updated: February 22nd, 2009 / Ross Johnson / 8 Comments

How to Respond to an Authentic Jobs Posting

Looking into the next few months I am seeing an influx of ongoing, relationship based work and clients. Looking into the future of my company I expect and hope to grow steadily, which at some point means expanding my team.

At this point it doesn’t make sense to take on a new full time hire, however I will certainly need dedicated work over the next few months (and hopefully well into the future as well.) What I decided to do was try out Cameron Moll’s Authentic Jobs by posting a listing for a freelancer.

I got a plethora of responses, all very qualified

I was shocked at the quality, quantity and how quickly I got responses from a vast amount of qualified individuals. So much so that sorting through and rating all of the candidates has been difficult (although I would have to say this is a good problem to have.)

Because of the high level of competition and simply not enough time to deeply go into every single candidates portfolio I had to develop a system to really pin point the “rockstars” that I am looking for. While I wish I had the time to devote plenty of thought and review to each case it simply wasn’t plausible.

If you are applying for a job or a freelance position, what you might think about

While every person who is reviewing applications will be different, you can be sure there are common elements for any person playing a HR role.

Address the needs of the listing

I was surprised at how many applications failed to answer questions I specifically asked to have included. Others ignored large portions of the listing (like experience with common open source CMS solutions). Even if you had no experience (or little) I spent twice as long considering the applicants who at least addressed all of the points.

Make it easy

I must have gotten 60+ applications for qualified individuals. The reason that I am looking for a new expert to help my team is to make things run smoother and easier. At some point I realized that if the e-mail sent to me was difficult to review than chances are the applicant wasn’t a perfect fit.

This included not giving me specific links to recent work, instead pointing me to their website homepage (where I have to spend some time hunting for their portfolio). Some applicants attached a resume (word or PDF) rather than explaining their relevant experience. I would have had the time to learn a lot more about the applicant if it had been included in the e-mail.

Be honest

Some of the applicants I sent a second round of questions, one of which asked “Are you a detail oriented person or a big picture person?” A large portion of responses said something along the lines of “both,” which really didn’t answer the question I was asking. While I realize the question may have sounded like a trick, I was looking for someone who was detail oriented because I am not. I need someone to balance out that weakness. I can not get an accurate reading on a response like “I am the most detailed big picture person in the world.”

Stay strong on your pricing!

Since I was asking for freelancers one of the questions I asked was “what is your hourly rate?” While of course I have a ceiling on what I could reasonably pay, but the listing was pretty clear that I was concerned about quality over cost. I was shocked at how many people e-mailed saying that “price was normaly X but they would be willing to negotiate.” This often comes across as “I don’t value myself at X an hour.” Be strong on your price, if you feel comfortable charging it then you are worth it!

Do what you can to stand out!

There were some great responses that talked about what blogs they followed, what books they read, clients they had worked with, mistakes they had made in the past (very impressive idea!). Some responses had very clever subject lines that caught my attention, where others spent a little more time formating the e-mail to be easier to read. These sorts of things impressed me.

Don’t send a boilerplate response

I would recommend writing something unique to every listing you respond to. I could tell some e-mails were simply boiler plate responses with my company name swapped in. Had I only gotten 10 responses that might work, but if you are competing with 50 other people chances are this is not going to work.

Best of luck!

I am very impressed at the quality and quantity of responses I got from the listing. This is great for those of us posting listings, but makes it difficult for those who are responding. Consider these tips next time you respond to a job listing online.

8 thoughts How to Respond to an Authentic Jobs Posting

  1. Great post. I love the “stay strong on your pricing” part. Too many freelancers in industry short-change their value. Addressing the actual needs of the job posting seems elementary, and I’m sure it is frustrating reading through responses that gloss over the points. If there are four questions, give four answers! Simple.

  2. Damn, I thought I would have been a perfect fit! Sometimes I respond at length to a job posting, sometimes I just send a few lines (as I did in this case).

    I just had to hire someone at my day job and had to review a lot of candidates. After a few emails I appreciated the ones that just said “Hi, look at my portfolio” and I could just look at the code and go from there.

    I’ll bug you in a few months to see if you need even more help.


  3. Very useful information here for the folks looking. You definitely want to stand out from the crowd to just get your foot in the door for an interview. I posted on the cover letter aspect of job hunting last year, this may be useful to some of your readers here as well – http://onwired.com/blog/the-importance-of-a-cover-letter/

    Tony – Owner of OnWired

  4. Great read as I am planning on responding to your job list on AJ… unless of course you’ve already filled it from your myriad of candidates! I’ve been surprised to hear from other job posters about the quantity and quality of candidates that respond. It makes it tough to get the gig, but frankly, that’s fantastic for the industry that there are so many strong individuals out there!

    All the best selecting your freelancer!


  5. I just wrote a blog post about how to filter job applicants – http://tinyurl.com/d9ncva – would be interested on your thoughts on whether you think it is something you could have made use of to help you find those Rockstars….

  6. Your comments about staying strong on your pricing were very helpful. I often thought that giving a client a price and then saying ‘we are flexible’ was helping the client. Being flexible to meet their needs. What I realized reading that was that I have been creating confusion instead. Now the client has a whole new variable in planning the job, because now they are uncertain of what the actual price is.

    Many thanks for the other side of the issue.

  7. Good advice- hopefully people will read it.

    I’ve got an ad running at AJ right now, and it’s surprising to me how some people choose to present themselves.

    Your first and second points are spot on- when I’m getting inundated with responses, I don’t really want to spend time trying to figure out how to check out your work- if you can’t make it easy for me to see that you’re the right person for the job, I’m probably going to pass.

    If you’re firing off form responses to ads you don’t fully read, please do yourself and the hiring party a favor- don’t bother.

  8. Pingback: » Authentic Jobs: Advice for Staying Gainfully Employed - More On Design

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