Focus: People Management - Coaching session with Stephen Bubb

Q. I am writing an advert to recruit nationally for the first time. We want a really good person. How do I get her or him?

A. Getting the right job advertisement is a key part of attracting the best person you can get.

You could consider involving a professional recruitment consultancy to help you but you may not be in a position to afford one. Let's work on this basis. Here are a number of points:

1. Avoid corporate puff and management speak. Some job ads look as though they have been put together by people who barely manage to scrape an English GCSE. They rely on the dictionary of cliches and circumlocutions. Often there is so much of this that it is hard to know what on earth the job is.

2. Spell out what you want.Be clear about what the job is and the sort of person you want. Be up front with a sensible job title, the salary you are paying, and the location of the office. It is amazing how many advertisements have comments like "salary commensurate with experience".

(I wonder what they'd say if you said your experience is such that you want £200,000!)

3. Describe the job in detail, not just in the job advertisement - do be clear about it in all of the literature that you have, including printed literature, your website and other specialist web providers.

There are some good job boards on the web, e.g.

One of the best advertisements I saw in a newspaper began "probably the worst job in local government". It grabbed attention immediately and described the reality of the job (it was Lambeth).

4. Make applying easy. In our sector, we don't have to adopt the draconian "we don't care if you apply or not" approach that so often characterises public sector recruitment.

Don't bother with application forms. Do encourage people to apply by sending in a cv and a short statement. Make it easy. Why shouldn't they email or fax material to you?

And, if they telephone to explain that at the very last minute their granny was ill and they couldn't get the form to you, just say "fine, put it in the post".

5. Promote your brand. More people will see the advertisement than will apply. So pay careful attention to how the advertisement is laid out, how you present your brand, and what you are saying about yourself as an organisation.

I sometimes wonder why organisations allow the head-hunters to advertise their company first and your organisation second. Don't fall into this trap.

6. Treat candidates with respect. Finally, remember that it isn't a huge privilege for people to apply to your organisation. It's a deal - you want really good people, so don't treat them as though they are supplicants for Poor Law relief.

Stephen Bubb is chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo). Send your questions to

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