Video want ads to find an employee?

bluesboys.jpg At left, my wanna-be Jake and Elwood in their Blues Brothers House of Blues shirts, about 7 years ago along the Missouri River in Ft. Benton, MT. Who would hire these guys? 🙂

One of the ways you eventually become an advisor to other business owners is by making (and usually learning from) your own foolish mistakes.

How to advertise for and select employees is one of those areas where you can get plenty of “learn by doing wrong” experience. Making mistakes is ok. Making the same one repeatedly is not.

The first time I placed an ad for programmer was back in my mainframe days. Silly me, I used the word “assembler” in the newspaper. Everyone and their mom who had ever put two pieces of anything together in a manufacturing environment was calling, faxing etc. Seems that outside of the geek world, “assembler” means “someone who puts things together”. Whodathunkit?

A few years later, older and presumably smarter me was looking for a new tech support person. I had a weird idea and figured I’d give it a shot. Instead of putting a bunch of detail in a newspaper ad and having to filter through all the folks who weren’t qualified, I took a different tack: I’d let them filter themselves.

I put a one line ad in the paper: “Windows technical support person wanted for Columbia Falls software company. Email MS Word resume as attachment to”.

I included no phone number. No address. No company name. Anyone paying attention could get all of that information from the domain name used in the email address. Anyone who didn’t get that really wasn’t qualified for the job.

I got 43 inquiries in 2 weeks, from places as far away as Austria, from an ad in a weekly, small mountain town newspaper in rural Montana.

Let’s break down the ad.

First: “Windows technical support person wanted for Columbia Falls software company” – this says you need to know Windows, you need to know how to do tech support, you’ll be working for a software company and the job is in Columbia Falls (well, mostly).

The point of this is to eliminate as many people as possible while attracting the right candidates. People with Windows experience who understand what tech support is for a software company. The rest is details at this point. Get rid of anyone who is scared of those words, cuz they aren’t a good fit.

Next: “Email MS Word resume as attachment to some email address”.

This gets rid of a lot of people without me having to do anything. It also tells me whether or not they can follow instructions. First of all, anyone who can’t understand what I just asked is not likely to apply, or not likely to be able to apply. Which is just what I want.


  • If they don’t use or have access to Word, I’m not interested.
  • If they can’t send an email, I’m not interested.
  • If they don’t know what an attachment is, I’m not interested.

Results? Found the best employee I ever had from this ad. She still works in that job, 5+ years later.  She is a superstar at that company and now runs that entire department.

It wasn’t all sunshine and roses using that method. We got a lot of phone calls with questions. We got a lot of the same questions by email. Lots of wasted time.

Soooo the next time, I fine tuned the ad:

“Windows tech support person wanted. For details, see”  (note: the newspaper ad salespeople really don’t like this, but I really don’t care).

On the web page, I went into detail about the job, the expectations the candidate should have for us as well as the expectations the company would have for them. I suspect the SHRM-trained human resource folks reading this blog are going to flip when they read the anonymous version of the “Hire me” page but it is what it is. Er, was.

Last but not least, if you were interested, you were NOT to call, you were to again email a MS Word resume as an attachment to

Again, it required following instructions. Anyone who didn’t follow instructions, even Bill Gates, was not considered.

It also eliminated a lot of the questions that the previous method didn’t address. I could easily address workplace, people, karma, qualifications, and anything else I wanted on the webpage. I used the page to not only attract the right candidates, but also to make sure to get rid of / scare away the people I wasn’t interested in.

We hired two people from that ad. One worked out and still works there. The other, far more experienced one, was fired for non-performance within a month or so (Montana law says you are an at-will employee on probation for substantially longer than that, SHRM-boy).

At the time, someone had advised us to hire two people and keep the good one. We did. I understand the other one is doing fine now, they just weren’t a good fit with us.

So what’s the next step? Video want ads, as seen in this Wall Street Journal Independent Street story.

It takes a step beyond the website idea, plus the face and the voice in the video makes it more personal (I like that idea, ya think?).

How would you improve the process?

SHRMers, I’m curious: What’s your take on this process from HR’s “dot the i’s, cross the t’s, keep all the lawyers happy” perspective?

2 thoughts on “Video want ads to find an employee?”

  1. SHRM boy here and do I have answers for you, of course for my normal fee of yard bird and DPâ?¦

    1st, the â??Hire Me Pageâ? ideaâ?¦This was a clever way (even for you) of advertising for and attracting the type of employee (ee) that fit your business needs at the time. Most ads cast a wide net, even if not consciously designed to do so, due to the job title, company name, listed benefits, job location, etc. Your one line ad required those interested to do more than simply write your address on an envelope and send their resume in. Prospective applicants/ees had to read, comprehend and follow instructions in order to reach the more elaborate job ad that contained detailed information about the open position as well as information about the company and its culture. Your simple ad helped you to find those applicants with the basic KSAâ??s (knowledge, skills, abilities) the position required without having to go through large â??Aâ?, â??Bâ? and â??Câ? piles of resumes thus, speeding up the interviewing and hiring process. However, not all was rosy when I read through the â??Hire Me Pageâ?. The last 3 or so sections contained language that I wouldâ??ve counseled against using then and even more so now considering how active the EEOC is becoming. Job advertisements and job descriptions should contain job related information ONLY. Therefore, I would leave out the bowling shoes reference for starters.

    2nd, the â??Video Want Adâ? (VWA) question (and why you really called me out)â?¦Those of us in HR have seen video resumes for a while now so producing an â??VWAâ? to be used in concert with your other recruitment efforts in this age of YouTube and MySpace seems like a logical progression. The use of â??VWAâ??sâ? could give organizations a leg up on their competition when it comes to recruiting ees. Placing a want ad in the paper at best allows the company to put forth their name, company logo and brief descriptions of the position and company culture. A â??VWAâ? allows the organization to do all that and more. Plus, you can include graphics, music, photos and other whiz bang stuff. In your case, I would lose the suit and shades, project an upbeat/positive tone and leave the sarcasm to me. Just remember to keep your verbiage job related!

    Thank you for mentioning that you had to terminate an underperforming ee during the probationary period. THATâ??S WHAT PROBATIONARY PERIODS ARE FOR, PEOPLE!!! If your state allows for a probationary period, your organization should take advantage of one. A probationary period is the time for the ee to decide whether or not your company is where they want to continue to work AND itâ??s also the time the organization should be evaluating the job performance of the ee. I would recommend documenting a 2 week evaluation as well as an end of the probationary period evaluation. Be sure to share this information with the ee. By doing so the organization has documented the ees job performance and in the case of an underperforming ee, given them notice of the need to improve. Keeping an underperforming ee past the probationary period is just going to lead to HR headaches down the road and I canâ??t be everywhere. The probationary period is your chance to take care of problems before they escalate. Take care of those attendance, smoke breaks, dress code, and any and all job performance issues, NOW. Hereâ??s your chance to be like Barney Fife and to nip it, nip it in the bud !!

    As for the stinking lawyers, let them grow up to be garbage czarsâ?¦

    Now, whereâ??s my chicken tenders and DPâ?¦donâ??t forget the pretzels !!

    GO HOGS GEAUX !!!!

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