As a free-lancer, I write for newspapers, magazines, businesses, associations and government agencies. One way I get work is by responding to classified ads. I wonder, however, if some of you who advertise in the classifieds really want to fill jobs.

The re'sume' question aside, here are some ways that employers placing classified ads could save all of us time, money and annoyance:

1. Be specific. Who are you and what do you want? Even if you do not want to name your business in the ad, you can give readers a hint.

Is your "new political magazine" conservative or liberal? Is your "financial publication" aimed at investment analysts, stock brokers, investors, bankers, Realtors, business managers or customers of commercial banks? Does your "trade association" represent auto makers, cattlemen, sheet-metal workers, doctors or food-service companies?

Is your "association" the NRA, the DAR, or Save the Whales? What "women's issues" is your group concerned about and what's your position?

I am eager to point out my relevant experience, but I have to know what I'm trying to be relevant to. I also need to know if I'm suited to the job and if I want it. I may be the perfect person to write about real estate for home sellers and buyers, but not for brokers who manage condos.

2. Briefly outline the duties. If I'm to write and edit a newsletter, I need to know my responsibilities before I can give a cost and time estimate. Detailed information should be exchanged at the interview, but in the ad, give me a clue. Will I be researching, writing, typing, laying out, printing and distributing the newsletter, or will I be rewriting, filling in and editing?

3. Don't mislead me. At the interview, don't tell me I'm a leading candidate if you've already written me off. Sometimes employers are like an adolescent boy. At the end of the evening, he wants to tell his blind date, "I wouldn't be caught dead walking down the same side of the street as you." Instead he says, "I'll call you."

Even after it has become evident during the interviewing that we aren't meant for each other, some people can't admit that it isn't going to work out. I'm not after your love, and chances are if you've written me off, I have also written you off. After a few questions have revealed that we are not right for each other, a simple, "Thank you for your interest and for coming down" with a smile and a handshake will do nicely.

4. Don't ask for references unless I'm a finalist. I have several favorite people who know my work well and who look impressive to clients. But I don't want them called every week. Use references to verify your judgment and make sure I'm not lying about my experience. And remember, just because an editor of a major magazine likes me, it doesn't mean you will.

5. Follow through with leading candidates. If I was runner-up or second runner-up and I have taken time for an interview or prepared a custom proposal, let me know that you have filled the job. If you've time, I'd appreciate a comment that tells me why I was second best, especially if it is something I can improve, or a skill I can learn.

You might combine the bad news with a compliment, such as, "We were impressed with your experience and writing skills, but we found another person who has done extensive legal reporting."

The kind words will make me feel better, and you never know if your first choice will work out. Besides, if I'm a finalist, you may need me later.

Lynne McGee lives in Annandale.