The Craigslist Experiment

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Sep 26, 2017

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.”

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.

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