Creative Candidates: 10 Memorable Stunts That Worked … and 10 That Didn’t

HR professionals hHR Soapboxave all seen their fair share of unique pitches from applicants. When those efforts are appropriate manifestations of the candidate’s creativity and intiative, the extra energy can translate into a job offer. In other cases, applicants’ efforts to differentiate themselves are simply a big-time turn-off.

“Thinking outside the box is great, but the stunts that work best are the ones that showcase (applicants’) relevant skills and abilities,” said Rosemary Haefner, VP of HR at CareerBuilder. “Employers typically aren’t looking for the most outrageous candidate, they’re looking for the best fit.”

Here’s a collection of memorable attention-getters—10 that worked and 10 that didn’t, according to a survey of 2,000 HR professionals and hiring managers.

Techniques that resulted in a hire

1. Candidate contracted a billboard outside of employer’s office.

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2. Candidate gave his 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 make 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

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 3 minutes why he was the perfect candidate.

8. Candidate sent interviewer a lotto ticket.

9. Candidate wore a fluorescent suit.

10. Candidate sent in a shoe to “get their foot in the door.”

Nails on a Chalkboard: Biggest HR Turn-Offs

When asked what would make them automatically dismiss a candidate from consideration, employers responding to a separate CareerBuilder survey pointed to résumés that:

61%      Include typos

41%      Copy lots of wording from job posting

35%      Include inappropriate email address

30%      Don’t include list of skills

22%      Are more than two pages long

20%      Are printed on decorative paper

13%      Include a photo