The Craigslist jobs experiment

A couple of weeks ago, I published the article Get A Job: The Craigslist Experiment over on Thought Catalog. In the article, I shared the results from a fake job ad that I had posted on Craigslist, which yielded over 650 responses in a 24-hour period.

The job was a $12 to $13 per hour administrative assistant position in midtown Manhattan (full-time with health benefits). The applicants ranged in education from high school to graduate school and had anywhere from 0 to 20 plus years of relevant clerical experience.

Naturally, the results were initially devastating to a job hunter like myself. I realised that all along during my job hunt I had just been standing before a great abyss, hurling my resume in, crossing my fingers that it wouldn’t burn in flames, and hoping that someone would eventually catch it.

I meditated on these results, and then published the aforementioned article to show just how bad the state of the job market is; after all, in just one day, hundreds of overqualified job-seekers applied to this no-experience-required position. I wanted to also reiterate the notion that there are more efficient ways to conduct the Great Job Hunt, and, though the results of this rogue experiment are depressing, one needn’t necessarily abandon all hope.

Since its publication, The Craigslist Experiment has received quite a bit of feedback from all around the web, ranging from the scathing (*insert expletive here*) to the enlightening (“If you have a master’s degree, you probably shouldn’t apply for an entry-level position”). Here are the three most asked questions in response to my experiment.

How could you waste all of these people’s time?

The only way I can answer this is to say: “Well, haven’t they wasted enough time already?” The method of firing off resumes to any entry-level position is not the most effective approach to get an interview. Do you think you can stand out in a tsunami of 600 plus applications? Probably not. Instead, call up your connections. Network. Make yourself known. Also, as some HR representatives informed me, overqualified applicants should respond to jobs that match their education/experience, since employers assume that they will grow bored in a mediocre position and want to leave immediately. (Either that, or leave master’s degree off your resume when applying for lower-level positions.)

How could you collect all of these people’s private information like that?

I only collected what people submitted to me and I reported very broad, non-specific statistics on them. I did not intend to harm any one, and I don’t believe I have. I do believe, however, that this merits a discussion on job hunting and what we send through the internet.

Why did I choose Craigslist? Because I had nearly been scammed there on several occasions. The job I posted listed no company or address, yet 653 people still emailed their information. Before applying to a position, take the time to find out more about the employer, otherwise you run the risk of submitting your resume to a person or group with malicious intents.

What can job-seekers actually learn from this?

The large response to this non-existent job just proves that many people aren’t taking this advice, or that many people are desperate and continue these futile techniques anyway. My suggestion is to use your time and energy in a more profitable manner and stop this madness at once. I’ve heard stories of friends who have been doing this for years, and now I understand why they are trapped in an endless cycle of applying and waiting. For most of us, it just doesn’t work.

It’s important to step out of the box. Use social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter to connect with organisations in which you are interested, even if they are not advertising any open positions. Connect with people you know in your field and expand your network. Call or visit companies in person and find out more about your potential employers. And it’s important to spend more time on higher quality cover letters for the jobs you really want, rather than blindly launching resume after resume to any online classified ad that comes along. There’s a lot of competition out there, and it’s up to you to make employers know who you really are and that you are the right person for the job.

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