The Craigslist Experiment

I am always on the lookout for new and affordable ways to help either get the word out about a job posting or a place to find that diamond hiding in plain sight. I know there is a mentality about the whole post-and-pray thing … that we have to always be sourcing for the best candidates and not just posting ads.

I honestly see very little strength in that argument, at least with data analytics and IT.

I think everyone has heard of Craigslist in the U.S., but for those who have not, or are outside the U.S., let me fill you in. Originally founded in San Francisco, Craigslist is a basic HTML site where people can offer goods, services, housing, jobs, etc. Generally it is like a local Ebay without the ridiculous fees. Housing is the probably the most used part of the site. Apartment complexes and condo owners make great use of it in order to show off the vacancies they have. However, the employment section is pretty cool too. This is my #truestory of how I made a hard fill with a 35 dollar posting experiment.

The Posting

One of managers has a team comprised of super smart people. When I say super smart, I mean these folks code in a language called C which is pretty much the baseline to a significant line of languages. C++, an object-oriented based language, came from it, and they are often paired together. You can literally build any software or web programs with these languages; the trick with them though is that they are very methodical and logical. It seems most people like to work with easier languages that are more popular for building apps or websites, so finding someone who is proficient can be difficult especially in a smaller market like Portland.

The team was looking to expand and decided to bring on another senior coder. Normally I would be nervous about whether the pay would be high enough to attract people, but I had a great salary level, especially for the market, so I was excited to set this up and get started. I did the normal posting to our purchased sites and then set my sites on some Boolean searches; however, you really cannot look for just C in a search. C/C++ garners some decent resumes, but people put this on their resume because they took a class in it. Resumes came in, but they either did not have the skills we needed or they did not have enough experience to keep up with the rest of the group. We were starting to try and figure out another avenue.

I went to the team and asked them where would they look for a role if they were looking to do some work on the side. Most developers work on side projects in order to keep other technologies sharp or to play with tools we don’t use. Their answer: Craigslist. Many startups have shoestring budgets and cannot afford to advertise roles on the expensive websites. So, off to the site I went. Sure enough there were a number of software roles but nothing like I was looking for. I posted the ad and thought, “Well, it’s only 35 dollars.”

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To our amazement we got more than 10 qualified people for the role and all of them not only had C/C++, but some had other skills that we had down as nice to have, like X86 and Linux.  The interviews went on without a hitch, and an offer was made and accepted! I was amazed by this but equally excited.

People often ask me, “Wouldn’t you want to always source for a role?” Yes, of course, yet the people I am sourcing have the upper hand with me. I seek them out and I need to have them call me or email me back. We all know this process can be frustrating, and return rates barely get in the double digits. Yet when a person applies, two things happen. First, they read the role, and replying means more than likely they know they can do the job. Second, they are interested in the position, so we don’t have to play the game of “would you be interested?” The negotiation takes a different angle and one that is normally in the employer’s favor.

I have had multiple conversations over the years and I have never understood the argument that you have to always need to use a fancy tool or source on LinkedIn and other boards, Google searches, etc., rather than looking at the people who have applied or think that it is a waste of time to go through the resumes. I made a placement that cost the group $35 dollars! No heartburn, no fuss, no muss, just some great candidates to choose from.

Derek Zeller draws from over 20 years in the recruiting industry. The last 16 years he has been involved with federal government recruiting specializing in the cleared IT space under OFCCP compliance. Currently, he is the Director of Recruiting Solutions for Engage Talent. He has experience with both third-party agency and in-house recruiting for multiple disciplines. Using out-of-the-box tactics and strategies to identify and engage talent, he has had significant experience in building referral and social media programs, the implementation of Applicant Tracking Systems, technology evaluation, and the development of sourcing, employment branding, and military and college recruiting strategies. Derek currently lives in the Portland area. Now, he is the Director of Recruiting Solutions and Channels with Engage.


10 Comments on “The Craigslist Experiment

  1. Derek, quite agree with you–craigslist is one of those totally buried little gems that we look at for sofas. Jobs? Not so much. Have been using craigslist successfully for a wide range of reqs from entry production up to some fairly sophisticated med device quality folks.

    There is a rub here. The tech support at craigslist is basically non-existent and I have yet to figure out how to retrieve voice messages left there. I’ve gone so far as to include wording like this DO NOT LEAVE VOICE MAILS in the ads. That doesn’t work. If someone out there in ERE-land could help on that little glitch, would be most appreciated.

    1. Yep, CL is very bare-bones, 90’s- style, no T-S.
      I went to try and see what you meant, started to post an imaginary job:
      There’s a field which says:
      “users can also contact me”:
      by phone by text

      Either leave them both blank, OR
      Only check “text” OR
      Leave the phone number field blank OR
      Put in (Your Area Code) 555-5555

      Hope these help…

  2. Derek, a good recruiting 101 for people who forgot this site even exists. I am a supporter of hiring from Craigslist and have plenty of folk who are where they are today as a result of it. Companies need to change the conversation to be able to communicate effectively with prospects on this site, and allow discretion for the candidate experience at least on the front end being less refined.

  3. Thank you! Sourcing is important but don’t disregard the inbound applicants. That could be where the rare diamond is.

  4. Craigslist can most definitely work! It just depends on what situation you are in budget-wise, field, target candidates, etc. Tracking your candidate sources and analyzing for quality and quantity is always best. There are free places to promote that some employers don’t take advantage of, as well (this is a good list: Thanks for sharing this!

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