Finding a Job Using Uncommon Search Tactics

Rules are meant to be broken. Think outside the box. Be an original. These are all cliches meant to inspire and remind you that creativity can often be rewarded in life. Yet, even the most adventurous of us can't overcome our reservations when it comes to job hunting. Everything you've been told about the application and interview processes emphasizes being professional. Don't try to be funny in your cover letter. Wear a conservative business suit. Show how you'll fit in as one of the team. In other words, do what everyone else is doing.

For some people, that just won't do.

Tony Beshara, author of "Acing the Interview," has seen his share of unusual job search methods over the years, ranging from quirky to bold. And several of them have been successful. "For a marketing job, the candidate bought a pair of baby shoes, wrapped one in a box along with her resume and sent it directly to the hiring authority," Beshara remembers. "The box had a tag that said 'Let me get my foot in the door and you will be pleased.' When she went to the interview, she took the other shoe with her, which was a great way to start the interview."

Another job candidate who was hoping to land a sales position sent his resume to the hiring manager with miniature star tickets that fell out when you opened it up. Across the top he had written "Hire a Star."

Quiet and clever tactics don't work for everybody, though. Beshara recalls another job seeker who decided to wear a sandwich board that read, "Brand new, hardworking MBA needs work." He then stood at one of Dallas' busiest intersections during the morning rush hour. "He had a job by noon."

Even advertising your job hunt to thousands of morning commuters seems insignificant when compared to the gutsy move of John Gaines, a copywriter in Seattle. During his weeklong freelancing stint at an ad agency, he decided he wanted a permanent position with the company.

"The Monday after my assignment ended, I came in early and fished some important-looking papers out of a recycling bin. I found an empty office with a computer whose monitor didn't face the door and sat in it surfing the 'Net for a few hours every day."

He walked around the office at regular intervals carrying the papers and interacted with other employees. If they asked what he was doing, he told them he was a freelancer who was "handling some paperwork." He eventually had another freelancing stint with them that became a five-year relationship.

Other tactics aren't as premeditated or elaborate.

When marketing and management expert Mark Stevens met with a candidate whose credentials showed great promise, he was disappointed when the interview didn't go well. The applicant wasn't engaged in the interview and as soon as he left he threw away his resume.

"The next day, I received a FedEx package from him, with a book of poetry on human loss and a loving letter about how his mother had died that week," Stevens remembers. He knew he hadn't made a good impression and asked for a second chance. Stevens gave it to him and ended up hiring him.

When you're hunting for a job, keep in mind that these unorthodox methods worked for these job seekers. Not only did they have the guts to try them out, but they also encountered hiring managers who were willing to take their efforts seriously.

Although wearing a sandwich board on a highway isn't the most reliable way to land a job, that job seeker did set himself apart from the thousands of other new MBAs fresh out of school.

In a competitive job market, look for any opportunity, big or little, to give yourself an edge over the other applicants.

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Anthony Balderrama is a writer and blogger for He researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.

Copyright 2008

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