Before I became suddenly unemployed, the classified section of the newspaper – especially the Sunday paper – was scanned only when things were going badly at work or if the corporation was exhibiting signs of fiscal distress.  After I was liberated to find a new avenue in life, the classifieds became a major part of my week.  I paced myself, avoiding the daily listings and concentrating on the Sunday offerings, usually waiting until Monday morning to read them from beginning to end.

 Usually I would arm myself with a yellow highlighter and a pen to make comments on the margins of highlighted items.  And, after outlining promising possibilities, I would carefully cut them out of the paper with scissors and attach them with tape to blank sheets of typing paper.  I even created an “employment file” with tabbed sections to indicate job offerings to which I responded, with copies of correspondence sent to prospective employers.  I was being very businesslike in my approach.

 As time wore on, my file grew larger and my analysis of the classifieds became more detailed.  This was personal research and marketing at its finest.  Never mind that I had always been told that “the best jobs never appear in the paper,” that was probably something invented by personnel agencies to make a naive public believe that they held the answer to unemployment woes.  After several months, and a relatively huge file, I began to suspect that something was amiss in my strategy.

 I was getting a lot of “hits” (usually postcards that acknowledged receipt of my precious resume) but not many warm responses from firms seriously interested in my presence at an interview.  Something was wrong – either in my approach or in the very nature of the process.  Going back to the proverbial drawing board, I carefully reviewed and analyzed my “database” (the big fat file) and determined that getting to an interview by responding to the classifieds is a lot like sending out a survey – a response rate of 5% would be phenomenal, and mine was less than that!

 I still have the big file, which is dwindling as I use its contents to start fires in the woodstove. I have ceased making the U.S. Postal Service richer one first-class stamp at a time.  And, I have relegated myself to a weekly scan of the classifieds only in areas which interest me.  I have, however, made some observations regarding the language of the classifieds that may come in handy for those intrepid souls who have become suddenly unemployed and want to take a whack at frustrating their efforts.


 Here’s one that always gets my attention, and a laugh:

 “Looking for a motivated problem solver to work in our challenging, fast-paced distribution environment. Must have excellent organizational skills and computer skills and be comfortable working with numbers.  Qualified candidate must have good phone skills and be able to work effectively with others.”

 What I love about this one is that they don’t use the word “secretary” anywhere in the ad.  Any time the terms “excellent organizational skills” are coupled with “phone skills” please plan on being offered a desk in the lobby and just a tad more than minimum wage.

 Truth, it seems, is stranger than fiction when it comes to the classifieds. A review of actual ads netted some real beauties:


Local, fast growing firm seeks self-motivated goal oriented individual for our daytime marketing department. Duties will include servicing present clients and to aggressively seek new business relationships. Salary plus commission. For more info call xxx-xxxx.

 I didn’t call, but I was curious. Do they have a nighttime marketing department? And, what kind of servicing did they have in mind?


We are looking for A+ certified Technicians. Must be able to work 1st and 2nd shift. Must have at least 6 mos. – 1 yr. on the job exp. If you’ve had a Security Clearance that is a huge plus.

 The above was from an employment agency. The brevity and use of abbreviation always makes me think that the agency must have a budgetary formula tied to the commission that the agency will collect from the employer.


Growing business has created a need for full and part time Customer Service positions at both our East and West Shore stores. Work in pleasant surroundings for the areas fastest growing furniture store. Fax resume to xxx-xxxx.

 Why, oh why, can’t these people just place their ad in the SALES category of the classifieds? Maybe the “pleasant surroundings” mean that you can sit on the furniture when you aren’t performing customer service?


#1 Real Estate office in the area is looking for an individual with management experience to assist in the operation of the company. This individual must be self motivated and dependable. Be able to work well with over 80 agents and supervise staff members. Experience with office equipment, computer hardware/software and website design/maintenance is required. Must be able to multi-task and prioritize. This is a great opportunity for a qualified person looking for long term employment with a growing company. Please fax your resume and salary requirements to xxx-xxxx.

 Deal with 80 real estate agents, and maintain the website? I wonder if the company provides free-choice medication to the multi-tasking prioritizer that they hire!


Three positions available! 12 week temporary position with high profile non-profit organization. If you are looking for an opportunity to develop your professional skills, this is the opportunity for you! This project will require self-motivation, flexibility, and excellent communication skills. You will interact with diverse companies and individuals. Training provided. College degree preferred. Valid driver’s license and availability of personal auto required. Salary $11-13/hr DOE. Please forward your resume to:

 Can you say telemarketer? Can you say fundraising? Can you say recent college graduates who can’t find a job?


Our business is booming, we’re Xxxxx International the world’s #1 business coaching team. Call to see if you qualify to be a business coach and franchisee. xxx-xxxx

 Actually, this one brought back a memory. I did respond to a similar ad, and met some guy from Chicago in a motel room for an interview. After glancing at my resume he said that I was qualified to attend his company’s training seminar and that I would be responsible for my own transportation and lodging in the WindyCity during the week-long session. Somehow, the prospect of a week of indoctrination and pitch for a franchise fee didn’t appeal.


          Full time, flexible schedules. Great benefits. Own vehicle.

          Call xxx-xxxx, ext. xxx.

 I really liked this ad. It’s concise, punchy, and conveys a certain mystery. The prospect of working in “human services” while I drive my own car makes me wonder what it really entails. Cab driver? Home healthcare? Prostitution? I didn’t call.

  Actually, I have found that the automobile classifieds are sometimes more interesting than the employment ads. Perhaps the creative types at the newspaper would be better served to write employment ads that followed the format of the vehicle variety. I know that I would respond to one that went:

 WANTED: Solid performer, power everything, high performance engine, must have overdrive. Mileage and body not a factor if in good shape. $50,000 per year OBO. Send or e-mail resume ASAP – no phone calls please.

 I’d LOVE to see the resumes that appeared on the doorstep of a prospective employer who used this ad.


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