In Spring 2012’s issue of brass, coworker Jens took a look at how economic and career instability is one of the defining features of our generation—all around the globe:
Youth unemployment is the result of a global systemic problem: the trickle-down effect of speculation, lax regulation, bad investments, naïveté and greed means that the problems that started in the investment banks of Wall Street spread around the world’s financial markets like a shock wave and are reverberating in the lives of everyday youth. We’re experiencing on a micro, personal level the effects of problems and decisions made on a macro, economic level.
I recently saw a piece by Eric Auld in Thought Catalog called, Get a Job: The Craigslist Experiment. Eric is one of the many people affected by underemployment (another symptom of the recession: a recent Gallup poll shows that 32% of U.S. youth are currently “working part time but looking for full-time work.”).
Many of his days are spent on Craigslist looking for and applying to jobs. After going through the process we all know pretty well (applying time and time again but never hearing anything), Eric decided to do an experiment.
He created a generic job listing for New York City. Here’s his Craigslist 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.
This type of job—a full-time entry level position with benefits—is something a lot of people look for, especially if they’re unable to find work in a specialized industry. After posting his fake ad, Eric learned just how many people were looking:
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.
Many of the commenters at Thought Catalog took issue with the posting of a job under false pretenses. In his essay, Eric rationalized his decision:
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.)
As someone who’s experienced a complete lack of acknowledgement or correspondence from potential employers, I can attest that I would, in fact, “shake the experience off as just another stone in the quarry of disappointment.” Though every résumé you send out is brimming with professional hopes and dreams, those dull quickly after not hearing back time after time.
Actual job postings don’t lead to jobs, so what’s one fake job posting? Though employers are posting more positions, they’re still slow to fill them: according to CBS, ”openings have increased 57 percent. Overall hiring is up only 19 percent,” since 2009.
It’s important to remember that the high number of applicants to Eric’s post comes from the fact that the listing requires little to no experience in the heart of one of the most populated cities in the U.S., so the experiment isn’t the most scientific or objective.
But this kind of desperation in the job market comes from the very real fact that we are looking for jobs in a world that just doesn’t have enough of them. I would definitely like to see experiments like this that are better tailored to certain regions and industries.
Have you ever conducted an experiment like this? Do you have suggestions on how to improve Eric’s experiment?