Filling out job applications can often feel robotic. You share the same personal and contact details time and time again. You list the same experiences and skills — though maybe you tweak and tailor them for specific jobs. You explain over and over again why you're the best candidate.
But what if you decided that you've had enough with the same old? Switching up your job application may do you some good! A unique job application can catch the eyes of recruiters and hiring managers.
Of course, straying too far from the norm may do you more harm than good, too. There's a balance between being professional and being unconventional — and you have to find it. To help you, we asked hiring managers about the most memorable non-traditional job applications they've ever received — for better or worse. Here's what they had to say.
1. The candidate sent their resume as a text — and it didn't go over well.
"This was in our initial days and we were hiring for an intern in the Digital Marketing function. I asked for some references in my network," says Saurabh Jindal, founder of Talk Travel. "As such, I also gave my personal contact number, in case somebody personally wants to speak to me and get more information on the role. I got a few queries, which I answered, and asked the applicants to send in their CVs over email. One applicant sent me his CV on WhatsApp — not an attachment, but in text format. His complete CV... as a text message on WhatsApp. Not only was it badly formatted, but it was also unreadable, as the various things in his CV got messed up in the message. For sure, we did not move forward with the person who sent it, but this was the worst way a job applicant had approached us!"
"We did not move forward."
2. The candidate included a flyer promoting their unconventional side hustle.
"The most memorable non-traditional job application was just two years ago for a salesman's position in Washington DC," says Joel Poznansky, president of Wicked Uncle Gifts. "I thought something had gotten mixed up as, along with the cover letter and a relatively standard salesman's resume was a flyer for 'Rabbi Jonah, the Party Experience' (name changed but you get the idea). The flyer seemed both serious and not. For a reasonable cost, an apparently drunk Chasidic rabbi would stumble into your event pretending he thought it was a wedding he had been invited to, grab a bottle of wine and proceed to entertain the guests with Bottle Dancing a la Fiddler on the Roof. I thought maybe it was a stunt to get an interview. And it worked — the candidate was called in. But actually, it was a serious attempt to get the job. The candidate disclosed this was his part-time business — but only on the weekends — and demonstrated his salesmanship. If an otherwise perfectly normal salesman could convince party guests that he was a drunken rabbi, what could he not sell?"
"I thought maybe it was a stunt to get an interview. And it worked — the candidate was called in."
3. The candidate got artistic with her resume.
"The most memorable applicant I ever encountered, came to the interview with her resume on a canvas in which she had drawn her designs in the background — not only did we see a unique presentation of her resume, but we had a visual of her creations right there with her resume," says Theresa Santoro, director of human resources and operations at Actualize Consulting. "It was brilliant, and we hired her on the spot!"
"We hired her on the spot!"
4. The candidate sent their resume inside a pot of... shamrocks?
"The wildest application.. was on a St. Patrick’s Day. I still shiver at the thought of this," says Damian Birkel of Professionals in Transition. "Judie wanted the job so badly that she went out and bought a big pot of shamrocks, a card and and a Happy St. Patrick’s Day balloon. Judie then proceeded to print her resume along with her application on green paper. (This was after she applied online.) On the card she wrote, 'Top of the morning. Hire Judie Smith... That’s not Blarney.' She punched a small hole in the envelope that held her resume and application, and did the same for the card. Then she laced them through the ribbon that came with the balloon and then tied the ribbon to a holder in the pot of shamrocks. Judie then delivered the entire package to the security guard at the entrance of the building where the human relations manager worked. Then she waited, and waited, and waited. Even with follow-up calls, Judie never heard another word from the HR manager. Bottom line: When you carry your application process to an extreme, you not only come across as needy, but a little nutty too!"
"I still shiver at the thought of this."
5. The candidate plunged ahead, despite their lack of experience.
"I loved the application we got from a candidate who wasn't very experienced but was eager to learn new things," says Luka Arezina from Dataprot.net. "At the time, we didn't have any openings at our company, so it was a blind guess and bold try. I loved the fact that the candidate researched our company and wrote all the things he likes about it, as well as how he would use his knowledge to streamline our processes. He even went that far to imagine an example of a problem we might have (which was very real at the moment) and offered his point of view on how to resolve it. We reached out to him, and we're proud to say he's now our best-performing employee for two years in a row!"
"He's now our best-performing employee for two years in a row!"
6. The candidate rated themselves.
"One of the most unique job applications I’ve ever received was from an individual who decided to just rate himself out of 10 on all his abilities," says Sam, the marketing manager at PPC Protect. "The CV started off with a quick introduction and a picture of himself (always a red flag!) then a list of skills and abilities which he had marked himself in. Since he was applying for a marketing role, he had listed various forms of marketing such as digital and online marketing (even though they are basically the same!). But the more interesting thing was that he had given himself a 9/10 for digital marketing but a 7/10 for online marketing! His other abilities and skills included PPC, “teamworkship," and “solo ability.” And in case you were wondering, he never gave himself a 10 for any skill or ability! Maybe he was just trying to stay humble and not act too confident? Overall, it was definitely a unique application, and I still remember it to this day — but not for any good reasons."
"I still remember it to this day — but not for any good reasons."
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.