man in a tuxedo with a rose in his mouth and oversized sunglassesIn college I had a friend whose roommate had his resume printed up on a paper grocery bag along with the message, “I so want to work for you that I would brown bag it every day.” At the time I thought it was clever but it only garnered him one interview – with a grocery chain. Weird self-promotional items may get you noticed but they’re not going to get you hired.

Consider this example from the Wall Street Journal via (a website for media hiring and news): “[A] job seeker sent a rather large box to his potential employer, One Fine Stay. The company sets up short-term accommodations in luxury homes and according to The Wall Street Journal, a queen-size pillow was nestled inside the box.”

Well, the job applicant, who according to the article was then nicknamed “Pillow Guy,” had attached his resume printed on paper the same size as the pillow (about 24″ x 33″). The only problem was the paper ended up being damaged during the delivery process from water getting inside the box. That meant his contact info got wrinkled and couldn’t be read. An understanding HR person ironed the paper to see the info.

Pillow Guy did get an interview but he didn’t get hired. The strange thing is this was not the oddest material the company received. One applicant had his resume delivered by stuffed carrier pigeon while another referenced unpublished erotica.

The same article illustrated why people are desperate to get noticed when applying for a job. It quoted CEB (formerly the Corporate Executive Board), which presented research that showed,  on average, 383 people applied for every advertised position.

In another article, shared 10 other outlandish stunts that didn’t work:

  1. Candidate back-flipped into the room.
  2. Candidate brought items from interviewer’s online shopping wish list.
  3. Candidate sent a fruit basket to interviewer’s home address, which the interviewer had not given her.
  4. Candidate did a tarot reading for the interviewer.
  5. Candidate dressed as a clown.
  6. Candidate sent interviewer some beef stew with a note saying “Eat hearty and hire me J.”
  7. Candidate placed a timer on interviewer’s desk, started it, and told interviewer he would explain in 3 minutes why he was the perfect candidate.
  8. Candidate sent interviewer a lotto ticket.
  9. Candidate wore a fluorescent suit.
  10. Candidate sent in a shoe to “get their foot in the door.”

That list came from research done by Harris Interactive on behalf of

“Employers typically aren’t looking for the most outrageous candidate, they’re looking for the best fit,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, in a news release. “Thinking outside the box is great, but the stunts that work best are the ones that showcase your relevant skills and abilities. The focus of the interview should be why you would be a great addition to the team, and not what you’re willing to do to get noticed.”

In the Forbes article, Haefner added, “If you’re planning to do something unconventional, first ask yourself, ‘Does this help to exemplify my skills and experience?’ If the answer is no, then don’t,” Haefner suggests. “Whatever you say or do in an interview should be relevant to the position at hand.”

A great way to impress the employer—without doing anything outrageous—is to come in with ideas, she said. “It shows vision and initiative. Many candidates don’t do this, so you’ll immediately stand out. Make yourself memorable for the right reasons,” Haefner concludes. “Focus on specific ways you have contributed to other organizations, so the employer sees what you can do for them.”

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