James Meeks of Atlanta lost his job as a sales engineer with a major manufacturer last year, and after months of few good job prospects he started getting antsy.
Despite doing everything right as far as job hunting is concerned — including attending networking events, reaching out to contacts via social media and applying for numerous positions — Meeks was unable to land a gig at his dream employer: consulting giant Accenture.
So in June, after graduating with an MBA from Texas A&M University, Meeks, 25, decided to do something extreme. He created a website devoted to his job quest called HireMeAccenture.com. The site, which he paid a friend to help him put together, includes flashy photos of himself, a resume and a blog.
“It was absolutely frustration and wanting to chase a dream,” Meeks said.
With the nation’s unemployment rate still above 9 percent, frustration and desperation are leading some job seekers to take job-hunting risks in an effort to separate themselves from the legions of unemployed — nearly 14 million in July. These extreme tactics include everything from making cyber pleas for employment via websites and social media outlets to stalking hiring managers and even sending gifts.
“One candidate brought in homemade — and delicious — cookies with her application,” said Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs.com. “She didn’t ultimately get the job, but her effort was positively noticed and helped to get her an interview.”
Sometimes the gimmicks pay off, and inundated hiring managers notice. Other times they fall flat, or worse, doom a job applicant’s chances of ever getting hired at a particular company or even industry.
For example, Roy Cohen, author of “The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide,” had a client, a senior executive in the entertainment industry, who “joined an elite and very expensive Manhattan gym known to be favored by celebrities, media moguls, and other C-suite executives. It was a huge investment, but the returns were enormous.”
On the flip side was an alumnus who targeted an employer and decided to go to that company every day for two weeks, recalled Lynne Sarikas, executive director of the MBA Career Center at Boston’s Northeastern University. The job seeker would ask to speak with different people each day and then sit in reception hoping someone would come out to meet with him.
“The more he did it, the stranger they thought he was, and no one would agree to meet with him,” Sarikas said. “Networking is critical, but stalking is never acceptable.”
Unfortunately, there can be a fine line between what’s acceptable and what’s unacceptable when it comes to finding a job, so beware.
Coming up with an “unconventional strategy,” as Phyllis Mufson, a Philadelphia-based career consultant, likes to call it, is a great idea. But her advice is to shy away from empty gimmicks and focus instead on getting “attention in a positive manner that creates a great impression of you. It demonstrates your unique skills and fits your field.”
Networking, she continued, “is still how most people get their foot in the door. So you might start by thinking how to be more creative in your networking.”
Clearly, doing something different will at least get you noticed.
Rackspace, the hosting and cloud computing company based in San Antonio, Texas, has 120 openings and has received more than 23,000 applications this year, nearly double the number they got just two years ago, according to Michael Long, the company’s head of culture branding.
When singling out potential hires “the more creative the better,” Long said. “Every organization is looking for people who are ambitious and will go above and beyond and express personality.”
The company has received baked goods from job seekers, and some applicants have created custom websites or follow-up videos. He suggests people interested in working at Rackspace consider producing videos of themselves or create interesting presentations.
“There are so many possibilities with media nowadays,” he noted. “It’s up to the job seeker to be creative.”
Thinking outside the box is key, career experts stress, but maybe not with a shoebox.
Brad Karsh, president of JB Training Solutions and author of “How To Say It on Your Resume: A Top Recruiting Director’s Guide to Writing the Perfect Resume for Every Job,” said he’s been on the receiving end of more than one shoe from job seekers who stuffed their resumes in it and wrote: “Just trying to get my foot in the door.”
He has also received the occasional pizza box that includes the words “delivering you a great candidate,” he said.
“The mentality is, ‘I need to find a way to get noticed,’” Karsh said about job seekers. “But people don’t realize it’s not enough just to get noticed. (A job application) has to have some substance. It can be interesting with a little personality to it,” he said, “but gimmicks aren’t going to get you hired.”
Showing your creatively is often a good call, especially if you want to get into an industry that looks for such a trait, but there are no guarantees your efforts will be rewarded with even a phone call from a hiring manager.
Rosemary Ashley, from St. Clair Shores, Mich., has been out of work since 2008 when she lost her job as an associate branch manager for a local mortgage company.
After listening to President Obama speak about changes he wanted to make following the mortgage meltdown, and hearing that the government was looking to fill a host of different positions, she applied for a variety of jobs with the federal government. To separate herself from the job-seeking pack she wrote and professionally recorded an original song and sent it along with her application.
It included lyrics such as: “Yes we can change the world today. Take a look at my resume.”
Although the song is catchy, it didn’t catch the attention of the White House. She said she got “no response whatsoever.”
"I even asked my congressman to check. No response,” Ashley said.
But sometimes, extreme measures can pay off.
Meeks said the website he put together has garnered a lot of attention, including from Accenture. His efforts, he said, finally got him the coveted phone interview with the company and he’s scheduled to meet with recruiters at the company soon.
(Accenture spokeswoman Stacey Jones told msnbc.com that the company doesn’t comment on the status of individual applicants.)
“The old way of just sending a resume’s not effective anymore,” Meeks said. “Set a goal for yourself and find a way to achieve it.”