10 Ways to Determine If A Craigslist Job Posting is Legitimate

10 Ways to Determine If A Craigslist Job Posting is Legitimate

Craigslist can be a great resource for job seekers. You can find listings for a wide variety of legitimate opportunities — everything from part-time temporary gigs to career-track positions.

However, you can also find plenty of scammers on Craigslist. How do you know if a Craigslist job listing is a good lead or too good to be true? Guest writer, Marcela De Vivo has 10 tips to help you evaluate the opportunities and avoid the con artists.

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 you 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 a 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?

Bottom line:

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:

Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer and online marketing professional in the Los Angeles area. She currently works with HostPapa and uses her expertise in search marketing and social networking to help businesses create a strong marketing strategy. When posting job openings on Craigslist for her business, she always makes sure to represent her company in a professional manner. Follow her on Facebook today to find more tips like these!

Main Photo Credit: WillMontague

Ready to ace your next job interview and land your dream job? Take your preparation to the next level with Big Interview, our training/practice software that will have you conquering tough questions and impressing employers in no time. Grab a 7-day free trial and use our Fast Track curriculum to get immediate results!

About the Author

Pamela Skillings is co-founder of Big Interview. As an interview coach, she has helped her clients land dream jobs at companies including Google, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan Chase.She also has more than 15 years of experience training and advising managers at organizations from American Express to the City of New York.She is an adjunct professor at New York University and an instructor at the American Management Association.

Connect with Pamela

18 Comment to 10 Ways to Determine If A Craigslist Job Posting is Legitimate

  • Summer Nguyen

    Excellent overview. I had an instance where I took a job off of craigslist with a startup too soon. I ended up working with a very sketchy boss who at first seemed reasonable and seemed like he had a real company.

    Ended up being a waste of time. Live and learn.

  • Rich Abraham

    A lot times it seems like those ads are a waste. I’ve occasionally seen a good post, but they’re rare.

    That being said, I think if you’re more thoughtful in responding to the ad, you might be able to standout more.

    Most of the people you’re competing with are basically spamming the ads and praying for a response. They don’t take any time to really read the ad and respond with something thoughtful.

    If the ad seems good, you might be able to stand out if you’re smart and put some effort in your response.

  • Margot

    A friend just experienced a Craigslist ad being a scam this week. The job posting was for a catering company. My friend sent his resume and got this response:

    From: Karen Lindley
    Sent: Wed, Aug 21, 2013 3:06 pm
    Subject: RE: Upscale Banquet Waitstaff / Bartenders candidate

    Hi XXXX:

    My name is Karen- I’m the staffing manager at Cypress Catering. I’ve reviewed
    your application, and your qualifications may be a good fit for our banquet
    staff. Everything looks good, however I will need you to send me your resume in
    executive-classic format (company requirement for new hire r�sum�s). Please
    re-send me your resume in the correct format, along with the first date you can
    begin so we can move forward.

    If you are unfamiliar with an executive-classic format, I’d recommend finding a
    template, or a quick resume builder online (I know OneBuckResume.com or
    ResumeEdge should support the format).

    Please email me if you have any questions.

    Kind Regards,

    Karen Lindley
    Staffing Coordinator
    Cypress Catering Company� LLC

    Turns out:
    1. Cypress Catering and cypresscatering.net do not exist
    2. OneBuckResume charges $1 for a resume template. There are numerous complaints about this company, because people gave credit card information to pay the $1 and then had a $6 monthly charge from the company plus fraudulent charges from other companies. The BBB cannot find any contact information for this company, and it looks like it goes out of business and then re-surfaces. There were other examples of the exact same response email but with a different company name.

  • http://www.biginterview.com Pamela Skillings

    @Summer – thank you for the comment. You have to be really diligent in checking the company that’s advertising to make sure they are legit. That time investment is the biggest downside usually.

  • http://www.biginterview.com Pamela Skillings

    @Rich – if there’s a posting that gets you really excited, it might be worth the time investment to be thorough and a little creative with a personal response.

    Real companies do use Craigslist often, but it’s definitely a crapshoot.

  • http://www.biginterview.com Pamela Skillings

    @Margot – Wow! If that’s true then scammers are definitely getting more creative and elaborate. Though this kind of response would still raise some red-flags with most people.

    “Oh hi… yes we’d love to read your resume, but we can’t unless it’s sent through thousanddollarresume.spamalot.nigeria – you know… just a formality”

  • Bill

    I just read your article and found it to be very informative. I recently saw a job posting on Craigslist that interested me and seems to be legitimate. I was just wondering, is there a way to determine who is posting the job listing on Craigslist prior to sending a resume? Thanks.

  • http://biginterview.com/blog/2013/08/craigslist-job-posting-legitimate-scam.html Ava

    I noticed many “Employers” on Craigslist asking for “References.” NEVER send your job or personal references to God-knows-who at the other end of the posting. Employment law states that “References should only be asked for in person and the prospective employee must agree in writing.
    AVOID EMPLOYERS THAT WANT A “CREDIT CHECK”. (Exceptions: law enforcement, banks, financial institution.) This is ILLEGAL in several states, California being one of them. AB22 (Assembly Bill 22) signed into law, states that prospective employers can NOT obtain credit reports on prospective nor current employees. The exceptions are clearly defined (Law enforcement, bank personnel, several others.) If you are in a store and run customers credit cards that does not qualify (For a credit check on employee.) IF YOU SEE THESE IN JOB POSTINGS, MOVE ON TO A PROFESSIONAL BUSINESS THAT ABIDES BY THE LAW AND DOESN’T INVADE YOUR PRIVACY.

  • Richard

    You did not research your blog very well…

    craigslist has implemented 2-way email relay to help stop spam and scams.
    When replying to a post you’ll see an address like:

    When answering an email you’ll see an address like:

    Your email is not revealed when responding to posts.

  • Mona Coley


  • Spedrick

    A lot of the ads on Craigslist are scams and that makes it hard for people like me, with a legit business to promote. My ads get flagged all the time and I really don’t understand why.

  • Mae

    I come across Craigslist ads that all sound too good to be true, but you can never be too careful when you also go into other websites such as indeed.com and monster.com. What I always do is research the official company website and reference their job boards on their official website and put in my application through the official company website.

  • brittany

    Has anyone posted a ad saying they needed a job and someone responded saying that they pay.weekly for posting ads on craigslist. Just.wondering.if anyone knows if it is a scam or legit

  • Lynn

    I’ve applied to blind job ads on Craigslist only to get bombarded with spam and solicitations for sex websites (disgusting!). I’m simply trying to find a job to support my household and don’t want any of this offensive stuff filling up my inbox.

    Any suggestions?

  • Pamela Skillings

    @Lynn – It’s important to set up a separate email to handle craigslist. If you’re using gmail, and your regular email is yourname@gmail.com – you can simply register on craigslist with yourname+craigslist@gmail.com (you can add anything after the “+” sign.)

    Or just use a more professional variation on your name if employers off craigslist my email you directly (like yourname212@gmail.com) — basically just have a back-up. That’s usually the easiest thing.

  • Smiles

    I find it more entertaining, than as a valid source of job postings. But if you apply without looking into it, maybe you should be duped.

  • Betty

    I create resumes and cover letters for clients; if someone on Craigslist posts the need for a resume and asks in the post for you to send samples of the resumes that you have done; how can you graciously decline that and still have a chance to get the job. I have heard that many who send those resumes end up having the person use them as their own and sell them.

  • Alice Michaelis

    Well looks like it’s too late for me. I already ran into a scammer that has my name and address. They sent me a check and wanted me to deposit in my bank account. I never did. But I feel like they can still use my information. Also my resume has my phone number. And so far I’ve applied to 30 or more Craigslist ads using my real email address. I’m probably screwed already. I wish I read this before I started job hunting.

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