5 Tips for Unconventional Job Development

By: Dave Roos

If you want a job, think outside the box and go after the company of your dreams.
If you want a job, think outside the box and go after the company of your dreams.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News

When the job market gets tight, job hunters get creative. Experienced applicants know that simply uploading your resume to an online job bank is more like buying a lottery ticket than applying for a job. With so many applicants vying for so few positions, the odds of landing an interview -- let alone a job -- are thousands to one. If you want to get noticed, experts say, you need to go "guerilla."

Guerilla marketing is a term that describes a number of unconventional techniques for selling a product or service. It can include disseminating viral videos on YouTube, plastering bus stops with posters, dropping free product samples from a Goodyear blimp, or anything else that involves thinking outside the box. To grab a hiring manager's attention, many job hunters are engaging in "guerilla self-marketing," departing from the conventional cover-letter-and-resume script to sell their unique skills.


According to a survey by CareerBuilder.com, 22 percent of hiring managers say that more applicants are using unconventional methods to grab their attention in 2010 than the previous year [source: CareerBuilder.com]. Eager job seekers are buying billboard space, running radio ads, writing up spec business plans and posting video resumes [source: Chase].

Not all unconventional job development tactics are created equal. If you think you're desperate enough to pace the sidewalks wearing a sandwich board reading "MIT grad for hire" (yes, it happened), consider the following guerilla self-marketing strategies first.

5. Hunt Companies, Not Jobs

Be proactive in your job search, not reactive. Don't wait for your dream job to fall in your lap. Identify your dream company and convince it to hire you [source: Crimaldi]. If you sit around waiting for an attractive position to open up at a good company, you'll be competing with hundreds of other applicants. But if you get your foot in the door before a position officially opens, they might hire you first and save themselves the trouble.

How do you make contact with hiring managers at these companies? It requires a combination of careful research and shameless cold calling. Start by combing your extended network at professional sites like LinkedIn. Search for the company name and see if any friends of friends or colleagues of colleagues currently work there. Take advantage of even the most tenuous relationship by sending an e-mail, honestly explaining your situation, outlining your skills and asking who would be the best person to contact for a possible job.


Once you have the contact's name and phone number, think about unconventional ways to grab his or her attention. Sending a resume is standard, but it'll probably get filed away in the recycling bin if the person isn't actively hiring.

4. Blog Your Way to a Job

A blogger reports from the 2009 G-20 summit in Pittsburgh, Penn. Many young reporters covered the gathering without being formally employed by news organizations.
A blogger reports from the 2009 G-20 summit in Pittsburgh, Penn. Many young reporters covered the gathering without being formally employed by news organizations.
Jason Andrew/Getty Images

A blog can be an excellent way to establish your brand -- but remember, your goal is to get a job, not become a Web celebrity. Your posts should be professional in both tone and content. The idea is to present yourself as someone who's passionate about what you do and eager to learn more. Link to articles about the latest developments in your field and add your own ideas to the mix. Give examples from your past work experience, but don't advertise your employment status. Feel free to feature a link to your resume, so employers can get a better feel for your style.

A word of warning, though: Everyone isn't born to blog. If you don't like sharing your opinions in an open forum and spending hours each day on the computer searching for relevant links and posting your own thoughtful responses, then blogging probably isn't for you. Blogs should be reserved for strong, engaging writers who have the energy to frequently update their sites [source: Johnston].


If you don't have the time or interest to start your own blog, you can still use blogging tools to make contact with potential employers [source: Hawn]. Start with the official blogs of your favorite companies. If it accepts comments, start responding to relevant posts. Make sure that you register with the site; your posts will include a picture, a name and your contact info. If one of the bloggers takes notice and comments on one of your responses, consider it an invitation to upgrade the relationship. See if his or her name links to an e-mail address and ask for a chat.

3. Become an Expert

If you're unemployed, you have one tremendous advantage over just about everybody in the working world: time. Use it! Instead of spending eight hours a day scouring job sites and sending out resumes, channel that energy elsewhere. Focus on a company where your skills and experience would be a tremendous asset and then prove it.

Kevin Donlin, contributing co-author of "Guerilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0," is a big believer in the power of a well-written and well-researched white paper [source: Donlin]. Don't be intimidated by the fancy name; a white paper is simply a research report about a specific industry. Companies often solicit white papers from research firms to demonstrate a proven market niche for its products or services.


Focus your thoughts and energy on the industry in which you want to work. Read everything you can find about your target companies and their business plans. Expand your research into industry journals, online magazines, blogs and other industry news outlets. Look for a hot topic that affects the future direction of the industry, and then figure out how your target companies would be affected by those changes.

As Donlin suggests, contact the authors of relevant industry journal articles and blog posts and interview them about the topic of interest. Ask what they think "Company X" could do to best position itself in the shifting market. When it's time to write the paper, start with a summary of the hot topic, then highlight the best suggestions made by the industry experts, making sure to give them credit. If you feel confident, add your two cents at the end. You're the "expert," after all.

2. Advertise Yourself

Pasha Stocking of East Hampton, Conn. promotes herself along I-95.
Pasha Stocking of East Hampton, Conn. promotes herself along I-95.
Bob Child/AP Images

If it works for car dealerships, roadside diners and local politicians, it might work for you. At least that's the logic of several unconventional jobseekers who have rented billboard space to sell themselves to potential employers.

An unemployed Dallas woman made the news when she spent $1,200 on a self-promoting billboard. The same goes for Connecticut's Pasha Stocking, who rented a billboard along I-95 reading "Hire me!" with a large headshot and a customized Web site, HirePasha.com [source: Chase]. Crazy? The Dallas woman ended up with two job offers, and Stocking got so much press she started her own public relations firm [source: Johnston].


If you don't have a couple thousand dollars to drop on a billboard, consider online ads. It's easy and inexpensive to create a customized Facebook ad targeted to "fans" of your favorite companies. An informal experiment recently found that simple Facebook ads with a picture generated hundreds of clicks, a handful of contacts and even a few interviews [source: Franzen].

1. Pick Up the Phone

In this age of e-mail, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, it's easy to underestimate the power of a good old-fashioned phone call. True, the odds are 20 to one that you'll end up in voicemail purgatory, but what if that long shot hiring manager actually picks up? Will you be ready to make your pitch?

Recruiter and blogger Amitai Gervitz offers some unconventional advice for job-hunters brave enough to pick up a phone and call complete strangers. If you have your heart set on working for a particular company, go straight to the top. Call the CEO's office and sell your story to his or her assistant [source: Givertz]. Quickly outline your work history and how it's been leading to a job at this company. If the pitch is well-received, ask for an informational interview with the boss. What do you have to lose? The worst case scenario is that the assistant will transfer you to HR.


For the truly fearless job-seeker, Gervitz suggests that you call your target company and ask to be connected to any random department. When you get someone on the line, ask if the company has an employee referral program, in which employees get a reward for recommending future workers. If you catch the right person at the right company on the right day, you might win yourself an ally on the inside. And a job.

For lots more information on job-hunting, interview tips and adjusting to a new workplace, take a look at the related articles on the next page.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • CareerBuilder.com. "More Employers Seeing Unusual Tactics from Job Seekers in 2010, Finds New CareerBuilder Survey." June 9, 2010. (Accessed Sept. 1, 2010.)http://www.careerbuilder.com/share/aboutus/pressreleasesdetail.aspx?id=pr574&sd=6/9/2010&ed=12/31/2010&cbRecursionCnt=2&cbsid=7e978cba3433452d8d7204d77ee9b1be-336822816-R8-4
  • Chase, Katie Johnston. "When silence greets the résumé." Boston Globe. July 7, 2009. (Accessed Sept. 1, 2010.)http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2009/07/07/tight_market_makes_job_seekers_ever_more_creative/
  • Crimaldi, Nicole. "10 Guerilla Job Search Tactics That Work." Ms. Career Girl. March 30, 2010. (Accessed Sept. 2, 2010.)http://www.mscareergirl.com/2010/03/30/10-guerrilla-job-search-tactics-that-work/
  • Donlin, Kevin. "Three Guerilla Job Search Tactics." Minneapolis Star Tribune. Sept. 7, 2010. (Accessed Sept. 2, 2010.)http://www.startribune.com/jobs/career/102371814.html?page=1&c=y
  • Franzen, Willy. "Use Facebook Ads to Make Employers Hunt You Down." One Day One Job. Sept. 3, 2008. (Accessed Sept. 1, 2010.)http://www.onedayonejob.com/blog/use-facebook-ads-to-make-employers-hunt-you-down/
  • Givertz, Amitai. "10 Guerilla Job Hunting Tactics." Salary.com. (Accessed Sept. 1, 2010.)http://www.salary.com/Articles/ArticleDetail.asp?part=par1721
  • Hawn, Carleen. "Meebo's Jen: How to Find Hard-to-Find Talent." GigaOM. July 5, 2008. (Accessed Sept. 2, 2010.)http://gigaom.com/2008/07/05/meebos-jen-how-to-find-hard-to-find-talent/#more-14003
  • Johnston, Susan. "Unconventional Job Search Tactics: Savvy Move or Silly Stunt?" Yahoo! Hotjobs.http://hotjobs.yahoo.com/career-articles-unconventional_job_search_strategies_savvy_move_or_silly_stunt-664