It’s In The Bag!
After being victim of a layoff back in 1990, I spent six-months looking for a job. Even back then, I felt I had strong credentials, yet in a job market not unlike today where HR types were screening hundreds of resumes for every job opening; getting an actual interview was next to impossible. As I saw it at the time, there were only two ways to get noticed: 1) Have a senior level contact recommend you to a friend at the desired company; or, 2) Send them a package that would differentiate you from the other applicants, who likely sent typical resumes on 8 1/2″ x 11″ gray or ivory linen paper.
I found the ideal job opening over 1,000 miles away for a PR subsidiary at an ad agency whose largest client was a national supermarket chain. Since I had a good deal of supermarket and retail PR experience, I thought I could be a good fit. That said, I didn’t know anyone at the agency, and I was skeptical that they would relocate someone from New England to Florida. So I had to figure out a way to distinguish myself from the hundreds of others applying for the position.
I decided to print my cover letter on the outside of a grocery bag and include my resume, along with bylined articles, speeches, etc. as the product, if you will, inside the bag. As the story was told to me months later, they passed the bag around to nearly everyone at the agency. Seems once everyone got a look at the bag, the product inside, and reached their conclusions about the method I used to get noticed, they flew me down for an interview and within two weeks, I had the job. I learned that “Leo Bottary” wasn’t particularly easy to remember, but people did remember “that guy who sent us the grocery bag.”
Now you may not regard what I did as particularly creative, but it WAS effective. Largely because I put something in their hands that was not only different, but also spoke specifically to them and their business. What’s more, it demonstrated how I might approach getting our clients noticed in a world of sameness. I tell this story to encourage job applicants to think twice before they just e-mail their resume or send a letter in an ivory linen envelope that essentially looks as if it could have been meant for any one of 50 organizations. We have resources today (that I didn’t have 20 years ago) to learn about a company and the individuals in it. Speak specifically to them, and they may actually answer and want to meet you.
For employers out there, take notice of the candidate who didn’t have a contact holding the side-door open for them, but who took the time to learn about you and your company, and who crafted a personal presentation that spoke as effectively to your needs as it did to their assets. That’s someone you should pay attention to. If you’re lucky enough to bag one of those candidates, you’ll be the big winner.