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Updated Oct 20, 2023

Creative Ways Job Seekers Are Applying for Jobs

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Shayna Waltower, Business Operations Insider and Senior Writer

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Ever landed a job interview via selfie? A decade ago, you likely would have been laughed out of the office. These days, however, it might be a welcome way to showcase your personality to recruiters. 

Today, employers are finding new ways to boost application numbers and find the best employees, and job seekers are discovering unique tactics for standing out. We’ll explore how today’s hiring process is getting more creative for hiring managers and applicants and share creative recruitment and application tips. 

Companies are getting creative with their applications

In modern hiring processes, businesses are exploring ways to appeal to younger generations while demonstrating their personality and relatability. Here are some examples: 

  • Job application gamified tests: In January 2021, the management consulting firm McKinsey launched Solve, in which the company uses gamification to assess applicants’ critical thinking and decision-making abilities. The game requires a candidate to solve two of five possible short games within 60 to 80 minutes. For example, one game requires candidates to defend their tower from attackers. Each game assesses how candidates respond to various situations. The test uses their responses to form a profile of their performance potential at the company. 
  • Virtual-reality (VR) simulations: In 2018, Walmart started getting creative with its hiring practices, using VR headsets to test prospective managers. The company presents applicants with simulated real-life situations, like an angry customer or a messy display, and then evaluates the candidates’ reactions. 
  • Gamified behavioral assessments: Unilever uses gamified tests to assess a potential recruit’s reactions and behaviors. Five online games test various skills; a video interview and online assessment follow.  
  • VR tours: Online shopping platform offers candidates a VR tour to assess the company culture and workspace.
  • Coding competitions: Google is famous for its coding competitions, such as “Code Jam,” which pits candidates against each other with various skills tests and games to assess their talents. 
FYIDid you know

Joining the creative hiring trend can help you attract and retain top talent, but tread carefully. Launching an unconventional hiring method takes careful planning and a deep understanding of your target candidates.

Why employers should be creative with recruitment

If you’re an employer or hiring manager, here are a few reasons to get creative with your recruitment process.

1. A creative hiring process separates your company from others.

Career experts often recommend that job seekers submit between 10 and 15 applications weekly. This means applicants see many companies, salary ranges and job requirements daily. Finding creative ways to reach job seekers is crucial for connecting with them and making your company stand out among thousands of job postings.

2. A creative hiring process sets positive expectations for applicants.

Creative recruitment strategies can help applicants form memorable connections with your business and see your company as one that breaks the mold. If applicants notice that you’re stepping outside the box during the recruitment process, they might view everyday employment with your company as unique and creative.

3. A creative recruitment process finds candidates who fit your company.

As an employer, attracting and hiring the best talent is a primary goal. Requiring candidates to undergo a creative application process can help you find potential hires who fit your company well. For example, you might ask software development applicants to design and interact with a website link you send them. This can help you see an applicant’s experience in action instead of merely on their resume.

How businesses can recruit job candidates creatively

Adhering to creative hiring best practices can help attract the best talent for open positions. Here are some tips to help you use modern recruitment trends wisely. 

1. Ensure your hiring process fits the open position.

Just as job seekers should create applications that fit your company, you should ensure your application process suits your organization. Your application process should also match the type of position you’re hiring for at the moment. For example, requesting a VR simulation could be great for a technician role, but it might not be wise for a chief financial officer position.

To see what might work for your hiring process, examine various aspects of your company and your employee demographics, particularly in the departments where you plan to hire. Create a plan by focusing on the skills or personality types you are seeking, which will guide your hiring method’s creative process.


To ensure new hires are a cultural fit, ask intentional questions during the interview process about a candidate’s values, situational approaches and career goals.

2. Incorporate social media into your hiring process.

About 43 percent of job seekers use social media to find jobs, so it’s wise to incorporate social platforms into your hiring process. Social media can be a very effective hiring tool when leveraged correctly. Many companies have launched social media recruiting efforts to appeal to members of the digital generations.

“[We want to] meet job seekers where they are — their phones,” said Jez Langhorn, chief human resources officer at Global Partners LP.

While the ways employers can market themselves on social media are endless, the nuances of social media can be challenging to navigate, particularly for companies attempting to reach young people. The danger lies in walking the line between being innovative and trying too hard. Millennials and Gen Zers have a keen sense for disingenuousness, and any indication of a “How do you do, fellow kids?” approach will send them running.

Did You Know?Did you know

Employers often use social media screening to look for red flags, like the sharing of illegal activities or offensive comments.

3. Have a reason for using an unconventional hiring approach.

If you’re using an unconventional hiring method on social media, ensure you have a demonstrated reason for doing so and a specific goal for what it will accomplish. Otherwise, it will be apparent to applicants that you’re being unconventional for the sake of being unconventional, making your business look inauthentic and out of touch.

“If the unconventional parts of the application process have nothing to do with the job performance skills, [there’s no real] need for unconventionality,” said Jessi Beyer, a speaker and personal development coach.

When deciding whether to use creative hiring methods, Beyer said, companies should ask themselves what their company culture looks like. “Are they trying to be a societal game changer, or are they set in their ways because they know what’s working?” Beyer said. “Millennials and [Gen Zers] are tired with the ways that things have been, and this is forcing companies to attract them in a new way.”

4. Consider a hybrid approach to hiring.

It’s unreasonable to think you can judge a candidate on a single element of their application. Many companies with unconventional hiring methods use these innovative approaches in conjunction with traditional practices, such as phone screenings and in-person interviews. For example, McKinsey uses Solve as a prerequisite for case interviews.

Beyer said she experienced a combination of unconventional and traditional methods when she interviewed for a customer service position. “They had a traditional written application with standard questions, but they also had me call and leave a voicemail like I was leaving a customer service voicemail for a client.”

She said the combination made her feel she was clearly showing her in-demand career skills in a context that made sense for the position. “The process definitely made me more engaged,” Beyer said. “It’s easy to copy and paste your experience over and over again without ever becoming invested in each application.”

Creative ways people are applying for jobs

Just as companies are finding creative new hiring practices, job seekers are discovering ways to spice up their applications and stand out to employers. 

For example, Robby Leonardi created a video-game-inspired interactive resume. While you can’t exactly play this game, scrolling through the page as you would a traditional resume moves the character through various “levels.” Each phase highlights and describes things such as Leonardi’s coding skills, software experience and job history.

Samantha Lambert, human resources business partner at Centific (previously Pactera EDGE), recalled an application for a marketing and design position in which the applicant sent her resume in the form of a chocolate bar with her experience and education printed on the wrapper. “She asked me to review her ‘sweet’ resume and experience,” Lambert said. “I loved it. It was definitely unconventional, but it showcased her creative side.”

How job seekers should be creative with job applications

If you’re looking for a job, maybe you don’t want to push the needle excessively but still want your application to stand out. Here are some tips to help you create an application that might move your name up the list.

1. Think like an employer.

For highly desired positions, hiring managers spend between six and seven seconds looking at each resume. This means they’re sorting through tons of resumes, cover letters and answers to questionnaires daily.

For a moment, imagine yourself as a hiring manager. What kind of application would stand out to you while you were combing through pages of paragraphs and bullet points? Putting your special touch on your application can help employers notice your effort and spend more time looking at your application.

2. Play to your strengths.

If you want to do something out of the box to get a job, try thinking of an approach that demonstrates your creativity while targeting the skills employers want and addressing the job description

“One of my favorite applications was from a candidate who ran social ads targeted at those who worked at the company,” said Jake Lane, director of performance marketing at Captain Experiences. “It created some buzz around the office and ultimately helped the candidate.”

3. Tailor your job application to the company.

The most important thing is to be mindful of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it throughout every step of the process. For example, you wouldn’t want to send a video game or milk carton resume to a law firm.

Try to do as much research as you can into a company’s culture to ensure your creative application will land well, Lane cautioned. “There is a fine line between someone creating an effective application and being too much.”

4. Make your social media profiles work for you.

Job seeking in the digital age means being mindful of your social media presence. You should be sure your social media profiles help, not hurt. Your profiles should give employers a sense of who you are and your professional background and interests. 

Showing engagement with your industry by sharing relevant posts or following industry leaders can bolster your credibility and lead to new connections. 

Take a unique approach

You might be trying to fill a position for your company or looking for a job to grow your career. Either way, there are some steps you can take to make yourself more appealing to the people you’re contacting. Put yourself in the shoes of the people you’re marketing yourself or your business to, and opportunities will come your way.

Kiely Kuligowski contributed to this article. 

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Shayna Waltower, Business Operations Insider and Senior Writer
Shayna Waltower is a business journalist with a multimedia background. She spent years doing on-the-ground reporting in local communities from coast to coast before narrowing her focus to helping small businesses nationwide streamline operations, attract customers and improve profitability. Waltower, with her previous experience in storytelling across mediums (broadcast, social media, etc.), enjoys not only producing digestible guides for business owners that break down complex topics but also helping entrepreneurs competently convey their brand stories to consumers. Over the years, Waltower has developed expertise in a number of wide-ranging but critical business areas and topics, including POS systems, workplace management and cybersecurity.
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