Yes, There’s Plenty of Job Competition at $13 Per Hour

If Garrison Keillor were to catch wind of what Eric Auld did, he’d have him drummed out of P.O.E.M.

The job seeking, 26-year-old Massachusetts part-time teacher phonied up a job ad to see what his competition was like. He posted it on Craigslist and sat back to await the responses.

As most of you reading this are managers or in HR, you can guess where this is going. However, try not to spoil it for the few others here, while I fill in some of the background.

Testing the job market

Auld, like so many young people who failed to heed mom’s advice, majored in English instead of engineering, even got a Master’s in it. Now, three years out of college and saddled with $40,000 in debt, he was a discouraged job seeker applying, as he put it, “to dozens, maybe hundreds of jobs per week.”

His job as an adjunct college English teacher offered no benefits, and “barely enough money to pay rent, utilities, car insurance, student loans, etc.”

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So he hatched a scheme to see just what he was up against.

I had to find out more on where I stood in this uncertain job market. I thought that if I could figure at least a piece of that out, then maybe I could improve my job hunting techniques, and, maybe then — just maybe — an employer would actually call me back.

So I conducted an experiment: I invented a job and posted it to Craigslist.”

Tough going in finding a job

Here’s what the ad said:

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.

That would be Midtown Manhattan at $12-$13 an hour.

The ad went live at 2:41 p.m. on a Thursday. The first resume arrived four minutes later. When he deleted the ad exactly 24 hours later he had received 653 responses.

What he found was that 23 percent of the applicants had five or more years’ actual experience as an administrative assistant; 10 percent had more than 10 years. He took some encouragement from finding that only 3 percent of the applicants for the entry-level position held a Master’s degree, though 39 percent  had a Bachelor’s.

Three conclusions

After all this, Auld came to three conclusions:
  1. Employers won’t notice me by my résumé alone.”
  2. When job searching on Craigslist, apply to positions immediately.”
  3. Expect the application review process to take a while.”
But you are all managers or in HR, so you already knew all that.

John Zappe is the editor of and a contributing editor of John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Besides writing for ERE, John consults with staffing firms and employment agencies, providing content and managing their social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing. In his spare time  he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

You can contact him here.


2 Comments on “Yes, There’s Plenty of Job Competition at $13 Per Hour

  1. I heard him on Talk of the Nation and he made me think about the parallels to Peter Capelli’s research on organizational behaviors. 

    Companies feel a need to cash in on vacancies, increase productivity and fill skilled positions with people who can hit the ground running and do the work. 

    I bet Eric Auld can fill a whole host of positions — from admin to marketing to HR to sales. That’s what happened to me when I had a degree in English and no money to go to law school. I took a job as a staffing specialist. I had no background in recruiting and no HR expertise. Someone said — she has aptitude and an education. Let’s take a chance on her.

    So I wonder — is there a skills gap or a training gap?

    1. I think we all know the answer to your question. We just aren’t quite there yet regarding selling the need in an appropriate language to finance/sales/executives and quantifying the results.

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