When the competition for a job is tough, sometimes you need to get a little creative to stand out. An August 2016 CareerBuilder survey found that some people take that to the extreme.
One survey respondent said an interviewee arrived for an October interview dressed in a Halloween costume. Another bought a first-class upgrade to sit next to the hiring manager on a transatlantic flight.
Career coach Cheryl Palmer says that such antics can backfire. A video that’s meant to be funny can turn into a viral embarrassment. Offbeat stunts can brand you as “not a culture fit.” And delving into people’s backgrounds or sitting next to them on an airplane can be unsettling. “These things must be in good taste,” she says. “If it’s too far out there, or if it’s so zany people think they can’t take you seriously, you’re actually hurting your chances,” she says.
Clearly, there’s a fine line between impressing a hiring manager with your out-of-the-box thinking and leaving them wondering if they should call the authorities. But with a little creativity—and common sense—it’s possible to make yourself memorable.
Do Your Research
When Simon Poulton, director of digital intelligence at digital marketing agency Wpromote wanted to land a job at the agency, there was just one problem: He had no agency or client-facing experience. Knowing he would have to prep well for the interview, he began to dig into the agency’s website and history. He scoured blog posts by agency personnel, social media profiles, and articles about the company.
He noticed that Wpromote had just gone through a rebranding. And from their social media posts, he also noticed that their team seemed to eat a lot of treats from a bakery called SusieCakes. He asked the bakery to design cupcakes with the company’s new logo on them. He used the cupcakes during the interview to segue into his enthusiasm for the brand and his “attention to detail from a client-service perspective,” he says.
After the interview, the team began posting photos of the cupcakes on social media, which caught the CEO’s attention. Poulton earned an interview with the executive team and was offered a job, even though he lacked some of the skills the company thought it needed. Through his creative cupcakes and service-minded approach in his interviews, he landed the job. “I’m sure it was the cupcakes that sealed the deal!” he says.
Consider Visual Aids
Corporate communications professional Craig Brown had studied with career expert Eric Kramer, author of Active Interviewing: Branding, Selling and Presenting Yourself to Win Your Next Job. He adopted Kramer’s idea to create a presentation about himself. The approach is simple: Use skills required and language from the job description or ad to create a short sales presentation for yourself in PowerPoint. Hone in on five or six key points and make the case for why your skills and achievements are a perfect match. The first time he presented this way, he did an old-school PowerPoint presentation. Today, he says he would be more likely to use a tablet, which would be more tech-savvy.
“It felt a little awkward at first,” he says about his initial presentation. But the proof is in the results: Brown has used this approach to land three plum jobs companies like Pep Boys, Bayer HealthCare, and Barclays.
Publish Before The Interview
Hiring managers routinely check social media profiles and conduct a search of the individual’s name. So check out the search results on your name and clean them up if you need to, says executive development expert Bonnie Hagemann, founder of Executive Development Associates. In addition, for at least a few weeks before the interview, post interesting public blog and social media content that relates to the job you’re seeking. It’s a good way to impress a would-be employer with your knowledge, she says.
According to the CareerBuilders suvey, “Tweeting, blogging, and commenting about things you know builds up your credibility online. When an employer searches your name after an interview, you want them to find a knowledgeable individual who can fit well into their company.”
Be A Little Bold
SEO consultant Adam White loved the TV show The Profit on CNBC. Eager to get the attention of the show’s star, Marcus Lemonis, he wrote a tongue-in-cheek article entitled, “Why The Profit Is The Worst Show On TV.” He used humor to make the point that the show had inspired his interest in helping other businesses. He paid $5 to promote the article on Facebook to fans of the show.
The piece was shared more than 200,000 times and caught the eye of Lemonis himself, who shared it with his followers and made a mobile billboard out of the headline. White contacted to Lemonis and pitched his SEO services, with his viral post as evidence of his capabilities and creativity. He took over the management of Lemonis’s SEO shortly thereafter and worked for him for roughly a year before expanding his own consulting business.
White says he had nothing to lose in this case, which allowed him to be a bit bolder than others who might be gunning for a job they really need. Palmer advises keeping those circumstances in mind. Focus on activities that will showcase your expertise, while also remembering the tempo of the industry. You might be able to get away with a little more in creative services than in banking, which is typically more conservative, she says.
“Look around at what people typically do and what they’re rewarded for. Seeing what others have done will give you an idea of what will go over well,” she says.