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How to impress employers, or scare them off

By Debra Auerbach

CareerBuilder

August 15, 2013

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The hiring process can at times mirror a reality dating competition, with multiple candidates all vying for the same coveted role. And while most candidates use tried and true ways to get an employer’s attention, such as a catchy cover letter and killer résumé, others choose less-traditional methods, as proven by the latest CareerBuilder survey.

CareerBuilder asked 2,076 hiring managers and human resource professionals nationwide to share the most memorable methods candidates have used to stand out from the crowd, and whether their creativity got them hired.

Techniques that wowed
Some techniques used by job seekers were so unforgettable that they worked to impress employers. These included:

  1. Candidate contracted a billboard outside of employer’s office.
  2. Candidate gave a résumé on a chocolate bar.
  3. Candidate showed up in a suit with a red T-shirt underneath a white shirt. The red T-shirt had a message: “Hire me, I work hard.”
  4. Candidate asked to be interviewed in Spanish to showcase his skills.
  5. Candidate crafted the cover letter like an invitation to hire her rather than a request (similar to a wedding invitation).
  6. Candidate climbed on a roof the employer was repairing and asked for a job.
  7. Candidate performed a musical number on the guitar about why he was the best candidate.
  8. Candidate volunteered to help out with making copies when he saw interviewer’s assistant was getting frazzled.
  9. Candidate repaired a piece of company’s equipment during the first interview.
  10. Candidate sent a message in a bottle.

Techniques that failed to impress
Sometimes job seekers took their excitement too far and ended up scaring off prospective employers. Such failed tactics included:

  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 :) .”
  7. Candidate placed a timer on interviewer’s desk, started it, and told interviewer he would explain in three minutes why he was the perfect candidate.
  8. Candidate sent interviewer a lotto ticket.
  9. Candidate wore a florescent suit.
  10. Candidate sent in a shoe to “get their foot in the door.”

If you’re unsure whether your idea to stand out comes across as creative or crosses the line, take the advice of Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “Employers typically aren’t looking for the most outrageous candidate, they’re looking for the best fit,” Haefner says. “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.”