If you need sound advice on how to land your dream job, there’s plenty of it on the internet. Yet estimates show that more than 174 million people worldwide will be unemployed in 2020. In 2019, whether you get hired or not depends very much upon your ability to differentiate yourself from the rest of the candidates and very little on credentials. In fact, in some instances, candidates have gotten jobs they were grossly underqualified for. But the way they approached their employers made it easier for the employers to choose them over others.
With a little creativity and, as the following examples will show, a willingness to color outside the lines, you can also land the job you want. This approach is necessary these days because many people are applying for the same positions, and many of them have the right credentials. Winning candidates have to go the extra mile to catch the attention of the employer and/or provide value first.
Here are some examples of unconventional approaches others employed when trying to land their dream jobs.
1. Name dropping
A lot of people don’t take well to name-dropping. It’s seen as an attempt to impress others and regarded negatively in all social circles. In casual conversations, you will sound pompous, and in professional conversations, you will sound disingenuous, and the other person will see through you. However, according to Daniel Carter, Senior SEO Specialist at Assertive Media, when done right, name-dropping can turn into an asset similar to having a strong connection at the company you want to work for.
“In the age of hyper-connectivity, it’s easy to make acquaintance with people and ask to use their names in an interview or any other social setting. Savvy job seekers are discrete — they understand the context, use name-dropping sparingly and do their homework. Most importantly, they don’t lie.”
Social skills coach and founder of ThePowerMoves, Lucio Buffalmano, used this strategy to get the job he wanted at a startup incubator that had previously rejected his application. Capitalizing on his good relationship with the director of a reputable online advertising company, Lucio reached out to potential employers asking them if they would like to work with the company X. “I sent out a few CVs to potential employers that would love working with the company with the subject line: Would you like to work with Company X?”
“Turned out, it was a super strong foot in the door to get plenty of interviews,” says Lucio. “After a few rounds of interviews, it landed me a job in the startup incubator I wanted to work for (the same incubator that had rejected a couple of my previous applications).”
2. Tweeting a future employer
“I called him out for an article he’d published, and he offered me to write a counter article to be published on the website,” he says. “Both articles ended up getting quite a bit of traffic, and after a call with the guy (my current boss!), we decided to make it a series. Now I write for the website every month, and we get on well.”
In this case, the employer saw the value in bringing Max on once he saw Max in action. If Max contacted him looking for a job, it’s unlikely he would have been hired. The employer probably didn’t even consider hiring an editor until Max came along and proved his value.
3. A cover letter with a sense of humor
When applying for a job, even those of us with a great sense of humor would rather not make any jokes in our communications with prospective employers. But if a potential employer shows they embrace humor, pay attention to it because you may be able to use that to your advantage.
Angela Gilliam, for example, recounts the story of how she once got a job by matching the hiring personnel quirkiness with her own. “I landed an interview for this highly popular position firstly by making a running joke throughout my cover letter. I picked random words out from the dictionary and attempted to make them fit in as naturally as I could. I prayed I came across quirky as the hiring managers sure sounded like it, and thank goodness I was.”
However, she probably didn’t have the guarantee of the job until the potential employer met her in person. “To prove I was into making juices, I spent the night before designing my own. I brought along 6 or 7 bottles of different smoothie concoctions for the interviewer to try, even though we met up at a café and coffee was served. He was hesitant to try them all, and I think he felt bad about it. He looked quite awkward and mumbled something about having to interview other people before saying ‘stuff it — you can have the job’.”
Without her cover letter jokes, Angela would not have gotten the interview. However, this alone couldn’t have been enough. The passion for the job she displayed on the day of the interview sealed the deal.
4. Honesty is the best policy
How do you apply for a job when you have no experience or credentials matching it? You tell the truth, the whole truth.
This certainly paid off for Matthew Ross in 2013 when he applied for an internship at Duff and Phelps, a Wall Street firm. In the cover letter addressed to the director of the firm, Ross chose to be brutally honest about his position at the time and what he wanted. At some point, he said, “I just want to be around professionals in the industry and gain as much knowledge as I can.” He added, “I won’t waste your time inflating my credentials, throwing around exaggerated job titles, or feeding you a line of crap about how my past experiences and skill align perfectly for an investment banking internship.”
The letter went viral. Every major news publication had picked it up within 48 hours.
Recently, Ross told me about the experience, “It was quite surprising. I ended up getting the job and working for the investment bank for three years before starting my own company.” He’s currently co-founder and COO at The Slumber Yard.
These are just some of the most interesting stories I’ve heard from former job seekers. Being different is arguably the most attractive trait in the current job market. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Sometimes you just need to make HR laugh.
Be careful, however, not to try these examples without thinking. One key thing the above examples have in common is authenticity. All they can do is inspire you to have a broader perspective on the creative approaches you can take when trying to land your dream job.