ways to get a jobI’d like to ask your subscribers something if you will let me. In today’s weird job market, the responses you collect may be instructive for everyone.

Reading about the recent untimely passing of “Full House” star Bob Saget reminded me of something I once read about Dave Coulier who played Joey Gladstone on the program. Coulier wanted to break into the world of voice acting in Hollywood, so he prepared a two-sided audio tape. One side had recorded excerpts of actual cartoon programs. The other side was him imitating the originals.

He sent the tape to various casting directors, but did not say which side was from the actual program, and which side was his imitation, adding that, if you can’t tell the difference, you should hire me. They were captivated. His career was soon successfully launched.

I’d like to know if your readers ever did something as clever to get, or at least attempt to get, a job.

Nick’s Reply

In “today’s weird job market” I’m sure there are some wild stories about unusual ways to get a job. Dave Coulier’s scheme might seem like a trick to some, but it’s really a demonstration. Long-time subscribers know my exhortation to “do the job to win the job.” By messing with the casting directors’ minds, he helped them see (or hear) what he could actually do. I think that audio tape was a brilliant move.

Poll: Ways to get a job

You’ve proposed a provocative poll of Ask The Headhunter readers. I think it’s a good one that might get folks more motivated, or at least make us laugh. I can’t wait to hear their stories of clever (and maybe too clever!) ways to get a job.

To get us started, I’ll offer up the story of a guy who hired himself. It’s weird, instructive and cautionary. It happened at a small computer company in a time when security was not the concern it is today.

A guy we’ll call Jim was recommended for a software development job to the president of a company, who in turn passed the resume on to the software manager. Jim was interviewed. His skills were good but not exceptional and his ability to communicate was poor. Something about him also made the interviewers uncomfortable. The decision not to hire Jim was unanimous and he was notified.

A few days later the president arrived at work and noticed someone working in what had been a vacant office next to his. He stuck his head in the door. “Hello. Have we met?”

“I don’t think so,” came the reply. “I’m Jim .”

“Nice to meet you, Jim. What are you doing?”

“Working on some code.”

“Well, good, and welcome aboard.”

“Thank you,” said Jim.

Later, the software manager noticed Jim ensconced and busy in the office next to the president’s. He figured the president decided to hire Jim for some other job.

It took a few days before the president and the manager realized no one had hired Jim. Having not received a job offer, he started coming in to work every day anyway. The short of it is, he as much took the job as got the job. Thank you, I’m hired. And he was.

What’s the most clever (or not so clever!) maneuver you’ve used, or tried to use, to get a job? Why do you think it worked or didn’t? Are there other unusual ways to get a job that you know about?

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  1. My out of the box innovative job acquisition narrative goes like this.
    Back in the recession in the early 80s (which paled compared to this last nasty recession) I was out of work and getting desperate. I was a much younger man then, and didn’t have a mortgage, but was carrying an auto loan with one of the three big automakers who was threatening to repo my car if I missed just one payment. I moved 400 miles to live with my parents, and not wanting to lose my car that I was well into three of the four year note, I met with a small town banker who bought my loan. I asked for a three month deferment, and he gave me a six month deferment instead. Back in the day there were still people like that, especially in the rural Midwest.
    One afternoon I went into a farm supply chain store exclusive to that region and asked the manager if he was hiring. He was a young guy my age, who had a young family, and he wasn’t hiring. I went back the next week, and then again the following week as my UI benefits were soon to be exhausted. One day I walked in to inquire yet again, and I overheard the manager talking to a cashier that two guys had called in, that they made a habit of this practice, that he was going to take action about it, and that a truck driver was at the loading dock with a van trailer full of merchandise to unload. I went to the dock, introduced myself to the driver, grabbed a pallet jack, and started unloading the trailer (if I did this today, particularly in the big crap hole city I live in now, they’d probably call the cops on me and cart me off to jail). As I was queuing the pallets of merchandise on the dock the manager came back, smiled, and said “be here at 10:00 am when we open the store tomorrow. You’re hired”. He soon terminated one of those two dolts, gave me his part-time hours, and we became friends outside of work. I even was invited to a barbecue at his house one day, and went pheasant hunting with him. Best boss I ever had. I worked there for four months, and then found a full-time job with benefits. I gave him notice, and it was the only job I ever had regrets about leaving. He admitted to me that he’d lobbied to get me on full-time, and while he was glad for me, he was losing a valued employee. I moonlighted there that Christmas to make some extra cash and he told me he was being transferred to another store in a neighboring state. I lost track of the guy, but I’ll forever be grateful to him. The moral of this story is being based, combined with tenacity, persistence, perseverance, good will, a work ethic, and having some guts pays off, even it’s just a simple retail farm supply store.

  2. Mr. Coulier was clever, but he wasn’t the first. A very talented radio announcer trying to break into a major market did that one better. This was a while ago, just about when a legendary broadcast professional, Ruth Meyer, had invented the “Disk Jockey” (more about that later).

    He recorded an hour or two of a very mediocre air talent on this one radio station where he wanted to work. Then he produced his audition tape by mixing his own voiced version of the same announcer’s material with the mediocre announcer clearly heard in the background. Broadcast tape was mostly full-track back then, so it was a single channel (no way to block out either voice). The result was a performance with the same music and pre-recorded commercials, but with the talented announcer’s voice clearly showing more creativity, and demonstrating to the hiring manager what their radio station would really sound like if they hired him. He easily got the job. And he became a legend himself.

    Ruth Meyer created the “Good Guys,” at WMCA Radio, with a format that became wildly popular, and revolutionized radio media, and the entertainment industry.

    That very talented radio announcer was Dan Ingram, and it got him hired at WABC Radio in New York, the very same day he delivered his audition tape by leaving it on the hiring manager’s desk first thing in the morning.

  3. Sounds like this Jim fellow is Penske material. Although I thought he would have taken the larger office.

  4. What comes to mind is my “Portfolio” of successes that demonstrate proven attributes I’ll bring to the job. One Portfolio example is a CEO position I interviewed for and luckily didn’t get hired. After the first exploratory interview they liked me and asked I return for a second. Before the second interview I sent the president an actual product we produced and sold into their market along with a detailed description of results, obstacles encountered and how we overcame.

    The second interview was a plant tour and team interview with my direct reports. I had prepared a list of questions but more importantly they had several good questions prepared that included the growth challenges they were facing. My answers were far from superficial. They all came about from my Portfolio. Bottom line, I realized in second interview I was way over their head conceptually and steer clear of this job.

    The president said in closing I really made a positive impression by sending the product example and my solutions to their challenges were right on. My follow up with CFO confirmed my intuition. We like you a lot… you’re overqualified. The best job I didn’t get.

  5. I got my first job by cutting short the job interview and walking out. The company (a stock brokerage) had advertised for a trainee but what they wanted was a mailroom clerk. When I realized that what they were looking for was not what they’d advertised, I politely pointed this out to the interviewer and said that I was looking for something more than a job with no future and that a mail clerk role was not for me. Within 10 minutes of getting home, I got a phone call letting me know that I could have the advertised job. I’d apparently made a good impression.

  6. I have a friend who was meeting someone at local coffee shop to talk job search, etc. While waiting, she eavesdropped on the conversation that two men were having at the next table. They were discussing how they needed to find someone to perform a particular task. My friend leaned over and said, “Excuse me, but I can do that.” Long story, short. She got the job.

  7. I’ll offer this one. A bunch of years ago, a large US courier company decided to get out of the US parcel delivery business, putting a LOT of us out of work. I worked in IT, and a guy I worked with asked me to write a cold letter to a large software company that he saw as his ‘perfect’ place to work, a place where he already had an application on file, and kind of make them more aware of him. So I wrote an email to the company’s recruitment director, pointing out that she could stop the search for candidates for the job my friend was interested in, since they already had an application on file for the perfect candidate who happened to already be in the job market. I summarized his abilities, experience, etc. and suggested she contact him. The next day, I received a very nice thank you letter from the recruitment director, but more important, my friend got a call the same day during which my note was mentioned. Did me friend get the job? No, unfortunately, but that email did get him noticed to a point where he got an immediate interview. Finally, soon after all of this, he DID land an excellent position with another much larger software vendor.

  8. I was applying for a marketing manager position in a city 1,200 miles away in a field where I had only a few years experience. I also didn’t have a college degree. They flew me down for an interview and the next step was a homework assignment, very loosely described as “demonstrate to them what makes me unique and/or best for the job”. The position was for a independently owned upscale resort – no corporate office handing you a branding guidelines book, list of resources of which to order standard items for, etc. At first I thought they wanted a sample written press release, maybe a project timeline and budget, etc. But I thought that might be the expected or standard response, I had to stand out. I then created five 12 x 12 boxes, each one represented a selling point for the resort (guest room, spa, fine dining, golf, resort experience). Keep in mind there was only a few artist renderings of the proposed resort, it was still nine months away from opening and basically just walls at that time. Each box was a mini “mood board” of the selling point. Elements included textiles, ceramic tiles, wallpaper samples…I even took mini hotel shampoo bottles, soaked off the old labels and created new ones for this resort. The lid of each box was labeled, all five carefully packaged into a larger presentation box and shipped to the resort. They were blown away with the time spent, creative thinking and resourcefulness I put into the project. I had an offer within the week.

    • @NicoleG: You took a risk and it paid off! My compliments to you and your employer. I suspect you judged these folks to have integrity before you took the leap to do all that work. (I’ve seen employers demand “free work,” only to ghost the candidate and steal their ideas.) Very glad this worked out so well! Nice work!

      • Years ago, I learned this lesson the hard way. It’s endemic in certain industries. Since then, I’ve adhered strictly to the axiom of: “Do the job to get the job…within limits.”

        I once had a potential employer ask me for a detailed marketing plan as part of the interviewing process. I said: “Sure, no problem. The fee for that is $X, rebatable against my first paycheck.” I didn’t get the job, but I did get paid for my time/ideas.

        A colleague of mine limits all of his consulting proposals to one page. It the prospect wants a more detailed proposal, it has a price attached.