I'll admit it - I like a little marketing savvy in my candidates, especially for positions that don't require a marketing background. I'm a big believer that the best performers are the ones who add a little sales and marketing capability into what they do, regardless of their functional expertise.
Of course, marketing savvy in the careers game is like style. It's hard to define, but I know it when I see it. Like you, I also know when someone's trying to sell too hard, because it's uncomfortable for everyone who comes in contact with the candidate who has crossed the line.
Unfortunately, a recession means more people out of work and more desperation to cut through the clutter of hundreds of candidates for each job and differentiate. Expect to see more sandwich boards on the street asking for your employment consideration. More on the trend to impress via Extreme Job Hunting from Forbes:
"Desperate times don't just call for desperate measures. They call for last resorts. Just ask investment banker Joshua Persky. After getting laid off from investment bank Houlihan Lokey, Persky spent 11 months searching for work. He met with recruiters, e-mailed résumés, networked with family, friends and old colleagues and even considered a move to Nebraska. On the brink of losing his family's Manhattan apartment, he finally took to the streets. Donning his best interview suit, he passed out résumés to executives on Park Avenue--all while wearing a giant sandwich sign that read "Experienced MIT Grad For Hire." Media outlets picked up the story and within three days, Persky was dubbed "the new face of the American economy."
But unconventional job searching can range from the clever to the downright disastrous--often with a fine line in between. Persky has had his share of copycats. Some have even taken his stunt to new levels. Last month, Javier Pujals, an unemployed real estate salesman, sported a sign outside Chicago's Mercantile Exchange that read "Will Buy Interview" with the name of his new website, www.buyaninterview.com.
Other attempts at creative attire have been less successful. Actress Sean Young once infamously stormed a Warner Brothers studio lot wearing a homemade Catwoman costume, in an ill-conceived bid to secure the role in the 1992 sequel "Batman Returns." Director Tim Burton was nonplussed. He gave the role to Michelle Pfeiffer."
I get the trend and I'm glad it has worked out for candidates like Pujals, but would anyone, besides me, avoid making eye contact with Javier, if you saw him on the street with the sign pictured above strapped to him?
I thought so. With that in mind, here are 5 ways normal candidates can distinguish themselves from the pack without looking like a panhandler:
1. Ask for help by requesting an exploratory interview. Before you laugh at me and say no one has the time or wants to do that, when's the last time you were asked? I've done two of these in the last month, and as a result, I'll do what I can to help both individuals. It separates you because no one has the guts to ask. People like me are willing because they want to help folks out in a down economy.
2. Get your poet side on with a customized cover letter for every resume you send out. Sadly, no one does cover letters anymore, and don't believe the cynics who tell you they don't matter. Without question, they won't get you a job you aren't qualified for, but if you're one of two or three final candidates for the job in question, do you want to leave that differentiator on the table?
3. Have a "results focused" resume instead of listing what you did. It's a hard knock world, now more than ever, and no one's that impressed with what you did at your last company, you have to tell them what you achieved, even if you were a clerk. The best way to do that is to list 3-5 situations you faced in your last role, what you did to improve the situation and what the results were. Don't be afraid to brag, just keep it classy.
4. Provide a strong portfolio of your work to help hiring managers determine that you're different. I'm a big believer of having a portfolio of your work to show and provide once your foot's in the door, and you don't have to be a graphic designer to pull it off. So, you're a finance guy and think a portfolio doesn't fit? What about the new budget model you masterminded in 2007 or the new monthly variance package you put together in 2008? Do you really think your job hunt wouldn't be helped by someone seeing those products in full bloom? Come now...
My point? You don't have to wear a sandwich board to be extreme, because most candidates don't execute the above items to their fullest potential. So, hold a sign that says "will interview for food" if you must, but make sure you knock out the items listed above first.
The 6'2" skinny white guy trying desperately not to make eye contact, as you use the bullhorn on the busy street corner to draw attention to your plight? That would be me.