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Eric Auld wants a full-time job. He completed a master's program in 2009 and has a part-time job as an adjunct lecturer, but that provides barely enough to cover the bills.
After a fruitless job search — endlessly scanning Monster.com and Craigslist and tweaking resumes and cover letters — he grew more curious about his competitors. So he created a fake Craigslist ad for an administrative assistant position and, in one day, received 653 responses from applicants with a wide range of education and experience. He wrote about what he learned from the applicants for Thought Catalog.
"I usually apply to two types of jobs, the first being teaching positions or publishing positions or any position I can use my master's in English for," Auld tells NPR's Neal Conan, "and those other jobs being those lower-end, entry-level kind of positions that everybody seems to be applying for nowadays."
Auld estimates that out of 100 jobs he applied for in the course of a month, he heard back from 5 percent. "And actually," he says, "most of the 5 percent I did hear from seem to be job scams trying to get my personal information."
So he modeled his fake ad on those common, entry-level postings, and in just one day, was overwhelmed with applicants. As he sifted through resumes, he found that not many people with master's degrees were applying, but lots of them listed bachelor's degrees — all of this for a $12- to $13-an-hour job in midtown Manhattan.
He also found that the majority of applicants — "at least three-quarters" — had experience as administrative assistants. And the number that shocked him most? "10 percent ... had 10 or more years of experience, applying for this job that really, based on their previous experiences, seems to be ... beneath them."
So, Auld learned, most of the applicants to these entry-level, administrative assistant positions really were more qualified than he is. And though some might warn him he's also not getting called back for starting positions because his advanced degree makes him overqualified, he's not concerned.
"With the state of the job market, it's just a cold fact that people with bachelor's degrees and master's degrees in all sorts of areas have to apply to these types of jobs," he says. "I would give anything up" — including his part-time job as an adjunct lecturer — "to become a full-time administrative assistant, because those are guaranteed hours, and it's all year round."
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