Respect the Culture

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Guerrilla marketing tactics in job search make for entertaining stories. But if it's a finance job you're after, resorting to bells and whistles to gain attention will likely do your cause more harm than good.

A recent post on the CareerJockey blog from Kevin Donlin traces the actions of a Michigan woman who reportedly landed a job just seven weeks after ditching conventional tactics (which had generated zero interviews over 20 weeks) in favor of more aggressive ones.

That successful candidate's high-octane approach included a coffee cup marked, "Hire Mary," a "full-color Guerrilla Resume" (groan!), and in phase two, a bag that paired a chocolate covered apple with her handwritten thank-you note, hand delivered by a friend.

What's wrong?, you ask. She got the job, right?

Beyond 'One Size Fits All'

Yes she did, according to Donlin, who co-authored a book called Guerrilla Resumes. Nevertheless, letting such anecdotes shape one's job search is fraught with hidden perils. The most important is, where hiring is concerned, culture matters - a lot. Cultural fit accounts for 50 percent of the decision to hire or not hire a particular candidate, in the opinion of IT consultant and blogger Todd Zebert. A job-seeker who's out of sync with the culture of an employer or an industry never gets far.

That's what makes much career advice so treacherous. Most advice articles seem to aim at the broadest possible audience and take a "one size fits all" approach to industry and job function - sometimes even educational and title level. How can one expect tactics that succeed for a receptionist to succeed for a vice president of engineering? Or tactics that work for a "marketing executive assistant" (the job Donlin's client landed) to work for a banker?

You can't, agrees career coach Cindy Kraft, whose specialty is coaching CFO candidates. While an aggressive approach is preferable to submitting resumes and then doing nothing, Kraft says, "The guerrilla tactics a marketing person might use would probably look very different than the tactics employed by a candidate in the conservative finance or banking industry."

In finance - or most other serious professions, I daresay - festooning your resume with colors or flashy fonts, or accompanying it with a coffee cup, stress ball or play money will make you appear not bold and creative, but cheesy and desperate. Even personally delivering a package can look unprofessional if the recipient figures out you or a friend brought it, rather than a paid courier.

Here's another illustration: A candidate's resume pictured him standing in a field of wheat, dressed for the office. It contained just four words: "Outstanding in his field." He got the job, in an advertising agency's creative department. I read this anecdote many years ago. In a previous eFinancialCareers News column, I wrote: "I don't know whether the story is true, or whether it could happen in the Madison Avenue of today. I do know it could not happen in the Wall Street of today, or any day."

Two Good Suggestions

That said, some tactics Donlin recommends in his post are worthwhile. Submitting documents by courier rather than e-mail can raise visibility without degrading your image. It must be done selectively, of course: You don't want to spend $15 each time you send a resume or follow-up, especially if you're unemployed.

Here's another tactic I endorse. Donlin's client followed up her second interview (with an executive VP) by sending an eight-page work plan that laid out what she would do in her first 30, 60 and 90 days on the job. I wouldn't label that "guerrilla"; I'd just call it good business. But it's only feasible after you've progressed deeply enough into an employer's process to have a good sense of the major challenges (what consultants call "pains") facing your prospective boss, and how your duties would mesh with those of immediate co-workers. I've had situations where I made it through several interviews, but despite taking copious notes, still lacked enough information to create credible plans for my first 90 days.

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