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Profile: Writer Eric K. Auld, 'The Fake Craigslist Job Posting Guy.'

Eric K. Auld | Writer / Humorist | Stated Magazine Profile Interview


By Daniel Nester, Word Contributing Editor

You might have already heard of Eric K. Auld. If you are a language nerd, you might have had his “Seven Bar Jokes Involving Grammar and Punctuation,” published on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, forwarded to you (Number 5: “The bar was walked into by the passive voice”).

Or perhaps, like Auld, you have a theatre background, and “Seven Rejected Improv Troupe Scenarios” appeared in your Facebook feed (Number 5 again: “Roman Polanski offers directions to Ben Kingsley based on his own interpretation of Fagin’s relationship with Oliver in Oliver Twist”).

Chances are, however, he appeared on your radar not as Eric Auld, or Eric K. Auld, but as The Fake Craigslist Job Posting Guy. His essay/exposé, “Get a Job: The Craigslist Experiment,” first ran on the with-it website Thought Catalog and has since gone meme-viral.

“I am a 26-year-old with a Master’s degree in English,” Auld begins. “I am currently looking for a full-time job, preferably in a major city, since that’s where a vast multitude of jobs exist. Unfortunately, so do an even vaster multitude of job-seekers.”

His solution? To “gain a full perspective of who my generalized workforce competition was,” Auld placed a fictitious ad (“Administrative Assistant needed for busy Midtown office”) on the New York City edition of the popular free classifieds website Craigslist. In a sobering sign of the employment times, Auld received 653 responses within 24 hours.

Complete with analyses, handwritten charts on coffee-ringed napkins, Auld’s piece ends with what we call in the education field a Teachable Moment.

“No matter how much you want this job,” Auld writes, “there are 652 other people who want it, too.”

Now here’s the part where I reveal Auld is a graduate of The College of Saint Rose, where he received said Master’s degree in English. I teach there. I never had Auld in my classrooms, but advised him, formally and informally. I saw him as a talented writer and funny fellow who had something else that writers need to “make it”: ambition.

Before he wrote the piece, we talked about jobs and life after college, and I tried to dissuade him from the kind of resume carpet-bombing he describes in “Get a Job.” Now that he’s been on NPR, however, my advice has consisted of the following: Welcome to the big leagues.

Even though he’s having a rough time of it on the employment side, I’m proud of what he’s doing in the writing sphere. How is Auld taking his newfound success? I spoke with Auld, me from my office in Albany, and he in his apartment in North Adams, Massachusetts (which he describes as “a fruit fly’s utopia”).


stated: So, Eric. Just to be clear to all those reading. You were never my student, right? How did we meet?

ERIC K. AULD: Well, I never took a traditional “class” with you, but you were the advisor to my Advanced Writing Project. So that must count for something.

stated: It does, Eric. I remember talking to you about the stuff you “really” wanted to write, which was funny, even stupid stuff, a couple of which ended up as lists on McSweeney’s. Your piece, which first ran in Thought Catalog, then in Lifehacker, then AOL Jobs, then The Daily Beast, has made quite a stir. You’ve been interviewed on NPR’s Talk of the Nation and KPCC’s Pat Morrison’s show. You’re going international soon with a piece in The Guardian in the U.K. Where did you get the idea for the piece? Tell us about the publication process.

ERIC K. AULD: I was frustrated in my job search because I rarely heard back from anybody, so this was originally just a personal project. I wanted to see exactly who else was applying to these low-end, but full-time positions. When I discovered the results (650-plus responses in 24 hours), I thought that this could benefit other job seekers, so I wrote the piece and submitted it to Thought Catalog, and it kind of just took off from there. I wanted other people to see just how useless that process is—submitting resumes to entry-level jobs on Craigslist—and I had to discourage others from doing it. I also wanted an excuse to make pie charts out of coffee stains.


stated: I do like the coffee stains. The ethical space you inhabited putting up a hypothetical, or fake, job posting, has been questioned. How are you taking this newfound fame?

ERIC K. AULD: It’s good and bad. Mostly, it’s good because of the exposure and the fact that I’m inspired to write more than ever. It’s bad because of the negative reactions, the personal attacks, and the hate mail, but I suppose that comes with the territory. My mother still tells me I’m a good person, so that’s all that matters, I guess.

stated: I think you’re a good person, too. Can you tell us about your experience at Saint Rose? What brought you here?

ERIC K. AULD: I started grad school at another school in New York, but didn’t really like the large program and I felt consistently uncomfortable and unsure of myself. I left there and applied to Saint Rose for the following semester, since I only lived an hour from Albany. I got in and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. There were only 20 or so students in the entire program and I loved the intimate learning environment, as well as the lengthy discussions with teachers and classmates. The whole experience was both relaxing and eye-opening.

stated: I guess the question I want to ask, since I do teach where you received your Master’s: Do you regret going to graduate school? Or did going to graduate school actually give you a sense of direction regarding which direction you want to take in your career? Or something else entirely?

ERIC K. AULD: I don’t regret grad school at all. I went in expecting a powerful learning experience, and I received exactly that. I’m mostly thankful for how it strengthened my writing abilities; I wouldn’t be the writer today were it not for the people at Saint Rose. I knew that I wouldn’t get rich with a Master’s in English, but I also knew that the degree would give me the necessary tools to succeed as a creative writer and thinker after graduation.

stated: What kind of job did you have while you were a graduate student?

ERIC K. AULD: I was a waiter in Connecticut, then I worked the overnight shift at a residence in Schenectady, then I worked at a day habilitation center in Pittsfield, MA. I took full-time employment wherever and whenever I could find it.


stated: What is your ideal job?

ERIC K. AULD: Is a “job” ever ideal?

stated: Well, I’ll start things off. My ideal job is listening to records all day and free cupcakes.

ERIC K. AULD: There’s so much that I’ve never done, and so much that I’ve wanted to do, that I don’t know what’s ideal any more.

In my life, I’ve wanted to become an astronomer, an astronaut, a magician, a stand-up comedian, a musician, an accountant, a journalist, a poet, an ice cream truck driver, an actor, a playwright, a teacher, an editor—all in that order.

It always changes; even in my mid-twenties, I find the uncertainty practically unbearable. Teaching is growing on me, though, and I know that whatever I do, I want to keep writing.

stated: One thing I’ve thought about over the years, and I am sure you have, too, is what makes the ideal job for a writer to have? I mean: you applied, as I understand it, administrative positions for which you were overqualified. Did you apply to these so you would have time or mind space to go about your “real” passion, which is writing?

ERIC K. AULD: Exactly. I’ve realized since grad school that hardly anyone can realistically obtain a decent-paying job as a writer alone. I thought, “Well, I won’t get a job as a writer, but at least I can work full-time as something else while I write—like a secretary or a yogurt tester.”

stated: I don’t love yogurt as much as you, but I see your point.

ERIC K. AULD: The saddest discovery of this experiment, though, is that even the dreams of working full-time out of one’s field seem extremely difficult to achieve now.


stated: Has your success as a writer somehow dulled or diluted the frustration from looking for a job unsuccessfully?

ERIC K. AULD: I don’t see it as success, but as leading to something successful. The general response I’ve been getting—both positive and negative—has boosted my self-esteem enough to try harder and to try new techniques, so at least it’s made me feel more confident as a job seeker. I’m frustrated in my search, but I am relieved that my creative life is going so well. Still, I’d like a full-time job, so I can tell these student loan people to stop calling me every day.

stated: You’re a funny person. You write humor pieces, a couple of which have appeared on the McSweeney’s and Defenestration and other places. You also teach. Are you a funny teacher?

ERIC K. AULD: I try to be funny, and I sometimes succeed. I think that statement best describes humor in my classroom. The first day of class, I’ll start off with something light, such as “My name is Mr. Auld, but you can call me Mr. Auld.” Hardly anybody laughs.

stated: That’s completely freaking hilarious. Shame on those students for not laughing. Can I steal that bit?

ERIC K. AULD: Yeah, sure you can.

stated: Thank you.

ERIC K. AULD: I immediately set myself up as The Intentional Lame-Joke Teacher, a shtick I’ll attempt to keep going all semester. Sometimes I’ll slip more of my absurd humor into lectures, and I’ll create sentence examples about pigeons eating muffins or cats plotting the destruction of mankind.


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