Eric Auld wasn’t finding much success in his job hunt, so he decided to run an experiment to learn about the competition:
I invented a job and posted it to Craigslist.
Sure, the job didn’t exist, and you might protest, “But Eric, how cruel of you to lead all these people on!” Then I thought of the mountain range of jobs to which I had applied in the last few weeks, followed by the complete lack of correspondence from these potential employers, and then I didn’t feel so bad. I assumed that those who had applied to this non-existent position would most likely shake the experience off as just another stone in the quarry of disappointment. (If, gentle Reader, you are one of those unfortunate applicants, then I offer my sincere apologies.)
I thought of sites where I regularly search for jobs, and settled on Craigslist for this experiment, since positions are uploaded there more frequently than on any other site I usually visit. I thought of the major cities where I’ve been applying to jobs, and settled on New York, since… well, it’s New York; it’s the place to be.
I wanted to create a very basic ad: a full-time job with decent starting pay and health benefits included. I wanted to study a broad spectrum of job seekers, so I did not require any specific educational background or related experience for the position. The entirety of the ad was created using what I had seen in my own job searches: the most common job, the most common job duties, the most common pay, in the most advertised district on all of NYC’s Craigslist.
In the end, I produced this ad:
Administrative Assistant needed for busy Midtown office. Hours are Monday through Friday, nine to five. Job duties include: filing, copying, answering phones, sending e-mails, greeting clients, scheduling appointments. Previous experience in an office setting preferred, but will train the right candidate. This is a full-time position with health benefits. Please e-mail résumé if interested. Compensation: $12-$13 per hour.
I created a fake e-mail address to receive all of the applications. Before I published the ad, I hypothesized that I would receive a lot of résumés, and I didn’t want applicants usurping my personal inbox, especially for a non-existent position.
“A lot of résumés” is an egregious understatement.
I published the ad at exactly 2:41P.M. on Thursday. The first response came in at 2:45—just four minutes later. Ten minutes later, there were 10 responses. Twenty minutes later, there were 56. An hour later: 164. Six hours: 431.
At 2:41P.M. on Friday — exactly 24 hours after I posted the ad — there were 653 responses in my brand new inbox. Not wanting to face any more after that, I promptly removed the ad from Craigslist.