Smart or Silly?

Landing a coveted job begins with getting yourself noticed. While most of us would like to think our qualifications are enough to impress a hiring manager, the truth is you probably need to do something extra to make your resume stand out from the pack.

In today’s economy, job seekers are increasingly adopting a somewhat wacky approach to make their resume the one that gets noticed. According to a recent survey by Robert Half International, executives have seen more than their share of unusual job-hunting tactics. One candidate offered a money-back guarantee if he didn’t perform as expected. Another handed out personalized coffee cups, while yet another sent a cake designed to look like a business card bearing his picture. One cheeky individual even mailed a shoe along with his resume in an attempt to get his “foot in the door.” Another candidate went so far as to stage a sit-in in the company lobby and demand a meeting with a director. The Dallas Morning News told the story of a woman who spent $1,200 to rent a billboard in the hopes of getting potential employers to take note of her.

These days, hiring managers have seen it all. The question is whether such tactics are creative and appealing or tacky and unprofessional. It really depends on the industry and the individual employer. While differentiating yourself from the competition is always a good thing, you need to realize that you are walking a fine line between getting people’s attention and getting people annoyed. While some hiring managers view out-of-the-box strategies as creative and admirable, others may consider them gimmicky or, in some cases, even a little creepy.

Here are some simple guidelines to ensure that your creative job search tactics don’t cross the line or smack of desperation.

Steer Clear of Lavish Gifts: A simple coffee mug bearing your business card or headshot is one thing. A pair of Ferragamo shoes is another. When applying for a job, gift giving is never appropriate. Even if your intentions are pure and good, giving a gift to the person who has the power to hire you is considered a bribe. So avoid the temptation to send flowers or wine or a home-baked pie. It won’t get you the job and more likely than not, it will get you barred from future employment with the company.

• Don’t Become a Stalker: When you are desperate for work, it’s easy to inadvertently cross the line from job seeker to stalker. While continually showing up at someone’s office is bad enough, some hiring managers have actually reported being followed home or approached in restaurants or hotel swimming pools by all-too-eager job seekers. The hard and fast rule is DON’T DO IT. EVER.

• Be Relevant: If you are applying for a job in an oncologist’s office, don’t show up for your interview wearing a clown suit (unless you are applying to entertain ailing children, that is). Maybe that example is a little extreme, but you get the idea. If you’re seeking to get hired for a position with an advertising agency that’s known for its fun-loving atmosphere, that may be a good time to flex your creative muscle and do something off the wall. If the job you desire is with an uber-conservative financial services company, you may want to think again.

Whether you decide to break out of the mold and take a creative approach to your job search is up to you. Just remember that such tactics will only get you so far. It’s still up to you to impress your potential new boss in the interview and then each and every day on the job.

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