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Illustration: Ashley Siebels
How To

Use the element of surprise to shake up your job search

After hunting for a job for a while, things can become predictable. The same resume uploaded. The same cover letter wrapping it all up with a bow. The bewilderment of not even receiving the courtesy of a response one way or another.

Sometimes you really need to change things up if only to alleviate your own boredom with the process. Here are some fun ideas to inspire you while searching for your next gig.

Put some chocolate on their pillow

There is something incredibly delightful and amazing about the hotel tradition of leaving something sweet on a guest’s pillow before bed. In the real world, while you can’t actually leave a tiny sweet treat on a hiring manager’s pillow, you can send something sweet their way.

If you’ve noticed them tweeting about their licorice addiction, for instance, you can send them a small package in the mail along with a hand-written note referencing their licorice love and very gently remind them about how you look forward to meeting again. And then leave it at that. Don’t shower them with sweets, but rather show them that you’ve been paying attention and will do so if hired.

Add some Easter eggs

Let’s face it, resumes are boring. If someone spends their days hiring other people, there’s a good chance they’ve developed a serious case of CV fatigue. In case you’re unfamiliar with the notion of Easter eggs, Wikipedia explains them this way: “In computer software and media, an Easter egg is an intentional inside joke, hidden message or image, or secret feature of a work. It is usually found in a computer program, video game, or DVD/Blu-ray Disc menu screen. The name is used to evoke the idea of a traditional Easter egg hunt.”

While you have to be vigilant about following company protocol and best practices, there’s always a wee bit of wiggle room. So, say you have to create a sample report as part of the job application process. When naming the imaginary company or faux business partners, feel free to come up with names that show you’ve been paying attention. Maybe the head of HR mentioned their favorite book during your interview; use the heroes and villains or other recurring characters in your own report to show that you know what they like and intend to deliver it if they hire you.

Make it highly visual or add a soundtrack

Obviously, in the world of finance, you never want to look anything but serious about dollars and cents. If, however you’re applying for a creative job or one that encourages individual touches, consider making that part of your introduction as well. If you’re applying for a gig in the music industry, add a suggested playlist at the end of your application. If you’re hoping to work in the arts, add your own photography instead of standard clip art to punctuate your talent and originality. Make your resume sparse, or make it beautiful, but allow it to tell as much a story about you as your work experience does.

Wrap it up with a bow

Before hitting send on your next application, try searching through resume templates to find something a little different that highlights your work and stands out in a good way. Use callouts if there’s something in particular you want them to know about. Scan through to see if you’re using stale expressions or language favored by their competition. Find a balance between respecting the process, while individualizing your own approach enough to make them take notice.

Also, in case it needed to be said, don’t really wrap your resume up with a bow, unless you’re applying for work at a gift company known for their amazing gift wrap. See the difference?

Mix up the follow-up

While your traditional stationery and hand-written note are always a great idea, they’re not the only option. Send a card made of hand-made paper infused with seeds, if you know the interviewer is into earth-friendly products.

Send a postcard with a twist and sign it “Wish I was there” if the company you aspire to work for has a travel or tourism angle. Find the way to make them give you another chance without seeming like you’re trying too hard.

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Rachel Weingarten is a marketing & brand strategist and president of 729.marketing. She's a pop culture and trends analyst who frequently writes about business and style and the business of style. Rachel's a sometimes professor, teaching personal branding on the graduate and undergraduate levels. She leads corporate seminars on topics including evolving communication and spirituality in the workplace. Rachel is also the author of three award winning non-fiction books.