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.
Craigslist is effective, but not for the volume of replies. I advertise on CL when I need to hire someone, and always get many replies. Many, about 50%, are worthless or spam. Of the remaining 50%, many are people with professional deficiency (the laziness Guy mentions in his list). So for any given ad, I get from 1-5 worthwhile responses out of a pool of about 20-30 total. This usually spans 2 days, all I generally need to find a candidate, so Guy’s advice to apply quickly holds true. In the end, CL is a good resource, you can’t beet the price or the speed with which responses arrive, but you have to approach it like fishing with a grenade. You get alot of fish, but most are dead.
Insofar as the how-to-apply comments go, they’re a given, or should be. Unfortunately, far too few applicants take the time to see their application from the employer’s perspective, and their method of hiring, as you described, is first to find out who not to hire and then sort through the short list of who to hire.
CraigsList for jobs, however, is off the mark. Job boards have become pretty clearly delineated: CraigsList for 1099/contractors and retail/seasonal; Dice for IT (although recruiters are now going elsewhere because of so many H1B visas they don’t want to deal with); HCareers for hospitality; CareerBuilder/Monster for most everybody (although CareerBuilder is redundant, has less traffic than Monster, and Monster has a staggering 50 million plus unique resumes, CB about 20% of that); and niche boards (e.g., LinkedIn). I’m not advertising for Monster, I’ve just been working with recruiters for so long that these are the facts. CraigsList has its place, in particular for the kind of position you described. Sure, there are exceptions but as a rule, the boards have staked out their positions and depending on what you’re looking for (employer or employee) this is a pretty solid guide to what the industry is doing right now.
Note: I didn’t mention Yahoo’s Hotjobs for a reason – search Monster.com for “yahoo” and see what you come up with =^)
Great use of built-in screening tests, Guy. It’s amazing what bubbles to the surface when a candidate is asked to perform even the most basic of simulated job-related tasks.
CareerBuilders.com is pretty much crap. The signal to noise ratio is so low (no signal, lots of noise) that it is not worth posting a resume to. The majority of responses you get are spam and frauds. Searching for jobs there is also a study in wading through waist deep muck (this being a family program) looking for precious stones. Half the time the best you find is a cheap amethyst. There might be diamonds there, good luck finding them.
Monster is only slightly better.
Craigslist is actually a pretty decent place to search for jobs provided that you take into account Guy’s first observation. Jobs go quickly on Craigslist. If you’re going to search there, you need to be looking at Craigslist two to three times a day and you have to be ready to fire off a reply immediately.
Now, a question for Guy. What makes good cover?? I understand the importance of a cover letter but, because I seldom get any feedback on cover letters that I write, I’m never really sure what is effective and what is not.
PS I’d love your critique of my resume too. http://resume.smittie.com
Perhaps there’s a local-bias involved. Up here in the Portland area, I’ve had quite a different experience, both hiring and trying to get hired.
During an extended stretch of unemployment a few years back, I found a number of interesting sounding marketing management positions on Craig’s List and I received interviews for just about all that I applied for. With but one exception, every one was a “marketing” job without a base salary – commission only sales for products not yet marketable or with extremely long sales cycles and no penetration. None of the posting companies mentioned this until I had come in to talk.
When using Craig’s list to hire, I received just a handful of resumes. The few that came in were either deceptive or from candidates that likely didn’t actually read the job requirements.
Granted, “I” am a very small sampling, but it is enough to cause me to question the site and/or the Portland employment environment.
I have both gotten jobs from Craig’s List and hired for jobs using Craig’s List. I recently hired a writer for a blogging project and asked for writing samples with the application both to see if people would follow directions and to get sense of their style. Frankly, I’m a little appalled by how many people emailed saying “here’s my resume, I’ll send writing samples tonight when I’m home” and then NEVER did it!
Another tip: Send your resume as a PDF. This goes for any job. Word files leave too much room for problems, PDFs will actually show up the way you want them too.
And my favorite tip for sorting through resumes: Throw out half. That way you won’t hire anyone who is unlucky!
This is for Smittie (commented below) and anyone else with the same questions;
The thing I look for in a cover letter is a very brief and to the point translation between my specific job and you. If a lot come in, the cover can really help to set you apart.
I like to see a quick “how you heard about the job” – though not everyone cares about this. Then just give one or two, maybe three at the most, very strong highlights that demonstrate that you are well suited for the job and that you took the time to do a little research on my company. Keep it open and brief with lot’s of white space. Don’t worry about completely selling yourself to me. Just piqué my interest enough that I want to spend time reading your resume.
It doesn’t help much for you to tell me that you’re perfect for the job. Rather, pull the most relevant-to-my-job-posting and hardest hitting bullet out of your resume. For example, if I were posting for a project manger and my company produced embedded software, you could note that “as a software engineering project manager on the iPod program at Apple, your scheduling and project management contributed to an on-time, world-beating product.”
As far as the resume goes, you have some great material, but the document is very long. Based on the dates, I’ve been around as long as you and I struggle with the length of my resume as well, but the length really can get in the way of effective communications. Think long and hard about each and every word in your resume. Will that word help get you into an interview? If not, find a way to get rid of it.
Best of luck to you
Honesty is not always the best policy
I just read Guy’s post on his blog about how to get a job, and his experience posting an opportunity on Craig’s List. I find it fascinating that people think that telling you EVERYTHING is a good angle when trying
Craigslist is certainly a great resource, and you will definitely get a ton of responses. For a small company, though, monitoring not only how many “applicants” click on your apply link or email their resume in is important, but also monitoring how many “Views” you receive can give you great insight into how well your ad is doing. In the world of “Talent Marketing” (our area of expertise), the views you get on craigslist are almost as important as the candidates who apply. Remember, marketing is about “impressions” and posting your job on craiglist will actually help get your company, product, etc in front of many people.
However, you should branch out and market your jobs on as many sites as possible, and not just job boards but through many different avenues…which our WildFire product does! (www.smashfly.com) Ok, enough of the pitch!
Great write up Guy, and yes, CL does deliver…we have the metrics to prove it!
I love Craigslist. I have found some great help on that site, and continue to use it to find employees and specialized skills.
(beware of the nigerian scammers that flood that site… they get your email address through some pretty sneaky tactics!)
one blog i love to read AFTER reading Craigslist is the Craigslist’s Curmudgeon (http://www.craigslistcurmudgeon.com/). I’m affiliated with b5media — but still, the Curmudgeon has been a long time around before it was acquired and its mighty funny!
Recently, I used craigslist when searching for a job. I submitted resumes on a Thursday… had multiple interviews early the next week and was offered a great job the following Wednesday. Worked for me! However, knowing that there would be many other applicants, I carved out a stand out resume. I was told that the resume got me noticed. After I was hired, a friend, also in the same professional field, was looking for a job. I mentioned craigslist and he blew me off. I gave hime a copy of my resume and instructed him to copy my cover letter and resume with his info and send it out. I am proud to say that within a week he had a job, actually, a better job than I obtained… and I’m glad about it. In short, work your arrrrse off on the resume and you will benefit from craigslist!
Craigslist is a bit crazy for the job poster. I posted a listing and received at least fifty apps. rather quickly. Its a pain filing through them all.
Landing a job online; Job hunting tips and resources
Most job hunters these days use the Internet to find job openings. Guy Kawasaki had an interesting post today about his experience posting and filling a job opening on Craigslist. Since I recently completed the post-college job search, I thought
Guy: As Duane Benson suggests, it is a highly localised experience. Your ‘catchment’ has to be fertile enough for you to get these responses. I am sure in middle America you will not get so many CVs,leave alone, so many relevant ones.
In the UK, Gumtree (owned by eBay) is far more well-known and better-used than Craigslist. So in the UK you experiment may not have worked on Craigslist, but may have done on on Gumtree.. Depending on whether it is Gumtree in Essex or Gumtree in middle England.
So instead of resting, one should apply in the seventh day ;)
You’ve inspired me. I’ve done a quick search on CL, found a job opening of interest, and applied the cover letter & resume approach outlined in your “Dear Libby” post from August 2006 — don’t sue me for plagiarism ;).
I’m using this as a sort of a test to contrast with past efforts in career moves. I’ve had a past habit of using a more exhaustive and fancy (albeit one-page) resume and a not-as-good-as-yours cover letter. I’ll be interested to see the response on this one.
Sorry… the double-post was due to an apparent browser/webpage glitch (or possibly a PEBKAC error, who knows?)
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?
I found an awesome craigslist tool to help me be the first to send in a resume.
it’s CL Buddy:
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.
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.
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 is something I had to explain today along with PlentyOfFish.com to a Korean girl I know. Both are favourites of Guy Kawasaki. Ive yet to try PlentyOfFish.com but Ive become a user of Craigslist after John Carley told me it wa…
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.
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. 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).
Rule #2: Hire the rightpeople
At least 98.5% of a company’s success is due to having the right people in the right position. The people you hire need to have the right skill sets to take the company up another level and grow. This may sound logical, but, believe me, I have …
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.
Getting a job on Craigslist or anywhere else
Guy Kawasaki has a great post How to Get a Job on Craigslist that is really useful for anyone trying to get an interview. The majority of new grads and young professionals are going to be relying on the web for their job search. While thi…
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“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.
Craigslist.. nothing but nutty people!
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.
Kawasaki Likes Craiglist Job Board
The ad cost $75…. yielded… thirty-seven good candidates… at a cost of a mere $2 per candidate. I’d heard … about the extraordinary effectiveness of Craigslist, but now I “know” this is true. Now you know that there are highly-qualified diligent…
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….
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?).
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.
HireAbility.com – The Recruiting Network
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.
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.
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Thirty Three Things (v. 28)
1. In The Grammarian’s Five Daughters, a fable by science fiction writer Eleanor Arnason, a mother bestows grammatical gifts to five daughters seeking their fortune in the world. The eldest daughter gets a bag full of nouns, the next gets…
“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
Craigslist Software Jobs: Canada vs. SanFrancisco
I recently checked out the Canadian Craigslist scene after reading some recent posts by Guy Kawasaki. Ive heard that Craigslist is big in the San Francisco Bay area, but how is it catching on in Canadas largest cities? I devis…
Just so you know, 26 is not 94% of 29. Still a great article.
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.
This is so old, but maybe you’ll see it!
You say cover “email”–if I’ve written a stand-alone cover letter and attached it to the email, should I actually just be copying it into the body of the email? Seems like such a silly question, but now that I’m thinking about it, writing a blurb in the email and then requiring the person reviewing to open two attachments instead of one does seem clunky. Let me know what you think. Thank you!