A new trend is to stand out from the crowd with personalized resumes. I see everything from video recitals of your qualifications to business cards that will put your children's fanciest art projects to shame. Before you invest time and money, consider that many of these creative gimmicks may help and hurt your chances.
The Video Resume
A fancy production helped the character Elle Woods get into Harvard in the movie "Legally Blonde," but the same luck isn't likely for most of the rest of us. There are 4,000 video resumes on YouTube, and several new job search sites host thousands more. Some video resumes are very professional; others are rough around the edges, and some use humor to grab attention.
Yet when I talked to about twenty of these video resume makers, I learned that none had received job offers. Beyond that, many employers forbid their managers from viewing them, since there's a risk of basing a decision on appearance and theatrics, more so than qualifications.
This case of first impressions just came up with entrepreneur Sean Combs, also know as P. Diddy. He put out an ad for an assistant on YouTube, and within days, received more than 10,000 entries. He had to issue an update after the first enormous batch of video resumes he received. He indicated that applicants must be able to read, write, count and have some sort of skill. In other words, theatrics and bling, alone, wouldn't suffice.
The bottom line is that video resumes are a novelty whose time has not yet come in the recruitment process. If you're job searching now, creating a video resume that targets a broad audience is not worth your time.
Employment Recruitment Videos
These are great. They allow you to learn more about a company and its culture and needs before applying. The more you know about a company, the better equipped you are in determining if it's the right place for you. You can find such videos on company Web sites or even on sites like YouTube. Home Depot's Web site features such videos, and the company's hiring managers say that applicants walk in the door more knowledgeable about the positions they're seeking due to the "real world" depicted in these videos.
Using video conferencing technology, distance need not be a barrier to interviewing for a new job. This is true for college campuses and for professionals. An employer in California can interview students on a New York college campus without ever leaving his or her headquarters.
For professionals, by the time a company has agreed to interview you by video, which is often done by sending an applicant to their local Kinkos or other such outlet for a video hookup, they've made a determination that you have the skills or experience they're looking for. That's a position of strength as you enter the interview process.
I'm asked about photo resumes by a lot of older workers, who are afraid that their extensive work history will read as "old" or "out of date" to employers who may be younger than they are. They think that a picture portraying them as young and vital will counteract that idea.
Instead, many recruiters I've talked to admitted that they perceive the use of photos as too egotistical or focused on the wrong things. A few even said to me, "Oh, that beauty queen is awfully full of herself with that photo." Is that fair? Probably not, but unless you're going for a job where you're being judged on your looks, make your qualifications the center of attraction.
Nontraditional Business Cards
Size does matter. Over- and undersized cards are inconvenient for the receiver. They don't fit anywhere easily, so they are the first to get thrown away or lost. That defeats the whole purpose of trying to stand out and be remembered.
Using colors and graphics to make your card stand out is a great idea. If you want to use a photo, this is the place to do it. Staples stores have a brand new service where you can customize business cards in just 30 minutes, so there's no excuse not to have cards handy when networking.
Gifts and Gimmicks
When looking for a new position, we all want to stand out and get noticed, but in the right way. A recruiter told me he received a shoe box with one shoe along with a note that said, "Please let me get my foot in the door." It was pretty clever, but it was for an accounting position, so they weren't all that impressed because the candidate's credentials weren't so hot. Had it been for a PR or marketing job, it might've been a different result.
However, there's a great success story that's now part of "GMA" lore.
An internship was winding down around the time of the holidays. So, Anthony Underwood needed a way to extend his stay. He ingeniously had his resume printed on napkins during a potluck party, and the bigwigs were so impressed with his creativity or perhaps it was his homemade white chocolate bread pudding that they hired him full time.
Bottom line: Know your audience, but don't assume a gimmick can compensate for true talent.
Pay attention to the types of e-mails and opportunities you reply to. Hackers and scammers exist, and they do everything to wreck havoc on the Internet. When applying for jobs through the big boards, never provide your social security number, credit card or bank account information. Until you've been hired, and it's for the purposes of direct depositing your paycheck, no employer or prospective employer should have your banking information.