Successful Hiring Strategy: A Narrow Craigslist Ad
After years of finding law clerks word of mouth or through temp agencies that didn’t always properly vet credentials, I was thrilled when Craigslist.com first came on the scene. Finally, I thought, a way to systematically access a broad market of qualified candidates.
But as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for. As I learned from my first experiment with Craigslist back in the 1990′s, it helped me find more applicants than I ever imagined. Unfortunately, of the 60 or so who responded to my ad seeking a law student or new grad to provide paralegal assistance, I received resumes ranging from high school graduates to lawyers with 20 years of experience billing at rates of $200 an hour. By the time I weeded through all the responses, and set to work reading through the barely-literate writing samples, I gave up and decided to do the work myself.
These days, Craigslist really isn’t my favorite source for finding contract lawyers. I prefer personal references or reaching out to students or junior lawyers whose blog posts or tweets catch my attention online. But when those don’t pan out, I’ve returned to Craigslist with reasonable success by following the approach described below.
- Narrow ad: To avoid a tidal wave of resumes, I try to define the particular task as narrowly as possible. One time, I expressly advertised for junior lawyers, no more than three years of experience with some coursework or work experience in the energy regulatory industry and familiarity with a specific issue. This ad generated only four responses (plus a little spam) but also produced one of the best people who’s ever worked for me.
- Include explicit instructions: As a small firm practitioner, I don’t have the luxury of hiring people who can’t follow directions. So my Craigslist ad will always ask for submission of a writing sample, or response to a particular question. Those who don’t follow the instructions go directly to my delete box.
- Ask for the skills that matter in your firm: Sometimes, you have a task where writing skills count, other times, hands on experience – such as running a title search or filing a complaint matter more. Rather than ask candidates for cookie-cutter information, I establish requirements unique to each project. In this way, I’ve attracted people who have the skills to handle the task. By the way, in my view, grades rarely matter; I don’t think I’ve ever posted an ad where I asked for a GPA.
- Talk before hiring: Lots of times people look great on paper, but for one reason or other, you simply don’t get along by phone. Even when I plan to work with someone remotely, I like to speak by phone or meet in person just to see whether I can get along with the candidate.
- Ask a practical questions: Sometimes, I’ll need a clerk to handle a research project. If that’s the case, I’ll ask a question about what approach they might take for the project.
None of these techniques are fool proof but at least, they help improve the quality of the results that Craigslist produces.