A clever job-search ploy may give you a winning hand. But it's not always a safe bet.
Does your job search need a fresh approach for the new year? If you have been looking for work for several months, perhaps some creativity is in order.
But where does that new approach - that spark of inspiration - come from? Try looking in the mirror. That's what several successful jobseekers did in recent months to set themselves apart from the crowd of unemployed, which seems to be growing by the day.
Scott Smith, with The Right People, a staffing company in San Francisco, fondly remembers an applicant who displayed a knack for the creative and light-hearted.
"Instead of bringing a paper resume she recreated a Barbie box and dressed the doll in a business suit," he recalls. "She replaced the original Barbie logo on the outside of the box with her qualifications, education and employment history, and added words like Great Multi-tasker and Awesome Team Player. It was totally brilliant and we loved it, especially the pink box."
Smith is convinced it is the best resume the company had ever seen. "She was a perfect person for us to send out as a temp," he contends. "She is enthusiastic and is still registered with us."
Dressed for Success
Bill Harlan, with Icreatives Graphic Design Staffing in San Francisco, recalls a daring stunt that people in the industry talked about for months.
"I was working for a Yellow Pages publisher in Florida and a guy, who was applying for an administrative job, showed up for his interview in a full-blown Superman costume," he recalls. "The regional manager must have been impressed because he hired the guy. I have to admit the approach was unique."
Person to Person
Instead of toying with your resume, perhaps all you need is an assertive strategy. Consider Jeff Rogers, business development manager with Bitfuel, a multimedia corporation in Campbell. After his resume failed to draw any attention from his dream law firm in Sacramento, he concocted a plan.
"I dialed an international operator and had them place a person-to-person call to the law firm's hiring person," he chuckles. "The guy took the call thinking it was from overseas and was so impressed with my ingenuity I ended up getting the job. I stayed for two years."
However, Rogers warns others to avoid gimmicks that compromise their professionalism. Nor can a creative approach compensate for a
serious lack of qualifications for the job. "Be careful not to waste someone's time with stupid stunts."
Dimwits Need Not Apply
Some resumes stand out, but for all the wrong reasons. Joan Sowick with MacPeople, a personnel firm in Oakland, says she gets a lot of fancy resumes but they miss the mark.
"We receive some with white printing on yellow paper that are impossible to read," she complains. "Some are so creative that they backfire."
She recalls a resume from a woman who insisted she was not a "pre-Madonna." Sowick cracks that's probably preferable to being a "post-Madonna."
"She also wrote her resume in lower case like the poet e.e. cummings," she sighs. "It didn't work."
The Wrong Impression
"Off-the-wall yet tasteful job-hunting techniques can sometimes help candidates get their foot in the door, particularly within the creative industry, but they do carry an element of risk," warns Tracey Turner, executive director of The Creative Group, a San Francisco firm that finds projects for advertising and marketing staff. "It can be difficult to gauge whether an employer will be receptive to a non-traditional approach. Some may find the tactics clever, while others may question the applicant's professionalism."
Job-hunting strategies don't have to be zany to be memorable, as these anecdotes from the Creative Group show:
- "A candidate sent us a slick, electronic portfolio. It was quick and to the point."
- "A person offered to work for free on a trial basis. I hired her."
- "When I was interviewing, a candidate turned the tables on me and asked, 'If you were a bicycle, which part would you be?' I answered, 'The handle bars, so I would be in control and steering.' I was impressed that he asked me that question, and I hired him."
Creative Group also conducted a survey of 250 US advertising and marketing executives, asking them to recount some of the more memorable moments with job applicants. You can tell from the following responses which ones most certainly did not work:
- A guy organized a chain letter that included a request for me to send his resume to 12 other agencies.
- One candidate handcuffed himself to the desk during the interview.
- Another applicant attached pineapple scratch and sniff stickers to his resume.
- Someone announced their candidacy with a singing telegram.
- An applicant jumped on the manager's desk during the interview to make a point.
- One desperate jobseeker sent lottery tickets with her resume.
- An inventive applicant rented a billboard that could be seen from the creative director's window, and used it to list his qualifications.
- A security-conscious candidate brought two bodyguards with him to the interview.
- An applicant sent a T-shirt with the names of everyone in the company on it - and her own.
- One person sent flowers to everyone in the firm. He didn't get the job, but the office smelled great!
A number of candidates sought to win potential employers' hearts via their stomachs:
- A jobseeker had pre-paid Chinese food delivered. Inside the fortune cookie was his name and number.
- One guy brought doughnuts every day until he was hired.
- A candidate baked cookies and used icing to write several reasons why she should be hired.
- One person sent a cat-shaped dish of candy tied to his portfolio, stating he was the "cat's meow."
Perhaps the zaniest idea comes from Emily LaShell with Corestaff in Sacramento. In her younger days, she was eagerly searching for work. "I would review the help-wanted ads in the Sacramento paper each day," she remembers. " I found an administrative job listing that I really liked but wanted to keep it to myself. So I drove around to all the supermarkets and newsstands in town and bought all the papers so nobody else would see the ad."
Of course, she overlooked one little thing. Home delivery.
If your job search hasn't been delivering any positive results, consider getting more creative in 2003. Just remember to be smart about it.