In the early 2000s, there were a multitude of career-improvement books telling job seekers to get strange and creative with their job applications. The prevailing wisdom was that such novelty is the unique factor that will push them ahead of the pack and into the job.
We’ve all heard these stories from time to time where it’s worked – and it’s always a ‘friend of a friend’. Like that ‘friend of a friend’ who finally got her dream job of flight attendant by stapling a teabag to her job application, telling the reader to take a break.
Nicole Gorton, Director at Robert Half, has seen some in her time. “There’s been some pretty interesting ones!” she laughs. One candidate who was desperate for a job in the aviation industry “submitted their job application as a paper plane - and it wasn’t standard A4, it was huge!”
“You can imagine the reaction of the airlines - whilst entertaining, it lacked a little professionalism”, she says. “It was very funny and got attention, but it didn’t help their cause.”
Gorton believes the trend for novelty job applications has died off as more people switched from posting their applications to submitting online. Even then, she still finds odd ones.
These are the applications where people can go….well, a little off course from their mission and dissolve into bizarre commentary or rants. Sometimes it can be entertaining but, as Gorton notes, “it’s something that would dismiss someone from getting a job interview pretty quickly in the business world”.
Brittney Preston from Parker Bridge finds a lot of humour in the job applications sent online. “The funny ones we receive are related to their interests section of their CV”, she says.
What do people list as their interests on their CV? Preston has seen “relations with my partner”, “drinking professionally” and a shout out to hookup and dating app “Tinder”. But the best, according to Preston, was someone who listed “spending time with my two babies - which were two dogs - followed by an entire paragraph about their dogs”.
“With social media, people are really more accepting about putting themselves out there”, like the few job applications Preston received which went into detail “about their love life and why they’re single.”
“Sometimes we get photos”, Preston shares. “We get a lot of selfies, which are always funny. Lots of duck faces and people at parties, one dressed as Where’s Wally. One girl made a collage of photos; one was her at a dress up party, one was serious, among others. I think it was meant to show her life...but these are for accountancy roles!”
As Preston says, “there are just certain things you don’t put on there” but for the most part remains sympathetic. “I think some people are getting very creative with their CVs….and I think people get their wires crossed about what is acceptable”
Her advice to job applicants looking to make a mark? “A CV is quite a neutral document.”
So maybe focus on your skills for the job, rather than your skills for making paper aeroplanes.
“We get a lot of selfies, which are always funny. Lots of duck faces and people at parties, one dressed as Where’s Wally. One girl made a collage of photos; one was her at a dress up party, one was serious, among others. I think it was meant to show her life...but these are for accountancy roles!”