of Command or Reports

The Company Product or Service Provided

The Location and Hours

The General Responsibilities and Requirements of the Job

The Company Culture

The Exact Compensation

Format for Resume Submission

The Response Information

What to Avoid

Avoid subjective descriptions in your ad. For example, your request for a “jack of all trades” could attract that one-person band you are praying for, or a dilettante, not particularly skilled in any one area.  Your “flexible hours” may be interpreted by your dream applicant as, “I can be available 24/7,” or by the others as, “I get to sleep in!”  When an ad includes fuzzy requirements such as “energetic,” or “sense of humor,” these can be interpreted as:  There will be lots of high level activity and laughter, or–the executive you will be working for is a little sideways, so be prepared to have to run around for no good reason and laugh with them not at them.

Avoid descriptions that are foreshortened or overly lengthy.  Include your real must haves, not the tiny details.  Just because some online ad sites allow an infinite number of lines, there is no need to list pages and pages of Responsibilities, Qualifications, Requirements.  These can actually be more off-putting than helpful.  It is highly unusual for your best candidate to be capable of every small point on that list. Your best candidate is the one who comes in with the unconditional essentials, who fits with the group, and who is competent enough to catch on quickly with the rest.

Remember, you will see their resume and cover letter and be able to discern for yourself whether they are qualified enough for an interview.  The ad simply helps you invite the candidates that have been well filtered by the ad.

The Purpose of the Ad

The ad is meant to attract a resume from your perfect administrator.  It is not meant to be an employee training manual and does not need to describe visits to the post office, dry cleaners, ability to multi-task, writing letters, bathroom breaks, or taking meeting notes.  The candidate can discern most of those from the essentials (“personal errands” for example), if well written.

The details are for the interview. In the interview you get to see the look on their face when an otherwise excellent candidate winces slightly about the unexpected dog walking, babysitting, or the 24/7 cell access you may require of them, and you can both discuss options if you need to.

The Salary Should Not Be A Quiz

Under “compensation” in a job posting, it is a very common for employers to write, “Salary is DOE” (Dependent Upon Experience).  No doubt many employers have their reasons for not revealing the salary.  But it is an odd practice.  It violates letting your star candidate know that they will be getting the right job, for the right salary, in the right environment.  Unless he or she is a lottery winner just looking to give back, your candidate is looking for a job because they want to be able to pay their bills.

Let’s say you wished to buy a car and read an ad with an unclear written description, a blurry picture and a $45,000 price tag.  Then in order to see a clear picture you had to submit a credit application, and then after an interview, they would let you see a picture of the car.  You might be put off, maybe not even be willing to go for a demo drive.  In any situation that calls for an exchange of a “product” (the employee’s time and talents) for compensation (salary and benefits), letting your candidate know exactly what they are being asked to give and what they will receive in return will attract a viable candidate, create clear expectations and save time.  The salary for an administrator is paramount in the job search and should be stated.

Sometimes employers write, “Please include your salary requirements.”  This works for contractors who have a set hourly rate, but for your part time or full time employee, this can be awkward. “Salary requirements” encompass many arbitrary issues, such as difficulty of the job, salary history, hours of the job, skill level, personal need level, and more.  As the employer you have a budget and some idea of the compensation for this employee.  Maybe you are thinking you can weed out the candidate who wants more than what you offer, and snag one who is expecting less.  But this sort of juggling act also weeds out qualified candidates who are not comfortble with the guessing game.

Better just to name a salary, or salary range, benefits, and incentives.  It will alleviate the guessing game, double the effectiveness of your ad and save you time dealing with applicants who are dissatisfied with the salary once they hear what it is.

In the higher levels of executive hiring, there is often the expected and acceptable practice of negotiating for salary.  For a non-executive administrative position, it is your job as the hiring party to adjudicate if your applicant is qualified and worth what you are offering, not theirs to tell you.

The Perfect Ad for the Perfect Applicant

Remember, your perfect applicant is looking at hundreds of online ads.  And they may be experiencing “ad fatigue.”  To help avoid this, here is your template with examples:

Job Title: Executive Admin Assistant:  We are looking for an experienced C level executive administrator for our busy rockstar CEO and VP.

You Will Be Reporting To: CEO and VP.  You will have no direct reports.

Company Products or Services: We package potatoes and sell them wholesale to retailers

Company Location: Downtown, USA

Hours: Mon-Friday, full time from 9:00 to 5:00 [if flexible, state the days and range, i.e. “May be needed two Saturdays a month, afternoons”]

Unconditional Job Requirements:

  • 2-3 years experience in a top-level, high-pressure, deadline-oriented executive environment as an administrative assistant to high level corporate officers
  • Intermediate to advanced MS Office, calendaring, HR liaison, travel, corporate correspondence, personal errands
  • Proven clear thinker, well organized, level headed, solution oriented
  • Self-starter, efficient, productive, works well with a team
  • No physical labor but must be able to lift 25 pounds for paper storage.

[Remember, describe the requirements in five bullet points, maximum. Clear and exact. You can explain anything more in the job interview. You will have seen their resume by then].

Company Culture: We are a fun-loving, but high-production, successful corporate business.  The dress code is casual with Denim Fridays, a ping pong table, a video game break room, and a bean bag chill-areum with free lattes.

Salary, benefits, incentives, extras: $44,000 annually, medical, dental, PTO, 401K, free French Fries on Fridays, private office, parking, company T-shirt with our “No Hate-O Potato” logo.

How to submit resume: in body of email, or as Word or pdf attachment.  Include a cover letter.  Put “Administrative Assistant” in the subject heading.  No phone calls or faxes, please, as that just gets confusing.

How, when, and if we will contact you: by phone or email within two weeks of submission, but only for qualified applicants, which we hope you are!

This template can be applied to a Personal Assistant, Office Manager, Executive Assistant, or Office Assistant. With some of your own creative tweaks it can also be actually applied to any job ad at all.

Happy hunting!

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