do not do these things, ever (job seeker edition)

Job seekers, do not do these things, ever.

1. Show up without an appointment.

2. Send flowers after your job interview.

3. Send an infographic as your resume.

4. Include a line in your cover letter that says: “Please do not contact me if you are conducting 5-minute assembly line interviews. My time and gasoline expenditures are far too valuable to waste on the inexcusably rude and unprofessional.”

5. Send chocolate to a hiring manager.

6. Advertise your job-hunting spouse on a billboard.

7. Use a video resume.

8. Stop by a prospective employer’s office with a plant and some candy.

9. Be intentionally late to your interview as a “strategy.”

10. Send a framed photo of yourself to your interviewer.

We’ll tackle the employer side of this next week.

{ 179 comments… read them below }

    1. NavyLT*

      Black and white, soft focus–who wouldn’t want a signed, framed photo of me? (Sorry corporate world, I’m taken.)

    2. Lizzy*

      But that framed photo means nothing without the accompanying cake in a tin. I mean, how else is the hiring manager going to enjoy looking at your photo unless he/she has some tinned cake to munch on?

    3. Maudie*

      On small addition – as a candidate, do not ask to take your interviewer’s picture. Especially if you only ask to take one person’s picture out of the group.

      It comes across as creepy and guarantees you will be given a personal escort out of the building.

  1. LittleT*

    Let’s not forget this little gem: showing up at a company and leaving a single shoe with the receptionist.

    Why? To try and “get your foot in the door”.

    I worked at a company once where someone did this and we all thought it was hysterical. Especially because it was a guy who left a really ugly shoe: scuffed up, not so pleasant smell, worn leather. Ugh!

      1. Anon for this*

        I work at Nike, and if you left the right shoe (that’s CORRECT shoe, not right shoe) for the right hiring manager, you just might get someone to talk to you. A vintage Jordan in mint condition for a footwear designer, for example. If nothing else, you might get a phone call asking if the shoe’s mate was available and for sale. People are absolutely unhinged about shoes around here, as one might expect!

        1. fposte*

          I know you clarified, but now I have a whole “find the lost mate” drama in my head where somebody gets a job because they finally found the right shoe that makes a pair with the hiring manager’s treasured left shoe.

            1. KarenT*

              I’m picturing a Cinderella situation. The hiring manager sits as the right shoe is placed on his foot, and everyone lives happily ever after.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            My parents met this way. At a college event, the guys all threw in one shoe, and the girls took a shoe and found the guy it belonged to. The nice shoe my mum found belonged to the guy in the ugly sweater that she’d been trying to avoid meeting. They’ve been married 63 years now.

        2. WorkingMom*

          A college professor (many years ago) told us of one of his student’s great schemes to get a job at Nike. He fedex’ed a box with a Nike shoe in it, rolled up inside like a scroll was his resume. The story goes… the hiring manager was SO impressed he got the job! :)

          1. LittleT*

            In this context, applying for a job with Nike, Jimmy Choo or a shoe designer, this tactic is funny and kind of clever.

            However, we were a joe-schmo office in the suburbs that had absolutely nothing to do with footwear and it came across as goofy and weird.

          2. Rat Racer*

            Hm, I’m surprised that worked actually. It sounds like one of those gimmicks that AAM strongly advises against – even for Nike…

    1. NavyLT*

      Seems to me that there should at least be a foot in the shoe.

      …Fake, obviously.

        1. NavyLT*

          Especially if it was your own. Talk about commitment to getting your foot in the door.

          The other unforgettable thing I was going to suggest was to have your framed photo taken by a professional photographer in front of the hiring manager’s house, but even though that would demonstrate initiative and superior research skills, I was trying to stay on this side of the “get the police involved in your job search” line.

        2. Stephanie*

          I can’t help but think of Ginsburg’s “gift” to Peggy on Mad Men a couple of weeks ago.

    1. Artemesia*

      This one was hilarious — because I’d really love to hire a woman whose husband is her ‘daddy’ who owns her and is renting her out for pay or whatever.

      1. Tina*

        Oh I missed the billboard one! I take back my comment up thread, I think that’s my fave one!

      2. Poohbear McGriddles*

        I didn’t remember that one, so I clicked on the link. I thought it was funny that there was a link to the letter about the sex worker right below it.

    2. Mep*

      I didn’t understand the billboard one until I clicked on the website. Wow…..(yeah…that’s all I can say)

  2. Ash (the other one!)*

    Well, sometimes you have to do something to stand out… but usually that’s networking and making a good impression. Gimicks, all of them.

    1. Katie*

      That was pretty awesome. My coworker and I got a kick out of it. Especially the one about standing out by getting up on the desk and doing karate moves.

  3. Sascha*

    I have one to add that happened to me recently, I was helping out another team in my department with hiring (on their hiring committee): An out-of-state candidate was going to have a web conferencing interview, and she mixed up the times (she was in Eastern, we are in Central, although the hiring manager had been very clear about stating Central time in all her communications). The candidate tried to log into the virtual room an hour early, then called our main line several times and left rude voicemails when she couldn’t get a hold of the hiring manager, and when we finally logged into the virtual room, she was nowhere to be found. The candidate then sent a rude email to the hiring manager an hour later, saying she had never been treated so badly by an employer, and when you agree to meet at X time (which was still the wrong time), you should be there, and she “didn’t have to put up with this.”

    TL;DNR: Verify your time zones and don’t be rude about it if you get them mixed up.

    1. Jeanne*

      I don’t understand why people respond with the rude messages. I had a phone interview last year. We scheduled a time but about 30 minutes after that she hadn’t called. So I sent her an email saying I assumed something had come up and could we try again with a new time? She responded right away and we worked it out. Politeness can go a long way.

        1. fposte*

          It’s not even that entitlement is inappropriate–even when you’re on the end with power, it’s good to remember that sometimes we’re the ones who made the mistake, and sometimes people are in car wrecks or have kids suddenly in the hospital. It’s not like you lose anything by being courteous and polite.

    2. Serin*

      My organization once posted a job ad with specific hours to apply. On a Saturday night at about nine, someone left us a voicemail: “Well, I done banged on all the doors, but I cain’t raise nobody!”

    3. sunny-dee*

      I had an employer (same time zone) set up a call screen once. And then not show up. So I contacted them, and we rescheduled…. and they didn’t show up. Third attempt (no apology and, again, I contacted them) — they were 15 minutes late, and rude on the phone.

      I told the recruiter trying to set it up not to contact me with jobs from that company again.

  4. Katie the Fed*

    “Please do not contact me if you are conducting 5-minute assembly line interviews. My time and gasoline expenditures are far too valuable to waste on the inexcusably rude and unprofessional.”


    This is the employment equivalent of the online dating profiles that read “Please don’t bother if you’re into drama, or if you’re not looking for a serious relationship”


    1. Adam*

      The whole list does read like a dating profile, doesn’t it?

      “Enjoys chocolate, going out to movies, and the first winter snow.

      Non-smoker a plus.”

    2. Anonylicious*

      The people who say they’re not about drama, or that they’re tired of drama, are almost always the ones who create the drama in the first place.

      1. jmkenrick*

        There’s also a great catch-22 in life, wherein those people who relish walking out and actively avoiding “drama” do, in fact, create more drama.

        Sometimes things get emotional and you have to hash it out. Refusing to engage with the messiness of relationships is more dramatic and problematic than occasionally having a teary discussion. That sh*t happens to the rational and crazy alike.

      2. cecilhungry*

        My rule of thumb is that anyone who mentions drama is going to be involved in it. Non-drama people never really think about it.

    3. Jeanne*

      This one is my favorite. What an idiot. If you don’t do the first interview then you can’t get the job.

    4. sam*

      In addition, having worked at law firms, this type of interview scheduling can be very common (it’s usually not 5 minutes, but it’ll be 20-30 minute meetings with a bunch of different attorneys in a row, and because of “travel time” between offices/floors, they could be staggered at odd times). The hiring folks at law firms may also be dealing with a range of attorneys who have very little availability and are tailoring your interview schedule to fit into that calendar. As important as you may think you are, I can guarantee you that the attorneys interviewing you will prioritize their clients more. If you want to work at a law firm, you just have to get used to this.

      It also goes back to something called “on-campus interviewing” which is very common in law school. The school will host 2-3 weeks of on-campus recruiting, tons of potential employers come in for the day and sit in tiny rooms, and they match students with employers. you can spend the entire day hopping from one tiny room to the next (for 15 minutes each!).

      I’m absolutely not saying this is the best way to hire people, but it’s certainly the standard in the law firm world (and even carries over into the way my in-house legal department interviews people – individual interviews can be longer, but you’ll meet 5-8 people in a row). if you reject it out of hand because you think you’re too good for it, you’d better find another industry to work in.

    5. nyxalinth*

      I was kind of thinking this lol. Mind, 15 years ago I was trying out online dating and got so many eff buddy requests from married men that I finally added a disclaimer that I was not interested in such things and that I was looking for a relationship, not to help some guy who wasn’t getting enough cheat on his wife. Someone got offended and reported me, and I had to remove or rewrite it. So I left (there were other reasons too). In retrospect, it was pretty rude and I could have been more diplomatic! The person who put on that disclaimer in their cover letter feels the same way to me: frustrated and annoyed, and letting it get to him or her instead of just shrugging it off as part of the process.

  5. hayling*

    I’ve received the infographic resume a few times before. Ugh. Actually nearly every “graphical” or “styled” resume I’ve received has just been bad. Bad looking, lacking content. Just ugh.

    1. Meghan*

      I once received an infographic-style resume that included a pie chart of what the applicant did in her non-work time. It showed what percentage of time she spent with family, jogging, watching movies from the 80’s, and sleeping. It was sooooo bad, but in a way that kind of made my day :D

  6. Adam*

    Most of these sound like people who are desperate for dates, but #4…I totally agree that everyone’s personal time is valuable to them, but the poor guy reviewing resumes isn’t exactly graced by the mere presence of yours in the stack.

  7. Joey*

    I’ve got a few:

    Show up for an interview and say “Now, remind me what job I applied for.”

    Send a cover letter that says you’re interested in another job at another company.

    Show up with your mom or girl/boyfriend.

    Ask how soon you can apply for other internal jobs after starting.

    Send a résumé or cover letter that shows tracked changes.

    Snail mail in anything unless it’s specifically requested.

    Ask me if I’m available.

    1. Sascha*

      We get cover letters for other jobs every single time my manager posts a position on our team. I think about 1/3 of the applicants this latest round had incorrect cover letters. And I don’t just mean something vague and general that could work for similar jobs…I mean, they put the completely wrong job title and company in the letter.

    2. Tina*

      Don’t take 17 minutes (we timed it) to answer the very first question – and not even address the question we asked!

      1. Joey*

        Oh no. When I get a rambler I interrupt after a minute or two of going off topic and get them back on track.

        That is a huge pet peeve of mine. I’ll eventually tune out if it happens too much.

        1. Tina*

          I think someone tried to interrupt, but he kept going. Then it became a game to see how long he would go. He missed so many social and body language clues about going on too long, it was unbelievable.

      2. Sascha*

        I interviewed a guy like that, he would tent his fingers, look at the ceiling for a few minutes, then look at me dead in the eye for another few minutes, THEN answer the question…for many more minutes than necessary. I started treating it like a staring contest, then it was kind of fun.

          1. Vancouver Reader*

            That was hilarious! I can’t believe that guy would think he had half a chance at being hired after all the stunts he pulled on you.

    3. Algae*

      I once saw a resume where the applicant had put his reasons for leaving jobs, including one that stated the commute was too long. It also went back a good 30 years.

      1. Joey*

        I love those. Of course the best RFL’s are “mutual decision”, “lack of advancement” or “low pay” with no job afterwards.

          1. Anonylicious*

            I am filing that away for future use, just in case. I’ll make sure to make the royalty checks out to you.

            1. De Minimis*

              I have to fess up, I stole it from Ben Hamper, who wrote a great book about working at a GM plant called RIVETHEAD.

          2. Gene*

            “We agreed that I wouldn’t re-enlist and that they would discharge me immediately.”

        1. Anonish*

          Just wondering but what are you supposed to say when you left a job because the commute was costing you too much, both in time & money, and you didn’t have a job after?
          I had to do this because I wasn’t able to meet my bills (I was able to move back to my parents house and took a part time job that has covered what I had left after shucking rent and other living on my own expenses). On top of that I was working for a professional association that made it hard to advance if you hadn’t come out of the profession, or had a certification (one you had to have hours doing the job to get the certification to move up), and was given a new manager that was making it hard to get the hours for the certification after my job had been arranged so I could do so. (I was supposed to act as the Junior Meeting Planner to get the hours to sit for the Certified Meeting Planner certificate course- old manager said great, exec director said great- both meeting planners were happy to get some of the secondary events off their plates- new manager said I was ‘not showing advancement’ in basic areas of my job, because she was the manager on record- despite not actually meeting with me in person or sitting in on regular meetings because she had ‘other things to do’- there was no real way to show that I was advancing or doing my job, because she wasn’t seeing my actual work load.) I feel like a long explanation about my issues with my manager make me sound petty and immature, but the first part – about the commute and the cost- is true and a much more concise and responsible answer.

          1. Joey*

            I quit because i moved back home for financial reasons.

            There’s no shame in that and hiring manager know what that means- that you couldn’t afford to live on that job.

          2. majigail*

            I think it’s one thing to say that when asked, but another thing to put it on a resume.

  8. Kerry (Like The County In Ireland)*

    OH! Don’t let your friends take an ad out on another’s blog to help your job hunting efforts. And if you can’t dissuade them from doing that, at least point out that it’s really unprofessional for the ad to be all about your personal awesomeness as a cancer survivor, friend and wife and give no information about your skills or professional background.

    1. Sharm*

      This reminds me we had some person take out Facebook ads targeted at my organization, and his picture kept popping up on our Facebook feeds. Several staff members saw it, and we were wondering if the guy was for real. I do think some staff were impressed by it (whyyyyyyyy?) but most thought he was cuckoo.

  9. Ethyl*

    My sister works at a large publishing company and once received cookies placed inside of hollowed out books from that company. There was also a photograph inside, under the cookies.

      1. KarenT*

        I would be creeped out if I opened a book and an applicant’s phot was inside. It’s very, “I’m watching you.”

        1. Ethyl*

          Everyone was incredibly creeped out. I don’t think anyone ate the cookies, because….. yeahno.

    1. Turanga Leela*

      I laughed so hard at this that I almost choked. I want someone to give me a cookie stash box!

    2. Felicia*

      I’d think a publishing company wouldn’t like that someone ruined their books just to hold cookies. I would also worry that something was wrong with the cookies.

    1. CanadianWriter*

      No, do it! Companies love getting fertilizer for free. Show them that you want to save them money, and the job is yours!

  10. SaraV*

    So I have a “framed photo” story that actually worked…but I’m making a caveat that this happened around 1995.

    An alumnus of my college was working in Colorado, and there was a job opening at a record company in Nashville that he really wanted. They invited him for an interview, but for whatever reason he could not make the day they proposed, and they wouldn’t budge on the day.

    So, he took a headshot of himself, framed it, and then made a cassette tape of him answering common interview questions, and sent that to the record company. He got the job.

    Although, telling this story, and then comparing it to Alison’s advice, nowadays the company’s inflexibility would throw at least one red flag for me.

    1. A Dispatcher*

      Ha – that’s really cute. There’s an exception to every rule I guess. Though I’m struggling with an appropriate exception for the billboard thing and the rudeness of Mr. Don’t Waste My Time.

  11. mollie*

    These are awful and nothing on this list should be done.

    That being said, I have a couple open positions and I’d like for a candidate to send me cookies or chocolate. I’m hungry.

    1. Esra*

      Sending the food is one thing. I was the OP for the one about the woman who showed up with the plant and candy at the office. It’s extra weird in person.

      1. mollie*

        I can well imagine how weird it would be. And as much as I wanted cookies yesterday, I don’t think I’d eat anything from a candidate. It would be like eating the homemade candied apple from the smell house down the street on Halloween.

  12. Jen*

    This makes me think of other delightfully creepy things I could do. I think the creepiest I can come up with is to get a plaque made at Things Remembered that says something like Employee of the Year 2016 – Jennifer Smith!

    And then wrap my resume around that. That would be creepy.

    1. thenoiseinspace*

      Record a cheesy short song about why you should get hired, then put the chip into one of those motion-detector toys that sing and dance when people walk by.

      hiring manager: *walks past*
      demonic robot bear: *springs to life* Here’s why you should hire me, I’m a bear-y good employee!

      Clearly, if you don’t strike fear into the heart of the hiring manager, you’re just not doing it right.

      1. CollegeAdmin*

        Oh my god. As a former Hallmark employee (and therefore sufferer of singing cards/creepy animals), I am alternatively laughing with glee and shuddering in horror at this idea.

        1. LittleT*

          As a teenager, I worked at Carlton Cards. The only thing that would make this more creepy would be if it were a singing/dancing Precious Moments figurine.

          I have nightmares from having to dust & clean those damn figurines!!

          1. not my usual username*

            Ha! I live in the town where Precious Moments was created and where the headquarters is located. They call it a “theme park.” There are no roller coasters. I believe you can’t have a theme park without roller coasters, so I already think they’re terrible for leading people on. My husband used to service their alarms and he would get so creeped out by the all the murals. Those little faces are just not right…the eyes…there’s something not right about them…

            1. Elizabeth*

              I know what town that is. My late mother-in-law collected those figures, and we once took her to the theme park/museum/shrine/chapel thing. The murals are absolutely cringe-inducing. I can’t imagine being one of the people who has to clean the place at night after they close.

            2. Stephanie*

              Yeah, it’s the eyes and the fact that they’re almost all black.

              The Lisa Frank headquarters are in Tucson and it’s and odd-looking office building.

            3. James M*

              …lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eye. When he comes at ya, doesn’t seem to be livin’.

              – Jaws

              On a related note, if a ‘theme park’ doesn’t live up to your expectations, you can bring a ghetto blaster and your choice of theme music to make it more interesting.

              1. thenoiseinspace*

                I heard Q in James Bond use the term “ghetto blaster” once, but I’ve never actually heard anyone use the term before. Where are you from, if I may ask?

                1. De Minimis*

                  We used to say it all the time back in the 80s…in the Southern Plains/Southwest area…

    2. NavyLT*

      – Photoshop yourself into a picture of the CEO and frame it
      – Get a cake made with your resume on the frosting
      – Singing telegram
      – Hire a skywriter

  13. Anx*

    About #1-

    I don’t want to be rude, but I’m hungry. And I have rent. And bills. And I know that’s not an employers problem, but I also don’t want to use public resources (not that I’d qualify for much because I have no disability or children). So how can you try your hardest to get a job without pounding the pavement? Do you just stick to the online application? Is that even trying?

    I was about to go to the grocery stores for another round of asking about hiring, but now I’m not so sure.

    Whenever I don’t go around, though, I never hear anything back. The only that that works for me is for more specialized work. But I’ve only ever gotten my jobs from walking in (I try to avoid busy times of day, but today I might just have to go at a peak time since the storms delayed me).

    What is the alternative here?

    1. fposte*

      I think there are AAM posts that go into more detail on the differences, but there are certainly industries, like retail and many restaurants, where walk-in applications are the norm. That’s not the norm in most offices, though, and I believe AAM is talking mostly about people who show up demanding to be seen in the kind of places that have online employment systems and application processes.

    2. CanadianWriter*

      Even grocery stores want online applications, so you’re probably just annoying them by showing up multiple times in person. Especially at peak time, yikes!

      If you have a good cover letter and resume, you will hear back from online applications.

      1. H. Rawr*

        Most in our area that do have online applications required, also have application kiosks as far as I can tell, I bet it’s pretty standard for them to have people drop in

      2. Felicia*

        I think grocery stores around here have online applications, but they also accept walk -ins, as do most stores in the mall. But even then, you wouldn’t be walking in multiple times, just the once to apply/hand in your resume and then again only if/when they ask you for an interview. Even then walking in every day will hurt more than help. In retail/restaurants it’s still not THAT weird to just walk in, but in typical office jobs you stick to online applications, and just walking in will make you look out of touch/annoying.

      3. louise*

        When I filled out online applications for retail locations, there was no opportunity to upload a resume or cover letter. I think those places are such a crapshoot anyway that it may not be terrible to ask if there’s a manager available and introduce yourself briefly.

        1. Anx*

          You know, that’s a great point.

          For one particular company they wanted my last 3 jobs. My cover letter and resume do a much better job of explaining my qualifications, since I didn’t put unpaid work in those boxes (and had to stick to reverse chronological and my last 3). The years I spent growing up working in a retail store (my parents owned one), one of my customer service positions, and the job history that asserts I can stay ‘on’ didn’t even end up in their system. Also, I know more about food supply and safety than the average applicant (though you’d never know it from the application).

          Perhaps when I do go and show up and I can make it less awkward by earnestly wanting to convey a fuller picture of who I am.

      4. Anx*

        That’s where I’m getting confused. I haven’t started a new job in food service/retail since 2009. And I got that job (and the ones before) from walking in and responding to signs/ads. These were also independent stores. Where I live now, most retailers and even restaurants are chains.

        These aren’t primarily office jobs (though I am applying to jobs with office responsibilities), but they have online applications. I’ve talked to people (acquaintances) who said they just walked in first, THEN filled out the application. Others said they just got a call back right away.

        I have had a few places start to interview me, but I had failed the personality tests on those applications. They say to come back, but after the sixth months have gone by (before you can retake it), it gets awkward. And it’s really embarrassing to keep failing a personality test.

        I guess it’s hard to tell what to expect in industries that have a non-office culture but are still adapting to new hiring practices.

        (I did go today, because I had to food shop anyway, though I only asked to speak to someone because there were a lot of workers not doing anything and there was a lull)

      5. Nina*

        Actually, some grocery stores encourage multiple walk ins.

        I filled out an application to Trader Joe’s and the manager told me, yes they were hiring, and I should stop by occasionally so my face would be fresh in their minds. So I did. I felt uncomfortable constantly going to a grocery store without buying anything, so I would buy a small something (a bag of chips, an apple, etc.) when I would talk to the manager.

        In the end, they never hired me. Frankly, I think it’s a bait-and-switch; they have you visit in the hopes that you’ll buy something, while they dangle the carrot of a job prospect.

          1. De Minimis*

            Trader Joe’s is a very desirable job, I’ve heard they are very hard to get into because people tend to stay long-term—similar to Costco.

    3. Allison*

      Pounding the pavement makes sense for retail/food service jobs, people do see success that way and managers aren’t generally annoyed with in-person job inquiries. AAM just means that when you’re looking for an office-type job with a company, it’s considered presumptuous to just barge into the lobby and ask to speak with the hiring manager.

      1. jmkenrick*

        There is a caveat here, of course, which is that you should generally be respectful of busy times and wait until things are quiet to ask for the manager. You should not interrupt them dealing with customers (!) or pretend to be a customer yourself. You should absolutely be prepared to answer questions/provide a resume on the spot if it’s requested.

        But yes, I got all my retail jobs in college through just walking in. That would be weird and intrusive in an office, however.

    4. fposte*

      More broadly, of course online applications are trying. That’s the system through which most people get hired. Is it that it doesn’t feel like you’re trying hard enough unless you’re applying face to face, or that you feel like your application doesn’t elicit hiring attention through online systems?

      1. Anx*

        I suppose there are multiple layers to this.

        As an applicant, even though online applications take a very long time (for me anyway, I have a lot of short term jobs that had built in expiration dates), I feel like I’m not showing initiative. In those jobs where the skills are really generalized or broadly held, I feel like initiative is more important for some reason. Perhaps because these jobs always require a strong sense of urgency to do successful.

        There’s also a sense that by sending my application out into the black hole, I don’t have to face real rejection. It feels like when I know a human won’t see it, I am avoiding the discomfort of having to be rejected or ignored.

        As a citizen, I feel like I can’t say I’m really trying unless I exhaust every option. There are positions I avoid applying for, because on-the-job stress is bad enough without knowing you aren’t even going to be good at it (I hate applying for jobs that are supposed to be ‘easy’ when it’s something I struggle with).

    5. Joey*

      That’s an incredibly inefficient way to find a job. You’re better off perusing craigslist or looking directly at the grocery stores website for job postings.

    6. Nusy*

      It’s retail, so it’s a different animal, but if it’s a big corporation like Target or Walmart, they will just tell you to go and apply online.

      I worked for Target before I went back to college. Personally, I hated every second of it, and that is what spurred me to get out of the minimum-wage grind and get a professional job, but I understand that there are people for whom it’s either not an option, or even if it was, they are not interested in it, because they actually enjoy retail, and/or get an opportunity to advance.

      AAM’s advice *generally* caters to those of us in professional jobs: office, suit, heels, the whole nine. Of course, often there is something to take away even if you work unskilled jobs, but these specific things are really to help guide the desk jockeys.

      I would say that yes, your best chance is still with the online applications – yes, it IS trying, don’t let anyone make you believe otherwise. Many stores will prefer them, or not allow anything else in the first place – but with where the market is, with stores still not rebounding, and with still a lot of unemployed people out there wanting a job (and willing to take grocery-bagging even with a PhD), it’s often really a lottery whether or not you get in for an interview. I used to know a guy who, when hiring for 5 positions at the store and receiving over 3000 applications (!!!), he would shuffle the deck, and randomly shred about 1/3. I’m not saying that this is good (it’s obviously a horrible idea), or that this is common practice everywhere (I hope it’s not), but it could be happening. Probably your best “alternative” is to broaden your search – you may be able to snag something else you didn’t think of (receptionist, hotel bell person, admin support, etc.).

      Good luck.

      1. Anx*

        I am looking for both retail and more structured jobs. It can be confusing trying to enter a world that’s so far out of reach. I can’t tell if I’m being way too naive when I do apply for those office positions, since I’ve never worked there full-time, or if it’s totally reasonable and everyone has to start somewhere.

        I was just talking to a family member who suggested just trying to get ‘anything.’ It’s true. I need to. But it’s also hard to express just how hard it is to get these jobs. I’d say it’s even harder, as a numbers game. I’ve gotten a much better response rate (not that it’s much) from jobs I think I’m overshooting that are more specific to my skills and experience.

        1. Nusy*

          Probably the best thing you can do, then, is to approach them as different. I’ve been in those shoes, too. It’s decidedly really, really hard, especially if you have a compelling need for money (like you do), and if you have a family behind you nagging you to just “go and get a job,” and who put you down as “you’re just not trying hard enough” if you don’t immediately succeed. The market still sucks big-time.

          Try and apply what skills you have from other jobs (e.g. being able to connect to customers of all backgrounds; handling time pressure; handling varying priorities, etc.) to anything you apply for, and put it in your cover letter. Saying that you worked for 2 years at Mega-Lo-Mart as a cashier in your resume says you know how to operate a cash register, you can count money, and you can probably work a 10-key. Adding in the cover letter that you were the go-to guy for hysteric customers who wanted to make a total BS return, because you could de-fuse the situation is a huge bonus. Adding that you can type X words per minute (in my experience, 65-ish is the baseline, anything over that is major bonus points for office assistant/receptionist kind of jobs), that you know how to work a multi-line phone system, that you speak a second language (if you do; here in CA, Spanish-speakers seem to have an almost unfair advantage), if you ever took any courses in Word or Excel, or if you know them from using them at home or from self-teaching can all be very, very helpful.

          Also, it’s a personal experience one… but if you don’t mind customer-facing work, and if you haven’t looked outside strict retail/fast food, you may want to pop in an application to nearby hotels for front desk clerk and/or bellman. It tends to be a league above Target/Walmart in terms of employee appreciation and job suckage rates, although not in pay, and it can bring you a step closer to a desk-type job. In a decent hotel, there is also plenty of room for internal advancement (usually the path is bell – front desk – FD shift supervisor or reservation agent – FD or reservation manager).

          I hope everything will work out for you. It sucks to be in that place.

    7. WTS*

      I find online applications obnoxious. I’ve been working for almost 35 years and my life can’t be reduced to a series of click-boxes or a finite number of characters per line. When I finish one I almost expect to hear Effie Trinket say “May The Odds Be Ever In Your Favor!”

    8. Nina*

      When you say you don’t have access to public resources, are you including libraries? Most (if not all) libraries have internet access for their patrons, and you can job hunt and apply through there.

      1. Anx*

        I meant direct finacial support. I do have access to free printing at the unemployment office, but I do most of my work from home. There are of course issues because my laptop is a mac and the computers there are not well maintained. So I have to be very careful about formatting errors, etc. I have a computer and internet at home, but there’s no way I’m buying yet another ink cartridge.

        What I meant is that as an applicant I want to be very respectful and not look desperate. But if I send my application online and try to be very respectful of their time, they might not be annoyed, but they also won’t be considering me (probably). After years of trying to be respectful, and it not paying off, I feel like I have to go around door to door and try to be a bit more forceful. Because I also respect my neighbors and don’t want them to have to pay for my food and rent because I can’t find a job (I know that the job: applicant ratio has nothing to do with my actual behavior, but it’s still hard not to internalize that kind of shame).

        1. Anx*

          In other words, I’m a pretty healthy young adult with some experience and an education and I don’t feel like I deserve welfare until I truly exhaust every option, even the ones that annoy employers.

          1. Marie*

            Stories like this make me sad because you are trying so hard and it’s just not working out. I imagine there are multiple factors both in and outside your control that are contributing to this difficulty, the biggest one outside your control of course being the recession. There ARE things you can do to make yourself stand out, though, not least being writing a great cover letter that’s tailored to the job you’re applying to. I know it feels like a lot of work for very little reward, but if you get really good at writing cover letters, you may find that the ‘reward’ per application (% of applications that result in an interview) starts going up exponentially. You’ll find a lot of good advice on resumes and cover letters on this site. Try it – it’s free, and lots of people have written in saying how much better their job-search has been going since they started taking Alison’s advice.

            In the meantime, though, there is absolutely no shame in using what resources are available to you, including welfare. Part of living together in a community is that we have to look after one another, and we get to be looked after when we need it. Whether you are doing well or badly in life at the moment, you never know when you might find yourself on the other side of that equation. So, accept the help with thanks, while keeping on looking for jobs, and when you find yourself in a position to help others, pay it forward.

            If even THAT doesn’t convince you that it’s ok to draw on welfare when you need it, think of it this way: you worked in the past, right? So think of what you’re drawing on as your own taxes from when you were working.

            1. Nusy*

              This. If you put into the chest, you have all the rights to draw from it when you need it. And you may still qualify, even if you don’t have kids or a disability. It probably won’t be a lot of money, but every little bit can help.

  14. Young Professional*

    If you’re commuting from a different state into Midtown, Manhattan (or any larger city I suppose) expect the unexpected. During the Super Bowl, an interviewee had train issues and had to push the interview back a few hours. Once she finally made it into the city she hopped in a cab and there were massive detours. As a fellow young professional I felt so bad for her!!

    1. jmkenrick*

      Oy. There are multiple occasions where I’ve arrived ridiculously early and had to spend an hour and a half in a Starbucks across the street.

      1. Nusy*

        And doing so without feeling awkward for sitting there alone forever, without drinking so much coffee that you get an undelayable call to the bathroom mid-interview, and without losing track of time and still ending up late!

      2. Stephanie*

        Or even worse, there’s not a coffee shop or library nearby and you’re just hanging out in your car…

          1. Kelly L.*

            Took public transit to an interview that was in this desolate industrial park. I was a little early, but the worst part was after the interview–the interview happened to end at a time when there was no bus for a while. I felt too awkward to just hang around their office for another half hour to 45 minutes (I think it was somewhere in that ballpark). So I walked out to the side of the road to wait. No sidewalks anywhere in the complex–felt like I was going to get hit by various trucks all the way to the bus stop. No trees. No bench. Just standing by the road looking like an idiot in dress clothes in August. My sunburn was epic.

            And the interview had been a disaster, too. Not in terms of what I said or did in it, but in terms of a million red flags that told me I didn’t want to work there.

      3. YoungProfessional*

        My first NYC job interview was the worst! I got horribly lost, a street vendor spent a few minutes explaining the grid (despite my protests), and then I hopped in a cab only to find out he didn’t know where he was going. I showed up late, talked the receptionist’s ear off while I waited, and was a mess in the interview. Now I spend an hour in Starbucks before interviews or ask a nice security guard in the building if I can loiter for a few minutes.

      4. Mints*

        In densely urban areas, I’ve had interviews where I figured out the closest coffee shop, and waited, then had trouble figuring out where the office REALLY was because of three way intersections, irregular building numbering, and tiny entrances. I looked at the map, and I was allegedly two minutes walking, and the street view was no help. It was panic-inducing

    2. Rachel*

      I remember the 15 minutes late guy. His idea sounded a lot like something I read in a dating book that suggested you show up 15 minutes late to a date to see if you person would freak out, and if the person did, you would know quickly that this person might be a jerk.

      1. LQ*

        You mean they know you are a jerk for intentionally wasting 15 minutes of their time?

        How can you discover anything about the stood up by being the stander uper (because that’s totally a word)?

        1. Rachel*

          I guess the idea was that the situation or something like it would happen for real in the future. Of course you didn’t tell the person this was a social experiment. The book was all about figuring out if people were worth dating as quickly as possible.

  15. J-nonymous*

    Shortly before leaving my last position, we received one of these infographic resumes. I thought it was an abomination; my terrible ex-boss thought it was terrific. She was always very impressed by surface appearances.

    That was one of the final “aha!” moments for me that there was nothing of value I was going to learn from working for her.

  16. sam*

    where are all these people just walking into (non-retail) offices and demanding to speak to managers? Obviously not any major metropolitan area. I work in midtown manhattan, and you can even get into my office building without being on a pre-approved list with building reception (and then showing ID and having your photo taken!), and the security guards downstairs will body-check you if you try to get past them (seriously. one of them almost took down my brother, who was just trying to wait in the lobby for me to come downstairs but got “too close” to the internal door).

    Even when I worked out in the suburbs, you need to go through, like, 3 ID-badged security doors to get to where the humans were.

    1. Sascha*

      Well, probably at universities, for one. Our office doors are usually open for students and faculty to walk in. Sometimes we do get people who are angling for jobs. And we tell them the same thing every time…our school has an online job board, apply there. If they are just not aware of the job board, that’s fine, no harm done…but if they are belligerent, we take their names down so we know to avoid them if they do happen to apply for anything in our department.

    2. danr*

      My old company was in the Bronx and not in a good neighborhood. We had one person at the door and if people arrived asking about a job, they were sent to Personnel. (we didn’t have an HR dept [grin]). The only requirement was to sign in.

    3. Anonymous*

      It happens at my workplace.

      I work for a newspaper that runs a job search site!

    4. FarFromBreton*

      I had a friend recently tell me that I should call places or just show up to places I was applying to or interested in so that I could show initiative and stand out. I gently told her that most places specifically ask that people not do that nowadays, and she said, “Well, I still think you should try it.” (I didn’t.)

      To your second point, I live in a major U.S. city, and it’s pretty easy to get into most CBD office buildings as long as you know the name of a company and have ID. My old building had security passes, but anyone could go in just by stating the floor and having their ID scanned. I can’t imagine how anything more intense would have worked with the number of clients/visitors in and out each day.

  17. This is me*

    Guilty. I do all 10 of these things simultaneously after every job interview. Maybe going forward I’ll receive an offer?

    1. Stephanie*

      It’s clever, for sure, but it’s hard to follow. Plus, why would you include one-star reviews on this?

    1. Lizzy*

      I believe it was $1 gift card, followed by coercing the hiring manager to meet you at a local Starbucks to discuss your background. And if that doesn’t work, call them at home. ;-)

  18. J3*

    Yeah, #1 is rock-solid advice for the professional world but definitely does not apply to most customer-facing jobs in the service industry. In my last service workplace, the primary qualification for new hires (which was depressingly difficult to fulfill) was “appears to be a human and can have a thirty-second conversation without doing anything blatantly inappropriate. This was a large corporate employer, so applicants still had to go through the motions of the online rigamarole, but showing up in person and being halfway presentable was a surefire way to get your app plucked from that online database abyss.

  19. J3*

    And even though #4 is obviously a terrible idea, I tooootally secretly envy that person’s chutzpah/madness.

  20. EE*

    I somehow missed the chocolate one! My boss is allergic to, among a raft of other things, chocolate, and she gets very sad when people offer her chocolate. The OP would DEFINITELY not be getting a callback from her.

  21. manager anonymous*

    I wrote this a few years back for School Librarians seeking employment in a trade magazine. Every single one has happened to me as a hiring manager. I would add (how not to get an interview) Stop by my office and hand deliver your resume “to make sure I received it”

    • Be high-handed or disrespectful to a member of the support staff
    • Complain about your present job or anyone you’ve worked with
    • Gossip about colleagues or parents at your school
    • Talk about how hard it has been to get a job
    • Criticize the school, the building, the educational philosophy, the collection (yes, I know the 900s need weeding)
    • Seem unaware of curriculum, state standards, or current issues in information literacy
    • Say you don’t know how to teach different learners or students with special needs
    • Can’t name a new or recently read children’s book
    • Can’t express enthusiasm for teaching
    • No eye contact, weak handshake
    • Reek of cologne or perfume or cigarette smoke
    • Talk about politics
    • Say you’ll never be able to stay after school
    • Say you don’t have time to read
    • Use foul language
    • Show up late
    • Bring a friend to the interview
    • Show up unprepared
    • Don’t follow directions
    • Answer your cell phone or text during the conversation

    1. Ethyl*

      Bring a friend?!?!?!?!? I’m really curious to know the thought process there….

    2. Ruffingit*

      A librarian with no time to read? That’s like a therapist saying she doesn’t like to talk to people. WTF??

      1. manager anonymous*

        Yes, all of those things and more have happened to me in interview situations.
        Bring a friend. This has happened more than once. Usually late teens who are applying for part time work. I don’t hold it against them. (much)

        This was a little disconcerting. Get a call that the applicant is in the waiting area. Walk out. Two people sitting out there. Mary? I say to the general room. She says yes and this is Martha. She’s a recent graduate too. Can she come too, she might be interested in the position. (this was for a librarian professional position and no Martha did not apply.) I said no (and this was the fastest interview ever. )

        Then there was the Librarian (already hired, 4 months into to job) who filed a union grievance against the training librarian because she “couldn’t make him read.”

  22. Jake*

    I like 9 the best because the rest seem to come from a misguided sense of what is acceptable, and most of them are genuinely an attempt at doing something nice to earn brownie points.

    9 was just a straight up dishonest attempt at manipulation, and the op even came to the comments section in an attempt to defend that strategy!

  23. VictoriaHR*

    The jobs subreddit still talks about walking in and asking if a company is hiring, all the time. Parents are still pushing their college-grad kids to do this because it worked for the parents 40 years ago.

  24. Forrest*

    Is this list meant to provide genuine advise, or have you decided that it’s not worth even trying? Where’s the advise about not overselling your capability (or underselling), picking the right attire, or even providing a short list of poor mannerisms?

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