should this job-seeker take out a newspaper ad to promote himself?

A reader writes:

I am thinking about trying to find a way to get myself advertised in a local newspaper. It would be either taking out an ad or finding another way within an opinion section or something of that sort. In this ad I would try to sell myself to local businesses with the hope that someone would read it and be impressed with my very broad background and maybe give me a chance. 

I know it sounds a little crazy but I was fired 10 months ago for refusing to lie to my customer to speed up the process of implementing changes in their software. I have been asked why I left my last job enough now that I am comfortable discussing it in an interview but I am noticing now that companies seem to be a little concerned with the 10-month and growing gap that is on my resume. I know this was my fault for not finding some type of volunteer work to do to fill the gap on my resume, but I also did not intend on being unemployed for such a long time.

I have created an anonymous email address that would be my only point of contact in the ad, just in case the entire thing backfires on me. Would this make me look too desperate? Is this a crazy idea? Would you send an email to a “hire me” ad that you saw in a local newspaper? 

Personally, it’s very unlikely that I’d respond to a “hire me” newspaper ad, but then I don’t like anything that feels salesy or gimmicky. I suppose that if (a) the person had the skill set and track record of achievement that I was looking for and (b) the ad really came across as professional, not like a stunt, I might — but my skepticism is very high because I’ve never seen this done in a way that both (a) and (b) were true.

That said, not every employer would have that reaction. There are certainly stories of people who have made inroads with less-traditional tactics like this, like this billboard guy or this guy. I think to pull it off, though, you’d need to have really impressive skills and experience — otherwise you’re just grabbing attention without the needed substance to take it anywhere.

But I think a bigger point here is that since you’re getting interviews, the problem that you’re having isn’t that you’re not grabbing employers’ attention initially — it’s closing the deal once you’re in the interview. And I suspect the problem isn’t the 10-month gap at all, since that’s not stopping them from wanting to interview you. (Plus, that sort of gap is very common these days.)  It might be far more fruitful to figure out if the real problem is something that’s going on in your interviews.

What do others think?

{ 21 comments… read them below }

  1. Josh S*

    I've heard of people using super-targeted Facebook or Google ads to get a link to their online resume in front of the right people.

    As in, I have my resume/coverletter at . Then, I create an 'ad' through Google or Facebook for cheap, and use target words including XYZco and HiringManager'sName. One of the only places it will appear will be on HiringManager's pages. Hopefully, s/he will click the link, see my resume, and follow through with a call.

    It's much more targeted than an ad in the paper. It's much cheaper than an ad in the paper. And it has the benefit that you may end up building a network in the industry in which you're interested, even if you don't get the job.

    Here's an article on some folks doing this…

  2. Jamie*

    I agree with AAM – a ten month gap in this economy shouldn't be an issue for any hiring manager.

    Almost everyone knows someone who has been out of work for a while due to factors beyond their control.

    I personally wouldn't respond to an ad either online or in the paper since for every job posting we have there are scores of applicants.

    You don't mention what type of job you hope to land – but since you worked for a software company I have to wonder if this wouldn't do more harm than good if you're a software developer or in another technical position.

    A quirky and gregarious approach might work better for other positions – but it's not generally in the required skill set for IT.

  3. Erica*

    I'm curious about what makes the questioner think that companies are concerned. Is is possible that you are misinterpreting feedback.

    For the record, I would be firmly against an ad, as it seems (and is) gimmicky. But an op-ed piece about you would be great! The trick for that is doing the kind of volunteer work that would make someone want to write about yuo.

  4. Lise F*

    I think this guy rings my weirdo warnings. Not the 10 months unemployed, but the "getting fired for refusing to lie." What does that even mean?

    1. Anonymous*

      OP stated in the first few lines of the second paragraph, “… I was fired 10 months ago for refusing to lie to my customer to speed up the process of implementing changes in their software”.

      That’s pretty clear.

  5. Anonymous*

    Lise F, I imagine they told him to lie about a product's features or timetables to a customer, and he wouldn't do it, so they found a reason to fire him. Is that really so hard to believe?

  6. LisaV*

    First of all, bringing a "chip on the shoulder" into an interview will hurt your success. Keeping it positive – and lighthearted – will make a far better impression.

    If someone asks why you left your former employer – be truthful, be brief and stay positive. Talk about the learning experience and what you want in a new environment moving forward. Don't get mired down in the details or the conversation may spiral in the wrong direction.

    Secondly, don't take out an ad. How about creating a blog to promote your personal brand and then use social media like Twitter and LinkedIn to connect with others.

    By joining the conversation and adding value, you will expand your network, create new contacts, build your credibility and confidence for job search.

  7. carl*

    I agree with AAM.

    Your resume/cover letter/application get you interviews. Your interview performance gets you offers.

    If the problem is that you aren't getting interviews, the problem is probably how you come across initially. If the problem is that your interviews aren't getting to offers, something in your interviews isn't working.

    In my experience as an interviewer, when interviewing people who have been unemployed for long periods, it's usually obvious why by the end of the interview. Obvious to me, not necessarily to them.

    The definition of long changes by industry and point in the business cycle, but I haven't seen many cases where great people are unemployed longer than average amounts of time.

    I might see if you can find a "friendly" person to interview you and provide feedback.

  8. Lesley Weiss*

    We ( just ran an article featuring both the job-hunt stunts mentioned in Alison's response, and the general consensus we got was that these gimmicks might work–if they're related to the job you are applying for. A billboard or Google ad shows off the skills of marketing/advertising specialist, but really doesn't do much for an accountant. So really, ads only seem to work for people in a related industry and are somewhat risky for anyone else.

    I agree with Lisa V. that you'll probably have better luck getting your name out there and making contacts through LinkedIn and other social networking channels. Good luck!

  9. Anonymous*

    I suspect the OP is chit chatting too much about why he was terminated from his previous job. I think if he changes his approach to a more generic response , he might have better luck. The ad idea seems kind of lame, a waste of money and useless in this day of overdone social online media

  10. Anonymous*

    Thanks for the ideas. The reason why I was thinking newspaper ad was to attempt to stand out, I really expected the response that I got from AAM. A good number of people still read the morning paper.

    I will try and find a friend to help me practice my interview skills.

    As far as the "weirdo" response from Lise F, I think that is a little inappropriate. My boss thought it was perfectly acceptable for me to lie to my customer to speed up the process for X by a few days. When I told my boss that I would not lie to customer to speed up their process for X, I found myself packing up my office and looking for work elsewhere. I have morals and have to live with the choices that I make.

  11. Anonymous*

    If you want to get a job, I think you need to find a simpler explanation that doesn't make you sound like a troublemaker. Not supporting the company's marketing strategy and customer service policy is being a troublemaker.

  12. Karl Sakas*

    If you're going to do the targeted online advertising route (whether via Google AdWords, Facebook ads, LinkedIn, or anything else), be aware that it's going to take you awhile.

    The story about Alec Brownstein (finding the job for $6 in Google ads) has a catch or two, which makes it harder for just everyone to implement.

    First, he was targeting five specific creative directors at NYC advertising firms. Second, it took him almost six months from when he started the campaign to when he was sitting in his desk at the new job. Third, he had a job in the industry at another firm on Madison Ave in the meantime.

    Interesting idea, but it won't work for everyone. See my writeup here:

  13. Anonymous*

    Since you are going on interviews, it would seem that your resume is getting the attention you want.

    So consider this – a company is more interested in your allegiance and commitment to them, than they are about your ethics. If they feel that you can't be trusted to tow the company line, then why should they hire you?

    It happens a lot in the business world that a vendor over promises to get the contract and then under-delivers; but, they can often redeem themselves by providing great customer service. Do you have that ability?

    Perhaps, you can explain that you�ve had a chance to reflect about how you would have done things differently if such a situation arises in the future � because it will happen.

    Remember no business likes to lose customers.

  14. Anonymous*

    #1 – Good for you…stick to your morals. You don't want to work for a company who asks you to act unethically anyway…

    #2 – Do employers even open up a newspaper to "find" employees?? Especially in an age where they are indundated with resumes?? I personally think this would be a waste of resources and I agree…it's a little gimmicky…

    #3 – Try registering with a few employment agencies…the nice thing is, they do the work for you!! My husband is a software developer and has found several jobs using agencies. I also found my current job of 4 years through an agency…so make use of this option. This doesn't mean you shouldn't keep looking on your own though. (Oh, and if an agency asks you to pay them a fee..don't! A legit agency won't charge job seekers a thing.)

    Good luck!!

  15. Interviewer*

    A tech guy who wants to take out an ad in a newspaper? Did your mom come up with that idea?

  16. FrauTech*

    I'm with a few of the commenters who've suggested you have a chip on your shoulder or are not getting across in a positive way what happened.

    Saying "I refused to lie" indicates that you believe your company was in the wrong while you were, angelically, morally superior. That shows you aren't a team player to an interviewer. It also shows you can't let go of the past, that you're still upset they asked you to do something you were uncomfortable with. I'm not saying you were in the wrong, just that corporations want people who are team players and loyalists. Not whistle blowers. When you complain at all about a former employee it's like you're saying the same thing about the company you are interviewing for.

    Better to say something like "My approach to the process of X project with the customer was different than that of my manager, and because that was my primary project and there were no other jobs available within the company i was asked to go. Since then I've been working with X volunteer group and really perfecting my communicatons skills." You want to convey that you basically think what your old manager did was right, without of course spilling all the details. That tells the hiring manager you will think he is right in any similar disagreements in the future.

    Now I don't know if you think "asked to leave" vs "fired" is being dishonest, or leaving out this information without all the gory details about how you still believe you are right will be against your moral code. But moving in this direction will help you get a job. You can be "right" or you can be employed. You can't be both in this economy. Also, it's not too late to start volunteering.

    1. Rana*

      I’m with him, you should drop some of these words you’re using,especially “refused to lie”, sound you’re still in high school:) stick up to general phrases like “a disagreement concerning customer care”, they will be really curious to know more, when they ask, you should simply reply ” they were my previous employer, i certainly learned a lot of them and would choose to guard their confidentiallity in this regards”, what do you think? :) trust me, some of them will just hire you to chat with you and know more on this in the future, good luck again.

  17. Anonymous*

    Personally, I commend the letter writer for sticking by his/her principles. I feel the same way you do. A company who would fire someone who prefers a more ethical way of doing business is probably one you wouldn't want to work for, anyway. You did the right thing, even though I know it is hurting you now.

    Skip the ad. Don't waste your time or money. I agree that those tactics only work for people in related industries. DO consider the blog idea. Not only could you highlight your resume, you could also share brief articles that showcase the depth and type of skills you have (ie, architect vs engineer vs programmer.) You can link some blogs to LinkedIn.

    I think with a good blog, a good LinkedIn profile, and maybe even a good facebook (fan) page, you could probably market yourself really well.

    Don't let the people calling you a "troublemaker" get you down. I'm sure you will find the right company soon.

    Good luck!

  18. Rana*

    I’m a freelancer consultant. At the beginning i had such a difficulty in promoting my skills. the problem was i never thought i should be the one to promote or advertise my skills, i was simply looking for anyone advertising for consultants or asking for proposals on studies like those i prepare. it was also my husband’s advice that i would sound desperate and no one would like to hire such a person or even look at such an ad. I placed my first ad on the web for free in one of these freelancer websites, next week was full of calls asking for more details and clients asking for consultations and advisory. I did it again and responses were good. now i even have the knowledge about what key words to use and what would draw attention to my skills. Yes, i think you should just go ahead and advertise yourself, ironically, people who call or send emails have this impression that I’m the one without even asking much about my background, they just go on and describe their own problems and needs and begin asking of how much I’d want to do the job.

    Good Luck, and Go Ahead…

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