If you’ve done any hiring at all in the past few years, this will be a familiar scene: you open up your laptop one morning to find 4.86 x 10^9 responses to your Craigslist ad. As you begin to read through your stuffed-to-the-breaking-point inbox with bloodshot eyes, you notice a few patterns. Maybe twenty percent of your respondents don’t even include a résumé, and the emails say only “I wud love 2 work 4 U, check out my rockin’ blog, bro.” Twelve percent are actually applications for a dog-washing position in Des Moines–these people haven’t even read your ad. A full five percent of the replies were written by escapees from maximum-security mental institutions–and you suspect that they have written these emails with their feet. The remaining 63% have absolutely zero relevant experience.
The problem here is not so much that there’s no talent out there; it’s that you’ve run your ad in the wrong place. If you’re hiring remote support staff, for example, CL might be a good fit. But if you’re recruiting your new CFO? Posting an ad for that position on Craigslist is like trying to buy a wedding ring at Wal-Mart.
Take Your Best Shot
Before you write your ad, take a minute to think about the audience you’re hoping to reach. A big part of the stuffed-inbox problem is that thousands of job seekers are out there applying for jobs almost automatically.
Identify Your Target
The fact of the matter is that Craigslist may not be the best venue for all types of hiring. Because the audience is so general, Craigslist tends to work best if the open position is entry level–or even if it’s a temporary, contracted trial. If you’re hiring for a job in a specific discipline, there are more specific tools out there which will help you target your posts at the right people. If you want to hire a creative professional, like a designer, go to where the designers are. You’re going to find a generally more qualified pool of talent at, say, Creative Circle or Creativeheads.net than at Craigslist. Do your homework here and your inbox won’t regret it.
Once you’ve found your target, aim squarely at the bullseye and fire. If the skill / experience requirements you list in your ad are overly broad, you’re going to get responses from an overly broad segment of the talent pool. Be as specific as possible about what you need, and you’ll get replies from better, more qualified applicants.
Filter From The Get-Go
Previously, we’ve looked at ways in which you can sort through the responses to your ad. But you’ll find that a lot of later headache can be obviated by taking a few steps to ensure that your respondents are both keenly interested and qualified, not just firing off another email.
- Ask for something specific–like a word or phrase–in the subject line of respondents’ emails. This will cut down on “spam” responses significantly, because it ensures that candidates are at least attentive enough to detail that they’re actually reading your ad.
- Require action. Another way to determine an applicant’s level of interest might be to ask that they install a browser extension, or that they read some text on the Web and then answer a question. The specifics can be tailored to your situation, but the idea is to run a quick test of engagement.
- Include a quick cultural test. For example: ask your applicants a silly question like what their favorite color is, and why. Then you can potentially make quick judgments based on how they respond. If it’s immediately apparent that an applicant for a creative position hasn’t responded creatively, you can probably move on to the next email.
- Consider filtering email responses by domain. If you’re hiring an executive, a harvard.edu address is probably going to be one you’ll want to look at first. Likewise, think about looking at emails from stanford.edu first if you’re hiring engineers. We don’t recommend limiting your focus to a single domain, but it’s a good way to get started.
Focus Is Key
Just remember that your ad ought to be targeted at the right sets of eyeballs. Tailor your ad to the situation appropriately, and then ensure that your applicants are truly both interested and motivated. Then you can spend your time trying to find the best candidate, rather than simply attempting to organize hundreds of emails you don’t want to read.