A Craigslist Ad For a Poem

Esther Cohen, a writer/poet in New York City, profiles a delightful experience in answering a Craigslist ad, seeking a submission for a poem. The prize? A cool $10,000.

On the day of the Craigslist diversion, my poem was “Pre-Used”:

And now, at this point
insane moment of age and longing
cusp and pinnacle
when my arms are different arms
when my dreams are always interrupted
longing becomes more than longing
I can no longer do this
or that as much as I still want to
I wake up wondering how
I no longer care so much about why
when a day is not just a day but right now.

Contestants were told to upload their poem and include a brief cover letter explaining what they would do with the prize money. I also had to write a few sentences about myself and my theme. I’m getting older. That’s my theme. It didn’t need much more explanation. With the $10,000, I would write more poems.

A few weeks later, close to midnight on a Tuesday, a mysterious e-mail arrived.

“Congratulations!

“You have been selected as one of the 11 finalists chosen from the hundreds of entries we received. We would like to meet you this Friday, July 26th along with the other finalists at 5PM.”

The note gave an address in Chelsea, near the High Line.

She goes on to the specified location to meet two hosts by the name of River and Whisper. An evening with flowing drink and food ensues. I love this story because while Craigslist gets a bad rap for scams, there are, occasionally, amazing gems waiting to be discovered. Highly recommended.

The Craigslist Experiment

Eric Auld was having a hard time finding a job, so he decided to work backwards and figure out who he was competing against. So he created a job ad on Craigslist:

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.

The first response came within four minutes. In 24 hours, he received a staggering 653 responses. He then broke down the applicants’ experience into categories and performed an analysis of who applied. His biggest takeaways were:

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.

An interesting (if not morally honest) experiment. It’s important to point out that Eric has a Master’s degree, and he didn’t consider whether that was an advantage for him when applying for jobs. As echoed in the comments (and also, from my personal experience as well), Master’s degrees often hurt an application more than help, especially in entry level positions. The consensus is that the applicant might be so bored or resentful of the job, that he/she will be looking for something better/different immediately upon starting the new job.