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August 27, 2007

How to Not Hire Someone Via Craigslist

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After reading my posting about how to get a job on Craigslist, my buddy Danny Kay sent me a link to illustrate what employers do wrong. I was amazed by the example that he sent me from the New York edition of Craigslist:


We seek a talented, highly motivated & resourceful individual skilled/experienced in web and print design. Minimum 1-2 years professional experience and examples of work done are mandatory for all applicants.

Requirements:

  • Degree in Graphic/Web Design with minimum 2 years of Web/Graphic design experience with both print materials and web site design/development.

  • Exceptional portfolio that showcases solid conceptual, color, layout graphic design skills as well as fully functional web projects.

  • Proficiency in Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe ImageReady and Macromedia Dreamweaver.

  • Solid experience with hand-coding HTML, CSS and basic JavaScript knowledge required.

  • Experience in InDesign and/or QuarkXPress and good understanding of requirements, specifications and concept of the print production design.

  • Experience with Macromedia Flash and action scripting is a plus.

  • Must be a highly self-motivated team player, able to work independently and with direction as part of a team.

  • Work on PC based platform.

  • Supervisory experience.

Compensation: Commensurate with experience.


First, let’s analyze the compensation. I bet it pays $15-20/hour based on the line, “Compensation: Commensurate with experience.” This is recruit-speak for “we think we can hire someone great for peanuts, and we’d rather hire cheap, lousy people than expensive, good ones and risk screwing up our out-of-touch pay ranges.”

Second, let’s examine the desired qualifications. I don’t think that even The Russell Brown of Adobe would qualify for this position:

  1. Proficiency with Photoshop, Illustrator, ImageReady, Dreamweaver, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, InDesign “and/or” QuarkExpress, and Flash. Only the kids of John Warnock who were suckled at the breast of Adobe could know all these applications.

  2. “Exceptional portfolio,” experience with graphic and web design plus familiarity with print production. Sounds like someone who’s been in the business for twenty years to me. But how hard could it be to master these skills?

  3. “Supervisory experience”—so in one to two years the successful candidate has learned those applications and processes as well as supervised people? In my first two years at Apple, all I did was carry Mike Boich's (the first Macintosh software evangelist) bags.

Oh I almost forgot, the candidate should have gained all this expertise while using the PC-version of applications. What self-respecting candidate is going to admit that? What candidate is going to want to do this kind of work on a PC?

This job posting is fundamentally flawed. It casts far too big a net, so it will intimidate or exasperate the little fish (ie, people starting their careers), and the big fish (ie, people who truly qualified) either aren’t reading Craigslist or will smell a rat: “Compensation: Commensurate with experience.”

This is my advice:

  • Use the right tool. Craigslist might not be the best place for senior positions and for senior candidates at established companies. Better places are Creativeheads.net, Creativecircle, and I.D. However, it is great for contract work and entry- and mid-level positions.

  • Write honest job descriptions for honest job titles. Don’t try to entice candidates with promises of greater responsibilities or opportunities than is true. And don’t delude yourself: If the cat drags in over-qualified candidate, are you really going to expand the job?

  • Match the job and the background requirements. If you have an entry-level job, then write entry-level specs. If you have a mid- or upper-level job, then write more demanding specs such as five or more years of experience. Unfortunately, most help-wanted ads contain unrealistic demands for the position.

  • Sell. Almost every help-wanted ad focuses on buying, not selling—that is, the qualifications that candidates have to meet and the fences that they have to jump over. However, in the war for talent, this is ass backwards. This ad, for example, should mention things like “award-winning shop,” “work alongside famous designers,” “interesting projects for Disney, Apple, and Audi.”

  • Give young people a break. In the past of great employees are managers who gave them a break. Maybe they didn’t have the ideal educational or work experience—for example, an ex-jewelry schlepper. What’s more important than what’s on screen is what’s in the mind, soul, and attitude of candidates.

By the way, if you’re a wunderkind and want to apply for this job, go for it. $20/hour can add up.

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Comments

I can do all of what was posted in the ad, but I have 12 years of experience, and tend to work/learn all the time.

I also charge $150 per hour. Also, who works for $20/hour?! The teenager that mows my lawn charges more than that.

in my experience the best jobs are not advertised but referrals. i have found job sites to be non relevant in 99% of what they claim to be. chet holmes has the best advice for hiring in his new book "the ultimate sales machine" which is a really bad title and should be called "how to build the ultimas business machine from soup to nuts."

chet has a chapter called "hiring superstars" and it is the best information any recruiter or company will find in my humble opinion. he's a couple of example questions on pp 90

what events or influences from your childhood shaped who you are today?

what are some of the biggest challenges in your life? (they need not be work related)

http://www.amazon.com/dp/1591841607?tag=mysuccessgate-20&camp=14573&creative=327641&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=1591841607&adid=1F0P73V5XA3GB9VFZA6B&

As an H.R/Recruiter type person I would like to give some perspective on “Compensation: Commensurate with experience.”

First off - Not everyone is evil.

For one thing it gives companies some flexibility. Most companies will budget a range for a salary. We don't wish to be locked in to a salary for someone who may be under qualified but we are willing to invest in training.

For some companies publishing salaries can open a whole can of worms. News Flash: People can be petty, and knowing that your new web developer is making $70,000 and you're not (even though you may not be on that team) can be a cause for resentment.

Finally believe it or not, some organizations simply don't know what they want to pay, or can afford to pay. This is especially true of nonprofits and small businesses so "Commensurate with experience” may be a place holder until they figure that part out.

So true! As someone who's been doing this for around 8 years, when I see job posts like this it makes me cringe. Actually, I *have* mastered all of those applications, plus a few others. But clearly this employer is not prepared to offer the salary I'd ask!
And the reason I've been able to learn all of what I know, and gotten to this point in my career, is a boss who was willing to hire a 19 -year-old attending community college and throw whatever resources at me he needed to, so that I could learn it all. I wish more managers understood that!

The problem with the ad is that it combines many diverse technical skills (a problem in its own right) with "design" skills. Either they need a designer with an "Exceptional portfolio that showcases solid conceptual, color, layout graphic design skills" or; a web production person (with technical skills for that kind of digital work) or; a print production person (with technical skills for that kind of print work).
The type of person with design skills and the type of person with such a large range of technical skills is a rare combination.
Also, it is much easier to train a skilled designer or artist to use software than to turn a software engineer into a designer or artist. (And that is a slightly paraphrased quote from a lead creative director at Industrial Light and Magic!)
Hire a designer and/or hire a tech. Assume you will not find both. Cheap or expensive.

I gotta say, that Russell Brown quote is an instant classic — is sure ranks amongst my alltime faves now. The man is a living legend!

I was chief software engineer for the first commercial multimedia development group (IVIS at DEC in '82), have a great publication list, 25 years of Internet experience, ran my own interactive agency, successful dotcom exec (through the bubble to 2003, with strong growth et al), dabbler in most of those programs on either platform, and now doing marketing/business strategy for virtual worlds, social networking and gaming communities in convergence...

...but I wouldn't qualify, because I don't have a degree and likely never will. If you are willing to take "degree or experience" say so -- and if you don't, you're passing over a lot of talent and initiative (or, possibly, you have so much faith in a piece of paper vs. ability to produce, I wouldn't want to work with your team anyway).

Even worse are the more freelance-oriented job postings, which want HTML, CSS, ASP, PHP, Flash, databases, etc. and are looking for "students" or "can't afford to pay much but it'll look good in a portfolio."

When I first started looking for design jobs after college, I worried a lot because my degree was in literature and so many ads called for BFAs in graphic design/IT. My older friends told me to ignore that part: "They don't mean it. They don't really care. As long as you can do the work, it doesn't matter."

As it turns out, they were right. Portfolios are the key selling point. So why do HR reps continue to post degree qualifications?

This is really funny, but I am the person who created this “unrealistic” (as some people feel) ad.

And surprisingly, I am not “some HR person” who put it together, I am a senior designer working for the company who is hiring, and I am not considering myself a genius. But based on my personal experience, a designer with the formal design education, not only have to be able to use all the listed applications, know CSS, HTML, JavaScript, and some Flash, as well as work with print products and have a solid portfolio, but be able to learn something extra…(is it really to much to ask? How did you guys, who didn’t have all these skills end up employed as a web designer anyway).

Regarding PC platform – in software development field it is mandatory, design for web applications have to be done on PC, since most of the web users are using PC. I think that for a good and talented designer, who is not “carrying bags”, but actually working, 2 years of professional experience is enough to master the software skills he learned in the school and have all the qualifications I listed above. And I feel that real world designers will agree with me…

And finally, I lead a team of 5 designers who were hired in last 2 years using the same ad… maybe it is just luck or maybe your “comments” really does not make any sense

I have seen way too many wasted resources on companies writing job descriptions. It's called business 101 -- learn how to do it and do it well. And, please, don't leave it to the HR department to do it for you.

The thing that got me was the requirement for a DEGREE in web/graphic design. Many, many successful designers never earned a degree in the field, and this seems particularly ridiculous for someone at a level of only 1-2 years' experience. Sigh, when will employers learn?

In Germany there is a similar joke. It goes like: ... Applicant age: 20-25 years,Experience: 30+ years ... I think many companies don't know what they're looking for. I also suspect that many companies use such job ads to impress people and the competition by showing that they only hire the best. Eddie

There is a nice joke about how computer/software specialists are hired. I am translating it from Bulgarian (couldn't find it in English) and I will do my best to make it sound funny in English also.

==========================================
If the bus drivers were hired like software developers:

Job position: Driver

Requirements: professional skills in driving normal- and heavy-freight cars, buses and trucks, trolley buses, trams, subways, tractors, shovel diggers, contemporary light and heavy tanks currently in use by NATO countries.

Skills in rally and extreme driving are obligatory!
Formula-1 driving experience is a plus.

Knowledge and experience in repairing of piston and rotor engines, automatic and manual transmissions, ignition systems, board computer, ABS, ABD, GPS and car-audio systems by world-known manufacturers - obligatory!

Experience with car-painting and tinsmith tasks is a plus.

The applicants must have certificates by BMW, General Motors and Bosch, but not older than two years.

Compensation: $15-$20/hour, depends on the interview result.
========================================

It seems there are a lot of companies that want it all for the pricing of nothing. It's unfortunate. To me, honesty is a two way stream. If you post a job description like that, then you can expect a lot of candidates who will most likely fabricate their qualifications. It's about finding a balance. It's about reasonable expectations and fair compensation. Sure I've worked with all of the above listed programs but do I use them all at once? Not likely. And am I proficient in all of them. I don't think so. It's better to be an expert in maybe one or two of those programs.

Thanks for the great post and sticking up for some of us designers:)

Actually,John Warnock probably has very little idea how to use Photoshop. Yes, I know he was the CEO of Adobe. But did you ever go to the MacHack conference to hear him speak? He brought someone that works for Adobe to answer real questions about the product. It was almost as if he had no clue about specifics of "his" own app. Oh yeah, and he didn't know what Cocoa was, among other things. So "Only the kids of John Warnock who were suckled at the breast of Adobe" probably doesn't mean anything at all!

Sounds like they're looking for someone who went to a j-school or design school for undergrad. One of my friends is at Parsons in NYC, and they teach her how to use all the applications listed and how to put together an "exceptional" portfolio. J-schools are leaning more and more that way, too, with this new "convergence" trend--that is, teaching students how to use a gambit of media to tell stories. Many of my classmates teach themselves design/flash/html/photography or take extra classes for it. In the coming years, my school plans to make it a part of the formal curriculum. Proves helpful when trying to land that first job. And we all hope the peanuts are not too small...

It's not so inusual Guy, many job offers are published in this way, incredible experience with dissapointing compensations. In marketing offers are very similar to this one.
In my 9 years of experience I have saw locally (Spain) and internationally the same way to manage recruition, with some exceptions, but today with the global internet recruitions possibilities, companies can reach more people with less efforts.

There's no chance you can become proficient in using all those apps in 1 or 2 years. But actually the ad is not that bad. I've seen worse. The successful candidate would have to be an expert in system and database administration (Oracle, MS SQL server, MySql, etc), would be an excellent Java programmer, would be familiar programming in .NET and of course would have a strong design sense and a couple of years of experience designing and developing state-of-the-art websites.
I actually applied, because I was desperate back then.
They told me how much they wanted to pay me.
I almost fell off the chair laughing.
They actually hired someone.
I believe companies that put up job ads like that target desperate people who just need a job more than anything.

This is actually pretty tame for NYC Craigslist. Here's one the wilder ones: "Hot Greenwich Startup seeks Web Development Maniac!!!" - http://newyork.craigslist.org/fct/eng/405670052.html

(Love the classy "OK, listen up!" opening :))

Long lists of required skills usually hint that whoever wrote the ad isn't technical - should be a warning sign. The ads I really don't like are those looking for "Rockstar xyz Developer". Always make me think of spaced out megalomaniac Spinal Tap types in control of the products' schedule. I'm hiring a coder now: rockstars aren't that hard to find, decent people you can trust and communicate with are.

Sorry to be the one to break it to you, but real designers don't use tupperware computers. Or even spaghetti strainer ones.

(ducking!)

:-P

I have an excellent understanding of the computer software development cycle. I have been a successful participant in the software development processes of Microsoft and Apple. I have experience as a developer, a QA tester, a localization/internationalization support specialist, technical project management and product development.

Yet, every time I have to go job hunting I become fairly convinced that I am not qualified for any jobs in the software industry as I read the skill sets most companies claim to be looking for. Moreover, I have always found it interesting to compare the people hired with the job description posted.

Some thing terrible must have happened on the way to the office because the person who showed up for work is definitely not the wunderkind described in the job posting.

"the candidate should have gained all this expertise while using the PC-version of applications. What self-respecting candidate is going to admit that? What candidate is going to want to do this kind of work on a PC?"

Mind you that outside of the US, any Apple product costs us an arm and a leg. The vast majority of print designers I know here in Brazil learned all they know in a PC. And some of them are very good professionals.

You sound like a mac fanboy on that one...

I don't see it as too much to ask for, necessarily, for a couple of reasons.

1. They never say how proficient you should be. I can do a wide variety of stuff in Photoshop and Illustrator, and anything I can't do I can learn. I've used Dreamweaver, Flash and Quark before, though I don't use them as regularly as the others. I'm familiar with Java and can learn JavaScript no problem (I just haven't ever needed to do much with JavaScript.)

2. "I need experience on a PC? Yeah I've had experience on personal computers. I've never even used a mainframe. Oh, IBM-compatible? Yeah, every time I do a web site I pop over to the nearest Windows computer to see if it works (because if Internet Explorer on Windows doesn't screw it up, you're mostly good.)" Also, Linux and (now) Mac run on IBM-compatible hardware. So, pretty much, any OS you want to use works fine.

So the problem with that ad is, in my opinion, that it's vague. I'm nowhere near a degree in graphic design, and I've not got two years of experience, but if I did spend the next two years of assembling things in Quark, fooling around with HTML and CSS, editing pictures in Photoshop, and getting together a team of students for a project under my supervision, I could put my best work in a portfolio and say I was qualified for the job.

Thanks for the post, I agree 100%

I have limited qualifications and some experiance and I still created my own social application with no funding. (contrastream.com)

I found that no job would understand what I'm offering (mostly on craigslist) so I took the time to take my own route.

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