Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Using Craigslist to Help Find a Job

As a recruiter, I get asked all the time about resources to help find a job. The Internet, of course, has been the top job searching tool for years with the domination of websites like Yahoo! Hotjobs, Careerbuilder and Monster. A few years ago a crazy on-line experiment started by Craig Newmark at his home in California started a new phenomenon. The website soon spread like wildfire and nationwide hubs of the website appeared in all major metro areas and even some minor ones. Next thing we know, Craigslist has become a source for jobs. Since it has a local flavor and started out free in most cities; and if eventually becoming a pay site only costing $25, or so, a posting (a steal compared to the major job board that require huge contracts), Craigslist was a place to find more than just the legitimate jobs. Craigslist very much has a split personality when it comes to being a job board.

Because it is local and inexpensive, many legitimate companies are really using the site to post their openings. People with certain skill sets are not using the major job boards and Craigslist is more accessible for those types of positions. On the other hand, it is a hotbed for scams that propose a lot of benefits and end up leading to lost dignity at the least and lost money in the worst case. How do you tell the difference between a legitimate job and a real one? That is hard to say, because the individuals crafting the posts are generally good at what they do in either case. Even posting a company website doesn't necessarily add an air of legitimacy as it doesn't take much to throw something together to look professional.

It is always best to trust your instincts. If you contact the posting via email or phone and simply don't get a good vibe from the person at the other end, walk away. This could mean you miss out on real jobs, but not everyone gets along and maybe that is not a bad situation in either case.

The following article offers a lot of great advice for working on Craigslist.

Using Craig's List to Find a Job

Each Craigslist site has the same "look" and organization - but not content - as all the others, with many categories of classified ads, including jobs and gigs (projects), as well as events, housing, and things for sale.

2 Important Cautions

Craig's List is different from most sites you have used in looking for a job because the cost of posting a job is non-existent (a.k.a. free!) or very low cost ($25 to $75), in comparison with most job sites. That difference is a major benefit of using Craigslist since it attracts postings from employers of every size. However, as with most things, there can also be a downside.

1.) Watch out for scams.
The Craigslist people work hard to minimize the scams posted, and visitors can "flag" postings that they think are inappropriate or badly categorized. However, since posting an entry is free for most categories and locations, there is abuse by scammers, scammer wannabe's, and just plain inept people. So, be careful. To help their visitors, Craigslist has a section called "avoiding scams and fraud." Be sure to read it!

2.) Protect your privacy if you post your resume.
There is a category where people can post their resumes. Those postings will be visible to anyone who visits the site, so limit the contact information and details that you include. Anyone, including your current boss, can view your resume on Craigslist if you post it there. See Job-Hunt's CyberSafe resume article for tips on methods to use to protect your privacy while enabling your job search.

Finding the "Right" Craigslist

To find the Craig's List for your state or town, or where you want to live, go to Craig's List and select the location you want from the lists of links on the right side of every Craig's List home page. Just click on the appropriate location link from those listed. The new home page will look like the one you just left except there should be a different name in the heading at the top of the page. If you pick a state with several local Craig's Lists, you will get a page that offers you a choice of towns and cities in that state.

Understanding Craigslist

The listings are organized by category, in reverse chronological order which means that the newest ones are at the top, with yesterday's next, and so on to the oldest at the end. So you can pick a category and/or a sub-category to see the listings. Listings may be mis-categorized by the people who post them, so focusing on a sub-category can be a mistake if something you want is listed in a sub-category you don't check (more below).

Finding the Jobs (and Gigs) in the "jobs" Column

Near the top center of the home page, you'll find the column heading -"jobs".

To get started, just browse through the job postings by clicking on the word "jobs" and scrolling down to see what was posted today (so far), yesterday, the day before yesterday, etc. as far back as you want to go. I like to browse through everything posted recently (last few days) in Jobs so that I don't miss something that is in an unexpected category.

Below the jobs on the home page are the "gigs."" Gigs" are mostly short-term jobs, also organized into sub-categories and presented in reverse chronological order. Browsing through the gigs is usually very interesting in most locations. Sometimes you can end up with a permanent job starting out with a "gig;" sometimes you'll just make enough money to cover your bills until you get a "real job;" and sometimes you're just adding experience to your resume (and maybe a skill or two, too).

Searching in Craigslist

Craigslist also has a search function that works very well. They provide different search capabilities depending on what page of Craigslist you are visiting. If you select the category or subcategory for "jobs" or "gigs," you get an advanced search function that provides you with good fine tuning capabilities for that category. Pick the category or subcategory you want, and then search through the postings using the usual key words and the fine tuning.

If you type your query into the search bar on the Craig's List home page, select the part of Craigslist you want to search through from the drop down list (e.g. "for sale," "events," "jobs," "gigs," etc.) for a simple keyword search.

Networking with Craigslist

Networking is still the best way to find a job! And, in addition to the jobs and gigs, Craigslist's "community" and "discussion forum" sections may also be helpful to your job search. In the community section, you'll find activities, groups, events, volunteers, classes, and politics. All of those are potential sources of opportunities for networking. And, volunteering to help less fortunate people in your community usually makes you feel better about yourself while you help someone else (and network, too). In the discussion forums, there is a "jobs" discussion group, although at this point there isn't a separate forum for each location - the forums are combined into one very large one.

Subscribing to Craigslist Updates

Craigslist offer RSS feeds for most categories and sub-categories. Just click on the RSS feed button - or on the Add to My Yahoo button at the bottom right of each page to subscribe to updates of that page's contents.

About the author...

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff "graduate" who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 1998, her company, NETability, Inc. purchased, and Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt since then. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg.