Stop Applying to Startups.
This was the title of an excellent post by Quinten Farmer on the challenges of landing a startup job through the traditional application process. The bottom line is it’s very challenging to stand out amongst a barrage of resumes if you don’t already have a connection to a company or taken the initiative to create one.
Fear not. There’s still hope to land your dream job. One way to accomplish this is to create a clever application or hook to stand out. I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight a few case studies of how people have done this so that resume drop jockeys can see what this looks like:
Alec Brownstein – Y & R
Using the assumption that everyone Google’s themselves, Alec used Google Adwords to create PPC ads using the names of the top 5 creative directors in New York as keywords. For those less familiar with PPC, when these creative directors google’d their names, they saw a unique introduction from Alec at the top of the search results. See below
Matt Epstein – Google
Matt Epstein wanted to work at a little startup called Google. He took it upon himself to create a clever website called GooglePleaseHire.Me that featured a video outling why he’d be an ideal candidate. The site went viral accruing tons of media attention. Though he didn’t end up landing at gig at Google, apparently he had some pretty sweet other opportunities come his way.
Felix Delgado – SeatGeek
Instead of filling out an uninspiring form to indicate why he’d be the perfect fit for a marketing internship at ticket pioneer SeatGeek, Felix sent the founders a physical ticket he created. On the ticket was a unique bar code that directed viewers to a F.A.Q. page on his site, where he outlined why was the perfect fit for the internship. Yeah, he got the job.
My buddy and colleague at SinglePlatform Matt Vigliotta, wanted to grab the attention of our VP of Sales Adam Liebman after his introductory HR interview. So he created an awesome video that demonstrated his knowledge of the product and ability to articulate it effectively. Matt is now a Business Analyst at SinglePlatform and doing great.
These are just a few examples of people finding ways to stand out by thinking outside the box.
I think the most effective way to approach this is to develop a unique application that demonstrates the skills that an employer is looking for. I.E. If they’re looking for a marketing specialist, optimize your unique application in a way that displays your marketing abilities like Felix did.
Another way to approach it, is to use this as an opportunity to dispel any concerns they may have about your ability to do your job effectively. I once applied to a job that “preferred candidates with a technical background.” To put them at ease, I built a MySQL website (complete with login!) using the domain “IWantToWorkFor—-.com”. The site used the twitter bootstrap framework and its contents outlined why I’d be the perfect fit. Though I didn’t get the job, I made a strong, memorable impression. *It should be noted that not all of the people mentioned above landed the job they initially targeted (i.e. Matt Epstein) either. However, they did garner people’s attention, making them privy to some other great opportunities.
One thing I’ve learned going the extra mile throughout the application process is the importance of balancing “standing out” and over-eagerness. Appearing too over-eager can turn some people off. If you come on too strong, you might fail the “beer test” (would I want to grab a beer with this guy?). It’s a thin line to tread and something to be mindful of.
An application form is a narrow, heavily trafficked gateway to landing your dream job. As Chris Sivers points out, the more that people do something, the less valuable it becomes. This frame implies that a traditional job submission is a sub-optimal way to communicate the value you can bring to an organization. I agree.
When you create a unique gateway, you put yourself into a separate bucket; one that signals that you’re willing to go the extra mile to accomplish a desired goal. That’s a pretty good place to be.
You can find other excellent examples of creative job applications and ways people have landed their dream jobs below: