By B.L. Ochman
From a programmer who made employers apply to hire him, to networking that’s just this side of stalking, job hunters in this tough economy are coming up with some unusual, and sometimes wacky, ways to find jobs.
Do they work? Depends who you ask. Hint: showing up at the recruiter’s gym is creepy, not clever.
As any job hunter can tell you, resumes tend to be swallowed by the black hole of the Internet. These days, job postings average 300 to 400 resumes, according to Resume Bear.
Frustrated, job seekers are going to new lengths to get the attention of potential employers. Here are examples of creative job-hunting tactics, and the results they produced.
Stunts, stalking, and gifts
1- Appealing to vanity. Advertising executive Alec Brownstein bought ads on Google for six of the top names on Madison Avenue. When those people did vanity searches of their own name, (c’mon, you do them too!) the first thing they saw at the top of the results was Brownstein’s ad: a direct pitch for work, with a link back to his site with his bio and portfolio.
Result: He’s now working at Y & R. Total cost of the ads, $6.
2- Turnaround is fair play. Young programmer Andrew Horner decided to have the sausage chase the dog with his reverse job application site. In 2010, he asked employers to apply for him to work for them. “I’m sure you are already racking your brain trying to think up a job position to offer me that will pique my interest, but in the unlikely case that you are not, I am confident that a quick review of my credentials in this format will win you over.”
His site immediately went viral. “I went to sleep and woke up the next day and my inbox was full of people who had submitted applications using the form,” said Horner.
3- New networking Journalism student Agneeta Thacker got her job as an intern at Flavorpill after her mother, a biotech patent agent who was tired of working alone at home, used office sharing service Loosecubes to book an extra desk at Flavorpill’s SoHo office. Mrs. Thacker told Flavorpill’s Leah Taylor how perfect her daughter would be as a summer intern for the online cultural guide.
Taylor says she hired Angeeta because “she was just as bright and enthusiastic as her mother, the Loosecuber, claimed she was (not always the case!). This was a wonderfully beneficial coincidence for all of us!” Agreeta says the whole thing was “a happy accident.”
4- My evil plan I want to work at Twitter. My blog and my Twitter account have large followings, so I wrote a blog post entitled, “The Top 7 Reasons Twitter Should Hire B.L. Ochman”
It got the attention of Twitter’s VP of Communications, but has yet to get me an interview at Twitter. It did, however, cause a Google executive to reach out to me and encourage me to apply for a job there. Call me, Twitter!
5- Advertise Ian Greenleigh targeted marketing managers and executives in Austin, TX, with Facebook ads, which said he was looking for a job, and linked to his Hire Me page
Greenleigh says, “Three weeks and less than $200 in ad fees later, I had multiple offers to choose from. … Several interviews and a test presentation later, I had my dream job, Manager of Content and Social Strategy at Bazaarvoice.”
She wanted to help other job hunters, using her own social capital. So she posted an open call on social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Google+, looking for job hunters to profile on her popular blog, Sarah’s Faves. She got more than 50 applicants and profiled three.
One of her choices, Mark Edwards, landed a job as Digital community Manager for the TeshMedia group, entertainer John Tesh’s company.
6 – Work for nothing Sandip, CEO of GoGetFunding, says he hired a programmer whose application was the most creative he received. “He spotted an error on our site and told us what code we needed to change in order to fix it. Can’t get more proactive than that!”
7- Extreme cold calling Juda Borrayo was doing door-to-door sales in Florida and daydreaming about working at a digital agency where his creativity would be valued. He sold his guitar and amplifier, packed his bags, and bought a one-way ticket to New York. He had $300 in his bank account.
Darryl Ohrt, Executive Creative Director of Carrot Creative, Tweeted about him: “Met someone in the elevator who flew here from FL, in the hopes of getting a meeting @carrotcreative Wow. That’s a cold call.”
Borrayo says, “Mike Germano, CEO of Carrot Creative told me some encouraging words and gave me some great tips on places to look. Carrot is looking more for developers at this time. I’m a content creating, words loving, client relator- so, for now there is no fit. But I won’t forget Mike Germano’s words, ” Don’t ever let anyone tell you what you are capable of.”
Result? He’s had a few more interviews, but, so far, no job offer. I’m rooting for him.
8- Use the company’s tools While recruiters and job seekers alike use social media, these three people have been especially creative in their approaches to specific companies:
• Alice Lee wants to work at Instagram, and so she created a “Dear Instagram” job application using the platform. “I’m young, humble, and hungry. I’m a huge fan of Instagram…And I think your team is totally rad,” she says. So far, no offer. Hey, Instagram, why not?
• Jeanne Hwang is a Harvard Business School graduate, wants to work at Pinterest. So she created a Pinterest CV.
“Hey Pinterest!” she says, “This ain’t your mama’s resume!” So far, no response from Pinterest, but she did get a job offer as VP of Marketing from Francisco Guerrero, founder of Pinterest analytics site, Pintics.
• Daniela Bolzmann got her job as Director of Product Marketing at Symbaloo by using the service to create her resume and portfolio.
“Showing the company that you can use their tool in a creative way makes you stand out and shows your enthusiasm for their product,” she says. “I developed and submitted with my traditional resume of course.”
9 – Time-saving job search As any job seeker will tell you, looking for a job is a full-time job. Just searching for jobs to apply to takes hours a day.
Bill Irvine CEO of the Scottsdale, AZ-based social platform start-up Stremor Corp says “My CTO found us in an exceptionally creative way.” Fresh out of Microsoft’s Silicon Valley office, turned down for a promotion into management, he wrote code that could search every job board for companies doing “natural language analysis.” His code also measured the writing level of the language used in the job description — anything under 12th grade level didn’t qualify.
“Our CTO listing met his qualifications,” Irvine says, “I flew him to Phoenix within five days… hired him that night. The result? It’s as if he’s been custom designed to be the CTO for our startup.”
10- Design for Success Eric Gandhi, currently a designer at The Weather Channel in Atlanta, GA, created a resume that looked like Google search results page. He says it helped him land his current job.
11- Make them laugh Mike Freeman, got his job at Shopify with a heavy dose of humor. He created a website with the headline: “So I’ve noticed that Mike Freeman doesn’t work for you guys yet. Let’s fix that.” The “about me” page begins, “I’m Mike Freeman and I want to work at Shopify. I hope you will consider me for the Business Analyst position, or anywhere else that you think I would be an asset.” He’s been Shopify’s Advertising and Promotions Advocate for over a year now.
Can you skip the traditional resume?
Is there room for all this creativity in the job search? It seems to depend on what kind of job you are seeking, and in what industry.
A recent Creative Group survey maintains that off-the-wall tactics can be risky, even in marketing and advertising. “Advertising executives were more likely to approve of unusual approaches than their corporate marketing counterparts: 46 percent of respondents in this category considered gimmicky resumes OK, provided the style doesn’t detract from the information, versus 34 percent of marketing executives who felt the same.”
Jonathan Graber, VP Recruiting at Three Pillars Recruiting, advises, “ultimately, for me it’s about the meat and potatoes. ” What you need, first and foremost, he says, are “your resume itself (in PDF and/or MS Word format) and a robust LinkedIn profile. That’s it.”
Nonetheless, he notes, “Creative “shtick” may help you stand out, it may help warrant a longer look at the resume, it may help me share your resume to someone ELSE who may have something.”
Brittany Cooper, Director of Talent Management at New Media Strategies in Washington, DC, says “I wouldn’t say I’ve hired someone solely because of a non-traditional pitch – at the end of the day the people we bring on board still have the skill sets and experience to back up the position they’re walking into. I will say though that we’ve certainly hired very talented people whose non-traditional pitches have distinguished them from hundreds of other applicants and gotten them on the short list of candidates we’re actively talking to.”
Candidates have tried everything to get her attention, from targeted Facebook ads to sending her a Starbucks gift card ”so that we could grab coffee, to someone showing up at my gym so we could get face time (that one was a little creepy). At the end of the day, the outreach should be creative in a smart way that will resonate with our business, not just crazy for crazy’s sake (though that will certainly get you noticed).“
Stunts are not new
Stunts have always been part of the creative job hunter’s toolkit. Back in 1996, Peter Shankman, owner of The Geek Factory and founder of Help a Reporter Out (HARO), stood on the corner of 41st and Park wearing his resume as a sandwich board. He stood there 11 hours, handed out 1,000 copies. The next morning, he found 479 messages, which led to 79 interviews, and 37 job offers. He ended up landing a job as Director of New Media for the New Jersey Devils.
Would standing on the corner and handing out resumes help you today? Shankman thinks some variation of it would work. Tom Cunniff, founder of Cunniff Consulting, says “I think it would work now, but you’d have to use modern tools for it to be interesting: some sort of combo of mobile/social/local to give it enough story value to be picked up by the ad media. If it had some unique or unexpected application of a technology that would be all the better.
As for me, I’m still looking for a great new opportunity where I won’t have to explain what social media is.