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Résumé Advice: Avoid Gimmickry In A Job Search

Ramon Greenwood -- As a job seeker, you want your résumé to stand out and differentiate you from other candidates. Just make sure it stands out for the right reasons.

There is a strong temptation in today’s highly competitive job market to go for gimmicks to make one’s résumé stand out from the crowded field. The urge is particularly strong after a number of rejections.

Avoid gimmickry like the plague.

There are rare occasions when a really creative tactic works, but most of them will backfire while making a résumé stand out for all the wrong reasons. Still some applicants–especially entry and mid-level professionals -– resort to outlandish devices.

“It’s really disheartening when you send your résumés out and get nothing in return,” says Cynthia Shapiro, a career coach for those searching for jobs. “It just makes people feel like they have to do something crazy to get noticed.”

Here are some examples of the more off-the-wall gimmicks.

A junior marketing professional attempted to send his résumé by a homing pigeon. The bird never returned.

In another instance, a résumé was cut into pieces and enclosed in a Russian stacking doll.

An electronic key chain and note were attached to a résumé, saying, “The only noise you’ll hear out of me are the ones generated by this letter.”

A candidate thought it was a good idea to bring a Rubik Cube to an interview to demonstrate problem-solving skills.

A job hunter dressed as a gorilla, accompanied by balloons, hand delivered his résumé with a song explaining his qualifications. (In fact, personal delivery of résumés is fairly common, but they usually fail because they convey a sense of desperation.)

Some résumés include jokes, nutty photographs, “cute” gifts, or free tickets to ball games.

Slang or funky language and spelling are to be avoided, as are industry and professional jargon. So are shorthand symbols and decorative symbols in emails.

Dale Winston, CEO of Battalia Winston International, an executive search firm once received a résumé with two Pepto-Bismol tablets enclosed along with a note that read: “I’m one candidate that won’t nauseate you. However, since I don’t know how the rest of your day is going, accept some relief, compliments of me.”

Job seekers sometimes will send their cover letter inside an unsealed envelope without a résumé. The idea is to make it appear the résumé fell out with the idea that the recruiter will reply by asking for a résumé.

However, there are rare instances when creative tactics to grab attention are in order, such as advertising, public relations and marketing. But good taste as to subject matter is always required. Also, avoid costly gimmicks lest you appear to be attempting to bribe the recruiter.

It is far better, of course, to make one’s cover letter and résumé stand out from the crowd by simple, straightforward communications that present qualifications that “fit” the position.

Appropriate follow-ups to keep the application in the recruiter’s mind are also highly desirable. The rules for cover letters and résumés also apply for notes that express appreciation for the opportunity to interview and state positive interest in the opportunity.

Where once snail mail was required, thank you notes via email are now acceptable, even preferred. Make messages concise and personalized. No “smiley faces.” Texting, Facebook and MySpace are not to be used.

After all is said and done, it’s really very simple. Jobs go to candidates who do the best job in convincing the recruiter that he or she can serve the needs of the employer, not who can be cleverest with gimmickry.

I wish you success!

For more advice on how to accelerate your career during tough times participate in Ramon Greenwood’s widely read Common Sense At Work Blog. His e-book, How To Get The Pay Raise You've Earned, is available from Amazon and other leading e-readers for $1.99. Ramon has written this timely ebook based on a wide-ranging career, including serving as senior vice president of American Express; a professional of a number of companies; entrepreneur; author; and career coach. He is currently The Career Coach at Common Sense At Work. For further information, contact Ramon Greenwood at

© 2012 Ramon Greenwood

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