HOW did you wind up working for the company you're presently working for in the position you're currently in?
Did you wander in off the street because you were looking for a job as a project manager or estimator and just stumbled across an opportunity? Did you fall in love with someone whose parents happen to own a large mechanical contracting firm and they made you a project manager/estimator out of benevolent nepotism after you married their child?
Probably not. One primary method of locating a decent position with a decent company is using your network of vendor salesmen to find something for you. Or else you answered a classified ad that you found either here in Contractor, your local newspaper or possibly at a resume collection Web site.
In this market of virtually no unemployment and few qualified project managers and estimators looking for work, writing an effective classified ad to get the attention of those three truly worthy candidates out of 300,000 who might scan your ad becomes more and more important.
As someone who has hired and been hired many times during his career, please permit some opinions on what does and does not make a well-written help-wanted ad for the trade.
1. Always, always, ALWAYS have your company name somewhere in the ad! Ads with anonymous reply-to fax numbers and blind mailboxes are for cowards! What do you have to hide? Does your company have such a poor reputation that you figure that if your company's name is in the ad, then most qualified applicants won't bother to apply?
Want to write me an angry e-mail because this pronouncement is stirring some emotions in you? Go ahead! If this is hitting close to home, then there's a reason why. In trying to fill ordinary, garden-variety PM, estimating or superintendent positions, not having the guts to put your company name in your help-wanted ad is just plain lame.
2. Don't be shy about spending enough money to purchase enough lines of copy or column inches to have adequate space to say what you need to say. You'll be competing against every other ad near you for the fleeting attention of your ideal candidate, so spending the extra few bucks for a bold headline or for an extra column inch to be able to include all your qualifications is a no-brainer.
3. Within your adequate ad space, be brave enough to state exactly what you want. Be selfish! Be honest! It's far better for the wrong candidates to pass you over because they have expectations that you can't meet than for you to be, well, not fibbing, but not telling the whole truth.
If you want a four-year or better degree, or a minimum of 10 years' experience, then say so. If you won't be furnishing a company vehicle, say that. It's better than having unqualified candidates wasting your time and theirs by answering your ad when there's no chance of things ever working out because your expectation levels won't match.
4. If you offer standard industry perks such as individual coverage paid health insurance, a company vehicle for your project managers, 401k, job profitability bonuses, company profit sharing, etc., then by all means say so.
If you offer better-than-average perks for key personnel such as senior project managers and estimators, then by all means, spend the extra money and say so. Better than average includes possible equity participation through esops (employee stock ownership plans), 100% fully paid family-plan health insurance, a decent vacation and personal time-off policy and paid job-related educational expenses.
If, on the other hand, you don't offer salary and benefits that will be competitive to attract top-flight talent, then all you can do is put your best face on what you do offer. Emphasize that the position is "a great opportunity for a sharp young person with established track record looking to move up to the project management ranks."
5. Study salary and benefit surveys so you'll have a better idea of what it'll take to attract talent when the day comes that you do need to advertise for someone.
6. If you intend to recruit nationally, then please don't shoot yourself in the foot by not offering at least some sort of relocation package and clearly stating so in your ad. If you don't plan to offer a relo package, it's your business but plan to be satisfied with someone from the middle instead of from the cream of the qualified crop.
7. Within the tight confines of your help-wanted ad, be yourself, project your company's corporate personality as much as possible. If you're a good ol' boy who employs mostly other good ol' boys or are a New Age-touchy-feely manager or are someone who simply is an average Joe or Jane, then use some of your ad space to signal those of like mind that you might have the place for them.
Ultimately, more than qualifications, it's important that a candidate's personality and sense of shared values blend in with the company's chemistry. Send out the correct signals in your ad to attract those that you can get along with and make part of your corporate family. You need to communicate in your ad, however succinctly, what kind of workaday family you have.
Kent Craig is a second-generation plumbing and mechanical contractor with master’s licenses in boilers, air conditioning, heating and plumbing. You may reach him via e-mail at [email protected], or by phone at 919-469-4900.