What can you do to stand out in the job-hunting crowd? If you’re gunning for a position that requires a creative streak — such as a journalist, a brand marketing manager, or something in advertising — then find ways to showcase your ingenuity as early in the process as possible.
Over the past decade, I’ve interviewed hundreds of job seekers, company recruiters, hiring managers, top executives, headhunters, and career consultants for articles that appeared in the San Jose Mercury News, Boston Globe, Washington Post, and other news outlets. And I’ve screened dozens of potential colleagues at my employers’ job-fair booths and in our offices. To sum it up, a lot of people took the same ol’ approach.
Do something different. Risk getting remembered.
Craft a cover letter that bursts free from the by-the-book principles. Or, better yet, bring your personal brand and professional savvy to life in a different attention-grabbing format. I loved this copywriting job-seeker’s ploy of buying search-engine ads keyed to the names of ad agencies’ creative directors and linked to the employment-hopeful’s online portfolio:
This job seeker not only exhibited an understanding of and clever thinking within the industry that his potential bosses operated, but his gimmick offered the hiring managers a good-for-laughs bonus of getting caught acting narcissistic. (Granted, these self-googling creative directors simply could have been trying to gauge and protect their personal brands, which is why I, too, regularly plugged my name into a search engine when I was a newspaper reporter. Whatever the reason, the top search result remained amusing.)
To be sure, this kind of stunt could fall flat and eliminate you from even being considered for a job. Whether you wind up with a creative coup or professional faux pas often depends on the hiring manager’s personality and the workplace’s cultural norms. So it pays off to first do your own investigative reporting on the person and the place you’d like to work for.
Would you have rewarded this search-savvy job seeker with an interview? I would. And four of the five targeted creative directors did, too.