As a freelancer, I’m on the hunt for a new gig more than most people and I’ve found quite a few through Craigslist over the years. Craigslist has become a haven for people looking for occasional part-time work, but many full-timers have found new jobs through the site as well. In fact, a friend of mine recently landed a full-time position at an IT firm through a job ad on Craigslist.
If you’re in the market for new employment, Craigslist is a good resource. But it helps to know your way around first because Craigslist works differently from most other job hunting sites.
Finding Job Ads on Craigslist
Craigslist has two sections for job-hunters: the jobs section and the gigs section. While the gig section is meant primarily for freelance work, employers sometimes use both interchangeably.
1. Visit Your Local Craigslist Site
Choose either “Jobs” or “Gigs” to start your search.
- Jobs Section. Craigslist divides the jobs section into multiple categories. Clicking a section will show you open jobs in your industry and area. You can also click the Jobs link at the top to view all available positions in every category.
- Gigs Section. The gig section divides jobs by type, such as “computers,” rather than industry. You can click a single type or the Gigs link to view them all.
Pro Tip: Craigslist is a location-based search, and you’ll have to select the city closest to you. If you’d like to look for jobs or gigs around the U.S., you can use a third-party website like AllofCraigs.com, which allows you to search for a specific type of job in every city at once.
2. Pick an Industry from the Category List
Keep in mind that Craigslist asks posters to separate part-time and full-time work. If you’re looking for part-time work, use the part-time section primarily, though you may want to browse your specific industry for part-time work as some postings get mis-classified. Otherwise, pick the industry closest to your career field.
Pro Tip: Craigslist has an “ETC” section meant for any jobs that do not fall into a specific category. In most cities, the “ETC” section is 95% scams and phishing ads. It’s best to avoid this section altogether.
Weeding Through Craigslist Job Ads
The job ads in each section go in order of posting date. You’ll see the newest listings on top; each page holds 100 listings. Most ads include at least a title, such as Administrative Assistant Needed Full Time, and the location.
3. Browse the Ads
Once you find one of interest, look at the location and make sure the job is within whatever commuting distance you’re comfortable with.
Pro Tip: As Craigslist grows in popularity, more and more employers are using it to post job listings and you may see several hundred available. Make sure you look beyond the first 100 listings as the later ones could have the fewest applicants!
4. Read the Ad Description
When you open the ad, you’ll see two sections. The first describes the job itself and possibly the company offering it. The second section addresses job details, such as duties, qualifications, contact information, and sometimes compensation. Read through these carefully to see if you’re still interested.
Pro Tip: Craigslist does not verify any information supplied in an ad. Remember the old adage, “If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Crafting Your Response
Craigslist does not have an online resume builder like some other job hunting sites. Because of this, you’ll need to write your own resume and cover letter.
5. Write Your Resume
You can use a Word template or start your resume from scratch with a blank document. Either way, make sure it has all relevant information regarding your job history, education, licenses, and any special awards or acknowledgments – the stuff employers really want to see. Definitely include any marketable skills that will make you stand out against the competition, such as if you’re bilingual or proficient in certain programs pertinent to your field.
What to include:
- Personal Information. Add your full name, address, phone number, and email as a header on your resume.
- Objective. Summarize what you intend to accomplish through the position and back it up with your skills. Do this in two to three short but sweet sentences in an “Objectives” section. The more experience you have in your profession, the slightly longer this section can be. But whatever you do, don’t bore your potential employer.
- Work History. Write your work history in reverse chronological order, starting with your current or most recent position. List the name of your employer, the dates you worked there, and job title. Highlight your key contributions to the company with one to three bullet points, such as “Increased sales by 30%” or “Developed new training manuals to improve the IT department.”
- Education. List all your degrees in the “Education” section. If you’re currently attending school, include that here as well.
- Licenses and Certifications. If you hold multiple licenses or certifications, it’s best to list these in a section all their own. However, if you only hold one professional license, you could add this to the “Education” section.
- Skills. List your most relevant skills in bullet points in a “Skills” section. For example, if you have a working knowledge of specific programs or methods material to the position you seek, list them here.
Pro Tip: Keep your resume short and pointed, and use “action” words. Aim for filling no more than one page of a Word document. For more great tips, check out this article, “How to Write a Great Resume for a Job.”
6. Write a Cover Letter
Think of your cover letter as a short introduction to you and your skills. This is your opportunity to “sell” yourself. Again, being short, sweet, and to the point will win you more friends in HR than being exhaustively comprehensive in your self-assessment.
What to write in a cover letter:
- Introduction. Add a formal salutation to the top of every cover letter. If possible, include the name of the supervisor. Otherwise, use a blanket greeting, such as “Dear Hiring Manager.”
- Summary of Interest. Use the first paragraph to explain the job you’re applying to. State where you found the job, the name of the job, and why you want to apply.
- Summary of Skills. Use the second and third paragraphs to summarize the skills and qualifications you have that make you a great fit. You can effectively highlight sections of your resume of which you’re particularly proud, and explain how they suit you for this position. However, don’t simply reiterate the “Objectives” section of your resume.
- Closing. Thank the hiring manager for his or her time in the last paragraph and express your interest in speaking again.
Pro Tip: Take your cover letter seriously. Many people rush through the cover letter, hoping that their resumes will speak for themselves. But some hiring managers won’t even get to your resume if they don’t make it through your cover letter. Remember, they’re busy too. Read this article about How to Write a Good Cover Letter and learn about the ways you can avoid making mistakes on your cover letter or resume.
Responding to Ads
Responding to Craigslist ads works differently than responding to job postings on other websites like Monster or CareerBuilder. Craigslist doesn’t give you a form to fill out. Instead, you reply through your personal email.
7. Respond Quickly
The early bird really does get the worm on Craigslist. Many employers receive hundreds of responses and make decisions pretty quickly, so it pays to get your application in as soon as you can. Aim for responding within 48 to 72 hours of the posting date.
Pro Tip: When I have multiple jobs I want to apply for, I prioritize them by posting date, starting with the oldest and then respond one by one. However, if there’s one particularly appealing job out of a few candidates, I suggest you respond to that one first.
8. Reread the Description Before Replying
If the company included an email address or a hyperlink to their website, use that information when applying instead of the anonymous email address provided by Craigslist on the top of the ad.
Pro Tip: Make a note of any special instructions. For example, a graphic design company may want you to send in three samples of your work. If you don’t answer the ad completely, most companies won’t even consider giving you a call.
9. Keep Your Subject Line Simple and to the Point
When you reply to a Craigslist ad, put the title of the job in the subject line and any internal (non-Craigslist) reference number if applicable. Companies often receive hundreds of emails through Craigslist and they may skip over yours if you have a poor or overly long title.
10. Include Your Cover Letter in the Body of Your Email
Also, make your cover letter specific to the job you are applying for. Don’t develop a “form” letter unless all the jobs to which you are applying are extremely similar.
Pro Tip: Include your email address and phone number below the signature line in your cover letter. Many companies forward applications to several different departments, making it difficult to tell where it originally came from.
11. Include Your Resume as an Attachment
If you attach your resume to your email, use a common file extension, such as .doc. If you have a newer version of Word, make sure to save your file as a .doc and not a .docx, as older versions can’t open .docx files. Alternatively, you can place your resume below your cover letter in the body of the email. If you include your resume in the body of the email, double-check the formatting before you send.
Pro Tip: If you attach your resume to your email, be sure you mention it in the cover letter. If the attachment didn’t send, but the hiring manager saw your note, you may luck out. Some hiring managers are willing to ask for your resume again.
Watch Out for Scams
While Craigslist can be a great tool for finding a new job, the website is famous for letting anyone post pretty much anything they want. Unfortunately, this means that common Craigslist scams abound.
To protect yourself, take the following precautions:
12. Read the Craigslist Scam Overview
Craigslist includes a list of common scams and how to avoid them. Read these over before you apply.
Pro Tip: The scams mentioned by Craigslist are only the most common ones. There are still plenty of other scams not mentioned to look out for.
13. Don’t Apply If It Sounds Too Good to Be True
As a general rule of thumb, if an ad doesn’t sound legitimate, it’s probably not. If it includes the name of the company, however, you can Google it before you send your resume. Otherwise, you may want to move on to the next ad.
Pro Tip: If you can’t decide if the company is legitimate, send a brief email expressing your interest and asking for more information. Do not attach your resume or include any personal details. Odds are, you’ll be able to tell if the company is legit or not from their response.
Hunting down open jobs and filling out individual applications isn’t the only way to land a new gig. You can use the Internet to market yourself and let employers come to you. Marketing yourself really boils down to getting your information out there, highlighting your talents, and networking with other professionals in your field.
Here are a few ways to get started:
14. Join Social Networking Sites Geared Toward Professionals
With sites like LinkedIn, you can create a professional social networking profile, connect with old colleagues or bosses, and meet new professionals in your industry.
The best features of LinkedIn include:
- Friend Finder. You can use the automatic finder to find old colleagues or search for new people on the site.
- Jobs. LinkedIn has a job section where you can search for new jobs from your homepage.
- Answers. The answers section lets you post business questions to the board and get answers from specialists in your field.
Pro Tip: While LinkedIn is the premiere site for professionals, don’t overlook other social networks. For example, your Facebook friends could provide potential leads.
15. Create an Online Portfolio
If you’re in a creative field, you really should have an online portfolio of your work. This has two benefits: One, potential employers can find you, and two, you can link your online portfolio to your resume and applications. Creative Shake has an easy to use online portfolio system and they let you upload a small amount of your work at no charge.
Pro Tip: Add your online portfolio as a hyperlink in your email signature. This way, every person you email becomes a potential client or new gig.
16. Create Your Own Craigslist Post
You may get a response from an employer by posting your own Craigslist ad, but you have to be careful about it. Instead of posting personal information, take these steps:
- Create an Alternate Email. Since you’ll probably get a lot of spam, don’t use your primary email when posting Craigslist ads.
- Create a Short Ad. Keep your ad short and to the point. Don’t post your full resume and don’t list any personal details. For example, you could say, “Web developer with over 15 years of experience. Resume and portfolio available upon request.”
- Respond to Emails. If you receive a legitimate email from an employer, respond with your resume, a link to your LinkedIn profile, or your online portfolio.
Pro Tip: Use a catchy title in your Craigslist ad. Make it clear you’re an employee looking for work and not an employer posting a job.
Craigslist has become the go-to place for all kinds of job hunters. I’ve seen people find everything from an upper management position to a part-time babysitting gig, and I’ve found more than a few jobs there myself. It provides an effective means to find a wide variety of employment – especially if you complement your Craigslist search with marketing tools like a LinkedIn profile and online portfolio. But while Craigslist tries to stay organized, you do have to spend some time looking through dozens of ads, and you need to play it safe. Still, for a free site, it really can’t be beat.
Have you had any luck job hunting on Craigslist? What are some of your best strategies for landing a new gig on Craigslist?