Creative Job Search Tactics: The Good, the Risky and the Epic Fails

By Robert Half on March 14, 2017 at 3:00pm

What’s the most unusual or creative job search tactic you can try? Which wacky approaches work — and which definitely do not? Here’s what some advertising and marketing executives told us.

Ever thought of using costumes, kites or billboards to introduce yourself to a potential employer? What about a paper airplane resume? In the creative industry, you can imagine hiring managers have seen their fair share of unique — and sometimes strange — attention-grabbing tactics from job candidates. If you’ve heard the viral story about the marketing professional who delivered donut boxes with his resume taped inside to prospective employers’ offices, you know what we mean.

But what do employers think about gimmicky job search methods? The Creative Group recently asked more than 400 advertising and marketing executives their opinion of unusual resumes or introductions, and more than half (55 percent) said they’re unprofessional and recommend using a straightforward resume. Twenty-seven percent of respondents said untraditional approaches are OK as long as the style doesn’t detract from the information; 12 percent said they can be beneficial but that most miss the mark. Only two percent said they increase a candidate’s chances of being hired.

We also asked the executives to share their oddest experiences when hiring creative professionals, and you might be surprised to learn which techniques worked and which didn’t. So, if you’re launching a creative job search, or if you just want a laugh, take a look below at some job candidates’ successful strategies, risky moves and epic fails. If you decide to take a more creative approach while on the job hunt, be sure to take both advice and caution from these examples.

The success stories

What can you learn from the following successful creative job search tactics? These job candidates took an innovative approach during their interview to impress the employer or recruiter and demonstrated their skills in real time. They did their research, ensured their approach was applicable to the position and the company, and most importantly, kept it professional.

  • “A candidate who also had acting experience put on a mini show to highlight his skills. He hit all the marks and took questions after. It was quite entertaining, but also thorough and professional. He was hired.”
  • “A candidate knew we were in the midst of obtaining a client and what the campaign entailed. He came in with a pitch to me as if I were the client.”
  • “There was discussion about a project we were working on and it spilled over into the interview. The candidate had some great suggestions and input. Needless to say, we hired him.”
  • “We had one applicant that designed a custom web page, made a presentation and created a video resume.”
  • “The candidate learned that I speak Italian and we actually held the interview in that language. I had to brush up on my skills afterward!”

The risky moves

While it’s a mystery if these next job search attempts were successful, they are certainly unusual and a bit risky. If you’re trying to stand out to an employer in a creative way, make sure you really think through your approach. Consider how your skills and talents apply to the position and the company’s culture. A large, international corporation would probably be less likely to find humor in a quirky resume or introduction than a small design agency known for their ingenuity and witty work.

  • “One of our newest clients was an airline company and the candidate’s resume was shaped like a plane.”
  • “A candidate came in as a singing telegram performer.”
  • “The interviewee dressed up like a shoe to get a foot in the door. During the interview, he strategically lost the costume to reveal a sharp business suit. He was on point with the interview questions and his experience. This was a risky approach though and it wouldn’t work for everyone.”
  • “A candidate brought in coffee for the office and our coffee machine happened to be broken. It calmed down a whole lot of people who needed caffeine.”
  • “Instead of printing her cover letter and resume on paper, the job seeker printed it on fabric.”
  • “A job candidate tried to fly a kite with her name on it next to the CEO’s window, which was in a pretty tall building.”
  • “A job candidate purchased a billboard down the road from the place where he wanted to get hired. He put his face on the billboard and some information saying, ‘Hire me!’”
  • “A candidate came in with a resume in a plastic egg and asked the hiring manager to hatch her career.”

The epic failures

And, finally, we present the creative job search fails. From rolling in on skates to extreme persistence, the following anecdotes range in their degree of strangeness, but they all demonstrate a lack of professionalism. Take heed from these examples of how not to set yourself apart from the crowd:

  • “A candidate got his parent to call to tell us how much he wanted the job.”
  • “A woman snuck in and didn’t even have an interview scheduled.”
  • “Somebody sent us an 8x10 photo with his resume. We would never request a picture.”
  • “Someone came in on roller skates. She wasn’t very smooth and she didn’t get the job.”
  • “A candidate who was also a dog walker came in with her dogs.”
  • “Someone came into an interview who I had never seen before and started pitching himself to me.”
  • “One person called on a daily basis to inquire about his application.”

It’s true that you won’t always know what the right approach to take is with a given employer. But at the end of the day, you can’t go wrong if you focus on spotlighting your most relevant experience and skills, rather than an unexpected introduction. Make every effort to tailor your resume and portfolio to the position, and diligently research prospective employers before an interview. Practice professionalism, and you’ll be sure to impress.

More From the Blog...