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5 Things You Shouldn't Say in a Help Wanted Ad

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

There's an art to writing a help wanted ad. They have to be to-the-point, yet descriptive. You want to get it out to people, but you also don't want to get swamped with responses.

No matter what, be careful. With the wrong wording or recruitment process, your help wanted ad might be circled with a big fat red pen -- for a discrimination lawsuit.

Here are a few tips to prevent your help wanted ads from seeming discriminatory:

  1. Avoid discussing a protected status. Employers need to be careful not to print or publish job posts that show a preference for or against potential applicants based on a legally protected status. It's a big no-no for employers to show preference based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability. In some states and localities, sexual orientation is protected as well.

  2. Don't use gender-specific language. Our culture regularly uses gendered words like "waitress" or "mailman." But even if it's generally understood to be neutral, it could still get you in trouble. A good rule of thumb is to be gender neutral -- for example, using "server" instead of "waitress." While there are situations in which it may be OK to limit ads to a specific gender, why risk it? It's best to keep your lingo asexual.

  3. Limit the use of word-of-mouth recruiting. Employers should be careful about job opportunities that are shared via current employees talking to family and friends. If they don't include groups as diverse as the Burger King Kids Club, your help wanted ad may reach a disproportionate number of people of a particular ethnicity, religion, and so forth. Word-of-mouth is a great recruiting resource. But from a legal standpoint, mix in other recruitment methods to make sure you have a diverse pool of potential applicants.

  4. Don't try to fix an unbalanced workforce with a discriminatory ad. From a legal angle, your workforce should try to reflect the diversity in your area. If your staff isn't quite mirroring that, try to get your help wanted ad out to media outlets and job boards that reach a wider group of people, but always make it clear that you accept applications from everyone.

  5. Clearly state that you don't discriminate. It never hurts to include in any help-wanted ad a line that you're an "Equal Opportunity Employer."

By the way, FindLaw is an Equal Opportunity Employer. See? Piece of non-discriminatory cake.

Follow FindLaw for Consumers on Google+ by clicking here.

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