Wacky Job-Seeker Stunts

Too Much Creativity Can Thwart Success

Wacky Job-Seeker Stunts

By Larry Buhl, Yahoo! HotJobs

Imagine you're trying to fill a job. Now consider whether you would want to hire a candidate who:

  • Puts up posters of himself in your company parking lot.
  • Attaches pineapple scratch-and-sniff stickers to his resume.
  • Announces his candidacy with a singing telegram.
  • Sends lottery tickets with her resume.
  • Rents a billboard you can see from your office to list his qualifications.
  • Bakes cookies with icing to write several reasons she should be hired.
  • Delivers prepaid Chinese food, including a fortune cookie with his name and number.

Those are some of the more memorable job-hunter gimmicks recalled by 250 US advertising and marketing executives in a survey commissioned by The Creative Group, a staffing service for marketing, advertising, creative and Web professionals. Respondents said that such stunts, even in creative fields like advertising, rarely result in a job offer or even an interview.

Creative -- or Creepy?

Less than half of the executives surveyed -- 46 percent in advertising and 34 percent in marketing -- said they might consider an applicant with a gimmicky resume, and only 2 percent of marketing execs and 8 percent of ad execs said gimmicks would help a candidate get hired. In other fields, where creativity is a less-critical job skill, a candidate who sends a shoe "to get a foot in the door" will probably be dismissed as unprofessional, recruiters say. 

With openings becoming scarcer, job seekers may be tempted to stray from conventional tactics in order to be noticed. However, recruiters say that unless a job seeker is fairly certain a well-executed stunt will work, it probably won't. Even worse, it is likely to backfire in a big way.

Undesired Effects

"You have to be very, very careful because what you think is cute or funny may not be what the boss thinks is cute or funny," says Dave Opton, founder of Execunet.

Cheryl Ferguson, owner of the Recruiter's Studio, warns job seekers not to resort to "interview bribery." "I've had people send me flowers in order to get an interview," she says. "A thank-you note after an interview is OK, but flowers from someone whom you never met is not."

Ferguson also remembers a job hunter who gave her information about a competitor in an email. "This gave the impression that he would not be able to keep confidential information confidential," she says.

Substance Has the Edge

Megan Slabinski, executive director of The Creative Group, says that anyone considering offbeat ways of reaching out to an employer must first make sure that the firm and hiring manager value originality over tradition. Even then, they should avoid hackneyed gimmicks -- sending a catcher's mitt with a note saying, "I want to be part of the team," for example -- and use the gimmick to underscore their unique skill set.

Slabinski also cautions that even the strongest attention-getting tactics won't work if you don't have the goods. "You might get a foot in the door, but you won't get the job without substance," she says.

Nothing Wrong With Standards

Recruiters agree that the best way to get noticed is almost always the old-fashioned resume and cover letter.

"If you are not getting responses after a reasonable amount of time, look at your resume and how you've packaged yourself," Opton says. "Also consider reworking your cover letter, making it very short and very focused. It's these things that make you stand out and make you relevant to what the employer is really looking for."