In a competitive finance job market flooded with qualified applicants, it may be tempting to employ some zany tactics in order to get noticed.
While downright "crazy" tactics aren't recommended, it is still possible to dress up your application package with some carefully chosen creativity. And, in finance, when it comes to creative job applications, "don'ts" are just as important as "do's".
First, utilize your networking muscle. Being creative means more than just joining sites like LinkedIn -- you have to use its hefty virtual network to your advantage, says Bob Gillman, president of Bloomington, Minnesota-based Gillman Consulting, Inc.
One client spotted an alluring job prospect on a major job Web site, but instead of sending his resume out into the ether, he looked up the company's personnel on LinkedIn and tried to spot anyone with mutual friends who could grease the wheels for introductions. It worked, and he got the job.
"He quickly and smartly realized that if he just sent his resume to the company, it would be lost," Gillman says. "But after he networked, he wasn't an anonymous applicant anymore."
The Creative Follow Through
Following through has become a lost art, according to Gillman. If you keep calling to follow-up and you persistently get voicemail, try calling earlier in the morning or in the later hours, he says. Try to find something unique about the company and show your expertise and interest in that area.
He recommends trolling university business libraries for information about a company, as well as public records available online. Do some detective work online to see if you have anything in common -- even something as innocuous as sharing an alma mater.
"During an interview, make sure you discover their key concerns, the things that keep them up at night," Gillman says.
If you haven't gotten an interview yet, write a thorough letter detailing your knowledge of the company, and the solutions you have for their problems, he says.
"Show them the value you could bring to the company, almost like you're an unpaid consultant during the job interview process," Gillman advises.
Cynthia Shapiro, chief executive officer of Cynthia Shapiro Consulting International, encourages some creative tactics if you're targeting and out-of-state company.
If you're in New York City and you're interested in working at a California-based company, tell them you're already in the process of moving out west.
"It doesn't really matter if you're really moving or not," she says. "But it makes you seem less expensive, which inherently makes you a more attractive candidate. Anything related to your job search, including moving, is tax deductible, and you can always negotiate after you have the offer letter."
Utilizing the Web may make your resume and personal skills easily accessible, aesthetically pleasing and more noticeable.
VisualCV.com allows users to post photos and Power Point presentations in addition to the traditional resume. The format gives potential employers information they normally wouldn't have received until a first interview, says Phillip Merrick, chairman and co-founder of VisualCV.
"Not only can you show an entire portfolio, but you can give an employer more information about the kind of person you are," Merrick says. "If you have a lengthy history in team sports, why not highlight that when companies say they need a team player? That's the kind of thing that's worth knowing."
Don't Get Desperate
Ultra-desperate moves like plastering your photo and contact information on the side of a bus won't work, says Shapiro.
While it might seem attractive to send a singing telegram to a potential employer, Shapiro says her clients have tried these zany tactics and never nail the job they want.
"That sort of stuff sounds like it'd be cool, like sending a bottle of champagne with a resume wrapped around it," Shapiro says. "All of these things will work very strongly against you."
Don't Forget the Basics
It's important not to "weird out" a potential employer with too many gimmicks, says Mike Eastman, president of Eastman Consulting Group, a Houston-based financial job search firm.
He recommends focusing on your most important tool -- your resume.
"I advise people to take their resume to at least two resume services," Eastman says. "From my perspective, if the resume doesn't grab them, they're not going to look at your additional materials, no matter how many pie charts and graphs you send."
He suggests carefully evaluating all your previous accomplishments: How much money you earned or saved for previous employers, what committees you chaired, what projects you oversaw.
"Now is not a time to be humble," Eastman says. "It may not be polite to boast, but boast anyway. Just keep in mind that doing dog and pony shows right now wont get you kudos from hiring authorities."
Shapiro agrees that a top-notch resume is the key to getting yours on the top of the stack.
"Have a really good career strategist who will remove any red flags in your resume, and can deal with a lag in employment," she says. "People in the financial industry are very superstitious, and if you don't address a gap in your job history, they may think you're bad luck."
Video: Simply, Don't
Don't opt for video resumes unless you've received specific coaching and can film it in a place without your dogs or children darting around your ankles.
For a finance job seeker, the most important thing to remember when getting creative is to stick to the basics -- a resume, a concise cover letter -- but make those staples shine among the hundreds in the stack. If you attempt a flashier approach, be forewarned: Without proper training, or a heady dose of restraint, it could go awry.
-- Diana Middleton
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