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

Aug 17, 2012
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

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.”

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.
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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