In a virtual ocean of fellow job applicants, at a time when 100, 200 and even up to 500 people are applying for the same job, making yourself stand out from the crowd seems about as likely as buying the winning lottery ticket.
Job seekers have had to step up their efforts to make themselves stand out in ways which would have been unthinkable five years ago.
Since 70% of people find jobs through someone they know, that immediately speaks to building personal networks consisting of social and professional contacts. Start building an Internet professional presence with social media networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace and Plaxo, to name a few. Using these tools can spin a larger networking web which can help snare a job through personal connections.
But many people are going far and beyond just the normal realm of networking efforts to garner attention from hiring managers.
Some job seekers are hiring public relations, advertising and marketing firms to promote themselves, building their own personal brand. Managing a consistent, packaged look and feel to an applicant can give a job searcher a highly polished edge, which can be novel enough to stand out from the pack.
Other applicants are hiring professional résumé writers to retool their career document. Most people who have tackled writing their résumé have found it is difficult to ‘find the forest despite the trees’, so having an objective ‘third party’ work on this important credential creates the opportunity to really drill down to specifics. While it can be a harsh process, it will also allow a clear distillation of the job seeker’s value to prospective employers.
I recently ran across this innovative tactic from a previous client: People are offering “finder’s fees” to whoever refers an opening to them, which results in the applicant getting a job. In this example, the client let her entire network know that if someone referred a viable job lead which resulted in her getting the position, she would write them a check for $500. Think of this way: It is a great incentive to the referrer, but at the same time, this is actually a small investment when considering the cost of a longer, more extensive job search.
People are also resorting to publicity stunts. Recently a woman created a website which asked employers to hire her husband, which, on a positive note, garnered him national positive media attention and multiple job offers.
In January 2009, Christopher Adams of Sacramento, CA dressed up in a suit and a tie, holding a “Hire Me” sign at a freeway off –ramp, handing out his résumé to anyone who wanted one, which got him on the local news.
A laid-off political reporter started a blog that covered different topics, which attracted the attention of a recruiter, who cited the blog as a clear demonstration of the job seeker’s communication skills.
Others have posted video résumés online at YouTube… with disastrous results including bad lighting, horrible production value and embarrassing revelations.
And finally, job seekers have resorted to going to Craigslist and posting a variety of pleas, threats and just plain pathetic attempts at cajoling employers into hiring them. Maybe not so effective approaches for those last few examples, right?
Others are persistent, with a creative edge. In Australia, an art designer masqueraded as a window cleaner and washed the creative director's windows on a ladder while he was in the room. The applicant started showing examples of creative work through the windows, until he finally got asked to come inside. The result: He landed the job.
The point here is that it’s time to pull out all the stops. But don’t go too far overboard: Creative fields might be fairly receptive to gimmicks and imaginative résumés, but most corporate cultures are much more conservative in nature, and not as receptive.
The other point is that if you actually do land an interview, be careful about not coming across as trying to bribe the interviewer by bringing pastry treats, cookies, coffee, or even flowers. A few years ago, a person I was interviewing showed up with Starbucks coffee and donuts… and it felt entirely too contrived and ‘suck-up’ to me; the situation didn’t sit too well as a result. And there is a definite line between being politely persistent and screaming ‘stalker’ with repeated (and rejected) attempts to contact the hiring manager.
Get creative, but know your audience so you don’t miss your mark by delivering a dud. Being polite, respectful but innovative can open doors. And that’s what gets you noticed!