Nathan Schwagler, 25, had a plan to thwart the traditional job-seeking process and get his foot in the door his own way at Ingram Micro, a technology distributor.
Armed with a bouquet of sunflowers, a clipboard, an emergency Candygram and several copies of his résumé, Schwagler made his way through security dressed in deliveryman attire, his suit underneath. He arrived at reception and waited for Jessica, the recruiter he wanted to meet, to come pick up her "delivery."
When she came, Schwagler removed his blue-collar shell and handed Jessica his résumé, thanking her for taking the time to review his qualifications. Unfortunately, all he got in response was, "I have an appointment but I will get back to you."
When Schwagler followed up one week later and asked to speak with Jessica, the voice on the other end asked if it was Nathan Schwagler calling. When he confirmed it was, the receptionist said she would transfer him, but he didn't reach Jessica. Instead, he found himself speaking with the head of security.
"He informed me that he did not know all of the details, nor did he care to hear my explanation. All he wanted was to ensure that I understood that I was not to call or show up on the premises again," Schwagler says. He recalls a professor telling him later, "The world is not ready for that type of creativity."
While such ingenuity might have seemed too creative, Schwagler's antic wasn't that far-fetched. Especially in today's tightening economy, job seekers must become more imaginative in their efforts to get noticed by employers. Twelve percent of hiring managers surveyed by CareerBuilder.com reported that they are seeing more candidates try unusual approaches to capture their attention in 2008 than in other years.
"Candidates have a short window to make a lasting impression on potential employers," says Jason Ferrara, senior career adviser at CareerBuilder.com. "Those who apply resourcefulness and an inventive approach to their job search may have a better chance of standing out in the minds of hiring managers. The key is making sure you are maintaining an appropriate balance of creativity and professionalism so you are remembered for the right reasons."
In retrospect, Schwagler recognizes that his approach was missing the one thing Ferrara mentions: professionalism.
"I embarrassed security and humiliated a recruiter," admits Schwagler, now a special initiatives coordinator in the office of employer relations for the college of business at the University of South Florida. "I think the take-away can be shortened to three words: Sometimes, creativity hurts."
To find out what other unusual tactics job seekers are using now (or in the past), we asked some of our readers to share their creative antics -- successful or otherwise.
Here's what they had to say:
"I own and run God's Social Network, [a spiritual networking site]. I recently had to hire a head of marketing and got hundreds of résumés. One stuck out, however, as did her tactic for getting hired. First, she sent me a cover letter of Bible verses about working hard, integrity, following leadership and advice. She also e-mailed me each morning without a pitch; simply a short, uplifting e-mail that contained a Bible verse, saying that she prays I have a fantastic day, etc. It also didn't hurt that she was the only applicant that joined the site!" - Merry Miller, CEO of God's Social Network
"Late last year, I was doing freelance Web development. I decided I wanted to work full time somewhere, so I came up with the tactic of picking a company and doing whatever I could to work there. I sent in my résumé and got back the usual result, 'Thank you very much, we'll keep you in mind if something comes up.' This wasn't good enough, so I created a blog about the company I wanted to work for and started to write about them. After seven days, the VP of the company contacted me and said he really liked what I was doing. The company wanted to contract me to write its blog -- just keep doing what I was doing, but get paid for it. I have been doing that almost a year now, and it has made me realize my love for writing. Now, I help companies that need a blog get started and I even write it for them if they need me to." - Jeremy Vaught, blogging consultant, Seesmic
"My friends often ask me to fix up their résumés or come up with creative ideas for cover letters. On two cover letters, the lines 'I don't have a problem with my TPS reports,' and 'I'm hard working, reliable, honest and guaranteed not to open fire on fellow employees,' have almost always landed interviews." - Ryan McCormick, CEO and president, Rising Sun Public Relations
"I basically created my own job once. During the early 90s, a major cell phone manufacturer had ads for engineers, designers and other technical positions. That industry was booming but this specific company never once advertised for support people. After watching their ads for weeks in the papers, I decided I'd create my own job. I wrote a letter directly to the VP of operations and basically explained that if they were hiring technical people as fast as they were, they would soon need support people, too. He was so impressed that he called me the next day, saying he'd never received an application from someone for a job that didn't exist. He went on to say that if I were as creative after being hired as I was in creating my own job, he definitely wanted me working for him." - Nancy O'Neill, Entrepreneur
"A client of mine once found a job posting that was a perfect fit for him. He dressed in his best interview suit, bought a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts (Krispy Kreme had just opened and were quite a novelty), and delivered them in person to the company. He told the receptionist that the doughnuts were hers if she would just ensure that his résumé was on the top of the pile so that it would definitely be seen by the hiring manager. She did. It was. And he got the interview. He actually was called back for several additional interviews, but ultimately was the runner-up. Still, the doughnuts opened the door." - Wendy Gelberg, author of "The Successful Introvert: How to Enhance Your Job Search and Advance Your Career"
"I run a blog called One Day, One Job. I also occasionally write in-depth articles about online job search techniques. One article that I recently wrote was on using Facebook advertising to find a job. The gist is that job seekers use Facebook's advertising platform to target specific employers they want to work for. They write a short ad, include a picture of themselves and link to an online version of their résumé. The level of interest for the ads has been outstanding, and many of the people who click the ads contact the candidates to help them with the application process. Since most college students are told that Facebook is a good way to lose or not get a job, I think that it's pretty wacky to recommend that job seekers make Facebook one of their primary job search tools." - Willy Franzen, founder One Day, One Job and One Day, One Internship
"A candidate recently told me he got his last position at a PR agency through a job-board post. He saw the company was looking for an executive vice president, so he sent his résumé and cover letter stating why he was a great fit for the position. A few days went by without a response and he saw the ad reposted. He reached out directly to the contact person on the job board with his résumé again, except this time he also wrote his own humorous rejection letter. He asked the company to send it back to him so at least he would know they looked and then rejected him. The company reached out to him directly for an interview and he was hired for his skills matching the position and his creative persistence." - Lindsay Olson, partner and recruiter with Paradigm Staffing
Rachel Zupek is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.