Saturday, September 11, 2010

Hacking Craigslist for Job Postings

I love . . . LOVE . . . Craigslist for finding employees.

I found my best long-term employee ever on Craigslist (Jennifer was with me for six years). See The $200 Miracle.

we have also hired several technicians and administrative staff, plus all of our interns through Craigslist ads.

In addition, let me say that we have used "professional" services on a few occasions before we settled on Craigslist. One person only lasted 30 days and cost us a fortune. Another stayed for two years and still cost us a fortune. Neither one was anywhere near the price of the professional service.

We have also used and other big-name online databases. These were the worst. Lots of spammy applications from desperate SQL programmers all over the country but zero qualified candidates in our area. Now Sacramento's off the beaten path, so I can't say what these services are like in larger metro areas. I think we're the 20th largest metro area, but we're close to San Francisco and Silicon Valley. So that might have something to do with it.

Anyway . . . We love Craigslist.

But we had to learn how to hack Craigslist so it fit our needs. We consistently get 150-200 resumes when we place an ad. With the recession, we've been getting 300 or more. This is overwhelming to deal with. Many ads are just people spamming any ad remotely related to their field because the people who run job-search classes tell them to do this.

(Note for job seekers: The people who teach classes on how to find a job have probably never hired anyone in their lives. So take their advice with a big grain of salt.)

Also, because of the recession, we get a number of people who just need to spam some poor fool like me so they can tell the state unemployment office that they looked for a job. I know this is depressing for them, but that doesn't make my life easier.

So here's the reality of what we've been stuck with: hundreds of resumes, most totally unqualified, and we're so overwhelmed by the process that we're likely to skip over some very qualified candidates because we're just bleary-eyed.

The Basic Problem is that people (or computer scripts) scan the listings for some keyword. Then the automated spam-o-matic job search routine starts. Resumes flood out whether relevant or not. In many cases it is clear that the applicant hasn't even read the ad.

So we developed a screwy screening process that works really well. Basically, we do not accept resumes on the first round. Here are the instructions for technical consultants:
    - Do not send a resume until requested to do so. We will not look at unsolicited resumes.

    - To apply for this position send the following two items to [email protected]:

    - 1) 1-2 paragraph description of why you are passionate about technical consulting

    - 2) Go to to register and share your MCP transcript. Email the link to us.

    - We will send a technology self-assessment to people who stand out. Some of these people will be asked to submit resumes.

The last time we did this for a technician we got 26 applicants, of which 7 were good enough to be taken seriously. That's a huge improvement for us. Certainly better than 300! And because we were able to pre-screen for writing ability and customer service attitude, we had really great candidates.

We are currently seeking someone to help with our marketing and programs for the next few months. Our process here is very similar. The instructions were:

    NOTE: This is an on-site position. Please do not apply if you are outside the Sacramento area.

    Please do not send a resume!
    If we want your resume, we'll ask for it. If you send a resume before that you will be disqualified.

    Our screening process is designed to eliminate robots, virtual assistants, and people who are spamming every ad on the internet.

    What to do:

    -> Send me two written paragraphs.

    One paragraph is on why you are qualified for this position.

    One paragraph is on why you are passionate about customer service.

    We will pick a handful of people to send resumes.

Because of the detailed ad description, we got some great paragraphs. I also think the people who respond are more relaxed and engaged because they know a human being will be reading their applications. One person wrote in her paragraphs, "Organizing things makes my soul sing. Laaa!" That was good enough to get an invitation for a resume.

Hacking Craigslist

If you have a process to plow through 300 resumes and feel like you're doing justice to yourself and the job candidates, then good for you. We need to narrow it down a bit.

This process works because it shifts a key piece of the candidate screening from the middle to the beginning of the hiring process. Instead of opening the floodgates and then filtering, we are filtering first.

We still get a few people who just a send a resume. But now I can simply move them to the deleted item folder with zero guilt. Who wants an employee that can't follow the most basic instructions?

You can hack Craigslist yourself very easily. Just figure out which skills you need more than anything else and set up a screening process. And remember: that "most important" skill won't be technical expertise. That is assumed and you will verify that at a different point in the process. Here you want to screen for things like communication skills, attitude, and customer service.

Play with it . . . and have fun!


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1 comment:

  1. Great article Karl and very true on the spam Resume submissions. Thanks for the insight on how you have found to best use Craigslist.


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