Are Creative Résumés Risky for Marketers?

Sarah Steimer
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Key Takeaways

What: Creativity is a desirable trait in the marketing field, but using that creativity in the job hunt can be a gamble.

So what: More than half of surveyed marketing executives consider unusual job-hunting tactics to be unprofessional.

Now what: Using unique tactics in the search for a job may get an employer’s attention, but it’s even more important that job-seekers prove their qualifications.

​Oct. 26, 2016

A young marketing professional named Lukas Yla was visiting San Francisco recently and, in an effort to land a dream job, posed as a Postmates delivery man and delivered boxes of donuts to executives at tech companies. His résumé was located inside the box.

As of the beginning of October, Yla—previously a chief marketing officer at a startup in Lithuania—landed 10 interviews out of 40 deliveries.

Getting the attention of busy recruiters is essential in the job hunt. Diane Domeyer, executive director of creative staffing agency The Creative Group, says hiring managers receive an average of 23 résumés for every open creative position.

“Given how challenging it can be to grab their attention, much less land a job interview, I would say his approach was a success,” Domeyer says of Yla’s tactic.

Being creative or clever in job searches can be a gamble, Domeyer cautions. She points to a survey of marketing executives by The Creative Group that found 52% of the respondents consider unusual job-hunting tactics to be unprofessional.

The Benefits and Risks of Creative Résumés

Getting creative with job-hunting can be risky, but it can also be rewarding. Domeyer says these efforts can sometimes help job seekers get a foot in the door, particularly in a competitive market. “In the marketing/creative industry, there is probably a greater appetite for creativity than in other industries,” Domeyer says.

Creative job-hunting strategies should be done in good taste, Domeyer says. Anything that could potentially offend an employer or disrupt the office should be avoided. In other words, it’s best to not send a singing telegram.


 Man delivers résumé in box of donuts


Slowing recruiters down with something a bit more creative may be a useful tactic, as a 2012 report from TheLadders found recruiters spend only six seconds reviewing an individual résumé.

In contrast, studies have shown traditional résumés are the best-received. A 2010 study from Norway had 90 people evaluate 12 job-seekers’ résumés. These résumés were presented in a formal manner on white paper, on colored paper or with a creative/infographic-like format. The formal résumé on white paper was significantly more likely than the others to win an interview.

Another study from 2014 reviewed video and paper résumés from eight MBA students. The résumés were reviewed by 238 psychology students, who reported being 81% likely to interview the MBA students based on their paper résumés, 79% likely based on both the paper and video résumés, and 76% likely based the video résumé alone.

Various tactics have varying degrees of success, but traditional résumés appear to be the best-received.

Taking the Best Job-Hunting Route

Whether a job-seeker decides to go the creative route or the traditional route, there are certain efforts that can win over many recruiters.

“No matter what your approach, always research a company before applying, put together a targeted résumé and portfolio, and show interest during the interview by asking relevant questions,” Domeyer recommends.

She says applicants should focus first and foremost on their qualifications and consider ways to effectively convey their strengths to a potential employer. “Ultimately, most employers hire for substance over style,” Domeyer says. “Anything that would be considered over-the-top or that emphasizes the creativity of getting noticed over the substance of your qualifications should be avoided.”

Domeyer offers some tips for those considering a unique job-hunting effort:

  • Get in the know. Learn as much as possible about the company and the hiring manager to gain a sense of how much the organization values originality versus tradition.

  • Create a cohesive campaign. A novel approach works best if it highlights your unique skill set and is consistent with your other self-promotional materials, including your portfolio and online profiles.

  • Avoid clichés. Hackneyed gimmicks, (e.g. a shoe to “get your foot in the door”) rather than an emphasis on creativity, indicate a lack of originality.


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Author Bio:

Sarah Steimer
Sarah Steimer is a staff writer for the AMA's magazines and e-newsletters. She may be reached at or on Twitter at @sarah_steimer.
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