by Meridith Levinson

The Wackiest Thing You’ve Done to Get a Job

Jan 07, 20093 mins

What won’t you do to get a job? A few years ago, a friend who’s an actress told me about the chance she had to play the lead female role in a popular movie from the 1970s. We were in Los Angeles, and she was giving me a tour of the city. To get the part, my friend told me that she had to have sex with the high-profile director.

My friend didn’t do the deed on the casting couch, and she didn’t get the role. Instead, it went to another actress, who according to my friend, was free with her body. This other actress went on to star in many movies and TV shows. My friend, meanwhile, works as an acting coach.

I recall this anecdote about my friend’s refusal to have sex with a director to get a movie role because I’m seeing more and more stories in the news about the lengths people are going to get jobs. I’m not reading about anything as extreme as candidates doing sexual favors for hiring managers (at least not yet), but I am reading about some pretty wacky stuff: A guy in NYC wore a sandwich board that read “MIT grad for hire”; a woman in Texas plunked down $1200 to post an ad on a billboard promoting her services as a stylist; and a woman in L.A. donned an ill-fitting T-shirt with her résumé printed on it.

Amazingly, or perhaps not surprisingly (depending on your perspective), these sandwich board stunts have worked. Sandwich board guy is now working for an accounting firm in NYC, and according to WFAA radio in Dallas/Fort Worth, the woman who rented the billboard received two job offers. I don’t know about T-shirt woman’s fate.  

David Perry, the author of the book, Guerilla Marketing for Job Hunters and of the Guerilla Job Hunting blog, says these unconventional maneuvers work because they make it easier for employers to find job seekers: The job seekers who employ these tactics stand out from the legions of other candidates searching for jobs. Finding ways to distinguish yourself from the rest of the job-hunting masses is critical when unemployment is at a 15-year high and when employers are bombarded with hundreds of résumés for the same job.

By using unconventional job search methods, says Perry, “You indicate to employers, ‘I have a sense of humor, I’m creative and I’m not afraid to do new things.’ Read any job description and those are the things employers are looking for: creativity and the ability to learn new things. That’s why these stunts work.”

Since the sandwich board, billboard and résumé printed on a T-shirt tactics are no longer novel (anyone who uses them will look like a copycat), Perry has many more ideas for standing out on his website. Among them:

  • Sell yourself on eBay.
  • Produce a video résumé.
  • Send hiring managers a gift certificate entitling them to your professional services for free. 
  • Get your foot in the door by sending a hiring manager a shoe—not a stinky, worn shoe, but a new shoe that you’ve bought at a discount shoe store—with a note introducing yourself and asking for an interview.

Would you try any of these techniques? I happen to like the shoe idea.  It’s goofy, but what hiring manager wouldn’t crack a smile at that?  

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to get a job? Did any of your attempts ever backfire?