Originally Posted: 2005-10-04 18:51 (no longer live)

Tips for applying to a job from Craigslist.

Dear prospective job hunters.

Thank you for taking the time to look at our site, and thank you for being interested in working with us.

Most applications I receive go straight to the deleted-items folder because of a few simple mistakes. I'm beginning to feel bad, so if you are going to make the effort to apply for a job here, or anywhere else, I'd like to offer you some advice.

To successfully interest me in hiring you, you need understand what we as business owners face on the other side of the fence. Hiring is the most important task I face, but it is also 76th on my list of a hundred other things to do today. When we put a posting on Craigslist, we usually get around 100 responses within 48 hours. They flood into my inbox, and I have to push them aside until I have time to give them the attention they deserve. In the meantime, I have phones ringing, deadlines to meet, problems with our systems, employees with questions, and much more to compete for the limited capacity of my brain.

But, don't let this put you off. It doesn't take much to distinguish yourself. Here's how :


When I do get round to your email, I do not have time to look at every detail. I make quick and rapid decisions about whether I will call you or not. I don't even get to most resume's because the cover letter is so drab. If you want to stand a chance at getting a response, you ABSOLUTLY MUST spend some time on this.

So, how should you write a cover letter? - Simple, read our post, and tell me quickly how you can meet the needs we have listed. Use examples wherever possible. Take a look at these two different letters....

An excellent cover letter (5% are like this) The run of the mill cover letter (95% are exactly the same)


OK, I admit. I saw your posting just now for the Product Marketing Manager for Outdoor Adventures and Experiences just now on Craigs List, and I'm salivating. so I can't imagine a better adventure for a career than to market excitement and fun. Let me tell you 3 reasons you should consider me for this position :

  1. Strong Design Skills You're ad said you were looking for someone who can design brochures and other marketing materials. I have 2 years of design, and am proficient in Adobe Illustrator and Pagemaker. I have created brochures for XYZ company, and ABC company, and have attached a PDF of my work. I'd be happy to show you my portfolio in an interview.
  2. Good communication and writing skills - In my former job, I regularly led meetings that involved dozens of people. Several times a year, I would speak for my company at industry events... sometimes to audiences of several hundred people. I know how to craft a good press release and have successfully managed to get several articles into print.
  3. I love experiences - I completely relate to your philosophy that life is about experiences. I love to travel, and have recently returned from 2 months in Peru where I helped feed orphan children in a small town. I've never been skydiving, but it is on my top ten list of things to do next year. Perhaps this is my opportunity.

ExperienceTHIS is a place where I know I can make a difference, and with my experience at conceiving plans and putting projects into motion, I'm sure I could impact you very quickly without spending too much time in the starting gate. I would love to meet with you in person to talk about how I can help take the adventure to a whole new level.

Dear Sir/Madam

Please accept this letter and resume for the Product Marketing Manager position as referenced on craigslist.com.

As a recent MBA graduate, I believe that I offer the skills that are crucial to this position. My background in marketing, as well as my formal education in business and marketing from the UCLA will serve as a complement to your firm.

After doing some extensive research about experienceTHIS.us, I am sure that my work history and educational background will greatly benefit the future endeavors of your organization. (Did you really do extensive research on us??? - no evidence here, that's for sure) My work history coupled with my education in business administration has provided me with an invaluable sense of communication and negotiation, as well as quantitative analytical skills. Blah Blah Blah

From both my professional and personal experiences, I have developed an enthusiastic, entrepreneurial, and disciplined work ethic. I possess the ability to work under pressure and rapidly adapt to changing work conditions. I excel in both individual and team driven environments. With this in mind, I am confident that my employment background, eagerness to learn, and genuine character will prove to be an asset to your company. Blah Blah Blah

I look forward to discussing employment opportunities with you in the near future. I am available for an interview at your earliest convenience. Thank you in advance for your consideration. Blah Blah Blah

Which one would you call back? - The one on the right doesn't even come close to responding to what we're looking for. If you just regurgitate a form cover letter from some book you read, or the email you sent to the last company, I'm going to yawn and hit the delete key before I ever get to your resume. I feel bad doing it, but I just don't have time for blah blah blah.

2. Don't blah blah blah.

Be super clear and concise. Use the same language to describe your achievements to me, as you would to your grandmother. For example...
"My work history coupled with my education in business administration has provided me with an invaluable sense of communication and negotiation, as well as quantitative analytical skills"

*yawn* - This means nothing to me. Compare it to this...

"I have only really had one job. It was at Larry's Video Store near my college. We were losing customers to Netflix so I helped convince my boss to offer a subscription service to our customers. I made up a business model of our projected sales, and showed how this would improve our bottom line. My boss agreed, and tasked me with spreading the word. I designed flyers and put up posters around campus to promote our new service. Our subscription model was a success, and I'm sure my boss Larry would sing my praises for my business and marketing initiative.

Be clear, concise, and factual. Don't use fluffy words. Describe yourself, who you are, and how exactly you can help. - If you can't make a selling proposition for yourself, how on earth will you do it for me?

3. Don't make the mistake of attaching your cover letter as a word document.

You're writing me an email.... imagine me sitting at my desk with my inbox dinging every minute. Do you think I really want to fire up Word to see a formatted cover letter. No... just write your cover letter as you would any other email. That's what email is for.

4. Respond with the title of the job advertisement in the subject heading.

Yes, it's good to use some initiative in the subject line to grab my attention, but I sort my email based on subject, and if you're not in the right subject, you're going to get lost.

  • Bad : I love skydiving and work really hard
  • Good : Product Manager job
  • Best : Product Manager job (I love skydiving and work really hard)

5. Win me over by being open and honest.

I respect failure, and I look for potential. Yet, it seems to be common practice to BS on resume's nowadays. It's ok to be proud of your accomplishments, but a little modesty makes you look human. I'd much rather meet with someone who admits they've failed, than someone who pretends they've always been successful.

"I successfully led a ten person team to generate sales of $200,000"

Yeah, ok... but I'd respect that person even more if they had the balls to write this :

In my last job, I had ten people working for me. It was stressful, and I didn't have a clue about how to manage at the time. Two of my team resigned in the first month, and I found it difficult to motivate the other eight who were all older than me. We still met our quota, but I was let go. To be fair, I was in over my head at the time. I have since been to two leadership training seminars, and I can see now where I went wrong.

Which one would you rather talk to?

Must get back to work now, but I hope this has helped you out.

James Dilworth, CEO
experienceTHIS.us - Experiences make better gifts

P.S. - We're still looking for a Product Manager.

P.P.S. - I found a reply this morning from someone with a different perspective. - If you're applying to an accounting job with a large corporation, where the HR manager lets dust collect on her bifocals, you may not want to heed all of my advice.

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