What one man did to get hired

This is the story of a man who really wanted a job. For 5 years he had run a successful small web design firm in Gainesville, getting clients by word of mouth and by befriending small business owners. But he had moved to New York and this was a different kettle of fish. “In New York all the doors are locked” he told me. “There was no dropping by and making friends, and I had no word of mouth. New York kicked my ass. So I started looking for a proper corporate job in web design.”

He started with Craigslist. It had worked well for him in Florida and he was comfortable with it. But he only got back a couple of thank-you notes. He tried Monster and other job sites: from them he got back nothing but spam.

“So I created two fake job postings on Craigslist to see what the competition was like. I got 200-300 emails in the first 6 hours – they were all super-qualified. I looked at what they had written and I created a template letter of my own, based on the best of what I saw.”

“I gave up on the other sites and focused 100% of my energy on Craigslist, refining my search and hitting refresh, refresh so I could see the latest jobs. As soon as a new posting appeared I sent my application. And I knew my letter was good because I had studied the best ones out there.”

“But my experience with the fake postings, the hundreds of applications, made me think that an employer is going to get bored after reading just 30 or so. So I realized that my own job was to be number one in their inbox. I was refreshing my search every ten minutes. But this wasnʼt quick enough. This was a giant race with 200 people, all starting at the same time. Seconds matter if you want to be the first.”

So instead of refreshing the web page and then going to his mail to apply, he set up an RSS feed from his Craigslist search directly into his mail client, so he could get from the posting to his response in fewer clicks.

“In a week or so I had it down to a science. I was super-comfortable with it. I deleted any new jobs when I got up in the morning, as I was already too late for them. I had the bugs removed and everything was virtually perfect. I figure I had my response time down to about 7 seconds after a job had posted.”

Driven by his drive to be first in the inbox, the system quickly produced results. In the following week he received four requests for interviews. One of them was at MLB.com, a dream position – where he now happily works.

One Comment

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  • I have received some comments on this story. They are most welcome and helpful. I should be clear that my intention was to present this story as a piece of reporting rather than a recommendation that should be followed in all its detail.

    Here are two comments:

    From KhYal:

    "I always love your posts, but don't you find something wrong about the person who was dishonest and created fake job listings on Craigslist? I do. I'm never a fan lying. And, he wasted other people's time. I know all is fair in love, war and the job hunt but I wouldn't hire a person I knew did that. If it's okay to lie for personal gain in that case, what could this person be faking or lying about on the job?"

    And from William A:

    I would call it "research" instead of "faked ads" (what's real or not on Craigslist anyways?, that's a matter of a debate). I think it was a good move, and there's where creativity come into play.

    Don't we all make fake phone calls and send anonymous e-mails or anonymous forum posts to dig into our clients' competitors tactics?

    You could have worded it a little different in your story not to fall into the very thin line of gray/unethical side of things.

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