Thinking Outside the Application: How Being Creative Can Land You the Job

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CTU Online Degree - How being creative can land you the jobWhile doing some Internet research on creative directors, copywriter Alec Brownstein had a thought: “Most people love to Google themselves, so I bet these leaders do, too.” He decided to purchase the names of five directors he admired on Google AdWords (total cost, $6). Whenever someone ran a search for one of the names, a message appeared at the top saying, “Hey, (creative director’s name): Googling yourself is a lot of fun. Hiring me is fun, too,” with a link to Brownstein’s website. By year’s end, Brownstein had landed a position with the powerhouse marketing company, Young & Rubicam, and he received industry awards in the self-promotion category.

In a job market where applicants often wonder if anybody actually reads their résumés or if their applications go into a black hole, candidates sometimes consider turning to out-of-the-box methods to get attention. But how well do these tactics actually work?

Risk vs. Reward

The answer often depends on your industry. Fields that thrive on ingenuity may be more receptive to unconventional presentation.

Career expert Vicky Oliver, author of “301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions,” notes that when she used to work in advertising, sometimes job seekers would do outlandish things to get attention, like sending boxes of pizza with a résumé inside, printing up one's résumé on screaming yellow stationery, and sending one shoe to a creative director with the message, “Now that I've gotten a foot in the door,” followed by a cute note. She admits that in a creative environment, sometimes these techniques do work.

“They show the creative director that you're brazen, unafraid to take risks,” Oliver says. “Will that help you stand out? Probably, yes. In a more corporate environment, however, these techniques will paint you as a joker, and you will ultimately land at the bottom of the candidates’ pile. As a general rule, I would favor a businesslike, professional tone over these more cutesy approaches.”

What Might Work

When developing a unique approach, it helps to showcase relevant skills and abilities. Employers are interested in hiring someone who is a good fit, not someone who simply grabs attention. For example, in a recent CareerBuilder survey, hiring managers and human resource professionals shared memorable techniques they’ve witnessed and whether the acts resulted in job offers. A candidate who asked to be interviewed in Spanish to showcase his skills and one who repaired a piece of the company’s office equipment during the first interview both landed positions. An applicant who performed a backflip into the room and one who sent beef stew with a note saying, "Eat hearty and hire me,” did not. Keep your focus on what you bring to the table, and present these talents in memorable ways rather than simply trying to capture attention.

Job seekers wanting to test the waters of unconventionality without coming off as too outlandish have a variety of options to consider:

  • An e-portfolio can display your technical savvy and organizational skills, as well as offer the hirer an opportunity to look at extras, such as papers you’ve published, scans or examples of your work, or maybe even performance reviews from previous employers.
  • Writing your cover letter as a narrative is another catchy idea. People love stories, so hook the reader with an engrossing tale of how you tackled a problem or came to a manager’s rescue. While this particular approach might work better in a creative industry, all cover letters should provide specific examples of your qualifications, no matter how they’re presented.
  • Think you can make your point very succinctly? Try writing a Twesume -- Twitter’s version of a résumé using 140 characters or less. It can get your information out there and add exposure to your account.

Your Decision

Whether you choose to be traditional, unorthodox or somewhere in between in your job-hunt strategy, there is no one way that guarantees results. As career expert Caroline Ceniza-Levine of the coaching firm SixFigureStart notes, “A job search will always be a numbers game -- there will always be the elements of luck and timing.” And regardless of whether your message is printed on a billboard or a standard piece of white paper, remember the basics of seeking employment: Know the company, and position yourself well.

Image Credit: Flickr/Victor1558