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Resume on a Hershey Wrapper—Crazy or Creative?

February 10, 2014

By Kristin Cifolelli, SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Imagine opening your mail to find a resume printed on paper resembling a Hershey wrapper with the candidate’s qualifications listed on the nutrition label. Or an applicant showing up at your doorstep with a resume tied to a stuffed carrier pigeon. Or my personal favorite, a candidate who made his resume look like Google search results for the “perfect candidate.”

These creative—or maybe crazy—gimmicks are becoming more and more common as applicants look for ways to make their resumes stand out, get their foot in the door with an interview, and hopefully end up with a job offer. But do the tactics work?

According to the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget, Michigan’s job growth in the state late last summer reached levels not seen since 2008. But as job growth has increased, says Bruce Weaver, a labor market analyst with the State of Michigan, a wave of new job candidates has surged into the state. As a result, the number of new candidates is still outpacing the number of new jobs, thus keeping Michigan’s unemployment rate at a high level.

Michigan’s unemployment rate now stands at 8.4%, still 48th highest out of 50 states and the District of Columbia. Only Illinois, Nevada and Rhode Island have higher unemployment rates. In short, this means that competition for jobs still remains incredibly fierce in Michigan despite the steadily improving economy.

“On average one in five HR Managers reported that they spend less than 30 seconds reviewing applications, and around 40% spend less than one minute,” says Rosemary Haefner, Vice President  of Human Resources at CareerBuilder. “It’s a highly competitive job market and you have to clearly demonstrate how your unique skills and experience are relevant and beneficial to that particular employer. We see more people using infographics, QR codes and visual resumes to package their information in new and interesting ways.”

In other notable examples, candidates are turning to social media to create applications that get noticed.  When the University of Michigan posted an opening on LinkedIn for their first Social Media Director paying $110,000 annually, it drew the attention of Lindsay Blackwell. At the time she was 22 years old, working as the Marketing Manager for the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, and clearly she did not have the experience for this type of position. She did not let this deter her, but she needed a way to gain the attention of Lisa Rudgers, the Vice President of Global Communications at U of M who was heading the search. 

Over a period of one weekend, Lindsay designed a website entitled dearlisarudgers.com that was the equivalent of what she characterized as an interactive cover letter.  The site contained a YouTube video that described her interest in the position and highlighted her skills and accomplishments.  Lindsay and her friends began a social media campaign, launching her website at 4:00 Monday morning on Facebook and Twitter. Twelve hours after the website launched, she successfully landed an interview for the position. How did Lindsay do? She did not get past the initial interview screen, but her campaign did lead to other job offers.

The overall track record of these creative resume designs are mixed in terms of how many actual job offers they produce. For that, candidates still need to have the right skills. But the point—which has always been the point of the resume—is to get the recruiter’s attention. The “Google search results” resume caught the eye of a Google employee and landed the candidate an interview, though it is unclear whether a job offer resulted or not. The Hershey-wrapper resume did draw attention (it was deemed “really cute” by the recruiter) but the company took a pass on offering an interview.

But as long as there are success stories like Lindsay Blackwell’s, and creative outlets like social media, HR professionals can rest assured that they will see more and more of these unusual applications. What they’ve seen so far is only the tip of the iceberg.

Sources: The Wall Street Journal 1/23/14; MLive 9/18/13; Career Builder, 7/11/12

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