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Creative Ways Job Seekers Are Applying for Jobs

image for RossHelen / Getty Images
RossHelen / Getty Images
  • Unconventional hiring methods are becoming more popular with younger generations of workers who are eager to demonstrate their skills.
  • Social media can be difficult for companies to navigate well, so make sure you have a good reason for creative recruiting.
  • A good way to start is with a hybrid of traditional and creative hiring methods.

Ever landed a job interview via selfie? A decade ago, you likely would have been laughed out of the office; these days, it's not so ludicrous. In June of 2017, McDonald's launched its Snaplications program, which lets job seekers start their application by sending in a 10-second Snapchat video explaining why they'd be a great employee. The idea is to give applicants a chance to showcase their personalities, which McDonald's feels is key to a customer-facing role.

Walmart has also gotten creative with its hiring practices, using virtual reality headsets to test prospective managers. It presents applicants with simulated real-life situations, like an angry customer or messy display, and then evaluates their real-time reactions. 

Such unconventional hiring methods give companies an opportunity to appeal to younger generations and show their personalized, relatable side. But if you're thinking about getting in on this trend for your next job opening, you should tread carefully. Launching an unconventional hiring method takes careful planning and a deep understanding of your target candidates. You should think carefully about whether such an approach would benefit your company.

There are many ways to be creative in the hiring process, whether you're seeking employment or looking to recruit. The most important thing is to be mindful of what you are doing and why throughout every step of the process. For example, as an applicant, you wouldn't want to send a milk carton resume to a law firm. Likewise, it wouldn't be wise for a business to request a Snaplication for a CFO position.

Samantha Lambert, director of human resources at Blue Fountain Media, recalled an application for a marketing and design position where 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. I loved it. It was definitely unconventional, but it showcased her creative side."

Social media can also be a very effective hiring tool when leveraged correctly. Many companies have launched recruiting efforts on social media to appeal to members of the digital generations.

"[We want to] meet job seekers where they are – their phones," said Jez Langhorn, U.S. senior director of human resources for McDonald's, in a statement. Over 79% of job seekers use social media at some point in their search, so it is wise to implement it in your hiring process.

While the ways in which applicants and employers can market themselves on social media are endless, the nuances of social media can be difficult to navigate, particularly for companies attempting to reach young people. The danger lies in walking the line between innovation and trying too hard. Millennials and Gen Zers have a keen sense for the disingenuous, and any indication of a "how do you do, fellow kids?" approach will send them running. Follow these tips to help you strike the right balance.

If you are using an unconventional hiring method on social media, first make sure you have a demonstrated reason why and a specific goal in mind for what it will accomplish. Otherwise, it will be clear to applicants that you are being unconventional for the sake of being unconventional, which will make 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.

For example, McDonald's describes itself as "America's best first job," which means its target pool for employees is likely people between the ages of 16 and 20. With 90% of people between the ages of 13 and 24 saying they use Snapchat, that platform makes sense for the company's goal of recruiting young people.

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 rationale from there by focusing on the skills or personality types you are looking for. This will guide your creative process for determining a hiring method.

When deciding whether or not to use creative hiring methods, Beyer said, companies should ask themselves what their 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? 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."

It is unreasonable to think you can judge a candidate solely on one element of their application. Many companies that have unconventional methods use them in conjunction with traditional practices like phone screenings and in-person interviews. For example, McDonald's uses Snaplications as a first step to drum up interest and screen applicants; Walmart takes the VR test into consideration alongside multiple interviews and testimonials from higher management.

Beyer said she experienced a hybrid of unconventional and traditional methods when she was interviewing 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 that she was clearly showing her skills in a context that made sense for the position. "The process definitely made me more engaged. It's easy to copy and paste your experience over and over again without ever becoming invested in each application."

If you are looking to use social media to get a job and want to do something out of the box, try thinking of an approach that demonstrates your creativity while targeting the skills mentioned in 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 growth at NuBrakes Mobile Brake Repair. "It created some buzz around the office and ultimately helped the candidate."

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

You should also be sure that your social media profiles are helping, not hurting you. Your profiles should give employers a sense of who you are and your professional background and interests. Showing engagement with your industry by sharing applicable posts or following industry leaders can bolster your credibility as well as lead to new connections. [Read related article: How to Brand Yourself on Social Media]

Kiely Kuligowski

Kiely is a staff writer based in New York City. She worked as a marketing copywriter after graduating with her bachelor’s in English from Miami University (OH) and is now embracing her hipster side as a new resident of Brooklyn. You can reach her on Twitter or by email.