Before you write the ad

by Joseph Dudley

Getting the details sorted right at the start will save you time later.

Clearly define the role

This may sound like an obvious one, but it’s all too common for companies to recognise they need an extra pair of hands without specifying exactly what that person will do. The result is often that the new recruit spends their first few weeks confused and stressed about what it is they’re supposed to be doing.

If your structure is flexible and everyone does a bit of everything, this doesn’t mean that you have to abandon that, just that you need to be clear from the outset and in the job description that that’s what you’re looking for.

Decide what responsibilities your new hire will have, as well as practicalities about who they’ll report to, who’ll report to them, where they’ll sit in the office, which Slack channels they’ll need to be part of, etc.

Agree the assessment criteria

With the role defined, you’re in a position to start thinking about the kind of person you need to fill that role. This will form the basis of the person specification in your advert.

You can then turn that person specification into a set of objective criteria that you’ll assess candidates against both at the application stage, and at interview. Objective criteria help you get the person you need and minimise bias in your assessment. You don’t need to decide on interview questions right now, but you do need to know what you’re going to be asking about.

Set the salary

Along with the assessment criteria, you need to decide the salary range and the criteria for who gets what within that. What level of expertise is needed to get the top end of the bracket versus the middle? Your candidate should not have to negotiate, as the result is systematically lower pay for women and minorities 1. Keep the range tight, no more than 10% each way. If you find yourself wanting to go beyond this, then take another look at the role, you might be better off splitting it into two, one junior and one senior.

Assemble a hiring team

It may only be you at the moment, but you’re going to need help further down the line, and the sooner you let people know and get time in diaries, the better.

Everyone should have visibility over the process, even if they’re not involved in every stage or every decision. You’ll want an extra pair of eyes to look over your job advert and assessment criteria, and a second opinion when reviewing candidates’ applications and interviews.

Each person brings their own biases to the table, so hiring decisions should be made by as diverse a group as possible to help minimise this. This might be diversity of gender, age, or background.

Work out your timings

First you need to decide your timeline. Often you want to have hired someone yesterday, but it pays to take a little extra time to get it right.

Your process is going to depend on how many applicants you expect, but it will look something like this:

  • Publish advert
  • Application deadline
  • First sift
  • First interview/phone screening
  • Second sift
  • Second interview
  • Notify applicants
  • Paperwork
  • Start date

Block out time in your diary for each stage and get your other reviewers to as well. Make sure that you’ve set aside a realistic amount of time to review all the applications properly, a rush job now can cost you a lot more time further down the line.

Check your internal lead times and plan accordingly. If it takes six weeks for your IT department to arrange a laptop, then make sure they get six weeks notice of a new hire. There’s nothing worse than spending your first week on a new job unable to do anything.

With the details fixed, you’re ready to write the job advert.


  1. ^ Hernandez, M. & Avery, D.R. (). Getting the Short End of the Stick: Racial Bias in Salary Negotiations . MIT Sloan Management Review.
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