Any human-resources professional or career expert will tell you that résumé customization is key to standing out in a job search. They’ll also stress the importance of including information about your background and skills that might spark the hiring manager’s curiosity and make her want to take a second look. However, they’re unlikely to recommend divulging such personal information as your ties to the mob, your genius status or your glory days as homecoming prom prince.
While you might think that’s stating the obvious, you’d be surprised to find what lengths job seekers will go to in order to catch an employer’s attention.
CareerBuilder asked hiring managers to share the most memorable and unusual job applications that have crossed their desk. Answers included:
- Candidate called himself a genius and invited the hiring manager to interview him at his apartment.
- Candidate’s cover letter talked about her family being in the mob.
- Candidate applying for a management job listed “gator hunting” as a skill.
- Candidate specified that her résumé was set up to be sung to the tune of “The Brady Bunch.”
- Candidate highlighted the fact that he was “homecoming prom prince” in 1984.
- Candidate claimed to be able to speak “Antartican” when applying for a job to work in Antarctica.
- Candidate’s résumé was decorated with pink rabbits.
- Candidate listed “to make dough” as the résumé’s objective.
- Candidate applying for an accounting job said he was “deetail-oriented” and spelled the company’s name incorrectly.
When creativity works
While some job seekers may take their creativity too far, you can still find ways to infuse originality into your job search. Just make sure that any creativity you integrate into your résumé is applicable to the type of job you’re applying for and aligns with the prospective company’s culture.
Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, says that given today’s highly competitive job market, job seekers need to clearly demonstrate how their skills and experience are relevant to the employer. “We see more people using infographics, QR codes and visual résumés to package their information in new and interesting ways,” Haefner says.
Here are some examples of candidates that tried the creative approach, made a positive impression and were ultimately hired:
- Candidate sent his résumé in the form of an oversized Rubik’s Cube, where you had to push the tiles around to align the résumé. He was hired.
- Candidate who had been a stay-at-home mom listed her skills as nursing, housekeeping, chef, teacher, bio-hazard cleanup, fight referee, taxi driver, secretary, tailor, personal shopping assistant and therapist. She was hired.
- Candidate created a marketing brochure promoting herself as the best candidate and was hired.
- Candidate listed accomplishments and lessons learned from each position. He gave examples of good customer service as well as situations he wished he would have handled differently. He was hired.
- Candidate applying for a food and beverage management position sent a résumé in the form of a fine-dining menu and was hired.
Mistakes to avoid
According to the survey, there are certain guaranteed deal breakers when it comes to the style, format and content of a résumé. When asked what would make them automatically dismiss a candidate from consideration, employers’ top responses included résumés with typos (61 percent), résumés that copied large amounts of wording from the job posting (41 percent) and résumés with an inappropriate email address (35 percent).
Other responses included:
- Résumés that don’t include a list of skills — 30 percent
- Résumés that are more than two pages long — 22 percent
- Résumés printed on decorative paper — 20 percent
- Résumés that detail more tasks than results for previous positions — 16 percent
- Résumés that include a photo — 13 percent
- Résumés that have large blocks of text with little white space — 13 percent
Check out the following articles and videos for more résumé-writing advice:
- Video: How to write your first résumé
- Focus résumé on your results, not daily tasks
- Résumés 101 – everything you should and shouldn’t be doing
Brave enough to share one of your own résumé mistakes? Or were you hired after using creativity in your job search? Tell us about it in the comments section.