You have likely already heard a lot about the dangers of Craigslist in terms of responding to personal classified ads. You know enough to look out for weirdos and predators.
You should approach Craigslist job listings with a similarly cynical eye. If something about a business listing is making you question the authenticity, you should really listen to your gut instinct — the first reaction you have when you look at a post shouldn’t be a spine-tingling, hair-raising, questioning doubt.
Below are some tips to help you spot shady job listings on Craigslist – and avoid wasting your time or putting yourself or your personal information at risk.
1. Check the Dates
There are always people on Craigslist looking for jobs – it has become a highly popular go-to spot for job seekers to supplement in-person job hunting and resume outreach.
Usually, if a decent-paying job is posted on Craigslist, there will be numerous, immediate responses, which means listings are often taken down within a week or two of being posted.
If a business does not find the perfect candidate right away and leaves the listing up for a long time, there may be a reason why no one has landed the position.
A listing that lasts too long on Craigslist could mean multiple things. The simplest and most common explanation is that the position has been filled and the poster never got around to deleting it.
On the other hand, you should be wary of a job listing that stays up too long or is posted repeatedly.
A listing that goes up every day, or even multiple times a day, during the week raises major red flags.
These posts might have slightly altered copy, but their content will be basically the same, as will their contact information.
2. Protect Your Financial Information
Anyone asking for credit card information or personal information straight off the bat cannot be trusted.
If you haven’t even interviewed for the job or haven’t secured the job yet, there should be no reason why you are handing a stranger your personal information.
They can directly use your information for themselves as a form of identity theft and/or they can sell your identity to buyers.
Be careful too when clicking links in suspicious or too-good-to-be-true ads as you could end up spreading viruses to your computer.
Sometimes these job listings pose little imminent harm to you, but are nonetheless not real listings. Perhaps when you email the company to show your interest and request more information, you discover the post is spam or someone running a scam. In other cases, you can click on a potential job listing and find that it turns out to be an ad for something.
3. Set Up a Separate Email Account
It’s a good idea to set up a specific email account for your Craigslist applications. With a separate email account, “employers” who could potentially be fake will not be able to use your more widely-used email account to spam you or steal your identity.
4. Do Due Diligence Before Sending Your Resume
Don’t send your resume right away unless you have verified that the job offer is real. Since your resume provides information about you such as your name, school, email address, home address and your phone number, thieves can use this information to steal your money and your identity.
5. Trust Your Instincts
You’ve probably come across at least a few of those “too good to be true” ads that offer free money right away and other benefits at no cost or hassle to you, even if you have no previous work experience. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Moreover, there is probably a metaphorical fine-print “but” after that statement, as in, “You’ll get this and this, ‘BUT’ you’ll have to do this first and sign up for this.”
Thus, just when you think you have signed up for a legitimate job, upon further research, you realize that the job listing was not at all what it claimed to be.
6. Don’t Get Too Personal
No doubt Craigslist is rife with interesting jobs that require an employer to get to know you on a more personal basis, such as becoming a personal assistant or modeling for a local brand.
Sometimes an employer has a legitimate need to see a photo or ask questions about your personal interests.
Just be extremely cautious. When it starts sounding more like a cheesy, over-the-top dating profile instead of a job listing, then it is highly recommended that you question the legitimacy of the personal assistant position that you are applying for.
Moreover, that potential employer is likely looking to hire the wrong type of people if s/he is bragging about things like earnings for all of Craigslist to see.
If you are going to meet a potential employer in person, make sure it is in a public place. Remember, safety should be your priority.
7. Look for Signs of Unprofessionalism
Watch out for signs of unprofessionalism, including the following red flags: asking to meet at night over drinks, dodging your questions about the company and their mission, and texting your pleasantries completely unrelated to your line of work (even before you start working).
Of course, a lot depends on the type of work you will be doing, but if you feel like your interaction is inappropriate to the setting and to what your work relationship calls for, then it probably is.
We all have ideas of what accounts as professional or unprofessional behavior. Slang and poorly written, misspelled and abbreviated sentences as listings are not professional.
A legitimate business would have a reputation and image to protect, so they would make sure that their ad is representing them properly, meaning the listing would have been proofread.
In general, the shorter and vaguer the ad, the fishier and less legitimate it probably is.
8. Get Agreements in Writing
It is also a good idea to put verbal agreements to paper, especially when dealing with a small, new business or person for the first time. This is to ensure that you get paid as agreed for the work you perform.
Instead of meeting in person, send an email in response to a listing to show a business your interest – don’t be afraid to ask questions.
What’s more, this is a great way for the company to see that you are committed to joining their task force. In fact, you can get a feel for the company’s style by the way that they respond.
This can be another step in helping you gauge the legitimacy of the Craigslist job listing.
9. Speak Up
If you have concerns, talk to your potential employer about them, especially when dealing with a sole business owner or with a business that is run from home. For example, don’t be afraid to express that you would be more comfortable meeting in a public area. Then see how open the person is to your concerns.
Do not let anyone pressure you to do something that makes you uncomfortable. If after repeated attempts to voice your concerns, the person is still insistent that you meet in her/his desired location, run for the hills – it is not worth it.
If the job listing was legitimate, the person would be understanding and accommodating to your concerns.
10. Do Some Detective Work
Break out those detective skills when checking out the legitimacy of a Craigslist job listing – do your research on the company well. Be cautious if the business is claiming to be a big, hotshot company and yet there is no trace of them online.
Don’t think that a Facebook page and a LinkedIn account are enough to verify the listing’s claims either, especially if it is someone’s small business where s/he is promoting his/her own skills set on these websites.
Anyone can doctor any type of information – from schooling and credentials to affiliates – on any form of social media site.
See if you can come across any reviews or feedback from customers or clients on the company. Is it an established, verifiable business? How long has the business been around? Google the location of the establishment – is it in a home? Is it in an abandoned warehouse? In a creepy, dark alley?
If you remain vigilant and trust your gut, Craigslist can be a wonderful way to find and interview for worthwhile positions at legitimate businesses. Just proceed with caution and keep an eye out for warning signs.
And let us know in the comments section about some of your tips or nightmare stories from using Craigslist on the job hunt?
And on the theme of Craigslist, here are some funny Craigslist ads from Conan:
Main Photo Credit: WillMontague