English Major Discovers There’s Plenty of Competition at $13 An Hour

If Garrison Keillor were to catch wind of what Eric Auld did, he’d have him drummed out of P.O.E.M.

The job seeking, 26-year-old Massachusetts part-time teacher phonied up a job ad to see what his competition was like. He posted it on Craigslist and sat back to await the responses.

As most of you reading this are recruiters, you can guess where this is going. However, try not to spoil it for the few others here, while I fill in some of the background.

Auld, like so many young people who failed to heed mom’s advice, majored in English instead of engineering, even got a Master’s in it. Now, three years out of college and saddled with $40,000 in debt, he was a discouraged job seeker applying, as he put it, “to dozens, maybe hundreds of jobs per week.”

His job as an adjunct college English teacher offered no benefits, and “barely enough money to pay rent, utilities, car insurance, student loans, etc.”

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So he hatched a scheme to see just what he was up against.

I had to find out more on where I stood in this uncertain job market. I thought that if I could figure at least a piece of that out, then maybe I could improve my job hunting techniques, and, maybe then — just maybe — an employer would actually call me back.

So I conducted an experiment: I invented a job and posted it to Craigslist.

Here’s what the ad said:

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.

That would be Midtown Manhattan at $12-$13 an hour.
Eric Auld

The ad went live at 2:41 p.m. on a Thursday. The first resume arrived four minutes later. When he deleted the ad exactly 24 hours later he had received 653 responses.

What he found was that 23 percent of the applicants had five or more years’ actual experience as an administrative assistant; 10 percent had more than 10 years. He took some encouragement from finding that only 3 percent of the applicants for the entry-level position held a Master’s degree, though 39 percent  had a Bachelor’s.
After all this, Auld came to three conclusions:
  1. “Employers won’t notice me by my résumé alone.”
  2. “When job searching on Craigslist, apply to positions immediately.”
  3. “Expect the application review process to take a while.”
But you are all recruiters, so you already knew all that.

John Zappe is the editor of TLNT.com and a contributing editor of ERE.net. John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Besides writing for ERE, John consults with staffing firms and employment agencies, providing content and managing their social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing. In his spare time  he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

You can contact him here.


3 Comments on “English Major Discovers There’s Plenty of Competition at $13 An Hour

  1. Great article. This is precisely why I advised my two current college attending children to take a programming class during their first two years at school . . . While there apparently is an unemployment problem nationally, there is very little unemployment in IT.

    Happy Friday!


  2. How about the collateral damage? Not only did he waster 650+ applicants’ time, but he offered false hope to these people.

    Anyway… how do you advertise effectively on Craigslist?

    There are so many scam job ads out there; he could od this because most of the time it’s a free or cheap place to post. I recommend including the name of your company in the job title so that job seekers can quickly see that you are for real, and then some contact information or a physical address in the ad itself.

  3. There are a lot of what recruiters refer to as “fishing expeditions” on all job boards. How to determine which are scams and which are legitimate is not easy. It’s mostly trial and error. Be on the look-out for red flags like $12-13/hour in Midtown Manahttan. Probably not very realistic.

    This person’s experiment is a great (and sad) indicator of how many desperate people there are, who are still looking for work.

    Tip to the job applicant: if you have 10+ years of experience for a job like that, you will most likely be passed by. The wasting of time is on the job-seeker, not the job-poster. You have to decide if you are REALLY the best fit for that job or are you just one of hundreds who can do it? If your answer is the latter, don’t bother applying. Why spend the time when you know YOU’D have trouble hiring you for that job?

    Interesting experiment. Clearly the English major is not alone.

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