You’ve got the experience. You’ve got the skills. And you’ve got a kick-ass resume and cover letter. But still, time after time, you fail to hear back from the companies that you send your application to.
“How can I get recruiters to notice me?” you might ask yourself. “Should I send them flowers? Chocolates? A 5,000-word epic poem on why I want the job?”
The truth is, you do often have to think outside the box in order to stand out from the dozens of other candidates vying for the same position you’re interested in. And sometimes, that leads job seekers to take some big, creative risks.
We rounded up five real stories of slightly crazy but super unique ways that people applied to their dream jobs. While we can’t exactly recommend you copy their approaches, they sure make for entertaining reads — and who knows? Reading them may just give you the inspiration you need to come up with your own brilliant way to make a lasting impression.
1. I Sent My Hiring Manager a Giant Stuffed Animal
“In my early 30s, I wanted to make the jump from being a marketing exec to becoming a marketing consultant. A friend told me about a small marketing firm that had an opening. After the friend got me the interview with the rather colorful owner, I knew that I had to go big.
My 3-foot tall thank you card was a birth announcement, ‘Congratulations on your new baby boy!’ On the inside I wrote, ‘I believe an ultrasound will reveal your new consultant has been born.’ This was delivered by a pink gorilla that also had about ten ‘congrats on your baby boy’ mylar balloons. [Not] only did I get the job, within a few months, I had become the General Manager of the international ad agency.” —Bob Olmstead, Executive Coach
2. I Handed My Resume to an Employee That Was About to Quit
“When I was a new graduate with a BA in Art I decided to visit a local gallery and ask for an entry-level job. The Sacramento, CA Solomon Dubnick Gallery, then managed by the son and sister of Tower Records founder Russel Solomon (a well-known art collector), had not publicly announced any vacancies or job openings. I just knew it was the best art gallery in town with the most prestigious clients and represented artists and that I wanted to work there!
I walked in and it just so happened that the Assistant Gallery Manager was about to turn in her letter of resignation the very same day. She took my resume and cover letter, put it on top of her letter of resignation and told me she would walk everything back to the Gallery Director together.
I can only assume having a ready replacement made the sting of her leaving a bit easier for upper management to digest. I was called in for an interview with the owner and directors only a day or two later and hired on the spot.
The experience taught me that in order to get the best positions you can’t always wait for posted opportunities. Sometimes you just have to just trust it will happen (with a bit of serendipity thrown in for good measure.) I encourage serious job seekers to strategically network in addition to applying through job portals and advertisements.” —Janet Kozak, Content Strategist
3. I Worked For Free
“I very much wanted to become an adjunct professor of internet marketing. Through a friend who had taught on this subject, I was able to score an interview with a major university in New York City with the department chair of marketing.
At the time, I had over 15 years of internet marketing experience, however, I had never taught, and did not have any advanced degree in the subject. To put it mildly, my qualifications for an academic role were weak. In the interview process, I did not make the case that I was qualified for the position. Instead, I explained why I wanted the position, and my concerns about taking it. Instead of either turning me down or offering me the position, the department chair suggested [that] I guest lecture a class to see if I was a good fit with the understanding that if it went well, that I would be considered… In general, the tactic of offering to do the job for ‘free’ for a couple days can be very effective.” —Marc Prosser, Co-Founder of FitSmallBusiness.com
4. I Wrote a Clickbait Article Instead of a Cover Letter
“When I applied for my position with Vecteezy, I wasn’t in the best place. I was doing contract work as a customer service representative, and because it was contract work, I knew it wasn’t going to last forever. I was ready to pursue something that utilized my strengths in a way my current job didn’t.
Long story short, I was applying for a lot of things that didn’t seem to pan out. Meanwhile, my contract was about to end soon, and I was worrying about rent and bills and where my future paychecks would come from. Then, an illustrator friend posted a Vecteezy position on Facebook. I knew right away I wanted it, but I wasn’t sure what the best plan of action would be.
Like any younger sibling, I called up my older sister to ask for advice. She’s an art director, so she’s always asking, ‘How can you do this more creatively?’ So, we started discussing my cover letter, brainstorming different ideas on how to make it stand out. I wanted a writing job, so we broke it down; write a cover letter that advertises writing. Instead of a typical cover letter, I wrote clickbait on why the company should hire me [entitled ‘A Young Writer Uses Clickbait as a Cover Letter. What She Does Next Will Shock You.’] Once I wrote it, I submitted it and hoped I hadn’t made a mistake.
This experience taught me professional risks can be worth it. Employers want professionalism and creativity, so it’s certainly a balancing act, but I would definitely try it again. I would encourage job-seekers to consider how they can be professional and still take risks, whether it’s in the cover letter, the resume, or something else. The right place will appreciate the creativity.” —Kaitlin Westbrook, Content Writer and Marketing at Vecteezy
5. I Followed the Hiring Team to an Awards Dinner
“I really wanted a job once that was a commercial for Chevrolet. I managed to find out that the company was up for an award and got a ticket to the dinner. Then I figured out how to get a seat at their table, so I met all of the people who were getting the award.
After that, I sent pictures of ‘me and my Chevy Lumina’ along with notes about how I would be the perfect person for their commercial.
Well, at first I didn’t get the job. It went to 2 guys. They did the shoot and tested it, but the audience hated it so much they had to redo it quickly. So, guess who came to mind first?
I flew to Detroit and shot the commercial, playing both parts, and it tested very well. They sent me a note that they should have gone with me in the first place.
The lesson is, be memorable, and a pleasant pain in the butt, and you just might be the first one they think of when hiring.” —Julie Austin, futurist, inventor, and author of “The Money Garden: How to Plant the Seeds for a Lifetime of Income”