in Career Search

Job Search 101: Incorporate the Real You

The following is a guest post by the super-awesome, old-school Nickelodeon-loving Jessica Malnik. Jessica is a Gen Y blogger, social media enthusiast, and all around great person to know. For Jessica’s social media, technology and workplace ramblings, swing by her blog here.

It’s amazing how much we learn about ourselves in times of extreme uncertainty.

Looking back, I learned more about myself in the four and half months of my grueling job search than I have in 10 years. There’s something about writing countless cover letters, remaking dozens of resumes and the stream of rejection emails that really got me thinking.

So, after three months of applying to dozens of jobs and getting no solid leads, I started doing some serious soul searching. I realized I needed to change up my strategy in the job hunt.

I was so worried about confirming to the “traditional” job search approach that I was losing what made me UNIQUE.

Define what makes you…you

I wrote down a list with all of my best qualities. Then, ran it by some friends and family. I chose three items from the list to incorporate in ALL FACETS OF my “revamped” job search approach. Those three qualities were: I’m creative, a good writer and outgoing.

I took my job search to the next level by writing two creative, out-of-the-box cover letters. I broke pretty much every rule in the book, and just made a couple of cover letters that represented the real me.  I wrote two non-traditional cover letters: one was a rap song and and another incorporated my quirky personality and sense of humor.

It turned out to be the turning point in my job hunt. I got more calls to set up interviews in the month after sending those non-traditional cover letters than I had in the entire three months of my job search. One of those calls turned out to be the company that I now am working for TODAY.

While the “rap song” cover letter was by no means the reason I got the job, it did catch their attention and provided me the opportunity to “sell myself” during the initial phone and then in-person interview.

The point I’m trying to make is: Sometimes you just have to go against the norms to stand out and get noticed.

Matt’s Take:

I wrote about a similar idea recently after reading an article in Inc. Magazine about the hiring process of Chicago-based 37Signals. In short, if you’re not doing something above and beyond, and if you’re not, as Jessica put so well, ‘breaking a few rules’, then you’re not going to get noticed. The job market is still complete shit out there – but there ARE opportunities. If you’re ‘that guy’ who’s scouring Craigslist, sending resumes to every company out there, and starting your cover letter with “Dear Sir/Madam” – you’re going to either A) stay unemployed or B) end up working a job you hate. Both scenarios suck.

Do you think a traditional approach is holding you back in your job search? What creative ways have you used to land a gig?

Add Your Voice



  1. The issue with the traditional approach is they're all one in the same. The first thing majority of people creating cover letters and resumes do is head over to Google. So each resume uses the same descriptive adjectives laid out the same way. The only thing that is different is the name and previous work experience.

    This statement pretty much sums it up: “I broke pretty much every rule in the book”. You need to create your own rules within your own game. When you do this you automatically stand out, either for better or for worse. The point is you've become unique and easily distinguishable. You’ve got them wanting more.

    I think people need to be reminded, especially in such a tight job market, that the traditional resume won't get them anywhere. When companies ask for a cover letter and resume, to me, that's just a suggestion because of habit. Go ahead and send them a video, write a song, mail them a brochure, just do something that will make you stand out enough for them to want to know more about you. Sell yourself as a product and create a brand for YOU.

    Congrats on your new gig!


  2. Having gone through the 8 month job search from hell, I can totally relate to this. I think that if you are trying to fit the mold then you are going to search for a long AS#$ time. One strange thing that actually caught the attention of my current boss was that I wrote a blog post about quitting a job I hated in two weeks. It seems like putting that out into the world might make you unemployable, yet it was the very thing that got me hired.

    To add some more perspective to this, I was having dinner last night with a classmate who's an HR business partner at Disney. We asked her how many resumes they receive for each position and the answer: 1000's. Give some thought to that. If people are getting 1000s of resumes for one position then you really need to stand out. So Jessica, you definitely hit the nail on the head with this.

  3. What a creative and hilarious idea of the “rap song” as a cover letter!! If I was a recruiter (I was, in a previous corporate job) now, I would definitely be intrigued to find out more. It certainly stands out amongst all the hum-drum boring old cut-and-paste-and-just-change-the-company-name cover letters we come across.

    Why follow everyone else when being YOU obviously works a whole lot better? Congratulations on landing the job you're in today because you decided to not be like anyone else. :)

  4. It's not just the current job market that's shit. It's the inefficient and ineffective system that is also shit. Did you have a chance to check out a webinar with the 37signals founder today by any chance?

  5. Thanks, Nina! The risk of a non-traditional job search approach definitely paid off for me. To clarify, the resume and cover letter were by no means the reason why I got the job, but it definitely helped start a conversation and catch a bunch of recruiters' eyes. Plus, I found it was a lot easy to include “me” in a letter than it was to rewrite a bunch of traditional letters.

  6. Thanks! One of the things that led me to revamp my approach was the same thing that you heard. I was also surprised to hear how common it is for recruiters to get well over 150 resumes for just one position. And, big name companies like Disney, CNN, etc, get 1500 plus resumes for each opening. The chances of you're resume even getting read by an actual person is so slim.

  7. Well said, Eric! I admit it took me awhile to take the risk but it was definitely worth it. Just like you said, it makes you unique. And, it helps to make your personal brand more distinguishable. Lastly, thanks for the well wishes!

  8. I definitely agree with Eric; however, I think there are some companies that are extremely traditional in their recruiting approach and actually prefer the standard cookie-cutter approach. At the end of the day, it really depends on the company culture that you are looking to get into. Overall, though, I think this post is dead-on because even in the traditional companies, they want to see some personality in candidates during the interview.

    I would go further to suggest that candidates shouldn't stop at creating an out-of-the-box resume/cover letter. Take your brand with you to the interview and wow them off their seats. My post on the 4 Tips for Recession-proofing Your Job Search actually reads like a sequel to this post. lol

  9. Hey Jess (and Matt, of course!),

    Even though I've never had a REAL job ('sides retail work), this will come in handy in the future – though it won't even be for a “job”, really. College admissions for yours truly come around in a few months, and, as a serious candidate to the most selective unis in the country, it's going to be tough to stand out from the rest of the pack. Really, the only thing that I can control at this point are my essays, and I'll be sure to write creative, off-the-wall, somewhat flippant ones to really show all sides of my personality. I've got a few tricks up my sleeve, and, to tell the truth, I can't wait to fill out my apps, since they'll be FUN, not arduous.

    This brings me to another point: in most situations, if you're not having fun, you're not trying hard enough. A little creativity and willingness to do the absurd goes a long, long way.

  10. Hey, I think the old adage 'can't see the woods for the trees' applies here in my case. You're post is exactly where I am and I just didn't realise it. I've found myself looking up 'how to write the perfect cover letter' even and have forgot what makes me, well me.

    In fact, this blog inspired me to start blogging myself ( and I'm finding it quite cathartic – that and I keep getting told I'm not digital enough! So, between my new hobby of blogging and taking on board these comments I'm hoping I can turn around my job search. The employment market is sh!t in the UK too!

  11. I think this post points out something I’ve believed for a while, that real leadership takes daring. You have to take risks to be desirable. By risking alienating some people we make ourselves appealing to like-minded souls.

  12. About being creative in your resume or cover letter, I am completely against using templates, especially from microsoft word…No matter which template you pick the employer I'm sure has seen it more than once before…but I also want to add that you need to know what kind of employer it is…traditional, gen y…that will tell you a lot about how creative you can be! and finally if anyone is looking for job offers I recommend trying out but as a tool in your job search! I'm not into all this sending out 500 resumes kind of stuff ;)

  13. Another Important thing is that when you know there are 1000+ resumes per position is to SEO your resume and cover letter. If you know that the job you are applying for is going to require Excel or some other type of software, you better put it on there. Otherwise the software that HR people use might filter you out.