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Employers: Free Craigslist Job Postings Contain a Hidden Cost

Craigslist has built a reputation as a great resource of free and low-cost classifieds online, especially among island businesses operating with limited budgets on Block Island, Martha’s Vineyard & Nantucket. 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 local job board like,, & is a more cost- and time-effective strategy than posting on Craigslist.

From the early days of the site, Craigslist has offered a very easy method for posting job listings: you simply select a city, then a category, open an account and post your job. This ease of use was a breakthrough in the often complicated online recruiting space. Over time, virtually every online job board has created an equally easy posting method, typically relying on e-commerce to generate revenue from each job posting.

Job seeker traffic has grown exponentially in most Craigslist cities through the years, and the current downturn has accelerated that traffic growth. At the same time, the number of job postings has fallen in many cities in parallel with the slowed economy. The result, say one island restaurant manager, is that every Craigslist job posting is inundated with applies, and given the demographics of the typical Craigslist visitor, that influx of applies has created a backlog of work. Instead of receiving 30 applications for a position, among which one or two may be worthy of an interview, companies of all sizes report receiving hundreds of replies within 24 hours of each posting. Yet the number of qualified candidates who apply remains the same or has fallen for many positions, hiring managers say, which translates into multiple hours spent reviewing an overload of resumes searching for the needle in the haystack.

This issue is a familiar one to anyone who has posted a listing of any kind on Craigslist. Since all listings are posted in reverse chronological order, the newest listings get the most prominence. When a company posts an opening for a receptionist on a Tuesday at 10am, the window for responses to roll in starts at 10:01am, but typically ends later that day as other postings push the receptionist listing further and further down the queue. While it's true that search results pull in older listings, those results also show in reverse candidates miss good job postings that get buried in chronological order, so the receptionist job falls below new listings for receptionists each time another job in that category is posted.

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, island job boards offered by The Island Job Network 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 at $49 for 30 days, but island business owners say the return on investment is good since they tend to receive higher-quality applicants to review. A hiring manager seeking summer restaurant help on Nantucket that posts the position on, for example, will tap into the niche of a site targeted to the island of Nantucket.

The bottom line is that when island hiring managers 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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