Home » Using Character Traits to Write a Better Job Description and Help Wanted Ad

Using Character Traits to Write a Better Job Description and Help Wanted Ad

I jumped the gun yesterday. I started talking to you about interview questions before we even discussed how to get the right applicants through your door in the first place. My bad.

Did you know you can “pre-qualify” your applicants? No, I don’t mean by writing, “Only people with [ __________ ] need apply.” That’s lazy and useless. You can pre-qualify your applicants by writing a better job description and a better help-wanted ad. That traits list we created helps.


Most job descriptions follow the same pattern. First a bullet list of duties and responsibilities. Second a bullet list of qualifications. It is that second list that pre-qualifies applicants. Most companies get that part wrong by listing all the required schooling and experience, without talking about whether you even have the right traits for the job.

A typical list might include:

  • [Level of schooling required]
  • [Minimum years experience doing the actual job as listed in the title]
  • [Minimum years experience doing the tasks for the job]

Just because someone did the job doesn’t mean they were good at it or had the right traits to do it well.

Instead you should be listing the traits of the person you want to hire. Here is a list I helped a fellow store owner create as the qualifications for a manager position:

The Store Manager must be someone who:

  • Can manage and motivate employees
  • Can build and foster teamwork and collaboration
  • Can stay calm and level-headed in tense and hectic situations
  • Can juggle multiple tasks during the course of the day
  • Can keep a high level of energy throughout a long day, a long week, and a long season
  • Can listen carefully and learn quickly
  • Loves to help other people grow
  • Loves to be part of the community
  • Loves to encourage and foster creativity in the team
  • Loves to play and have fun

Notice all those “can” statements? Those are the traits for the job. All of those “love” statements are the Core Values of the company. Someone who has these traits will instantly see themselves in that job description. You also have your basis for your “Tell me …” questions.

“Tell me about a time you had to motivate someone to do something they didn’t want to do. How did you get him to do it? What was the result?”


Your ad is the other place to really highlight the traits you want to hire. Once again, most help wanted ads fail to pre-qualify because they talk about the job and the duties, not the character traits. But what if you wrote an ad that looked more like this?

“Are you a team player looking for the chance to take that next step? Do you have the skills to help other people grow into their best? Do you get fired up at the chance to lead a high-performing team that gets to solve problems and bring joy to others?

You might be the perfect candidate for GTS.

GTS is looking for innovative people with true leadership skills to join us to help create and manage the kind of team everyone wants to be on, the kind of team that has fun working together, has fun being a part of our wonderful communities, and has fun finding new and better ways to serve our customers.

Yes, you will work weekends from time to time. Those days are the most fun.”

Notice how we incorporated all the can and love statements from the above description into one ad? We posted this in November for a toy store. (Yeah, November is not the best time to be hiring new managers, but such was the case.) Not only was this store owner able to find new managers and assistant managers for all three of her locations instantly, all were a perfect fit.

The first year I switched to this style of help-wanted advertising at Toy House I noticed two things. First, I had fewer overall applications. Only the people who saw themselves in the ad applied. Second, I had far more people worthy of an interview. The pre-qualifying with character traits gave me a better pool of applicants than before and made the interviewing process even easier (if slightly longer).

It all starts with the character traits you identify for each job. When you get a good list and use it to describe the job and the applicant you get better applicants from which to choose.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS We used Indeed.com for the store manager posting above. We also used Indeed for seasonal positions but she got several applicants from social media and signs in her store.

PPS Since I closed Toy House I put my hat into the ring for job searches on LinkedIn. Several times I have seen jobs I know I could do incredibly well, but the first two qualifications were often “Must have a 4-year Marketing Degree” and “Must have 3-5 years working as a Marketing Manager or similar title.” I had the traits (and even the experience) to do well in several of those jobs, but they missed out on me even applying because I didn’t have the degree or the title. I would hate for you to miss out on some qualified people for the same reasons.

PPPS Here is a job description using the traits from yesterday and my Core Values of Fun, Helpful, Education, and Nostalgia

  • Engaging – Can meet and greet people with ease
  • Friendly – Can build meaningful relationships with others
  • Caring – Can show empathy and caring for others
  • Creative – Can find creative solutions to interesting problems
  • Determined – Can find ways around objections and stick to a problem until it is solved
  • Fun – Loves to have fun on the job
  • Helpful – Loves to help others
  • Education – Loves to learn new things
  • Nostalgic – Loves to celebrate births, birthdays, and Christmas

Are you a fun-loving person who loves to meet new people? Do you care deeply for others and just want to help? Do you have the creativity and determination to find solutions when none seem possible? Are you the kind of person who celebrates holidays with a passion. Do you love to learn something new every day? You might be the perfect candidate to work for Toy House.

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