The Pros and Cons of Hiring Through Craigslist

by Susan Johnston on January 10, 2013
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As job seekers turn to the web for employment leads, many small-business owners are using sites like Craigslist to post opportunities and reach potential candidates. According to a company fact sheet, Craigslist accepts more than 100 million classified ads each month, including re-postings and renewals.

Here’s a look at the pros and cons of using the popular site for hiring.

The Pros

  • Affordability Craiglist job ads range in price from free to $25 in some cities and $75 in the San Francisco Bay Area. Bob Farster, who owns two locations of the kids’ salon franchise Pigtails & Crewcuts, estimates that he found nine of his 10 current employees via Craigslist. “Starting off, I was running ads on Monster and CareerBuilder, and they were costing me a ton of money to do with very little response,” he says. “From a cost standpoint, [Craigslist] is so inexpensive to use, and each ad will typically get three or four pretty good resumes.” Farster may receive a dozen or so resumes from unqualified applicants for each ad, but he says it doesn’t take him too much time to identify the duds and send a polite “thanks for your interest” email.
  • Customization — Unlike job sites that set strict limits on the number of words or characters, Craigslist allows business owners like Farster to include as many specifics as they’d like and to customize each ad’s appearance with a logo or other images. “You’re not limited by the space as much as you are with other ads,” he says. “I get very in the weeds with what I’m looking for: three to four years of hairstyling experience, minimum, and someone who loves working with kids.”

The Cons

  • Unqualified applicants — Farster doesn’t get overwhelmed by responses to his Craigslist ads, but many other small-business owners do, especially those in regions with high unemployment. Richelle Shaw has used Craigslist three times in the past three years to hire administrative and executive assistants for her Las Vegas-based business-consulting firm. Each time, she’s received at least 70 responses, so she devised a system to streamline the process, weeding out candidates who may look qualified but aren’t or can’t follow instructions. “I have an auto-responder sending them to a Google document with pre-interview questions to weed out the crazies,” she says. “Then I give the candidate specific instructions on what to do next, like ‘submit your resume on blue paper to this address,’ and I interview those that followed the instructions exactly.”
  • Shallow talent pool — Although many people use Craigslist to find an apartment or used furniture, some job seekers prefer to look for work through other channels. “Craigslist still has that stigma of not being a very good place for a legitimate business to look for serious talent,” says Joel Gross, CEO of Coalition Technologies, a design and marketing firm. Gross adds that many of the people he’s hired through Craigslist were looking for freelance or project-based work. When filling full-time web designer or developer positions, Gross casts a wider net by also posting on the Authentic Jobs website and college job boards.

Susan Johnston is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.

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