Looking for Work? Here’s The Wrong Way to Get Your Job Application Noticed

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In a hyper-competitive job market, some people looking for work will do whatever it takes to stand out. There was the student who designed a Lego set in an attempt to land an ad agency internship. A graphic designer slapped his resume on a four-pack of home-brewed beer. And more than one desperate job seeker has donned a sandwich board in an attempt to find work.

These job hunting stunts might capture the media’s attention, but do they actually lead to job offers? In some cases, yes. Brennan Gleason, the man behind the “résum-ale,” as he dubbed it, quickly landed a job as a creative director for a digital marketing agency with the help of his one-of-a-kind C.V. But quirky job-hunting approaches don’t always yield quick results. It took Dan Conway, aka the Extreme Job Hunter, a year to find work, despite engaging in stunts like auctioning himself off on eBay and sending pizza to potential employers.

Outlandish job search techniques are more common, and may be more effective, when the applicant is in a creative field like marketing and design, perhaps because they’re a way for people to show off their skills to potential employers. Leah Bowman, the student behind the Lego resume, told Careertopia that, “For most companies, this type of application might even cross the line to inappropriate. For advertising agencies, however, I felt that showing my creativity and personality would be an asset.” But even designers and marketing pros should proceed with caution; one quarter of executives in this field surveyed by The Creative Group said gimmicky resumes were unprofessional.

Still, job hunters in all fields are under pressure to get noticed by hiring managers, who are often inundated with resumes for every job posted. The competition can inspire some desperate moves. While the instinct to make yourself stand out isn’t a bad one, some applicants take it too far, engaging in bizarre behavior than can torpedo their chances of getting the job.

“Candidates are realizing that an extraordinary cover letter and resume with strong references aren’t enough, that if you really want the gig, you have to stand out from the competition,” Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer for CareerBuilder, said. “Unfortunately, what many aren’t realizing is that the catch is making sure you do that in a professional, respectful way.”

The Creative Job Application Gone Wrong

Overzealous job seekers don’t always realize there’s a fine line between the charmingly creative job application strategy and the wildly inappropriate. Hiring managers surveyed by CareerBuilder shared stories of candidates who took an out-of-the-box approach to getting noticed, including:

  • The job seeker who bought a first-class upgrade in order to sit next to the hiring manager on a transatlantic flight.
  • A candidate who showed up for an interview wearing a Halloween costume.
  • The person who tried to bribe the hiring manager by sending him money.
  • An applicant who wore a tie emblazoned with the name of the company where he was interviewing.
  • The dressed-to-impress job seeker who wore a three-piece suit and arrived to his interview in a white limousine (the company dress code was casual and the job paid a middle wage).
  • The candidate who had his priest call the hiring manager to ask that the applicant get the job.

What is it about looking for work that inspires people to act in a way that seems designed to turn off hiring managers? Alison Green, an HR expert, blames the “charlatans of the job search advice world, telling people they need to ‘stand out’ and be ‘memorable.’” Candidates who want to rise above the pack might decide it’s a good idea to mail a cake and a framed picture of themselves to a hiring manager (as one candidate did to a reader of Green’s Ask a Manager blog), but such brazen moves can backfire.

“I was so incredibly creeped out by this gesture … I was afraid to eat the cake and couldn’t look at him and didn’t even call him for an interview,” the receiver of this unique “gift” recounted.

Those looking for work would do better to focus on substance rather than sizzle when trying to impress a would-be employer, say most career experts. A strong resume that outlines past accomplishments and clearly shows how your past experience relates to the position you want is a must, according to CareerBuilder. (And remember, only Elle Woods can get away with a scented resume on pink paper.) A robust social media presence that shows you’re an expert in your field can be an advantage when an employers searches for you after receiving your resume.

During the face-to-face portion of the hiring process, steer clear of common interview mistakes and take the time to ask a few questions of your own, since this shows you’re interested in the job. Finally, don’t forget to send a thank you note. Many applicants overlook this basic gesture, even though 59% of hiring managers say a thank you note or email after an interview can boost a person’s chances of being receiving a job offer. And if you’re tempted to send a potential employer a shoe to “get your foot in the door,” remember this: Though gimmicky tactics might get a hiring manager’s attention, it’s ultimately your skills and experience that will land you the job.

[Editor’s note: Employers often check your credit reports before finalizing the hiring process. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep track of what’s happening with your credit. You certainly wouldn’t want errors on your reports to keep you from getting your dream job. You can get your free annual credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com, and you can check your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, at Credit.com.]

This article originally appeared on The Cheat Sheet.  

 

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You’re More Likely to Land Your Dream Job If You Do This One Simple Thing

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A new survey has shed light on a major inefficiency in the way most people look for a job: Getting referrals.

It turns out that 71% of hiring managers say employee referrals are their best source for finding job candidates, but only 7% of job seekers say asking for referrals is part of their strategy for getting a new job.

The survey, conducted by Beyond.com, a career content and job site, and Future Workplace, a research firm, also found that “passive” job seekers, or those who are employed but open to new opportunities, have a better chance of being hired over “active” job seekers, or those who are unemployed and searching for work.

Hiring managers really like passive job seekers according to the survey, with 80% of HR professionals saying they become the most effective employees. (The survey is based on a national sample of 4,347 job seekers, as well as 129 human resource professionals.)

So what does all of this mean for you if you’re interested in finding a new position?

“A strong application coupled with quality referrals will provide job seekers with an advantage in the hiring process,” Rich Milgram, CEO of Beyond.com said in a statement. “You should constantly be exploring new ways to nurture and expand your referral network, and it may be easier than you think. For example, attend industry conferences and events, grab lunch with a former colleague or make new connections on social platforms — a few simple actions may help you land your dream job.”

Some of those actions, based on highlights from the survey, include.

1. If You’re Still in School, Review Your Major

Fourteen percent of seekers surveyed were liberal arts majors, yet only 2% of companies are actively recruiting those majors. And while 30% of companies are actively recruiting engineering and computer information systems majors, just 15% of job seekers are studying in those fields. About a third of job seekers would, or have, changed their college major for better job prospects.

2. Focus on Cultural Fit Over GPA

While job seekers (23%) and employers (24%) agreed that internship experience carries the most weight for students when seeking jobs, employers don’t view GPA as carrying a lot of weight (6%) as much as job seekers (12%). Companies put more emphasis on cultural fit (24%) than job seekers do (15%) when recruiting.

3. Be Flexible 

Effective communication skills are at the top of the skills list for both employers and employees. After communication skills, employers look for employees with the ability to adapt to change and make sense of ambiguity, followed by being results driven and goal-oriented. After communication skills, employees report leadership ability, in-person collaboration and teamwork skills as their subsequent strengths.

4. Don’t Worry About These Weaknesses

The top three weaknesses reported by employees were virtual collaboration and teamwork skills (48%), technical skills (46%), and being culturally aware and inclusive (43%). HR professionals reported virtual collaboration and teamwork skills (43%), and being culturally aware and inclusive (also 43%) as the second and third least-important skills when hiring.

5. Look Outside. It’s Easier 

Job seekers are optimistic about the job market and may perceive it as easier to seek a new job outside their company than to make a lateral move. More than 40% of job seekers reported that it was difficult or very difficult to make a lateral move at their most recent organization, while less than one quarter of respondents reported being not optimistic about the broader job market.

Remember, a lot of prospective employers will want to check your credit before completing the hiring process. As such, it’s important to monitor what’s on your credit report. You can pull your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and view your free credit report summary, updated each month, on Credit.com.

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