In today’s ultra-competitive job market, it can sometimes help to make yourself stand out from other job seekers through a bold gesture or nontraditional résumé. After all, if you or your résumé don’t stand out in some way, you run the risk of being overlooked for what could be your dream job. So why not be bold and take a risk? I’ll tell you why — because there can be a very fine line between being innovate and being overbearing and even a little scary.
The key to success is to carefully consider the atmosphere of the company you are applying to (a staid accounting firm may not appreciate your dressing up in a gorilla suit to deliver your résumé), and learn what you can about the hiring manager before making first contact. When trying to separate yourself from your competition, consider these moves made by fearless — or frightening — job seekers. Sometimes they pay off, and sometimes they fall flat.
Be innovative: A laid-off sales manager targeted his dream company by creating a website that was devoted to his job search at that company. The site included photographs of himself, his résumé and even a blog detailing his job quest. It got the attention he wanted, and it paid off with a phone interview and meeting with company recruiters. In this case, putting himself out there was a good way to get noticed.
Go where the decision-makers go: You don’t want to come off as a stalker, but you do want to find out where influencers meet and join the club, like one job seeker did in New York. This entertainment industry executive joined an exclusive gym frequented by celebrities and media moguls in order to increase his visibility, and it paid off. In essence, this is like taking networking to the extreme, and we all know that networking is one of the best ways to land a job.
And NOT such a good idea:
Don’t be childish: One job seeker got a bit too cutesy with his cover letter in his application to a company in Florida. He used the letters of his first name to highlight his strengths, sort of like an elementary school writing project. (For example: D is for Determined; A is for Attentive; N is for Nice). N must also be for “No way!” He didn’t get the interview.
Always be professional, and don’t resort to gimmicks or toys. Another job seeker brought a Rubik’s Cube to her interview to illustrate her problem-solving skills. It was distracting and socially awkward. Remember that you’re an adult and a professional.
Don’t bring food: Although most office workers appreciate those home-baked goodies their co-workers bring in, it’s not a good practice for a job seeker to employ. You may be a great baker, but delivering cookies (or candy or even office plants) to a potential employer smacks of desperation and perhaps a bit of bribery. Your merits should stand on their own; plus, many people are wary of eating items brought by strangers.
The Really BAD ideas:
Don’t be a stalker: Sure, you want to get your name out there; you may even want to hand-deliver your résumé. Just don’t do what this desperate Boston job seeker did. She visited the company every day for several weeks, each time asking to speak to a different company representative. She then sat in the reception area for hours, waiting for that person. It came across as creepy, and no one ended up meeting with her.
Don’t go bananas: That gorilla-suit example mentioned previously really did happen. A man delivered his résumé in costume to a construction company and then sang about the qualifications he had that made him the perfect candidate. He even brought balloons. The company CEO was not amused, and the man was escorted from the building.
When trying to stand out during a job hunt, it’s still best to stick with traditional means: Express your qualifications in your cover letter and résumé and shine in that coveted job interview. If you want to do more, make sure your gesture is appropriate for your industry and for the particular company to which you are applying. Sometimes, taking a risk can really pay off, like the MIT graduate who stood on a busy New York street corner handing out résumés. He ended up landing a job at an accounting firm.
Sometimes a little risk can bring great rewards.