Pie-Eating Contest Winner, Psychic Ability: Job Seekers Tout Kooky Accomplishments

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek November 19, 2019
Pie-Eating Contest Winner, Psychic Ability: Job Seekers Tout Kooky Accomplishments

Like the character Lily on "How I Met Your Mother," who proudly listed her victory in a hotdog speed-eating contest on her resume, candidates eager to make themselves memorable sometimes share the darnedest talents.

Winning a 2017 LaCroix apple pie-eating contest, wielding the mic as an amateur stand-up comedian and being a five-time flash-mob participant were all on resumes that have crossed the desk of Patrick Algrim, founder of Algrim Co., a career-advice website.

All were applying for management positions—and they got the job.

"To me, putting these more unique talents into the resume can make you appear sociable—which is a great ice breaker when you interview," he said. "And it can compel HR team members to want to bring you in to interview because you sound fun." 

Those random talents, he said, "pertain to describing that person's individuality, which is great. Most times, they provide a laugh!" 

Listing unusual talents might be an effort to showcase an applicable skill, like the applicant who detailed his formidable winnings in online poker. He was looking for a job in quantitative finance.

That was the oddest accomplishment Ann Guo saw when she managed recruitment for positions in that field.

"The companies I worked with placed a high premium on an employee's ability to make quantitative decisions. Since poker is such a nuanced, probabilistic game, someone who's had success as a professional poker player is a plus," Guo said. "I've hired a number of people who had a strong poker background, coupled with a strong analytics background, and detailed their poker achievements on their resumes."

That information can land the candidate an interview if the person also can show an aptitude for math and analytics in general. Companies such as SIG Susquehanna, a global quantitative trading firm headquartered in Philadelphia, use poker in their employee training.

"In quantitative finance—algorithmic trading in particular—if the candidate has any serious poker chops, they'd do well to mention it on their resumes," Guo said. "But then, they'd better be able to back it up during an interview, because [hiring managers] will for sure expect some sophisticated poker hand analysis during the interview."

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Screening and Evaluating Candidates

Dylan Rauch, talent associate at Fit Small Business in the Greater New York City area,
once read a resume that included "psychic" and "mind reader" under the applicant's list of qualifications.

"As part of the job application process, we ask candidates to submit a response to the usual question 'Why do you think you would be a good fit for this role?' The candidate responded to that by saying, 'My mind-reading and psychic abilities give me an advantage because I can predict what other people want and need.' "

The crystal ball must have been dark that day. The applicant, who had no experience in the public relations position she was applying for, or in any related field, didn't land an interview, Rauch said.

An eyebrow-raiser at another company was the applicant interested in a marketing position as account-manager associate. Among accomplishments he touted was his job as "head of rolling" for a touring rock band. He wasn't referring to the "roll" in rock and roll, but the act of rolling spliffs—a hybrid of cannabis and tobacco.

"I think the idea was to illustrate [the applicant's] good-with-people trait and willingness to commit by going on a tour," said Darko Jacimovic. He is co-founder of whattobecome, an e-learning provider in Prague, the Czech Republic. "It was hilarious."

Then there was the man with a science background who listed helping deliver a baby as among his accomplishments.

"Although that is quite the feat, I don't know that it is something that would make sense to put on a resume unless you are a midwife or an obstetrician," said Meggie Gulczynski, talent specialist and account manager at Avenica. The Phoenix-based recruiting firm specializes in placing new college graduates in jobs.

Sometimes a so-called talent makes the hiring manager want to run for the hills—like the candidate who claimed she was "proficient in voodoo curses."

"I was like 'I've seen enough,' said Adam Gasper, SHRM-CP, human resources consultant in New Port Richey, Fla. The candidate did not advance from the phone screening to the next round of interviews. Gasper said he sometimes wonders if the occasional crick in his neck or headache is retribution from the spurned applicant wielding her voodoo doll.

Applicants sometimes have a hard time letting go of past glories, according to a recent SHRM Connect discussion, such as the woman who had a master's degree in social work but also cited on her resume her stint as homecoming queen. Or the candidate who touted winning an elementary school spelling bee.

It's a little different for people new to the workforce, who draw on their extracurricular activities to distinguish themselves, like the young woman who listed "head cheerleader" among her experience. Similar activities also may illustrate community service or public-speaking and project-management skills, one anonymous poster pointed out in a SHRM Connect discussion.

"When graduates are applying to positions and creating a resume, I understand it can be difficult to find content without much experience," said Theresa Santoro, director of operations and HR at Actualize Consulting in Washington, D.C.

"I appreciated that she listed this role of 'head cheerleader' as it showed she had leadership capabilities. Unfortunately, our position was not a fit for her."

Ian Clark, head of Americas and sales for IT staffing firm Frank Recruitment Group in Philadelphia, recalled the personal achievements a new college graduate detailed.

"Trainee recruitment consultants tend to be college graduates, so we don't expect them to have a resume brimming with experience and professional achievements. Despite this, this particular applicant decided his age wasn't going to stop him from filling the [application] page with what he deemed to be his most significant accomplishments," Clark said.

"To demonstrate his strength, he mentioned winning a bronze medal in an eighth-grade swimming gala. To show determination, he claimed to have spent the previous summer reaching the highest level of the latest Call of Duty game. And finally, to show he can 'go beyond,' he indicated he often carries his team to victory in his weekly paintball game.

"Luckily for him, he didn't need that much experience for the position, as we provide an extensive training course for new recruitment specialists. Three years on, he's demonstrated on countless occasions his strength, determination and ability to 'go beyond' as one of my team's leading recruitment experts." 

Mary Krause, a social media specialist for Tucker, Ga.-based Crossroads Hospice, thinks listing her Guinness World Record was a factor in landing a job.

She helped set a record for "Fastest Tour by a Solo Performer": 50 shows in 50 states in 50 days. She planned the tour route, booked the shows, handled public relations and rebooked new venues when problems arose, such as a blackout that left most of the East Coast, Midwest and parts of Canada without power one night.

"When people see this on my resume, they either think it's interesting and want to chat with me about it, or they quickly determine that I am likely the type who will color outside the lines. That's exactly why I include it. My resume is designed to get me into a job that will be a good fit for me and my employer."



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