Some job candidates take unconventional to a new level, sending resumes in the form of CDs and ransom notes and sometimes sending them along with birds, pants or worse. But this "creativity" doesn't pay off often.
When Olivia Scott headed to New York in search of a marketing manager post this month, the 27-year-old Tennessee native took along a gift for potential employers: her personalized CD.
The cover asked "Who Is Olivia Scott?" With a friend's CD burner, she put in seven songs that described her work ethic and background, including Donna Summer's She Works Hard for the Money and Southern Girl by Maze featuring Frankie Beverly. Her resume appeared as liner notes. It took her three days and $100 to create five copies of the CD.
The Ketchum public relations firm, one of three companies that received Scott's CD, was impressed. "There was a real sincerity about it," says Sharon McDonnell-Hubregsen, a recruiter for Ketchum, which is now in talks with Scott. "But it's also a hard thing to pull off, and I wouldn't recommend that everyone try it."
When it comes to odd resume enclosures, employers and recruiters say they have seen it all: animals, mannequins and even photos of candidates naked. Such bids to stand out may increase as the economy cools and the job market becomes more competitive. However, many employers say that far too often, job seekers aiming to look clever come off as creepy. While some suggest researching the company before trying an eye-catching gimmick, most recommend simply playing it safe.
"The hiring party's aesthetic may not necessarily match yours," says David Opton, founder and chief executive of ExecuNet, a provider of job search and career management information in Norwalk, Conn. "Save your creativity for when you have more time with their attention."
The Creative Group, a Menlo Park, Calif., company that recruits marketing, advertising and Web professionals, recently surveyed 200 advertising executives on the most unusual resume enclosures they had received and posted responses on its Web site. Among them: a parakeet, a pair of pants and a steering wheel. The company advises job seekers to keep their applications professional and, when using gimmicks, to be careful. "You want your materials to represent who you are," says Lynn Taylor, a Creative Group vice president.
Amy Douglas, a 27-year-old graphic designer, tries to tailor her inventiveness to the companies she contacts. Seeking a job a few months ago at Petplace.com, a veterinary resource site for pet owners, she sent her resume wrapped in a faux diamond-studded collar with a bone-shaped I.D. tag bearing her name and title. In a package to Starbucks Corp., Douglas applied a coffee stain around her signature on the cover letter.
Both tactics generated responses, though no job. While such creative presentation seems especially suited to her field, Douglas recommends caution: "As a designer, you really have to have your feelers out when you're looking into specific companies, because you don't want to do something inappropriate."
Others are willing to try anything. When Peter Shankman, now 28, sought a public relations job in New York a few years ago, he didn't want to mail out a bunch of resumes. Instead, he printed his resume on two 4- by 3-foot poster boards, sandwiched himself between them, stood on a Manhattan corner on a cold January day and handed out 1,000 resumes from 6 a.m. until 7:15 p.m.
The stunt was a raving success. After 200 phone calls, 45 interviews and 20 job offers, Shankman took a job as a director of new media for the New Jersey Devils hockey team. Although he admits his approach was off the wall, Shankman says he was successful because he met people face to face. "At least they could see I was a nice nut case," says Shankman, who wore a business suit and an overcoat that day.
Now that he runs his own public relations company in New York, Shankman sees his share of wacky enclosures. When an applicant sent a resume in the form of a ransom note _ "hire me or you'll never see me again" _ Shankman didn't bother calling back. But he did hire Aaron Rabinowitz after the 27-year-old account manager e-mailed a photograph of himself relaxing at an Israeli kibbutz with his dog, Shookie. "The picture allowed me to make a personal connection," Shankman says.
Many employers say it's unacceptable for middle- and upper-level executives to try such tactics. A few years ago, Colin Brady, who heads the Atlanta office of search company Cook Associates Inc., received a food-storage bag filled with beach sand from a middle manager in Florida. Nestled in the sand were fake gold coins meant to imply that the candidate was a hidden treasure in need of discovery. Brady was appalled. "Would you want this kind of guy running your company?" he asks.
Many employers hold on to strange enclosures even when they don't hire the candidate. A shoe sent recently to Doe-Anderson Inc., a Louisville, Ky., advertising agency, perches on an office shelf. Tim Pappas, who owns a recruiting company in Milwaukee, gives his staffers the $5 bills he occasionally gets from job seekers. A King of Prussia, Pa., health care company found itself with a mascot after an applicant delivered a puppy to the office with a resume attached to its collar.
Not that this is any consolation to spurned job seekers. When 48-year-old Steve Forrest, a television producer from New York, sent out garden spades to 55 employers in 1990 with a note to "plant this Forrest and watch your company grow," he didn't get one callback. But he did get a rejection letter from entertainer Dick Clark, saying: "Since I garden every chance I get, your spade will come in handy!"
Forrest, who now runs his own production company, was only slightly comforted. "I would rather have gotten the job," he says.