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Why Craigslist May Be Your Most Expensive Recruiting Tool – Part II

Written by  Tony Lee

When asked to pinpoint their most significant threats, respondents to the 2014 IAEWS-Job Board Doctor Global Benchmark Survey didn’t rank Craigslist in the top three.  However, they did list the commoditization of job postings and the growth in “free” job sites as key areas of concern, and Craigslist has certainly had an impact on both.  The following is the second in a two-part post that addresses the Craigslist challenge by looking at the site’s shortcomings from an employer’s point of view. – ed.

Craigslist has built a reputation as a great resource of free and low-cost classifieds online, especially among company recruiters operating with limited budgets. But as the years pass, it’s become clear that relying on Craigslist to fill local job openings may require more time and money than its reputation suggests. In fact, in many cases, using a traditional job board is a more cost- and time-effective strategy than posting on Craigslist.

In addition to the concerns I addressed in my first post (Tuesday 5/20), another common issue raised by hiring specialists is Craigslist’s lack of customer service. Once a job is posted, returning to the site to make edits or remove the ad isn’t difficult, as long as you’ve saved your confirmation email. But if you require a live person to ask a question about any aspect of Craigslist’s posting process, you’re typically out of luck. Craigslist communicates with its customers solely via email, and given the size of its databases compared to the very small size of its customer service team (of which Newmark himself is a member), few customers receive replies to their support requests.

To be sure, there are exceptions to this trend depending on the job being advertised. And employers in smaller cities say they tend to fare better than their colleagues in medium to large markets. But for evidence of the larger trend, look no further than comments posted each day on Craigslist’s own user forum. It’s an insightful way to view the challenges recruiters face with the site nationally. Some examples include:

  • When I post a help-wanted ad, I get flooded with resumes from people who aren’t qualified and I have to post several times to find a qualified candidate. If I were paying to post, I wouldn’t post here anymore.” – a contracting firm

  • We’ve been trying to post job ads for several weeks now. The ads are accepted and appear in our account but never appear on the site. I can’t tell you the number of hours we’ve spent trying to re-post so the ads will appear. We’re now at our wit’s end and have sent several help requests but haven’t even received an acknowledgment.” – a non-profit agency

  • To pay $25 a day to find someone (yes, per day because ads are lost after the first day due to volume) is too much. We can only pay a dishwasher minimum wage, so $175 a week to advertise is a lot.” - a restaurant
Alternatives to Craigslist abound for recruiters. There are a wide range of sites that also reach national audiences at fees that range by zip code. But recruiters typically report the same issues with national general interest sites, including a burst of response immediately after postings go live – often less qualified geographically given the national nature of these sites – and then a fast decline over a few days.

Holding up more effectively are niche sites that target the job market by one or more narrow criteria, ranging from industry or function to geographic and demographic. For instance, job boards offered by trade magazine web sites and associations tend to deliver a narrow, targeted response of applicants to job listings aimed at that audience. In these cases, the niche sites typically charge posting fees ranging from $25 for seven days to more than $500 for 30 days, but recruiters say the return on investment is good since they tend to receive higher-quality applicants to review. Recruiters seeking an engineer in San Francisco that post the position on IEEE.org, for example, will tap into the niche of a site targeted to the engineering profession. 

Recruiters also report that newspaper and television career sites with a high penetration of visitors in a local market remain a strong source of qualified applicants who live in that market. Most local newspapers maintain an online audience penetration of more than 40% in their markets - and often higher - despite recent drops in print circulation and viewership, reports the Newspaper Association of America and National Association of Broadcasters. 

The bottom line is that when recruiters consider online resources for attracting job candidates, the result often mirrors the quality of the source. As the adage goes: you get what you pay for, both in terms of quality and the time required to identify those qualified applicants.

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