By Todd Humber
Searching for a job in the information age has become a cold, impersonal experience.
Recruitment filtering software, applicant tracking systems (ATS) and online job boards have turned the search for a career into a mathematical equation. It’s made it easy to apply for jobs from your basement at the click of a button, enabling desperate candidates to play the “job lottery” — applying for every job in sight, regardless of whether they’re actually qualified.
It’s enough to make one pine for the days before email proliferated. I remember heading down to Staples with my classmates after graduating and stressing over which resumé paper to purchase in an effort to stand out. Email existed, but there was an unwritten rule it was far better to use snail mail for your CV.
It cost money to apply for the job — including the paper, toner, envelope and postage. It took effort. Most candidates, therefore, only applied for jobs they truly believed they were qualified for and thought they had a legitimate shot at.
That’s a far cry from what’s happening today, where many organizations frown upon printed resumés. (Even Canada Post wants nothing to do with mailed applications — last year it told a candidate in Kitchener, Ont., to stop mailing resumés because the postal service doesn’t accept applications by mail.)
I just went through the hiring process, and was amazed at the flood of resumés that came in to our ATS that had absolutely none of the qualifications in the job posting. Plus there was a long list of candidates from outside North America who provided no information about whether they could legally work in Canada or were even planning on moving here.
It is incredibly tough for a candidate to stand out in this flood of resumés. So some jobseekers are getting creative in an effort to capture the hearts and minds of hiring managers.
A couple of years ago, we ran a photo on the cover of Canadian HR Reporter of a jobseeker who sent a shoe in with his resumé in order to “get a foot in the door.”
Other candidates have purchased billboards, wore sandwich boards in busy intersections or handed out resumés at stoplights. One desperate jobseeker rented a flatbed truck, set up a fake office on top of it and drove around the business district pretending to work in an effort to get attention.
Matthew Epstein, a product marketer, launched a campaign last year to land his dream job at Google, producing a four-minute long video (see video below) that has garnered more than one million views in a bid to capture the search engine’s attention.
Spoiler alert: Google didn’t hire him, but his video did land him an interview. And he ended up getting a job at another tech company.
More recently, Zack Filler, a Toronto copywriter looking to land a gig at an advertising agency turned back the clock — way back past my days of fancy resumé paper — to the halcyon days of the telegram after going through 20 unsuccessful interviews.
“I think it’s such an interesting medium to use,” he told the Toronto Star. “It would show, not to sound really pretentious, my marketing savvy.”
And yes – it’s still possible to send a telegram. A website offers them for $4.95 each if sent in bulk, and Filler spent $50 sending messages to advertising gurus in London and New York. Filler hasn’t been hired, yet, but it is early days for his search.
Many of these tactics are clever, and they’ve certainly generated headlines for the jobseekers. But are these unorthodox methods truly effective when it comes to actually landing a job?
Short answer is maybe. Epstein didn’t land his dream job at Google, but he scored an interview and then landed a job at another company. Filler, following nearly two dozen unsuccessful interviews, has certainly put himself on the creative map.
After all, wouldn’t you stop what you were doing and read a telegram if you got one?
Have you encountered creative job-seeking tactics in your career as an HR professional or hiring manager? Share your stories in the comment box below.
Todd Humber is the managing editor of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. He can be reached at email@example.com.