Five lessons from Craigslist for job applicants

craigslistMy husband and I are turning our media room into a guest room so we have been both buying and selling items on Craigslist. Craigslist is truly a great way to find and sell items at a reduced price. It can also be a lot of fun to meet interesting people. But, it has its down side too. Unfortunately there are many rude, clueless and dishonest people who use Craigslist. If being a Craigslist buyer or seller was akin to looking for a job, most of these people would never get hired. They would be perpetually unemployed.

Let’s look at the lessons Craigslist can teach us for being a good job applicant.

Don’t misrepresent yourself

liarWhen posting an item for sale on Craigslist give a detailed honest description of the item. Don’t lie by saying it’s in excellent condition when it’s really quite beat up. One of the items I was looking for was a small desk. I saw exactly what I wanted on Craigslist and I emailed the seller to ask if it had any significant dings or marks. He replied it did not. When I showed up to look at it I saw it had several gouges and a burn mark on it. I immediately lost trust in him.

When you write your resume and cover letter do not lie. The same is true for the interview. Don’t claim you’ve got skills or experience you don’t have. While you may be able to fool some potential employers, sooner or later your lies will come back to haunt you.  I would much rather hire an honest employee who doesn’t have every qualification I’m looking for then one who lies and seemingly does.

Highlight your best qualities

I’m always amazed at how many people post terrible photos of the item they are selling – blurry, dark or hard to see images that don’t help me at all in my browsing experience. Like this:

bad-craigslist-photoIf I can’t see the item I won’t buy it. I’ll just look for the next piece with the better photos. And, I’m way more inclined to buy an item that has many photos taken from several angles and that has a detailed description. Especially if the description helps me to envision how the piece will fit into my home and life, ie: “A sturdy desk that will fit in a small room but still provide space for a laptop and office essentials.” Why? Two reasons; I get a better sense of what I’m buying, and I know the seller is a conscientious person who most likely took good care of the item.

When you apply for a job, be sure you help the buyer, ie: potential employer, see how you will make their life easier. State how you will help the company grow and prosper by highlighting how you made a positive impact in previous jobs. On your resume, use bullet points that start with action verbs – Negotiated, Directed, Eliminated, etc. Avoid passive statements such as “Was responsible for…” Do the same in your interviews – “I directed the auto loan campaign that resulted in a 34% increase in auto loans that quarter.”

Show up and arrive on time

I can’t tell you how many potential Craigslist buyers have made appointments to see the items we’re selling and then never show up. Or if they do appear it’s often later than they stated. It’s incredibly rude. When I agree to a meeting time with a buyer I set aside that period to be home, often changing plans or putting off doing errands or activities away from the home. If you don’t show up or even if you show up late, it means I’ve wasted that time waiting for you.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that you should never cancel or not show up to an interview unless you have a very good reason, like a car accident or a family emergency. And, be sure you arrive at least five minutes before the appointment. It shows you are a timely, thoughtful person that can be counted on.

I can’t fire a Craigslist buyer but I can choose not to sell to one who is inconsiderate of my time. Be sure that the impression you make on a potential employer is a positive one so that your chances of being hired are better.

Be friendly

InterviewMost of the buyers we’ve met have been friendly, grateful people. But there have been a few that have been rather rude – either not acknowledging us or showing disdain when viewing the item. One couple showed up to look at a quality brand leather recliner that we were selling. We paid $1,400 for it new and were selling it for $250. A HUGE bargain given it was practically new and in excellent shape. The man was gruff and kept pointing out the recliner’s faults (he had to work hard to find them) and even said he didn’t like leather furniture. I wanted to say, “well then what the heck are you doing wasting our time if you don’t like leather” but I restrained myself.  He then tried to negotiate with me on the price. Had he been friendly and appreciative of the chair I would have gladly negotiated, but I wasn’t going to budge on price with someone who was such a negative Ned.

When you are interviewing for a job, greet the interviewer warmly. Shake his or her hand and smile. Even if it’s a job you’re not sure you want, be sure to convey enthusiasm, appreciation and gratitude for the opportunity to interview for the position. If you decide the job is not a good fit for you your warmth and thankfulness for the opportunity to interview will be remembered. And if there is another position you’re more interested in at the same company you’ll be more likely to get an interview if you’ve been a gracious person.

Don’t be a prima donna

divaI’ve had a few potential buyers contact me to ask if I would drop my price AND deliver the item to them. One gal wanted me to drive from Seattle to Enumclaw to deliver it and wanted to pay me less for the item. Really? I ignored that text.

I will do what I can to accommodate a buyer but I won’t help someone who is being unreasonable. If you come to my house I will probably negotiate on the price. But you can’t ask me to both drop my price and take time out of my day to deliver the item to you unless you are willing to pay.

When scheduling an interview appointment with an employer you need to accommodate their schedule. Don’t be demanding or difficult. And, if you’re offered the job and are negotiating the salary realize that there needs to be some give and take. When offered the salary plus benefits you can’t ask for a higher salary plus a hiring bonus, car allowance, extra vacation time, a corner office and a parking spot as well. Well, you can ask for those perks but you’ll be deemed a selfish prima donna and most likely won’t get the job after all. Be reasonable, whether you’re buying something on Craigslist or negotiating a job offer.

As the saying goes, how you do one thing is how you do everything. So if you are an inconsiderate demanding Craigslist buyer or seller most likely that’s how you are as an employee. Be your best no matter the situation. You’ll have much more success in your career and on Craigslist.

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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>

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