Helium, Sugar & Shoes: Tricks of Gonzo Job Seekers

Clichés' just aren't cutting it in today's job market. The currently unemployed need more than the old saw, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson said it better: "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."

Few know this better than Anne Rix. Rix is the human resources director at OneUpWeb, a digital marketing agency in Traverse City. She observed that the level of creativity in the job applications she receives is in direct proportion to the available jobs in the market. When the latter goes down, the former goes up. Way up.

"I received a shoe box in the mail, and when I opened it up there was one bright orange high-heeled shoe inside it and a resume. The cover letter said, 'Just trying to get my foot in the door.' I thought it was pretty creative," says Rix.

When OneUpWeb called the applicant in for an interview, she brought along the other shoe. Rix says that ultimately the shoe-bearer didn't get hired, but it wasn't because she was too creative.

"We are just bombarded with resumes, and so is everyone else," says Rix. "People are trying everything just to get their face in front of the HR people. Because so many of our positions require creativity, I'm really drawn to that kind of thinking. In some big corporations that might be a turn off, but not here."

Rix remembers another applicant who sent CEO Lisa Wehr an appliance-sized box filled with helium balloons that rose up in the air when the box was opened, an homage to the OneUp image. Everyone liked it, though that person didn't get hired, either.

For three decades, bookseller Amy Reynolds has been hiring people to work at her three Horizon bookstores in Cadillac, Petoskey and Traverse City, and she says she appreciates a creative applicant as much as the next person. Once a new applicant brought in homemade sugar cookies along with his resume. They were decorated with book covers, and Reynolds says she couldn't help but smile. "Yummy and sweet," she says of the cookies. "Alas, we had no openings at the time."

Shoes, balloons and sugar cookies all may inspire a smile, but it is possible to go too far with the gonzo attitude, say those who do the hiring.

Liz Sayre-King of Professional Solutions Plus just spent six weeks trying to fill an executive position for a client company. She asked applicants to fax, not email, all relevant materials. One man not only emailed Sayre-King, but also found the client's business email address, the client's wife's personal email address, and sent multiple notes hinting at a previous personal friendship.

"Needless to say, that guy didn't even get an interview," she says. Rix recalls an applicant who brought a two-liter of Mt. Dew with him to an interview at OneUpWeb. He consumed the entire bottle during the interview in an effort to prove he'd work long hours. That stunt wasn't funny or creative, says Rix-just annoying.

Rix, Sayre-King and Reynolds all say they appreciate sincere creativity in job seekers, and that it does attract their attention, but that a gimmick alone-no matter how clever or delicious-would not seal a job offer. Factors like open positions, and the applicant's experience and talent, play major roles.

And, while Rix's mail might be overflowing with gonzo job seekers, there's still at least one thing she's waiting to see-or rather, hear: "I have yet to have someone sing their resume to me." BN