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Hiring & Keeping Salespeople - Part 7 - Classified Ads

Furniture World Magazine


A guide to making this recruitment tool a more effective part of your total effort to find good employees.

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Retail Furniture Sales Associate: There’s never been a better time to grow with our company. We are a progressive organization seeking a motivated self-starter to fill a key sales role at our (location) store. Successful candidates will join a winning team of retail professionals committed to achieving their personal goals through customer satisfaction. You must be creative and hard working, with excellent people skills, two years of retail experience and willing to learn. We offer ongoing training and a competitive compensation and benefits package. To learn more about this career opportunity, fax your resume and cover letter to: Store name / logo / CONTACT INFO

During a recent telephone conversation, a prominent furniture retailer related the reason why he hated his business. One of his managers quit, and this owner was having the devil of a time trying to replace him, while handling the extra job responsibility himself.

The recruiting had been particularly frustrating. He ran an ad in the local paper for two weeks. In response, he received three applications – two from people who couldn’t get past his background check and a third from somebody he had fired just three weeks before.

He was so worn out from the pressure of juggling the missing manager’s responsibilities as well as his own that he was thinking about hiring back the guy he fired. No wonder he hated his business.

Another retailer visited our space at the October market. He whispered these words in my ear; "I give up." He had been looking for an operations manager for nearly half a year, but with meager responses to his classified ads in the local newspaper, he was ready to throw in the towel.

While it’s a pleasure to do the management recruiting for these retailers, it is a shame to see them so discouraged by the process. Owning a business, by itself, is stressful. Recruiting failures often seem to be the "straw that broke the camel’s back."

The biggest problem for these retailers and many others and the primary cause of their frustrations is an over-reliance on classified ads.

Classified ads work – sometimes. For the most part, though, they will generate meager results since the high-end of the talent pool usually is not perusing the classified ads. Classified ads are just one way to recruit; while these ads are often the most expensive method for attracting applicants, they are rarely the most productive.

Most owners know this in their heart of hearts, but sometimes they run the classified just to make themselves feel as if they’re doing something. When retailers have a position to fill, they automatically run a classified ad. This reflex is not entirely misguided, but the time has come to examine the whole process of recruiting with a critical eye.

Classified ads do have value. They are the first place people turn to when they start to look for a new position. The problem is that too few talented prospects are actively looking for work. People are always open to improving their situations, but unless they’re unemployed, they usually aren’t perusing the classified ads on a regular basis. Nonetheless, classified ads are easy to place, and since most newspapers are published daily, your ad gets quick exposure, which could lead to quick response. When time is an issue, newspaper advertising deserves consideration.

Classified ads also provide some residual benefits not related to recruiting. The ad is a vehicle for promoting the positive aspects of your company. It never hurts to give your store and your company a little public-relations exposure.

On the deficit side, classified ads are expensive. In-column ads cost less than display ads, but either one can chew up your recruiting budget in just a few days.

Some other issues related to classified ads include:

•They are an ineffective way to attract specialized candidates. If you are looking for someone with a particular skill set or specific experience, you are paying a high price to reach a small subset of the people who read the ad. Classified ads are more effective at unearthing the raw materials that you can refine through training and experience.

  • They are a poor communication tool for a complex message. You are trying to deliver an important message in a small amount of space. This is not easy to do, and it forces you to abbreviate key facts such as the position’s requirements and responsibilities as well as your company’s culture.

  • Like any recruiting medium, classified ads yield inconsistent results. Recruiting is not a science as much as an art and a craft. For the cost, though, classified ads may be the least efficient recruiting tool.

Writing The Ad
Just because there are good reasons why you might not want to rely solely on classified ads, that does not mean that you should not use them at all.

Since classified ads remain an important tool in your never-ending recruiting campaign, you may as well put your best foot forward. Try running display ads in the help-wanted section of your newspaper. These cost more, obviously, but they also make a powerful statement about who you are and where your company is going. They are usually set off by a border and are big enough so that you can relate more information about the position and your company


  • Name and location of your organization, unless you are running a blind ad. (The only reason to do that would be to hide the fact that you are advertising for a position that is currently occupied. Otherwise, you want to fly your banner high.)

  • Type of business.

  • Brief description of job.

  • Main qualifications: experience, skills and education.

Other elements that you may want to add so that you don’t wind up wasting time for you or the applicant:

  • Salary range.

  • Major benefits.

  • Size of the organization.

  • Description of company culture and working conditions.

  • Reasons why your company is a good place to work.

Avoid using company jargon or acronyms that few people outside your organization will understand. Be sure to indicate that you are an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Samples of well designed and executed classified ads can be found at the top of this page.

Sam Leder, wrote this article while President of Shepherd Retail Recruiting. Sam has 34 years of retail management, consulting and recruiting experience in the home furnishings industry. He has been in management positions for top 100 furniture retailers including Breuners, Haynes and Rhodes and has provided consulting services to more than 300 retailers. For more information about the topics in this article contact Sam care of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine at sleder@furninfo.com.

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