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August 21, 2007

How to Get a Job on Craigslist

Craig.jpeg

I recently ran a help-wanted ad on Craigslist. The position was a photo-editor job for a site that I dare not mention because some people will complain that I promote it too often. Here’s what I learned a lot from this experience—much of which you may apply to a job search if you respond to a Craigslist ad:

  • Apply fast. I posted the job at 11:19 pm on Thursday, August 2nd. The first response came in thirty-one minutes later. Fifteen more responses came in the next day. Therefore, 43% of the responses came in the first day or so. If you wait a few days, employers who advertise on Craigslist may already fill the job. Indeed, looking for a job is a job, so don’t take a few days off (for example, the weekend) from your search.

  • Write a cover email that addresses the position. Two people simply attached their resume to their response. I pushed back on one and suggested that he write a cover email. He copied and pasted my job description to, I guess, let me know which job he was applying for. Needless to say, both candidates didn’t get serious consideration. I don’t know about other employers, but the thing I can’t stand the most is laziness. Although, to be fair, the ad was for a position at the worst website in the world.

  • Rise to the occasion. The vast majority of the candidates were highly-qualified professional designers, photographers, and photo editors. My response to the first thirty-one applicants (who were diligent enough to write a cover email) involved a test to find pictures that illustrated five sample stories. Twenty-six (94%) of the twenty-nine immediately completed the test. Now you know that there are highly-qualified diligent candidates in the Craigslist talent pool.

  • Apply well. You should jump right on an opportunity because if the position is filled there’s usually nothing you can do. However, the three people that we hired did apply on the fifth and seventh days after the listing. The reason is that they simply picked the pictures that we liked best—which is to say either our tastes were similar or they figured out what we liked, both of which work for me.

  • Apply really well. The person who was the most obvious “right candidate” did something that no one else did: He not only chose good pictures, but he also resized them to approximately 140 x 105 pixels. This is the size of the pictures that we use on our site. Thus, he figured out what kind of pictures we liked and what size we used.

    Several other candidates said something to effect of, “These aren’t the right size for your site, but I figured you just wanted to check my taste, not my ability to resize photos.” Actually, we wanted to see how much initiative candidates had too. Most companies would love to find the one candidate that stands head and shoulders above the others, so be that person by applying really well. Ask yourself this simple question: “If I were hiring for this position, what would impress me?”

  • Don’t be stupid. I mentioned in the ad that Macintosh expertise was highly desirable—specificially with a handful of apps. One person wrote back, “Quite frankly, I’ve never even heard of FlySketch, Skitch or MarsEdit (or Ecto or Qumana).” Honesty, is not the best policy: either don’t mention your lack of qualifications or spend ten minutes to go figure out what these applications do. My conclusion from the candidate’s response was that he was lazy, and laziness wasn’t in the job description.

  • By the way, the ad cost $75, and it yielded approximately thirty-seven good candidates—therefore, at a cost of a mere $2 per candidate. I’d heard from other companies about the extraordinary effectiveness of Craigslist, but now I “know” this is true. And if you’re a candidate for a job on Craigslist, now you “know” what you’re up against, so apply fast, write a good cover email, apply well, apply really well, and don’t flaunt your lack of qualifications.

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    Comments

    Employers want candidates to go the extra mile with little consideration that candidates are applying for dozens of jobs a day. On average, applying for a job with a cover letter takes over an hour. To shake the appearance of laziness, each application would take nearly 3 hours. Is the 3-hour effort worth it, with no inside connections? nope. never.

    The ad I recently posted (a free ad at that) yielded over 70 responses. About 25% were real possibilities, and after several interviews I hired a real gem.

    One thing I'd add - please pay attention to the instructions in the advertisement. I had asked people to respond by email via Craig's list or by fax. Many people Googled my fax number, found my website, and called me.

    The first couple of times I was impressed by initiative. But the calls kept coming...and I could not keep up.

    Ultimately, I hired someone who had followed my instructions! And so far, so good....
    Abroad Jobs

    I actually think that CL's format is pretty weak, i just found this site, www.jobbi.com, and it actually provides something of the same open format of CL. However, jobbi is way better in terms of design and functionality.

    Nice informative article. thanks for sharing and keep sharing such kind of articles, as these articles really helpful for experienced and new comers.
    Jobs Career Listing

    Just so you know, 26 is not 94% of 29. Still a great article.

    "Don’t be stupid. I mentioned in the ad that Macintosh expertise was highly desirable—specificially with a handful of apps. One person wrote back, “Quite frankly, I’ve never even heard of FlySketch, Skitch or MarsEdit (or Ecto or Qumana).” Honesty, is not the best policy: either don’t mention your lack of qualifications or spend ten minutes to go figure out what these applications do. My conclusion from the candidate’s response was that he was lazy, and laziness wasn’t in the job description."

    I find this advice puzzling. In the first place, he states that "Macintosh expertise was highly desirable." but when the applicant answers honestly that he does not have Mac experience, he suggests he "spend ten minutes to go figure out what these applications do."

    Ten minutes scanning a few websites isn't going to give anyone expertise, but when the candidate answered honestly, he's "lazy"
    It seems this employer is looking for a liar to hire. It's "stupid" to tell the truth? Not in my world.

    It's no wonder that most people dread job hunting - how can you win with some of these employers? Does he want Macintosh expertise or doesn't he?

    Perhaps the candidate could have said he didn't have experience, but had similiar skills that could apply. If I was hiring someone, I'd rather have someone tell me the truth, than someone stretch it to get the job. Then again, I'm old fashioned

    GUY
    BHAYYA KEE HAAL HAI?

    Great points Guy – particularly the one about targeting your cover email. I’ve worked with hundreds of people in the area of resume and cover letter development. More often than not, people start out wanting to create ‘generic’ documents, leaving it up to the employer to choose any number of areas the candidate may fit in to. This is actually a great way to get thrown into the ‘turn down’ pile quickly…so, not targeting is a very bad approach.

    In fact, if you were creating a Top 10 list of ‘what not to do’ during job search, creating generic documents would be close to the top of the list. Employers are not interested in doing your work for you, helping you discover where your talents and experience may be best suited for their organization. They expect that you’ve done your homework ahead of time and are submitting documents that target your specific experience, value and skill level to meet their specific needs. This is where the laziness factor enters in – anyone who is not interested in putting forth the effort to create targeted documents will more than likely be viewed as a lazy applicant. If you’re not willing to ‘target’ during your job search then your competition will win – hands down.

    Thanks again, Guy – always enjoy your blog.

    Robin Ogden
    http://www.firedupcareers.com
    http://www.careeradvicetalk.com

    I found my last two jobs using Craigslist. But I agree with the information on your posts . . . many employers are ridiculous with their job descriptions and expectations. And many job seekers are lax in your applications and following instructions. I thank you for your focus on this topic and all the comments after have been very helpful.

    Guy makes some excellent points that apply not only to Craigslist but also to any job board or career/employment application. I speak regularly with recruiters all over the U.S. in many different niche markets and right now the market is very tight on the candidate side. With demand for talent increasing and the supply of people down this should be a good time to be looking for work but that does not mean that there is not competition.

    Job seekers need to remember that every position has multiple candidates and that only the right person or the best person is going to get the job so they need to think about what they do and say so as to put on the best interview face. One idea might be to send your reply to a friend for review before you send it to the hiring manager. This way you can edit your communication and improve your chances. Also you might role-play before the interview with a mentor to help you put some polish on the responses for standard tough questions. Like professional athletes you have to practice before you play and try not to make mistakes while you are on the field.

    There are many ways to skin a cat so if I am a recruiter then I am asking for referrals from all my candidates, going to tradeshows and career fairs, advertising open positions on job boards, searching resume databases, starting a blog, working on split placements with other recruiters, social networking on LinkedIn and Facebook, direct recruiting top candidates from my clients competitors, and more... If you are looking for work then you should be doing much of the same to make sure you find a great match for you with a career opportunity.

    Craig Silverman
    HireAbility.com - The Recruiting Network

    As a job seeker, I find two major problems with employers who post on CraigsList.

    1. They hide behind anonymous email addresses so you don't know what firm/company you're responding to and how to modify your cover letter and/or resume to fit the need; and

    2. The salaries or often too vague (D.O.E. anyone?).

    Right on Guy!

    The ad I recently posted (a free ad at that) yielded over 70 responses. About 25% were real possibilities, and after several interviews I hired a real gem.

    One thing I'd add - please pay attention to the instructions in the advertisement. I had asked people to respond by email via Craig's list or by fax. Many people Googled my fax number, found my website, and called me.

    The first couple of times I was impressed by initiative. But the calls kept coming...and I could not keep up.

    Ultimately, I hired someone who had followed my instructions! And so far, so good....

    Warmly,
    Donna Cutting

    Lean Juis Gasse, people DO hire that fast. It depends on what is being asked for. If its a fulltime position then yes more thought is going to go into it. But when it's just a contract gig or a few hours of work the velocity of hire goes up 10x. Your not hiring a person per se as much as getting some function fulfilled. I have worked both sides of the Craigslist both as contractor and 'employer'. I routinely have requirements filled within 48hrs. Though I depend on it less and less as my stable of suppliers sit on the rolodex and are available a phone call away.

    Craigslist.. nothing but nutty people!

    "If you wait a few days, employers who advertise on Craigslist may already fill the job."

    Huh? This suggests that companies post jobs and hire within a couple days, choosing from only the first few people who apply. That's nonsense. No company hires that fast, and few are dumb enough to limit their choices to what wafts in the door the first two days.


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    Great post Guy,

    I've been a big fan of CL for a number of years. 3 years ago I needed to hire a camera operator for a TV series I was working on. I had specific requirements - certain type of camera, lights, wireless mic etc. Wihin 72 hours I had 72 qualified applicants and each and every one met the specs to a T.

    My point is, CL is a great place for employers to advertise and now with your column a great place for people to find jobs.

    Great post. Search endlessly (with 1st hand experiences) reveals all kind of ads are somewhat discouraging. Words must got around of M&A of "staffing firm" with big $, everybody would want to put your resume on their database. Just look at the job post of "electrical, electronic engineer wanted" list with almost every kind of jobs listed on site with general description almost like university course outline, that raises some questions.
    The time spend to screen out for the real job post, possibly like yours, is scary. (the real question would be, how much overhead is HR put on? How many jobs are real?).
    Well, marching in to the jangle and looking for real jewels.... with your post as guide book... full speed ahead...(thanks).

    You have been tagged for The Personal Development List. (See my site for details), I would love it if you would participate.

    This things getting big fast. The sooner you get involved the more traffic it will generate to your site.

    Great post Guy and feedback from other business owners.

    There's no doubt Craigslist does provide top-notch people (I know from experience too).

    Another great idea, especially if you need someone immediately is to conduct quick fire phone interviews...but there's a twist. Of course you don't want to post your personal number online, so you would use Ccube to post a private click-to-call widget (few lines of HTML). Now normally if your call window is open, a visitor to your CL post can click-to-call you instantly from the post itself.

    If on the other hand you have some time for screening before talking over the phone, take calls by "invitation only" and don't post any other contact info besides the widget, not even CL generated email. This means they have to sign up for an account (which only takes an email address, so if they can't even do that - wow, lazy) and then you can see their picture, interest keywords and hear their voice introduction before accepting the invitation from a selected few.

    It's worked for me when hiring...and yes, by the way I am the founder & CEO of Ccube. :)

    I have found Craigslist an invaluable resource for finding part time positions as well. A little advice if you are thinking about doing this: if you are posting a technical gig (programming, design, sys admin, etc.) be sure to put in the description that oversea firms should not apply. I have posted quite a few tech gigs in my dad and I would receive 30 or more emails from Russian, Indian, Italian firms.

    Great post Guy! This was advice I will use in my future endeavors.

    The "Apply really well" section reminded me of a gig I did back in the dotcom bust (2002) when I applied for an HTML coder contract job at a boutique web design in San Francisco. The job description kept saying it was a production position requiring the candidate to generate tons of pages using existing templates.

    The company's bio page was a complex CSS/DHTML/HTML that displayed each staff's childhood picture with bio decorated around it. I recreated the page and added my childhood picture and wrote my bio pitch in the content block.

    I never received any response, though.

    Craigslist has had ups and downs in terms of quality over the years, but I have found it the go-to resource as both a job seeker and job poster. I found my first startup job on Craigslist in 1997, then hired several developers with an experience very similar to what you describe here. I worked for many different companies in Silicon Valley--only one was NOT from Craigslist--and it was the bad one that I wished I had not taken! I relocated to Boston, thanks to a job I found on the Boston Craigslist...and then found my current job in Boston again from CL. Here in Boston, however, I have found that our job postings don't generate the quality of response I got in San Francisco. Nevertheless, the good people stand out as the people who do what you describe here...please, please, please write a cover letter! You may have 5 degrees from MIT, but why are you the right person for the job I advertised? The person who tells me that honestly and clearly gets a call or email immediately.

    I found an awesome craigslist tool to help me be the first to send in a resume.
    it's CL Buddy:
    http://admin.clbuddy.googlepages.com/home
    It can send emails or SMS text messages to your cellphone as new jobs are posted.
    it's really nice since employers only look at the first few resumes that they get.

    I'd love to hear how you decided what the salary / compensation would be?
    And what your take is on putting in exhaustive qualification requirements vs. leaving it more broad to get more applicants?

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