12 Unique Ways to Score a Job Interview

by Paul Michael on 21 February 2012 (8 comments)

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These days, scoring a job interview is tough enough, let alone getting the position. With dozens (or sometimes hundreds) of applicants for every job, standing out in the crowd is more important than ever. And you’ll also need a little help from lady luck, too.

But, saying that, I’m a firm believer in creating your own luck. There are always ways you can put the odds in your favor, and in some cases, have potential employers coming to you. Believe it or not, even in the toughest economy, truly valuable employees are still hard to find. Sadly, they often stay invisible by not doing what it takes to put a spotlight on themselves. And it’s pointless being a rock star if you only sing in your basement.

Here then are 12 unique ways you can score a job interview, based on my experiences in advertising and marketing. Try one or try them all, but do not use all 12 on the same employer. Remember, there’s a fine line between being eager and annoying, and you don’t want to be memorable for all the wrong reasons. (See also: How to Answer 23 of the Most Common Interview Questions)

1. Use Social Media to Your Advantage

If you’re not using Twitter, Facebook, or other social media outlets, you’re missing out on a great way to begin conversations with potential employers. These are the ways we all communicate, and they can be very effective in drawing attention to you. Start following the Twitter feeds of people you want to work for. Make insightful comments. Post links to articles you have written or pieces of work you have done. Become vocal in the social media world, and do it consistently. Sooner or later (hopefully sooner), you’ll get the attention of someone who counts, and then when a job is posted, you can jump right in and let your Twitter or Facebook community know you’re looking.

2. Create Your Own Direct Mail Campaign

A lot of people in advertising, design, or marketing use this trick, but there’s no reason it cannot apply to you if you work in another field. A traditional resume emailed to an HR department will not stand out. But why not create something different and unique to your skill set that will help you get noticed? If you’re an accountant, send your resume in a package with chocolate coins. If you’re in the catering business, write out your resume on a cloth napkin, and send it in a napkin ring with your email address on it. There are always ways to stand out while being smart and doing something related to your profession. Creative resumes are not just for creatives. And don’t do a one-off, either. Follow it up with something just as creative.

3. Follow in the Footsteps of Upcoming Bands

When a band is trying to make it big (or just get people to turn up to shows), they don’t have the money for big advertising campaigns. They don’t even have the money for small ones. But they want you to show up in droves, so they get creative. They cover walls with wheat-paste posters, they set up websites with music samples, and do whatever then can to spread the word. You can do the same. If you’re in a creative field, be it advertising, art, design, baking, or anything else with a visual aspect, a website is a great way to get your work out there. Then, find ways to advertise that site as cheaply as possible. Put cards in local stores, especially ones where potential employers might visit. Create a buzz around yourself, and you may just get that all-important phone call.

4. Do a Public Relations Stunt

These stunts are often a great way for ad agencies to stretch the budgets of their clients. Buying media space in a newspaper, in a magazine, or on TV costs a lot of money. But if you can do a stunt that gets coverage, you can get massive exposure on a minimal budget. Think of a way to get yourself noticed that is relevant to your career path. For instance, take your design skills to the street and draw a giant, illustrated chalk resume outside of the building of a future employer. Who wouldn’t notice that? It could even get news coverage. Remember, with the advent of 24-hour news, channels are always looking for stories. Do the easy part for them. Let them know where you’ll be and why you’re doing it. You could even spend some money buying your very own billboard. Of course, that takes a lot of money, but it may just pay off.

5. Ask For a Tour of the Building

Does the place you’d like to work at have a nice building? Is it a manufacturing plant with interesting equipment? Does it have historical significance? Is it well designed, or has it been engineered to be very green? Is it none of the above? It doesn’t really matter. There are always ways to get tours; you just have to find the right angle. In advertising, it’s fairly easy to get a tour because the job itself is very interesting. You can say you admire the set-up and want to see how it’s working so that you can make your own place of work better. And as you tour the building, drop a few hints that you’re looking around. Leave your own flyers and business cards in prominent places. Be brave. And remember, all they can say is no…but they might just say yes.

6. Write an Article About the Prospective Employer

You don’t need to be a big-name journalist to do this. With the Internet, blogs, regional newspapers, and so many other avenues for content, you can easily find a way to write an article and get it published. Even if it’s on a blog you create, it’s still legitimate, and it’s a great way to get your foot in the door of a place you’d like to work at. If the company does something you think people want to know about, then write about it. You may get to interview some senior people, and that could be a great chance to get your foot in the door and blow your own trumpet. And when the article is done (and hopefully positive in nature) send the company a link or a sample with your contact info. 

7. Create Something That Goes Viral

YouTube is wonderful for many reasons, one being that you don’t have to have money or power to become popular. Videos go viral, and when they do, millions of people see them. Now, if you happen to create one that also ties in with something you do for a living, or that targets a potential employer, that’s when you could hit interview gold. A famous example of this is Justin Bieber. As a young boy, he posted a video of himself covering Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me A River.” We all know what happened to him. People in advertising have done this to score jobs at some of the world’s biggest agencies, including Crispin, Porter & Bogusky. YouTube works. You just need great content. 

8. Improve on Something Your Prospective Employer Does

How does this work? Well, the most recent example is YouTube Instant, developed by Stanford student Feross Aboukhadijeh. After Google Instant launched, he saw the potential in it and developed the site. The CEO of YouTube was so impressed that he gave Feross a job (and Twitter also wanted him). Do you have a major improvement that employers in your field would kill for? Let them know a little about it, or build it yourself if you can.

9. Advertise Yourself Online

The Internet is full of ways to advertise. And it doesn’t take a whole lot of money, either. Sites like Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn all offer ad spaces, and if you’re smart, you can create ads that will get you noticed. How? Well, look at Alec Brownstein, a senior copywriter now working at Young & Rubicam New York. He Googled the names of his favorite creative directors and noticed that there were no sponsored links by their names. So, he purchased their names on Google AdWords. And sure enough, when they Googled themselves (something we all do regularly) Alec’s name popped up with a fun message asking for a job. Alec received multiple interviews and landed a job at his idea agency. The entire cost of his online campaign came to just $6! And he also received two major industry awards for his smart thinking in the self-promotion category.

10. Put Your Resume on Video

Times are changing; resumes can change, too. Why stick to the same old paper format, or something you print out from a website? Why not do something a little different and create a video for your resume? It doesn’t have to be a production with a Star Wars budget. You can do some great things with movie-making software that often comes pre-loaded onto your machine. Think Ken Burns, and apply your own twist. While it’s not applicable to everyone, a video resume sent on a flash drive or DVD may just be the edge you need to stand out and score an interview.

11. Make Employers Apply to You

Something that advertisers do well is turning something completely on its head to get attention. White is black, up is down, and in is out. When it comes to hunting for a job, why not make yourself the target and have employers look for you? Create a flyer that says “Employer wanted, must have clean fingernails and a 401(k) plan,” or design a poster with the same idea. Don’t think it will work? It already has for Andrew Horner, a young programmer who decided to stop looking for jobs and instead got employers to apply to him. His website, Reverse Job Application, garnered very favorable results and led to many reverse applications and a job offer. So, think how you can get the mouse to come to the cat; it’s easier than chasing it around. 

12. Do Some Very Personalized Product Placement

Picture this. You’re someone responsible for the hiring at a company. You go outside to get the newspaper from the driveway, and inside it is a full-page ad from someone looking for a job at your firm. It addresses you by name. Or you’re doing the local shop and see a jar on the shelf with your name on it. Inside, there's a resume for a job applicant. If you think these are far-fetched ideas, think again. They've been tried with great success in the advertising industry, with creatives getting up at the crack of dawn to place an ad inside the newspaper of a creative director, or following the hiring manager around the supermarket and placing a product at eye-level with her name on it. This is very targeted, although some think it smacks a little of a stalker. But, done right, it can be both flattering and impactful. If you will go to those lengths just to get an interview, how far will you go to do a good job for the company? That’s one heck of a first impression.

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Will Chen's picture

"the advent of 24-hour news, channels are always looking for stories"

This is very true. The media is always hungry for stories. If you do anything that is half way creative you can get noticed, if not on TV, then at least by a credible news website or blog.

Meg Favreau's picture

This isn't quite as extreme, but when I've looked for work in the past, I've had a lot of success including something small and uniquely memorable on my resume, even if it didn't have to do directly with the job (although in general, I think it's best to target your resume to the specific gig you're applying to). For example, my most recent resume had "puppetry" listed under Special Skills, and when I was still starting out in the working world, I made sure to include my high school experience working as Cinderella at an amusement park. (Yes, I know I'm a brunette. They didn't care.)

Guest's picture
Drew Custer

Meeting people. Whether it be online (social media) or in person, this is the most important thing in my opinion. Have meaningful conversations with people and you will find job opportunities.

Guest's picture
Carl Lassegue

"If you will go to those lengths just to get an interview, how far will you go to do a good job for the company?"

Doing personalized product placement is a great way to show the company how dedicated and determined you are. That way you do not have to convince them that you are determined and dedicated in the interview, they have seen it firsthand.

Parenting Squad's picture

With job sites and social media, there are lots of ways to do #9 now, and can help employers get a look at your experience and credentials. I predict that putting your professional information and special skills out there for potential employers is going to become the standard, if it isn't already.

Guest's picture
Mac Hildebrand

I enjoyed the metaphor of the third point because it caught the spirit of the whole article: be passionate about getting the job and throw whatever resources are available into it. Some of the others were expressions of creativity I would never try but still amusing. And if someone did get their job that way, I guess the joke's on me. I will include puppetry on my next resume :)

Guest's picture

These are some very creative approaches. I particularly like the direct mail campaign idea!

As a former Fortune 500 executive I’ve interviewed and hired hundreds of employees.

The key to getting hired whether there’s an opening or not is to customize your approach. If not, you won’t stand out or get an interview. So stop blasting out countless resumes. Most never make it through the automated screening process and even less make it into the hands of a real person in HR.

Your target is not HR! It's the hiring manager that matters most.

Companies hire people to solve problems (both positive and negative). Your ability to uncover your target employers problems and position yourself as the solution is what will get you hired even when there are no open postings.

Develop a personal marketing campaign whereby you send important problem solving information to the hiring manager on a periodic basis. Done correctly this builds credibility and ultimately leads to a meeting.

Bob Prosen
The Prosen Center.
for Business Advancement.

Guest's picture
Bryn Boyle

Whoa! A video resume? Now that's something. I have heard about graphical CVs from friends and have made one myself using my iPad and this free app called Shine, which can be found here http://goo.gl/vhZ2q. I am still wrapping my head around the idea of a graphical CV and now I read about a video resume. I gotta see examples!