The next time you send out a resume, you may want to consider sending it along with a bunch of bananas. “Someone once sent me a box of bananas — teeny tiny bananas; I’ve never seen bananas this small — with a note that said ‘If you hire me, your sales will go bananas,’” says Abby Kohut, a former recruiter and current job seeking coach. It worked. So is a stunt like that worth a shot?
Kohut admits that a good portion of the hiring managers will hate your pun and throw your resume (if not the bananas) in the circular file. But among the other half, the ones who appreciate creativity, you will make a big impression. Loved or hated, at least you won’t be the worst thing of all: ignored.
Kohut will give a free talk about thinking outside the box on Friday, August 28, at 10 a.m. to the Job Seekers group at the Princeton Public Library. For more information, visit www.princetonlibrary.org or www.absolutelyabby.com. “I’m going to focus on ways to think outside the box. Ways to do things differently than every other job seeker who’s looking for a job,” she says.
Kohut grew up in Brooklyn where her father was a production manager for a handbag manufacturer, and her mother had a variety of jobs including bank teller. She majored in psychology at Rochester University and entered the workforce in sales for a computer company. Within five years, however, she discovered she liked recruiting better than selling, and after that her career focused on recruiting for IT companies nationwide. Kohut worked as a recruiter for Cheyenne Software and educational company Kaplan Inc. As a consultant, she managed recruiting projects for Alpharmal, the Economist Intelligence Unit, Economist Magazine, and CFO Magazine. Her last job in recruiting was for Beth Israel Medical Center and St. Luke’s — Roosevelt Hospital, where she managed a large recruiting team.
Eventually Kohut wanted to be on the other side of job searching. “When I interviewed people, they would make these teeny tiny little mistakes, and I wanted to get out into the world and teach them these little things to help them get jobs,” she says. “When I was a recruiter, I wanted to tell the people why they weren’t getting jobs, but you can’t do that.” She has been a career coach since 2010.
Kohut says she has seen people blow job interviews with entirely avoidable mistakes.
“One person came into my office and plugged his cell phone into my wall. Another asked me to marry him.” He was serious, Kohut explains. “At the end of the interview, I said, ‘Do you have any questions?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, well, everything is going really well in my life right now. I have only one question: will you marry me?’” Kohut asked him to clarify what he meant. “He said, ‘You have a really great voice. I’m just wondering if you’re single.’”
(Kohut is not, in fact, single. She lives with her husband in Jackson.)
Another candidate committed a fatal error by chewing gum during the interview.
Kohut, who is currently on a speaking tour of New Jersey, says there are ways of getting attention without being inconsiderate. She recommends going around recruiters and reaching out to hiring managers directly. “You’re going to use Linkedin to figure out who the hiring manager is, and reach out to them, or ask someone you know to refer you to them,” she says. “There are other ways that are even more creative.”
For candidates with a budget, it’s possible to place ads on Facebook that target employees of a particular company. One famous example of this tactic was an engineer who bought an ad targeting Microsoft employees and received 40 responses from within the company.
Kohut says these creative tactics can work in any industry, even notoriously buttoned-down ones. One time Kohut helped a jobseeker in the financial services field land a job by pulling off a stunt. He sent a manager an egg timer along with his resume and a note that said “If you give me this much time, I’ll prove to you I’ll be the best financial analyst you’ve ever had.” He got the interview, and the job. “You would think these things wouldn’t work in the financial services industry, which is very conservative, but it depends not so much on the industry but on the hiring manager.”
Kohut recommends making a creative pitch that will help you stand out — like a gimmicky application or pitch — but to be entirely professional in the interview. Bananas yes; marriage proposals no.