Writing a (legal!) job advertisement

Optus featured in the news for all the wrong reasons last week, after placing a job advertisement seeking "Anglo Saxon" employees for its' Neutral Bay store (refer here for one of the news articles, this one from the ABC).

As you might have expected, there was a public outcry and subsequently significant damage to the company, which is now in the position of trying to avert a call by the Union for an independent investigation and a transparent review of their hiring policies.

There are a number of Acts in Australia that prohibit employers from discriminating – either directly or indirectly – against potential job applicants, based on their:

  • race
  • gender
  • sexual preference
  • age
  • physical or mental disability
  • marital or domestic status
  • family or carer's responsibilities
  • pregnancy
  • religion
  • political opinion
  • national extraction
  • social origin

While most of the grounds of discrimination listed above apply "across the board", there are some differences between Australian states and territories, and some exceptions which make it legal in certain situations to discriminate on certain grounds. If you're unsure of your obligations as an employer, the Australian Human Rights Commission website is a good place to start finding out a bit more (as is, for those businesses operating in NSW, the website of the Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW).

When you're writing a job advertisement, it's obviously important to ensure you meet your legal obligations as an employer to not illegally discriminate. It's also important to remember that the job advertisement is advertising your business/organisation and your brand. Job applicants will be attracted by – or put off by – the wording you use in your ad.

Some tips:

1.Try not to use too much jargon or terminology that job applicants won't understand. Use standard industry terms, simple language and have a clear structure to the advertisement – who the Company is, what the job is about, and what key skills or attributes the successful applicant needs to have.

2.Have a key selling point in the advertisement – what's in it for them (besides the salary!)? Are there perks you offer that others don't? Do you have a great workplace culture? Are you able to provide career opportunities or progression? Are flexible work hours available, is it potentially close to home etc…? Ask yourself – why would someone want to come and work for you/your business?


3.Avoid gender specific job titles such as "Girl Friday" or "Salesman". Rather, use more gender neutral language such as "Administrator" or "Salesperson".

4.Don't favour or make assumptions about a particular marital status; for example, asking for a "single, fun-loving person who is free to work nights" directly discriminates on the basis of marital status and may also indirectly discriminate based on family or carer's responsibilities.


5.Avoid referencing a specific number of years of experience.For example, a position requiring a "minimum of 10 years' experience" could be seen to discriminate against ANYONE in the workforce under the age of 28. Remember – it's about what the person can do, and how well – not necessarily how long they've been doing it for.


Keep in mind also that your obligations as an employer extend beyond the initial advertisement, to all aspects of the recruitment and selection process, including of course interviews.

If you need any further information or support to recruit the next superstar in your business, give us a call and/or check out our Recruitment Support Packages and video here today.

This article provides general information only and should not be regarded as legal advice. It is recommended that you seek professional support that can account for your specific circumstances.

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