Carpet design

Where do they intersect and diverge

According to research by job search website just hired, hiring managers receive an average of 34 applications per job posting, but they spend time actually considering only an average of 12.6% of them, or less than a third. Some candidates may feel the need to go above and beyond the average application and do something unusual or unexpected to get the hiring manager’s attention.

Simply Hired conducted a survey to find out if “non-traditional” strategies for standing out are worth the risk, or if it makes sense to stick with a traditional resume and cover letter. They surveyed more than 500 hiring managers and more than 500 job seekers to find out what kind of original approaches candidates are willing to take, and which ones pay off and which ones don’t.

Most notably, the survey found that over 63% of hiring managers find eye-catching gimmicks completely unacceptable, with just 20.2% saying they were acceptable. Hiring managers were also given a list of unusual strategies to rank from most acceptable to least acceptable. Unsurprisingly, the least acceptable strategy was to offer to sleep with the hiring manager – which should really be a given.

Interestingly, hiring managers also didn’t like candidates constantly emailing their resumes until they got a response. A follow-up email or two after your initial application isn’t such a bad idea, but if you don’t get a response after that, continuing to pester the hiring manager won’t help.

While sending baked goods to the office was considered a somewhat acceptable strategy, sending those same cookies to the manager’s home address was a big no-no. Desserts can sweeten your candidacy, but not if you’re crossing a professional boundary by bringing them to someone’s house – it’s just scary.

Another tactic that hiring managers received quite positively was “to endure extreme weather conditions to hand-deliver a CV” – but waiting for bad weather to apply for a job doesn’t seem very effective. However, hiring managers responded well to candidates who went out of their way to demonstrate a skill, such as creating a mock product or presentation or conducting their interview in a second language. A librarian interviewed said she landed her job by turning her CV into a book and creating QR codes with links to her portfolio, while a woman applying to work at the hotel jumped up behind the counter and began to register customers.

It’s worth noting that even though most recruiters aren’t interested in your gadgets and games, of the 12.9% of candidates who said they risked an unusual strategy, 67.7% of them actually got the job.

Still, it’s probably safer to stick to protocol and not try acting. So what can you actually do to improve your chances of landing the job?

Candidates interviewed tended to spend most of their time on their resumes, but according to hiring managers, the interview and cover letter are “the best ways to stand out from the crowd.” Sure, brush up on your resume, but be sure to spend equal time writing a solid cover letter and practicing potential interview questions.

In the survey, candidates also tended to overestimate the importance of knowing the people in the company and having a “one-size-fits-all” cover letter and interview questions; meanwhile, they underestimated the importance of asking smart questions during the interview and personality. In fact, hiring managers said personality was the most influential factor in their hiring decisions.

It seems like the best way to stand out in a job interview is to wow them with your personality and ace the interview. Weird outfits, stunts, and baked goods will only get you so far – and in fact, can backfire.