Saturday, June 29, 2013

Learning how to hire #1: Find your Research Assistant on Craigslist

I need to hire a Research Assistant either with a very specific attitude or set of skills, so I wrote a somewhat detailed job description and hoped for the best. But where to get access to a lot of applicants? My postdoc lab had recently hired an RA, advertised on Craigslist and got 90 applications, but since I was not involved in that hiring and I do not have a big HHMI lab, I was somewhat skeptical of how many people would apply to my lab.

At the same time just advertising on the Jobs listings of my institution may not be enough to reach a wide audience. I perused biotech/science job listings on Craigslist and when I saw that the Library of Congress advertises there I was sold. The listings are sparse, but that may not be a bad thing and there were not any recent academic RA jobs posted. The listing cost $25 which is a pittance compared to what postdoc listings cost on professional organization websites.

Lo and behold I posted the job on Friday afternoon at 5pm and I had more than 100 applications in 3 days with peaks on Monday morning of one application every 20 minutes. After discarding applications from candidates with no experience or qualifications in other fields, I had a pool of a few dozen people who looked interesting. Then, after combing through another 50+ applications from HR, I had multiple candidates with some combination of the required set of skills and experience. We had so many applications we had to shut down the listings after 4 days because going through them all would become unmanageable. Interestingly, the two applicant pools were almost completely separate as only a few people applied through both systems, so Craigslist was great for diversification. In both cases I had more and less experienced applicants and a similar distribution of ages. And now the phone interviews far as I'm concerned, the Craigslist experiment was a success.

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