Get A Job: The Craigslist Experiment

I am a 26-year-old with a Master’s degree in English. I am currently looking for a full-time job, preferably in a major city, since that’s where a vast multitude of jobs exist.

Unfortunately, so do an even vaster multitude of job-seekers.

Why would I ever want a full-time job, you may ask? Because I am currently an Adjunct Lecturer in English, which means part-time employment, which means a limited amount of classes per semester, which means no steady work during summer or winter breaks, which means no health benefits and barely enough money to pay rent, utilities, car insurance, student loans, etc.

I know, I know: “Why expect a full-time job with a Humanities degree?” you ask. But that’s not the discussion I want to start today. I just want to focus on the masses for a moment.

We all know the story: for a long time now, the U.S. job market has been in the toilet. The national unemployment rate is now 8.1%, though it is ever-steadily creeping its way back up the drain, as unemployment was 9.1% just one year ago. Still, for many (especially for my post-collegiate generation), coming across full-time employment is like finding one specific needle in a stack of billions of other needles.

But you know this already.

I shouldn’t complain too much because I have a Master’s degree and employers are more likely to at least acknowledge my résumé because of this. (Well, I hope so.) But what of the Bachelor’s degree? The Associate’s? The High School Diploma? My guess: the lesser the degree, the less likely a possible employer will schedule an interview. But that’s just my guess, as I am not an HR representative of any sort.

There’s also the paradox of present life after higher education: massive student loan debts and few jobs available to actually pay them off. But that’s also not why I write today.

We’re familiar with the art of the job search: day after day, scanning the classifieds, Monster, Indeed, Craigslist, etc. for open positions; forever touching up résumés to appeal to specific job requirements; writing endless cover letters that never seem to sound quite right; applying to dozens, maybe hundreds of jobs per week; staring vacuously at the familiar monitor glow at 3 a.m.; drinking gallons of coffee/alcohol to endure the monotony of it all; going days, weeks, months, seasons without a single response; yelling violently at the cat and punching the wall in frustration; discovering ennui and permanently bathing in it.

After repeating the aforementioned process for a while, I began to wonder if all of my efforts were purely futile or if I was actually making any dents (no matter how minute). I grew thoughtful, curious, worrisome, and thoroughly impatient — all in that order. I also knew many others in my position who had suffered similar fates.

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.

Sure, the job didn’t exist, and you might protest, “But Eric, how cruel of you to lead all these people on!” Then I thought of the mountain range of jobs to which I had applied in the last few weeks, followed by the complete lack of correspondence from these potential employers, and then I didn’t feel so bad. I assumed that those who had applied to this non-existent position would most likely shake the experience off as just another stone in the quarry of disappointment. (If, gentle Reader, you are one of those unfortunate applicants, then I offer my sincere apologies.)

I thought of sites where I regularly search for jobs, and settled on Craigslist for this experiment, since positions are uploaded there more frequently than on any other site I usually visit. I thought of the major cities where I’ve been applying to jobs, and settled on New York, since… well, it’s New York; it’s the place to be.

I wanted to create a very basic ad: a full-time job with decent starting pay and health benefits included. I wanted to study a broad spectrum of job seekers, so I did not require any specific educational background or related experience for the position. The entirety of the ad was created using what I had seen in my own job searches: the most common job, the most common job duties, the most common pay, in the most advertised district on all of NYC’s Craigslist.

In the end, I produced this ad:

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.


I created a fake e-mail address to receive all of the applications. Before I published the ad, I hypothesized that I would receive a lot of résumés, and I didn’t want applicants usurping my personal inbox, especially for a non-existent position.

“A lot of résumés” is an egregious understatement.

I published the ad at exactly 2:41P.M. on Thursday. The first response came in at 2:45—just four minutes later. Ten minutes later, there were 10 responses. Twenty minutes later, there were 56. An hour later: 164. Six hours: 431.

At 2:41P.M. on Friday — exactly 24 hours after I posted the ad — there were 653 responses in my brand new inbox. Not wanting to face any more after that, I promptly removed the ad from Craigslist.

As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to gain a full perspective of who my generalized workforce competition was.

As if 653 responses in one day wasn’t enough already to knock me down the proverbial flight of stairs, I decided to sift through each and every application and record some basic statistical data — just to see what I was up against. I collected general information in two basic areas: Experience and Educational Background.

I should note that out of these 653 responses, 27 either contained an inaccessible attachment or a copy-and-paste job gone awry, so we won’t even bother with those. This leaves us with 626 résumés. One week and several pots of Café Bustelo later, I had some fancy-shmancy graphs.

I attempted to figure out how an actual HR representative might narrow this ocean of applications down to a mere puddle, and I guessed that experience would play a hefty role in the process. In the ad, I originally wrote “experience in an office setting preferred,” but while sifting through, I decided to apply “true experience” to those who had held clerical/secretarial positions before — you know, in the spirit of an Administrative Assistantship.

What surprised me the most about the above results was the number of people who had true experience as Administrative Assistants — and not just baby years, either. I additionally counted how many of these 626 applicants had five or more years of true experience: 147 (23%). And, as you can see above, 62 applicants had 10 or more years of true experience. That’s 10 percent of all applicants — much higher than I originally anticipated. A few even had 20 or more years under their belts.

Overall, 76% of applicants had previous true experience and 24% did not.

To reiterate: I am not an HR person, so I don’t know how much education weighs against experience when choosing possible employees. However, I was curious as to how many people with higher education degrees applied to this entry-level position. After all, I have a Master’s degree and I apply to these types of jobs on a daily basis.

I was a bit relieved to discover that not many folks with Master’s degrees applied (only three percent) — though, as previously mentioned, I’m not sure how much education usually factors into this process. I counted anybody with a relevant clerical/office administration certificate with the Associate’s group, since those applicants still received a higher education of some sort. What shocked me the most was the number of applicants with Bachelor’s degrees (39%), all from a wide variety of disciplines. (Maybe some of the Bachelor’s group should just obtain graduate degrees? At least this will kill two more years of job searching — so long as you don’t mind another dash of debt.)

Overall, 66% of applicants held one or more degrees/certificates in higher education and 34% held only a High School Diploma or G.E.D.


Depressed and exhausted after discovering all of this information, I drew one general mantra from this experiment, one that I could repeat to myself whenever I apply to a new open position:

“No matter how much you want this job, there are 652 other people who want it, too.”

The problem with this is that mantras are usually meant to calm one down, not bring one to tears. Another problem with this is that it’s an exaggeration. For an entry-level position such as this imaginary one, yes, there are at least 652 other aspiring employees. However, for a more specialized position, such as Full-Time English Instructor or Editorial Assistant or Professional Lobsterman, I’m sure there are far fewer résumés submitted. But I’m tired, and that’s another experiment for another day.

For now, I’ve just compiled three primary conclusions that I can offer the job-seeking public, including myself:

1.) Employers won’t notice me by my résumé alone. This one I kind of knew already, but I need to actually follow through with my lesson. Am I really going to stand out in a tidal wave of 626 applications? Probably not. What I should do is figure out methods to grab the employer’s attention, whether it’s finding out if anyone I know works with the organization, seeking out a personal recommendation, or calling to double-check that the employer received my résumé (even though we all know how daunting actual phone calls can be). I need to find additional ways to let the employer know that I am the right man for the job. Anything to make the employer say, “Ah, yes, Mr. Auld,” and not, “Oh, right, Applicant #24601.”

2.) When job searching on Craigslist, apply to positions immediately. 49 percent of responses to this non-existent position were submitted in the first three hours alone — that’s 317 emails. I know that when I apply for jobs, I like to imagine my résumé near the top of the pile; this helps me sleep at night (in addition to scotch). Because of this experiment, I’ve decided to not bother submitting to Craigslist positions that are more than one day old. As for other sites, I’ll probably discard any postings that have been up for more than one week. “But Eric, why?” you ask. Because, gentle Reader: that’s just how I roll.

3.) Expect the application review process to take a while. I repeat: 626 résumés in one day. That’s all I have to say about that.

Thank you for reading. Good day, good night, and good luck in all of your endeavors. TC mark



More From Thought Catalog

  • Sarah

    Not to burst your bubble re: your master’s degree but I work in HR and master’s degrees often HURT an application more than help, especially in entry level positions. We figure that you will be so bored in two weeks and resentful of having to take such a low end job that it’s just not worth it to hire you. I pretty much toss out all applications with Master’s for entry level jobs at first sight. My professional advice to you would be to take it off your resume.

    • small business owner

      I own a small business and completely agree with this statement. That is the 2nd thing I look for when getting through all those emails, right after deleting ones that are incomplete. I do not want to waste my time training someone that will just be itching to move onto another job.

      • Joe

        You’ll be wasting your time anyway. Nearly everyone will itch to move onto another job, especially when it’s low wage entry level.

    • Rachael

      This comment made me feel so much better about my upcoming job search. (I graduate next May with a Bachelor’s) Thanks!

      • cynthia

        Kelly, it’s not about being “great” or “not great.” I had a job straight out of undergraduate graduation (in the “bustling ’90’s”) but everyone kept encouraging me to go to grad school because I was “smart.” Well, I took their advice, left my full-time job, and completed grad school. Now I have been looking for work for 3.5 years. Nobody will hire me, from professional agencies to the local coffee shop. I suspect that the coffee shop managers who are hiring me are as disdainful of my master’s degree as your dad. I wonder why? Does my higher education make them feel insecure?

    • Kelly

      My dad owns a small business now and he used to manage a few banks years ago so he’s quite familiar with HR. He avoided job applicants with Master’s degrees as much as possible. The fact that you have a Master’s degree and are applying for jobs that do not require graduate school (financial analyst, broker, salesman, etc.) is a red flag. If you were so great to begin with, you would already have a job straight out of undergraduate school. Mind you, times are a tad different from the bustling 90s, but the idea is the same.

      • Scott

        This statement is typical of someone who never experienced a job search. A generational shift, if you will. Your father is, like many of his peers, completely out of touch with reality. The number of new grads that get jobs straight out of school is minimal, almost negligible. Even in professions like engineering and medicine, where training is very closely tied to the industry, it’s only a few from every class. Post-graduate job-seeking is a new ritual that we have to suffer through. You’re correct in one thing, though, this isn’t the 90s.

      • celineswordsoup

        Sorry, I meant “the coffee shop managers who are hiring” not “hiring me”

    • Hazel

      Yeah, your Master’s degree is hurting you. I have a bachelor’s in Creative Writing and started taking any bullshit writing gig I could get right out of school. Now, I write full time and manage a team of writers. It would take a lot A LOT for me to bring some one in with a Master’s degree in English for an interview– for the exact reason you stated “(Maybe some of the Bachelor’s group should just obtain graduate degrees? At least this will kill two more years of job searching — so long as you don’t mind another dash of debt.)”

      Most people go to grad school to avoid the job market and to put off their decision making. I want writers who take chances, who aren’t afraid to fail, who work hard even when it’s not pretty, who don’t avoid hard work. In my experience people with graduate degrees in liberal arts have 0 real world experience (deadlines and “due dates” to which you can hand in C-level work are two very different things) and feel entitled to gross over compensation (since they decided to put themselves so far into debt.) I’d take a high school diploma with a killer portfolio of published work (not academic work) over someone with a graduate degree any day.

      • David T Macknet

        “Most people go to grad school to avoid the job market and to put off their decision making.”

        First off, where do you get the word “most” – is there some research on this which you’ve just neglected to cite?

        Second, people do it to become more skilled in a particular area (for example, getting an MFA in Creative Writing), to change careers (you kinda need a PhD to teach at the university level), to advance a career already in progress (my undergrad is in Literature – my first Master’s is in Information Systems, which is where I found myself working after undergrad).

        Overall, your attitude strikes me as coming from someone who has “made it” because they put in the time to learn on the job, rather than learning via formal education. To someone with a formal education is just to be classist in your own particular way.

      • David T Macknet

        Missed something in editing my last sentence (and the comment system does not allow edits). It should have read, “To someone with a formal education this just sounds like you are a classist in your own particular way.”

      • jekee

        you are so full of shit. seriously. keywords in your post are “bullshit writing job”. you do not “manage a team of writers” or “write full time”, you fraud. you probably work for some company as a content writer or something along those lines. woo hoo, a lot of people who go on to get their master’s do so to avoid your sad fate, not in order to “avoid the job market”. any chump wannabe writer can get a bacheor’s in lit or creative writing, but then they don’t actually become writers, they do what you do, and then the rest of us feel like getting an mfa might help us to distinguish ourselves. and a lot of people in mfa’s or master’s programs work full time during it, or worked beforehand. people with master’s degrees should have some experience and shouldn’t be applying to entry-level positions like the one described in the fake ad anyways. it should be more specific. btw your job sucks.

      • Jennifer

        Any open positions you’re looking to fill? :)

    • Jason

      It’s true in technical fields to. The company I work for has an objective evaluation that is part of our interview process, and all else being equal, those with post-graduate degrees perform worse on it, and those with PhDs do worse than those with Masters.

      • Mark

        I was involved in the interview process (but not the hiring process) for my last two jobs. We ignored the education section completely when comparing programmers. I don’t think I would have penalized someone for having their masters degree. In fact, it shows me that they have the ability to focus on, and complete, a task. I would hire a non-degree with a year work experience before a masters degree without work experience, but if they both had a year I would hire the masters degree (if all else was equal) so long as they are willing to accept the job at the same pay rate I am willing to offer the non-degree.

        Having served in the armed forces also is a positive signal (just like completing a degree). I have had good experiences with ex military employees.

        My $0.02.

    • Devin

      It’s comments like this that give me concern. Professional HR people and decision makers just can’t read, then process and assimilate accurately the information they just read. It’s a chronic problem in the culture right now. Just look at the inane comments left on web sites.

      In this case, Sarah’s advice to Eric is to take Masters Degree off his resume. Why? The “test’ that the article is about was conducted BY Eric and isn’t the job he was applying for, so that wouldn’t be a reason. Eric is looking for a job in teaching/education, where an advanced degree is preferred and often required in order to be considered, so that wouldn’t be a reason. Additionally Eric isn’t necessarily looking for an entry level job. He has some experience already so that wouldn’t be a reason. Eric’s case would be an exception to the trend to dumb down a resume and it seems Sarah and people like her are just more examples of people rendering opinions before giving the entirety of a situation much thought.

      If we really look at why Eric may be having difficulty finding work given the limited amount of information we have to work with, I’d refer people to his writing, for the most relevant repository of data from which to form an impression. It isn’t all that impressive. This mini-research project was an opportunity to showcase his best work, to highlight his best writing, to showcase his analytical skills, to emphasize how he can create his own projects, gather data and then “TEACH” what he learned to others. That’s what this project could have been for him.

      The research is minimal, the conclusions are simplistic, he repeatedly apologizes to the readers unnecessarily, the writing is freshman college level and overall it reads like he is a fairly insecure and a not very sophisticated really nice guy that you’d like to play frisbee golf with on Saturday but probably a 3rd tier candidate for a teaching job. Eric even makes reference to his own laziness or lack of willingness to really get in to much depth. Really?

      This article was a walking talking resume and real time sampling to show off what Eric is capable of. It was an opportunity to WOW readers with what he could do as a teacher. It didn’t do either. It was an ordinary, anybody could have written this, commiseration piece.

      Having Graduate Degree on the resume is the least of Eric’s problems. If it is on his resume, I’d be more inclined to ask how he ever got one.

      • susannunes

        Some jobs like K-12 teaching require you provide your college transcripts, so there is no way to get around hiding a master’s.

      • Ambrose Vanuys

        Hack, hack, hack, cough, cough, spitting up everything, it’s getting bloody….

        This guy’s article was reposted by Altenet and, we can reasonably assume judging by the comments, that not only is the traffic to his website high, he really touched a nerve with a lot of people. His “poor analysis” has, in fact, given everyone an ingenious look behind the curtain at what is really going on at an “HR” desk. Eric is most likely getting some kind of networking or guest blogging offer(s) as we speak, proactively creating his own rocky but unique path towards career and life fulfillment.

        Your comments are as pathetic as the HR people, whose inane commentary misses the mark so completely. How could you all be payed to be so out of touch with job market realities? The economy blew up while most young people were getting the Master’s degrees or even after. However, the job market had already tightened before the actual financial crash, which meant more people were being driven to higher education in the race to “distinguish themselves” from an increasingly competitive and shrinking job market. And once Bear Stearns broke and nearly took down the entire world, for full-time employment, it was musical chairs, particularly hard-hitting for those who were in school (50% of those who graduated after 2006 are unemployed or under-employed), recently out of school (including professional and graduate schools, such as law school and business school), or who were too old. That is what the pattern of decisions that employers made looks like.

        Even before that, though, employers were cutting costs by pushing full-time employees out and moving to contract-basis hires. This has happened across industries and the financial implosion and corporate behavior that followed has solidified it as the new normal. Career coaches, as you can research by reading the Harvard Business Review, are now advising young people to think of and market themselves and independent contractors and eschew the search for “full-time” employment.

        Eric, it sounds like you are doing just fine compared to most. You have skills, you have moxie, you have creativity and boldness. Use your strengths to your advantage, create the life and the career you want, and absolutely ignore these people stuck in their HR silos and particularly this comment that reads like an Onion piece. This blog post is tremendous. He may have made one good point, though. Be more confident. You probably have more interesting posts in you yet. And this guy can suck a d*ck.

  • iwriteandstuff

    Awesome article! Interesting, a fun read & informative!

  • Michael Koh

    Good to know, very good to know.

  • alisonwisneski (@alisonwisneski)

    This is so depressing. Eff.

  • David L.

    Eric — great article — excellent diagrams — hope you will continue to do more of these experiments and it will turn into a book or something. I’d agree with Sarah’s comment. Your search needs to focus more on jobs that require the credentials that you sport. Moreover, another harsh reality of the job market is that connections will get you much further than cold calls. Make sure you have a linkined account! D.

    • Alison

      I agree! You just made me feel a bit better about finishing school and the plethora of rejection emails, that are probably never scanned by human eyes. Keep writing things like this!

    • David T Macknet

      To reply to David L.: if there are more experiments, they should be conducted using some sort of scientific method and methodology behind them, some hypotheses maybe, some testing that the language used in the positions isn’t skewing the results … you know, maybe these could be part of some PhD study.

      • William Hicock

        What I am interested in is the correlation between level of education and amount of experience. In time of economic hardship, companies are not going to look for those that can “theorize” solutions, or how they may exist. They want people that can apply practical solutions and can produce immediate results. That narrows the pool even more. This also coincides with the specific job being sought. If there are “x” candidates that have experience in a particular field, but “Y” have been unemployed for an extended period of time, then the employer may hire someone that has less work experience (nominally), but may have more up-to-date educational and practical experience in the field. This also bridges the above comments about Masters and Ph.D that may hurt you, as well as not wanting to hire someone that may be, “bored” just starting that position for which they were hired. Also, let’s face it, unless your job is extremely specific (engineering, medical, hedge/slush fund management, etc), you don’t really need a professional education–most can be fulfilled by a candidate that is willing to learn, needs/wants a job and has some diligence.

  • Louise

    >a limited amount of classes

    Cool English skills bro.

  • Only L<3Ve @

    […] Thought Catalog » Life Add a comment […]

  • jesse v

    Piggy-backing off of David L’s comment, the fact that you posted an ‘Administrative Assistant’ job requiring little to no experience in the heart of one of the densest cities in the US sort of skews your data into the quasi-depressing truth that it ended up being.

    The core results of your experiment are true: you should apply for positions as close to when they are posted as possible; make sure your resume can stand out in some way possible; make sure to properly attach all documents. However, I believe the numbers would be less intimidating if you focused on specialized positions in a particular field. Since you have an English degree, if you decided to pursue a job in creative copywriting, would you encounter similar results in your search?

    For people with liberal arts degrees, I know it can certainly be challenging finding the right job out of school, but taking some time to figure out what you’re good at and trying to merge into a specialized field will usually yield in better results than searching for generalized entry level jobs. And, as always, having connections never hurts. When you do figure out what it is you want to do, talk it up with your friends, family, or existing co-workers. I’ve found that a lot of people I know who ended up with great jobs did so by merely making their job hunt known and receiving an ‘Oh really? My sister is actually a ______ at _____! I’ll give you her contact info’ sort of response. Even if those opportunities don’t work out, there’s no harm in building bridges.

    Again, really interesting experiment, but I don’t believe the market is quite as cruel as your numbers suggest (at least to people looking in specialized fields.) But as a 20-something currently looking for a new job in a new city, that’s something I’ll be telling myself daily for the upcoming months.

    • Patrick


      * No hypothesis (despite stating one)
      * No control

      It’s also completely irresponsible to waste people’s time like this and then tell yourself it’s OK because a few applied using ready-made materials. People with 10-20 years experience were probably less likely to have taken this lackadaisical approach. Serious candidates likely put in an hour or two on their applications.

      Multiply that by some factor of applicants and it’s dozens of hours of peoples’ time wasted on a junket with no scientific merit. It’s not even useful to anyone with more than a rudimentary understanding of the process.

      The author has a degree and:
      a) no detailed plan for obtaining a job
      b) no concept of science or how/why to experiment
      c) no regard for the very real pain and struggle so many millions of people are facing (saying you are a comrade doesn’t overshadow actions)

      • Albert Leo

        Glad you got that off your chest. Now get back to work, or finding some.

      • Sasha

        Wouldn’t *this* group be the control group, and then another group (or groups) responding to a more specific ad (or ads) be the experimental group? Maybe this is an incomplete experiment, but it’s not completely off the wall, either.

        I also doubt that such a general job posting would force anyone to write a cover letter or tweak their resume for an hour or more, because the post was so generic that it would be impossible to create such a specific cover letter/resume for it. And I say that as someone who *does* have extensive administrative assistant experience and *has* responded to many postings like this one.

        I think the most disturbing thing about this post is that $12-$13/hr for a non-entry level job (experience was preferred) in the most expensive city in America is considered “average.” What would be a living wage in NYC? I’m sure it’s higher than $12-$13/hr.

    • claytoncramer

      I hate to tell you this, but even people with highly specialized skills are in trouble. I have 35 years of experience as a software engineer. I’ve done everything: telemetry software for the Voyager mission (when I was 18); embedded assembly language; C; C#; Java; telecom switches; technical marketing; creating and hiring a technical publications department; managing teams of software engineers. There is a strong chance that your DSL connection over which you are reading this uses a DSL access multiplexer that I helped bring to market. (At one point, 40% of the world’s DSL traffic was being carried by our equipment.)

      I have an MA (in History, so wrong field). I have seven books published, and my law review articles have been cited in U.S. Supreme Court decisions. I am making less, adjusted for inflation, than I did in 1980. Fortunately, I found a low-paying government job, because there is so much competition for software engineering jobs that I can’t even get an interview.

  • Christine

    damn i was actually going to try the same thing, except you have to pay for a job posting :(

  • km

    i’m guessing the reason only 3% of the applicants had a masters is because people with post grad degrees usually shoot for something better than admin, specifically something tailored to what their degree is in… otherwise, why get one? i can understand someone with a hs diploma or a bachelor’s going for admin roles, but if you’re spending the time and money to go beyond the educational norm, i’d think you’d want to use your degree unless you’re just looking for any old office job to pay the bills. HR reps see people who are overqualified and think they are looking for anything they can get, and they know those people won’t stick around long in an admin role.

    great article.

    • David T Macknet

      KM: some people may just WANT any old office job to pay the bills. Not every position has to be a dream job. I think it’s more likely that HR reps see someone who is overqualified and worry more about possible salary considerations than that the person will be bored.

      • Warrior

        David: Not true. They’re concerned about you leaving for something better because that means a) your hire was a waste of time and money, and b) additional work for them in the future.

      • David T Macknet

        Warrior: I know that there are places in the world where they’re worried about you leaving for something better … but the reality of the market is that most people will leave for something better anyway (it probably all averages out, is my point). But to exclude someone because YOU have decided that they’re going to do so is just plain hubris, particularly if you don’t have any statistics to back up that policy.

      • Matt Mireles (@mattmireles)

        Hiring manager speaking: In my experience, overqualified people feel entitled, grow resentful and eventually become a PITA to work with. Admittedly, this is based on a small sample set, but yeah, having a master’s––or god forbid a law degree–– does not help you in applying for admin level jobs.

  • Kyle K

    Now this is some real writing I can get behind. Very well done.

  • Gina

    This I enjoyed a lot, even if it is rather intimidating.

    I do have a question, mostly because when I first began applying for internships (I’ll be a junior next year) I realized I had no idea how to word the actual email I attach my resume to. Maybe this is simple stuff everyone knows, but are there any decent tips or positive trends in that area?

    • Jenna

      Keep it very simple. Position – Your Name. Example: Professional Assistant – Joe Smith. Use the same style when naming your resume and cover letter files as well. I would highly suggest taking the time to write a cover letter (even if the job posting doesn’t require one). It shows you are willing to take the time think about what you can offer the potential employer and highlight your key skills and/or achievements. Best of luck!

  • Brett

    such an incredibly well-written, well thought-out article! AND it makes me feel better about all my Craigslist failures. I’ve finally learned the lesson not to apply for postings late.

  • mihal
  • Jazzy

    Now I know why no one has EVER responded to me lol

  • Tina Fine

    enjoyed your article :)

  • scenefromahat

    wow. this is amazing. definitely one of the most interesting articles i’ve read on TC. i might try this myself in the city i live in. i always wondered how many resumes get sent each day.

  • Stephanie

    I want to argue against the following:
    “Because of this experiment, I’ve decided to not bother submitting to Craigslist positions that are more than one day old.”
    I really think you should reconsider this decision. Every company I’ve worked at has received applications on a rolling basis until the position was filled. Also, every interview I received during my current job search has resulted from an application that I sent days after the job got posted, for whatever reason. Don’t let something as trivial as a date or time stamp deter you. If you want the job, APPLY FOR IT!

    • penis man


      stop using your common sense here. we wont stand for anything but weepy, pretentious or self-loathing opinions.

    • Ryan O'Donnell

      This could actually be helpful to you, since the rate of applications coming in would have substantially subsided, so they may be able to spend more time on yours!

  • cappou

    Definitely interesting because I’ve been reading articles and discussing with my friends lately that we’re part of the generation that have it the hardest in terms of job opportunities. With all the baby boomers still around and the large amount of social science/humanities bach graduates.. we just become part of a large number of theoretically educated young adults..and theres that whole US economy and EU meltdown..

    I’m actually applying for Masters and waiting on the results… all in hopes of getting a higher chance in getting a job in my field. Don’t know if its the right choice or not haha.

    Thanks for the great read and good luck with your search!

  • Chelsea

    As a 2011 college grad with a B.A. from a pretty prestigious institution who is currently working for Starbucks to pay for student loans and other life costs, this article, though depressing makes me feel just a tiny bit better. This entire year, 2 months, and 8 days (but who’s counting?) of endless job applications and fruitless interviews has been made better SOLELY by knowing that I am not the only one in this crappy boat. The last interview I went on was in a group setting and they told us that the 7 of us were chosen out of 96 candidates which made me feel special at the time, but at the end of the day, I didn’t get the job. I think I constantly underestimate both the number and the credentials of the people I’m up against, but god knows I shouldn’t. Great experiment…great piece!

    • Matt Mireles (@mattmireles)

      The real lesson here for you should be: Email does NOT work. Get on the phone. Show up in person. Buy a targeted FB ad. Do something to stand out.

      As a hiring manager, i hate resumes. They tell so little. Most people send and forget. The ones who are persistent and try alternative methods stand out.

      • snuh

        Oh, woe is you. You hate resumes? I hate sending resumes. Hundreds of them, in many cases tweaked and altered to better fit the job I’m applying for, only to never even get a response, let alone an interview or (god forbid) a job offer. You at least get paid every day to look at the damn things. I have to send each one for free, and every day I don’t get hired is another day closer to having to dip into my shrinking savings (or my credit card, or borrow money from friends and family) so that I don’t get evicted – which, with the minimal resources and support and discriminatory laws we have for homeless people, is a hair’s distance from a death warrant and an end to any personal property you can’t fit in your pocket or a shopping cart, as well as a damn hard hole to dig yourself out of. And each one that doesn’t get a response was a complete waste of my time. You’d better believe I send and forget.

        Here’s another thing. I don’t want the job you’re offering. No one does. Whatever it is, it’s insultingly underpaid and your boss probably treats his employees like shit. I can think of about a million things I’d rather do with my time, and the only reason why I would even talk to you in the first place is because I need rent money and can’t get it any other way short of mugging, televangelism, or holding a sign next to a busy highway offramp. And when I come in for the interview, I’m going to lie to your face and tell you how much this job is perfect for me, and vice-versa, because you wouldn’t have it any other way. And when you hire me, I’m going to keep working there no matter how much I hate it, until I either snap or find something better, and you’ll be lucky if you get your two weeks’ notice, because you sure as hell wouldn’t give me the same courtesy.

      • Albert Leo

        Well, if he has gotten interviews, they must be doing something for him.

      • Sage

        Well said! The resume system is insane. All employers want to know is: will tyou save them from having to work? Will you work 12 hour days, weekends, holidays, nights? They want slaves with perfect credentials. Of course America put itself on the treadmill by living beyond its means. So now EVERYBODY has to be a rat in the rat race just to survive.

      • Me

        Finally, something sensible in the replies!

  • Rebecca

    Good article – I particularly enjoyed the Les Miserables reference :)

    • Guest

      Yes I’m glad someone else caught that!

    • Calico

      Seconded! And I love that the pie charts are coffee stains.

    • shukes

      me too! That’s the only reason I wanted to comment

  • Jay

    Oh my god. We are the same person, down to the degree and adjunct experience. After I graduated with my MA, I was unemployed for months and then I lectured/did retail (simultaneously) for awhile. It was the worst thing ever. Now I have a full-time gig, but I am completely disillusioned.

  • Lauren

    Please keep writing for TC! I loved reading something on here with actual substance! Great writing and good luck with the job hunt.

  • leanna

    For what its worth: I applied to a job at a university as a science librarian. It required a master’s degree, 2+ years experience, and preferably a science background (which is somewhat rare for librarians). I received an email back asking me to elaborate on my experience (which was juuust shy of 2 years) and was told that they were being hard and fast about that rule. However, librarians are suckers for being nice so I was told that my application was impressive and managed to rise to the top of about 75 applications.

    So even for a job requiring grad school and some relatively niche experience you’re still up against like 75-100 other people.

    I also took a civil service type exam for a public library gig with about 150 people. So the odds are better, for sure, but still pretty grim.

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