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Staffing Management: 'Allergic' to Unemployment?

Kathy Gurchiek  1/10/2007
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Vol. 3, No. 4

An entire cover letter delivered as a rap song? That's how one applicant tried to snare attention. Another brought his mother along to the interview and let her do all the talking. Someone else claimed he should be hired because he was "allergic to unemployment." In the search for new talent, interviewing applicants can be far from boring, according to 150 senior executives with some of the nation's 1,000 largest companies.

The executives, who included HR, finance and marketing professionals, were asked in a 2007 summer survey for Accountemps about the wackiest or most unusual job pitch they ever heard. Among job seekers who sprang to mind:

  • The candidate who said he would be a great addition to the company softball team.
  • The candidate who said he already had applied three times and thought it was now his turn to get the job.
  • The candidate who said she wanted the position because she wanted to get away from dealing with people.
  • The candidate who noted the nice benefits package, which he said "was good because he was going to need to take a lot of leave in the next year."
  • The candidate who drafted a press release announcing that the organization had already hired him.
  • The candidate who delivered his resume in a 10-gallon hat to a company that had moved to Texas.
  • The candidate who handed over his resume in a brown paper lunch bag.
  • The candidate who said he had no relevant experience for the position he was interviewing for, but his friend did.
  • The candidate who sang all her answers to interview questions.

Laura McDermott, of ACI Specialty Benefits Corp. in San Diego, still remembers a candidate's presentation at McDermott's previous employer. "We interviewed for an in-house graphic designer, and, as a follow-up to the interview, this woman delivered a gigantic multicolored Trojan horse piñata on wheels that opened up to reveal a plethora of design samples," she said in an e-mail to SHRM Online.

Ann Clark, CEO of ACI Specialty Benefits, once received a resume from a "very smart and well qualified" young woman who attached a photo of herself. In it, the candidate wore a onepiece bathing suit in an American flag design, an "Uncle Sam" hat and pointed her finger in the classic pose. Beneath the photo was the caption, "You want ME!" Neither woman was hired, McDermott said, because "other candidates were just better."

Sometimes the creative approach does work, though. "One applicant sent a cover letter that was in code that you put a cardboard template over, which was cut out to reveal the words that said something like, ‘I'm the person who can see what others can't,' " said Marc Silbert, recalling an applicant's submission to the New York City offices of Robert Half/Accountemps. It went to a forensic accounting firm, he told SHRM Online in an e-mail. "It was years ago," said Silbert, who today serves as director of corporate communication for, "but as [I] recall, he got the job."

Frank Merritt, CEO of Atlanta-based Talent Quest, recalled an executive who received a beautiful basket of Florida oranges from a job candidate. The attached card read, "Orange-ya going to talk to me about employment in your sales department?" The pun might be terrible, but the company president liked the creativity and persistence the applicant exhibited and personally granted the man a job interview.

The interview had an appealing outcome-- the job of sales manager, two levels below the president.

Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor for HR News.


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