what’s the worst “you need to show gumption to get a job?” advice you’ve heard?

There’s a whole field of career advice that’s based on the idea that you need to show “gumption” to get a job: “Walk into their office with your resume and ask to speak to the person in charge!” “Call every day until they agree to give you an interview!” “Send your resume on special paper through overnight mail, and the hiring manager will be blown away by your initiative!” “Send a cake with your resume written out in frosting!” In other words, ignore the way the employer has told you they want to manage their hiring, and do something weird/pushy/gimmicky/creepy instead.

Every so often, you’ll hear a story about someone who got a job using  this kind of “gumption.” You do not hear as much about the many more times that it didn’t work and instead just made hiring managers cringe/roll their eyes/call security. (You also don’t hear much about what it’s like for the person who triumphed through gumption and is now stuck working for a manager who responds to gimmicks over substance.)

For some reason, gumption advice just won’t die, despite being uniformly terrible. So, let’s discuss. What’s the weirdest or worst gumption advice you’ve heard?

{ 1,093 comments… read them below }

  1. Media Monkey*

    this was quite a few years ago and I am sad to say it actually worked. an old colleague of mine sent his CV into my old agency (before i worked there) in a box filled with pictures of himself, including pictures of him on the toilet (PG rated of course). he got the job and was actually quite a good entry level employee (if a bit of a PITA).

        1. mrs__peel*

          This is also burned indelibly into my mind, for some reason! And I hardly ever even read magazines….

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      I guess they were looking for “originality” above all else – not realizing that most “original” ideas are crap. Sure, you could try building a house out of Styrofoam and that would be “original,” it just wouldn’t work.

    1. Not Tom, just Petty*

      problem solver: noun, one who stalks individuals in an attempt to gain their attention and approbation.

    2. JB*

      This is possibly good advice if you are emailing someone in the talent acquisition department. I’ve gotten a job that way. It’s insane if you’re emailing someone whose job does not involve recruitment.

    3. JulieBulie*

      I’ve received unsolicited emails at work from recruiters who reverse-engineered my email address. Emailing me at work to recruit me to work somewhere else? I was not amused. I imagine I’d be even less amused if I got unsolicited emails from people asking me for a job.

        1. But you don't have an accent*

          Ugh yes! This recruiter (after 3 unanswered LinkedIn messages, and 2 unanswered emails), had the gall to call my office and ask to speak with me. And then proceeded to leave a 3 minute message when I didn’t answer (because I was out of the office).

          I ended up telling my boss because I didn’t want him to think I was job hunting haha.

          1. Amber T*

            There’s one recruiting company that keeps calling me at my office. And it’s never the same person! They always call the office (through reception, mind you), never leave a voice mail, then send me both a LinkedIn message and an email (my real email isn’t hard to figure out, just sheesh). The first person I replied via email saying “thanks, not interested, please don’t call my office.” The second person I replied with “still not interested, I asked that my office number be removed from the list.” They still call. Our receptionist has figured just to throw them straight into my voice mail (which they won’t leave anyway). I’m not currently job hunting, but if/when that time ever comes, I absolutely do not want to work with them.

            1. Tiny Soprano*

              Ugggghhhh as a receptionist who deals with this all the time it’s so annoying. I happily blacklist companies if requested and head them off at the pass. No you can’t speak to Wakeen in HR – Wakeen in HR does not accept calls from Unsolicited Harassy Recruitment and there will never be a day where I will put you or any of your clueless colleagues through to him so kindly don’t call again. Worked until two reps from Unsolicited Harassy Recruitment showed up in person uninvited pretending they had been invited to see Wakeen, (!) and I had to tell them firmly to leave and never return. Wakeen wasn’t even going to come out to tell them to p*** off because of course, they’d see that as an in! :s

              Took a good three months of this for them to stop.

              1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

                They showed up in person? What the heck! That seems like borderline stalking to me.

                1. DArcy*

                  I would issue them a formal exclusion from the property, which means if they ever come back they can be arrested on sight by police/security and charged with criminal trespassing.

              2. Candi*

                +1 for Unsolicited Harassy Recruitment.

                And what do you two do!?! Spin straw into gold? Llama wool into silver? Drop gems with every word? Make chocolate teapots that celebrities fight over!?! Sheesh, that’s all ridiculous!

                (ONE message, come on recruiters. It gets you on the long list of people who may be considered in the future.)

              3. Helena*

                Some crappy medical locum agencies do this too, but they page the on call (ie super busy dealing with emergencies) doctor, via switchboard, claiming to be a GP. Recruiters, if you interrupt a cardiac arrest by fraudulently claiming to be another doctor, I will not be signing up with you.

                Another tactic is pretending to be from IT and “needing your email address to fix a fault on your ward computer”. What fault on a networked desktop computer can be fixed with an email address?

          2. Igg*

            This happens to me also. I think it’s common enough that you’re probably safe at your job. Your boss probably gets the same thing. Just delete.

        2. SusanIvanova*

          Very large companies often have banks of numbers – everything in 123-XXXX is theirs. So recruiters just cold-call the whole range.

      1. SQL Coder Cat*

        As someone who gets unsolicited please hire me emails, do not do this. It drives me crazy- particularly as I don’t have any hiring authority. I have no idea how these people are deciding to send their information to me, as I’m not in a public facing role and I’m not in our online directory. My boss- who does have hiring authority- has me forward them to her so she can put them on her ‘never hire’ list.

        1. Artemesia*

          I am retired but a company Email address is part of the retirement perks and I still get people doing this, i.e. asking me for a job.

        2. Igg*

          I wouldn’t disqualify just bc of that. Unless the emails were inappropriate or creepy. It’s advice people get and sometimes folks at ate just desperate. I don’t think it makes them bad employees

    4. Pierre*

      It’s so easy to figure out email addresses in a company. No way someone will find you’re a problem solver for doing that.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Right? Other ideas from this Einstein: suggest a LOCKING DOOR! Propose the revolutionary concept of DESKS for working at! Throw out the idea that you PAY employees! *full body Liz Lemon eye roll*

      2. Anonymous Poster*

        That’s what I thought! This as much problem solving as figuring out how a zipper works on my jacket.

        What’s the next problem to solve, how to button my shirt? How to unlock my door with my key?

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        Well, sometimes. As companies grow, they’re emails may change. So someone that worked there at the very beginning may just be firstname@ and then later they do first initiallastname@ and then maybe even later do firstname.lastname@ and anyone who can firguee out double last names or juniors or III’s is pretty clever.

    5. Mel*

      Oh my gosh, my dumb 20 year old self got this advice and I did it. And I got the job. But let me tell you, I had about 6 inches of space to make a mistake until I proved myself. Looking back, I see a couple of instances when I think they really considered firing me, and could have said “she just isn’t a good fit.” And they would have been right.

    6. Actuary*

      This is actually pretty common in my field. Not to the CEO, but to the chief actuary or other senior actuaries. That said, most credentialed actuaries have their emails published in a public directory online unless they opt out.. So it’s not considered super unusual to get an email from someone you don’t know. I’ve certainly gotten interviews this way.

    7. Oranges*

      I had someone do this to me after a phone interview (I was the hiring manager). This nudged him firmly into the nope pile.

      I found it creepy. I will never NOT find it creepy. I know it’s common but if he had just gone through HR like he was told to he might have gotten an in person interview. He was on the fence.

    1. offonaLARK*

      *shares popcorn* Well I guess I’M not getting any work done today. <3 (Kidding, I'm actually already done! Way too efficient for this job…)

    2. TheCupcakeCounter*

      Same here. Not ashamed to say my reaction to seeing this post of OH MY GOD OH MY GOD THIS IS THE BEST DAY EVER.
      Love these types of threads.

      1. Saturnalia*

        Lol almost like my reaction: oh thank gods because I’ve had too rough a day to even know where else to look for a distraction from my rough day

    3. Kathleen Adams*

      Besides banning “gumption” in job searches, can we also ban the “Be memorable” mindset? Because by “Be memorable,” nobody ever, ever, ever means “Be a memorable example of competence, professionalism and intelligence.” They always mean “Do something wacky that will appeal to maybe 1% of prospective employers but will make the other 99% think you’re clueless, tacky or creepy.”

      And yes, I am thinking of the AAM letter writer who sent chocolate with his/her resume because “very few ladies don’t like chocolate.”

      1. James B*

        oh my.

        Sending chocolate is one thing, and bad enough – but including a note saying ‘very few ladies don’t like chocolate’? Good grief. And you just know they were pronouncing it ‘laaaayyyydeees’ in their head… Urgh.

        1. Candi*

          That LW commented and identified herself as a woman.

          It’s still a silly thing to do. A lot of regular commentators pointed out that, even when you set aside the ‘women like chocolate’ and food sensitivities, most people would never, ever eat random food from a stranger. That’s without getting into how sticky bribery laws can be in some fields/countries.

  2. L.*

    I was jobless for a long time after graduation from college in late 2008 (recession-rama!) and my parents, who were both federal employees and hadn’t had to look for private-sector jobs since 1982 or so, endlessly told me to just go into places I wanted to work (that later became ANYPLACE) and just ask for an application and to interview. Of course, even ten years ago, everyone had moved to online applications on the rare occasion they were hiring at all. If I was lucky, the place would have a computer where you could sit down and fill out the online application (I remember Target did, they never called me back.) Then parents got mad I spent all day on the computer. Those were tough times.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      I always got that too when unemployed. “You are always on that computer! That won’t get you anywhere!”

      Well that’s how you search and apply now so…

      1. LawLady*

        My dad genuinely cannot believe that being on the computer can mean doing something productive and not just screwing around. (He’s a farmer, so his work is definitely not on a computer.) So when I visit my parents and spend a few hours logged in since I now have a job I can’t really unplug from, he constantly harasses me about “lazing about.” Drives me nuts.

        1. Rainy*

          There is nothing more infuriating than A) having to take your computer on vacation and then B) being chastised for playing games when you are actually working.

        2. MsChanandlerBong*

          My mother does the same thing, and it really ticks me off. She constantly tells me that I don’t know what it’s like to have to go to a job and work all day (I am self-employed and work from home). Not only do I work all day, but there are many times that I have been up all night to meet a tight deadline. I have to find my own clients, do my own bookkeeping, and solve my own problems. I may not work eight hours per day, five days per week, but I bust my butt. I have had clients call me at 3:00 in the morning, I am required to stay signed in to Skype on my phone in case one of my big clients needs urgent help, and I have had to cancel plans many times to handle urgent work. She, on the other hand, clocks out at 5:00 and doesn’t have to think about work again until 8:30 the next morning.

          1. Not Yet Looking*

            Well, to be fair, she’s not wrong about you not knowing what it’s like to punch a clock and be harassed about butt-in-seat time. What you do is probably a LOT more work than some of us, and also at the same time I suspect you get a LOT more freedom than some of us, most of the time. Frankly, if you don’t get scheduling freedom out of it, I’m not sure what the benefit is.

            1. Rana*

              I do get scheduling freedom out of freelancing, but, honestly? I started freelancing because I’m not conventionally employable anymore. Some of us don’t easily fit into the boxes that people are looking to fill. If I didn’t freelance, odds are that I’d be doing minimum wage entry-level work, badly, instead of actually putting my degree to work doing work I’m qualified for and enjoy.

            2. Rana*

              Also, pretty much every freelancer I know has had at least one stint of working for a butt-in-seat job, so, yeah.

          2. 2mc1pg*

            As someone with a butt-in-seat job partnered with a man who is remote, freelance, and works hard but from home – no, they are very different. He has pressures in his job I don’t have (invoicing and bookkeeping as you correctly identified) but I have pressures in mine he refuses to comprehend.

            “Just get up and walk away from your desk.” Oh really? You mean when I’m on hold with two state agencies to see which one picks up first, and have to call the IRS immediately following that, while handling binders of materials (my industry will not be remote-friendly for at minimum 10 more years if ever as we deal with blue ink physical original signatures), all while dealing with leadership who stick their head in my door to ask questions? Really. Mmmkay. C’mon over here. Come work my job. Come see what lunch breaks look like (they don’t exist), and how seriously you’re taken when you’re in the office versus when you’re not (hint, you’re not at all, even if you’re on email on your phone or laptop).

            Would it be nice if my industry quote unquote caught up with the times, made remote work first of all feasible, and second of all acceptable in the culture? Sure. Sure it would. But you know what, until then, I do actually care about my career, and no one is trapping me there. But it is very very different to working from home, listening to music all day while programming, having the slow-cooker going in the background, and stopping to change the laundry or take personal calls at will. And does it gall me when he texts me in the middle of being on hold with the state to ask me which laundry soap to use, and doesn’t understand why I’m not answering personal texts for several hours? Yes, yes it does.

            I know he works. I’ve seen the results of his work. It’s impressive, high-level, complex programming that I couldn’t begin to produce if I went back to school for four years to study it. But it doesn’t make him a better person than me that he has the luxury (and it is a luxury) of doing that from home. Or me a better person that I have old-school corporate requirements to be dressed and in a seat. They are just very very different.

        3. Stickler*

          Yes, when my mom visits and I’m working from home, she makes snide remarks about my “playing on the computer.”

          1. Windchime*

            My mom calls it my “day off”. As in, “I figured it was OK to call since you’re off today.” “No, mom, it’s my work at home day.” “Oh, yeah…….work at home day. OK, anyway….”

            1. Teapot project manager*

              Wow, I sorry she doesn’t get it. Makes me really appreciate that my parents have understood that yes, for the last 16 years I have been working very hard, from home. I know it amazed them that I could work from home just with my computer and phone but they totally respected it and would tell others how much my company valued me. My dad is 92 and mom turned 90 last February right before she died. In fact a few days I was over there to help her and take her to the doctor and while she was resting I set up a hot spot and worked on my laptop dad asked what I was doing (he has dementia and doesn’t always understand what’s going on). Mom told him I was working and reminded him that I work on the computer from home.

              I’m pretty sure they are decades older than some of the parents being mentioned. If my parents who were born before Lindbergh crosssed the Atlantic I don’t think any “elderly” person has an excuse to not get it.

              1. selena81*

                i my experience it’s really not about age but all about *wanting* to stay current. People can be 40 years old and already be ‘crancky old man’, while other are 90 but still want to understand ‘what the kids are into these days’.

                (of course it comes from 2 ways: if you are constantly telling your parents that they are stupid for not understanding email then they are going to resent computers)

        4. Éti*

          My dad is the exact same way, and it’s super annoying sometimes. My main job, at which I earn my primary income, is freelancing through the internet, and I’m also currently sorting data and working on a proposal for my Masters, completely on my computer… and whenever I’m down their way he thinks I’m free to do whatever he needs me to do whenever he needs me to do it because “you don’t do anything, just play around on that computer.”

          Just had to comment in solidarity. :)

        5. Artemesia*

          I am an old lady and I know that job searches are done on computers and that modern work is done on computers; how can so many Olds not know that? My son, my son in law and my daughter all have jobs where they are using a computer most of the day and often work from home or when traveling etc. This is just bog standard today. How can people sentient in this world not be aware of this?

          1. Barney Stinson*

            I know. I work on a computer all. day. long. And I’m old. And I know how jobs are found. How old are these parents? 100?

            1. Optimistic Prime*

              I think it’s less age and more unfamiliarity with the way modern white-collar work is done, particularly if the parents themselves don’t work with computers ever. My parents are both blue-collar workers who didn’t do much computer work until very recently: my mother was a SAHM for years and is now a nurse; my father was a bus driver for many years, then a rail car technician. He didn’t transition into a semi-white collar position (a supervisor at his transit company) until I was in late graduate school. So neither of them has ever done much work on a computer. Add to that that pounding the pavement and showing up in person IS the way that getting a job sometimes works in blue-collar/working-class fields…and so their perception is similar: if I’m constantly staring at a computer, I must be futzing around on the Internet or something.

              1. Bleeborp*

                Even my parents who both worked in offices still tried to suggest these in-person tactics (they aren’t 100 but they are in their 70’s so most of their working years were spent either without computers, with computers but no internet, or being constantly frustrated with the rise of computers. So even if they know better, they WISH things were still like they used to be and you could apply in person.

                That being said, my first job out of college DID come from walking up to a store front for an organization I wanted to work for (I volunteered, then interned, then got a job eventually) And I was wish my dad when it happened and I’m 99% sure my dad’s charm is what got my foot in the door!

        6. TrainerGirl*

          My father became his company’s 2nd telecommuter when he and my mom moved back to their home state, so thankfully they understand that work is done on the computer in the house. But his mother couldn’t understand how he could get a paycheck for “sitting around the house playing Solitaire all day”.

      2. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

        Ha Ha. Same here. My mom is old school. She says to me “You should mail out a bunch of resumes to different companies”. I’m like, “Mom, that’s no longer how it’s done”

        1. Mel*

          Same here! ’07 grad, got hired in June 2008, let go March 2008 (last in, first out). I have the pride of place in being among the first huge jobs loss report of the credit crunch!

        2. Batshua*

          Graduated in ’07. Couldn’t get a job as a receptionist because I didn’t have enough phone answering experience. Was basically unemployed (with a few temping stints) for SEVEN YEARS.

          I don’t know how people made it through that time alive.

          1. anon anon*

            Hell, I don’t think graduation date even mattered. I had already put my time in “paying my dues” in Corporate America, and I’ve been un- or under-employed ever since the Great Recession hit.

          2. Anxa*

            7 years here too!

            I feel like I’ve gotten to a groove where I can consistently GET a job, just not the permanent, full-time, actually-part-of-staff-for-real job. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride…

            Boyfriend was late 07 and I was late 08. He squeaked into the job market before the crash, but he quit his job (he started before graduation) after less than 2 years after safety issue. Let’s just say there was a lot of panic about whether it was wise to quit the job he got poisoned out so rashly once the crash hit.

            Luckily he found some paid internships and after moving back in with his parents he got into grad school to bide some time and reset his path.

        3. JAM*

          Graduated December of 06. Had a job scheduled to start in May of 07 so I took a temp job to span the gap. Got laid off from the job I didn’t even start when they decided to close their office in my city and then the temp job ended the same month. Then 2 other corporate HQs in the market shut down in my field so I was competing for entry level work against 10 year veterans. I didn’t have full-time regular employment again till 2012. I should have started a blog of every bad piece of advice I received in those years.

          1. Windchime*

            My son graduated from university in ’10. He spent the next two years dealing poker and trying to sell insurance. Then he was underemployed for several more years. He was underemployed for 6 years after graduation.

        4. Overeducated*

          07 grad…spent that first year out of the country, returned in September ’08 and started job searching. Ha. Ha ha. Perfect timing.

          I made it work with 3 part time jobs for a while, but can you blame me for hiding out in grad school? At least they guaranteed me a livable income and health insurance!

      1. littlemoose*

        Graduated from law school in 2008 – I’ll add my major commiseration re the atrocious job market and the lack of understanding about job searching from long-employed family members.

      2. Jay Bee*

        May of ’08 here as well. Worked in an art gallery for six months with a woman who wore LITERAL Las Vegas showgirl headpieces for gallery openings. Needless to say that job is no longer on my resume. But what you would do for a paycheck in those dark days.

      3. Fabulous*

        ’07 grad here. Worked Nov 2007 thru June(?) 2008 before being laid off. Thankfully temp work came around that October so I was only a few months without a paycheck.

      4. Mafalda*

        Dec. of 07. Got a low-paying nonprofit job, then secured another low -paying nonprofit job right before they could lay me off about nine months later. New gig was doing foreclosure prevention counseling. I’d unwittingly stumbled into the job that would sustain me through the recession. Good times!

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          Reminds me of a book I read once, about what it was like to grow up wealthy during the Great Depression. The author’s family were the founders of the Quaker Oats company. What do people eat when they’re short of money and need cheap, filling nutrition? Oatmeal. So they kind of fell into the ultimate Depression-proof business.

      5. Optimistic Prime*

        Me too. The only way I escaped is going to graduate school for 6 years, and that wasn’t even intentional, just serendipitous (I think? Graduate school had its own challenges).

      6. Lynda*

        Made redundant (pink slip) from a government job in late 2008, aged over 50. Things could have been a lot worse…

    2. Redundant Department of Redundancy*

      I graduated in ’09 but it was the same story. MY stepdad kept going on about how he got his job in 1950 by walking into a Civil Engineering Office and asking for a job. The boss liked the ‘cut of his jib’, and gave him a job.

      Trying to explain to him that you now need a degree for the kind of job he was given just earnt me more lectures about needing to get more gumption as ‘If you show you’re capable the lack of degree won’t matter’???

      1. Elemeno P.*

        I also graduated in ’09, but my mom was luckily very understanding. She’d grown tired of working for our family’s business and decided to move to another state and get a new job…in early 2008. The few jobs available didn’t want to hire a woman in her 50s who’d spent the last 10 years working for her mother, so she eventually went back to her old job. When I graduated, we commiserated over how awful and depressing job searches are.

      2. sara*

        Ugh, terrible. I’ve got a few of those in my family too. What I never could wrap my head around is that those same relatives who have told me this kind of story about “all you need is gumption!” are ALSO the same relatives who can be super-judgmental towards someone for not going to college.

      3. Artemesia*

        My husband’s former law partner was in town recently; he still runs the firm and he told us about his most recent hire who was a guy with gumption who just walked in. So there is always that outlier that keeps this nonsense going.

        1. Amber T*

          That’s crazy. When I worked in reception, if some rando walked in (that wasn’t a sales guy that I could easily deflect) saying he was looking for a job and could he speak to someone… the answer would have been a flat out no, you need to leave no, get out.

          1. TrainerGirl*

            My last job had a small lobby area that you arrived in when you got off the elevator on our floor. I was leaving the kitchen to go back to my desk, and went out one door and was about to go in the door on my side of the floor when I was approached by a guy who wanted to “see someone in HR”. He wanted to drop off a resume for an IT job. That just seemed so….wrong.

          1. Artemesia*

            He seems to be working out fine. when I heard the story of course all I could think of was threads like this on AAM and so I said ‘well it sounds like he showed a lot of gumption.’

      4. You're Not My Supervisor*

        Also graduated in ’09. I got the “you’re just being too picky about the jobs you apply to, you should take a job scrubbing toilets if they offer you one!” Uh, they’re not offering, unless you have experience cleaning. But thanks Mom.

        1. Gadfly*

          Usually not even then because the company doesn’t hire people to clean toilets unless they are a toilet cleaning company. They outsource it. Companies rarely have their own cleaning staff–as much support as can be outsourced often is. It is a popular and often profitable (at least in the short term) strategy that then allows companies to focus on what they do instead of upkeep.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              What? Where is this coming from?

              Professional janitorial crews clean professionally: it’s their job, and if they’re not good at it, the company will hire a different janitorial service. Every business I’ve been to that doesn’t have a dedicated cleaning crew is frankly filthy, because there’s no one whose “job” it is to clean, so they don’t prioritize it (why put effort into something that doesn’t impact your performance review?).

              Can’t speak to the theft issue, but I would bet a lot of it is based on stereotype, since the number of support staff who are accused of it is huge while no one just assumes the new exec will embezzle.

              1. nonegiven*

                DH’s job had a contractor for cleaning at night. The cleaner would bring her kid with her, and the kid would play on the computers and steal people’s snacks out of their desk drawers. I don’t think there are any companies with multiple cleaners anywhere close. So they warned her that had to stop but it didn’t so they fired her and hired a W-2 employee for cleaning during the work day. He is really good, conscientious, everyone likes him and since he is there more hours, he also does outside stuff like mowing.

              2. selena81*

                i think ‘hiring outsiders’ is usually good for performance (they won’t be hired back if they screw up), but is in general bad for the cleaners themselves (it is easier to underpay and overwork an ‘invisible’ workforce)

            2. Candi*

              You’re being both insulting and stereotyping. Yes, there are some thefts among housekeeping and janitorial -there are also thieves among all levels and types of workers across all skill levels and industries. One of the most recent to AAM was about a stolen jacket, hijacked by a coworker. But for some reason, certain legit professions get the ‘they must be thieves’ tag.

              Some people take pride in their work and doing it well, even if it’s scrubbing toilets and dumping garbage. Assuming hired outside cleaner = lousy job is rude.

              Adding “often” doesn’t mitigate the insult. Particularly when the tone and word choice implies good workers in cleanup are the rarity.

              Please rethink your bias

              -a former housekeeper

      5. Diatryma*

        I want to comment but all I want to say is a series of tense annoyed growls because what the hell, parents, cut it out.

    3. Warlord1986*

      Oh God, same. I graduated in 2008 (with a degree in Communications because I make bad life decisions). My Dad had been retired from the Navy for 20 years at that point and his idea of how I should apply for federal jobs was ‘you need to apply to EVERY ONE of the thousands of jobs on the usajobs.gov website.’ It was so clucking stupid. What made it worse was that despite the nightly onslaught of economic terror on the news, the parental units didn’t seem to understand that there was recession going on. ‘What do you mean the airlines aren’t hiring?’

      I finally did get a job by applying for something in person. It was with a government contractor and I lasted a year. My supervisor was good, but the owner of the business was a sleazy jerk who got hit with the lawsuit stick a few times.

      1. Mine Own Telemachus*

        ’08 Grad chiming in! I graduated with a degree in theology, and went straight into grad school to avoid the whole “searching for a job with a religious degree” problem. Ended up literally leaving the country for my first actual job because the market was STILL terrible when I graduated with an MA in 2010.

        Luckily my dad does job coaching for inmates at the prison where he works, and knows enough not to tell me to do the “gumption!” stuff when I did come back to the US to look for a job here!

        1. NaoNao*

          Me too! Graduated 08, went for a grad degree until 2010 and still wound up leaving the country for my first job!

      2. SCtoDC*

        USAJobs is the worst website. I live in DC and never applied for a federal job simply b/c the website was so awful.

        1. Batshua*

          It has improved, slightly. Possibly because I have taken the survey every time I’ve been offered it and told them to SAVE THE DEMOGRAPHIC INFO between apps so we don’t have to keep re-entering it.

          Finally someone listened?

        2. Paige Turner*

          It’s terrible and I applied for dozens of jobs before I found out what a federal resume is. I was so mad that none of my fed employee friends who knew I was job searching thought to mention it but they all live in their own parallel universe.

            1. Batshua*

              It’s about as close to the opposite of a real resume as you can imagine.

              List everything you’ve ever done. In detail. Chronologically.

              It doesn’t matter if it’s relevant or not.

              Parrot back the text in the joblisting.

              1. Snazzy Hat*

                I actually found my state application to be worse than the federal one. Federal, I had to be damn sure everything was accurate (or as accurate as possible), and yeah, included every job I ever had (luckily I had been in the work force only ten years at that point). State wanted to know when I was unemployed, too. If I recall correctly, I put my position down as “job seeker” and my supervisor as “myself”. Reason for leaving: uh… I got a job? O_o

                1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

                  I had to provide a document from the unemployment office to show the dates I was actually drawing unemployment benefit…

                2. Snazzy Hat*

                  Oh god I’m so glad they didn’t ask me to do that since I wasn’t receiving unemployment anything. How can I prove I’m getting nothing? By not procuring the documents they require?

                3. Anxa*

                  Oh my goodness, yes!

                  I hate when the application doesn’t give you a path to answer the specific instructions.

                  I applied for job last night that demanded to specifically address a list of qualifications, some of which were just familiar with something. No skills section. No extra information. Explicit directions NOT to upload a CL or resume.

                  I just kind of broke it up randomly into sections of my work history, regardless of how dumb it looked. I think I even started doing it all in caps locks. I even labeled it as “This is my qualification for X.”

            2. Mananana*

              A federal resume breaks all the rules – it can be hideous if you use the USAJOBS-generated resume. If you want to get into the fed arena, I suggest googling “the resume place” which is Kathryn Troutman’s site. Although they are a federal resume-writing service, they also offer free resources on how to write an effective fed resume. I highly recommend that any federal job seeker check out her website. She’s also written several books that you should be able to find online or at the public library.

        3. Warlord1986*

          I clucking hated that website. And when I went to grad school 2 hours from D.C. I got some exposure to federal employees and read some research on their working conditions. I have never met a more depressed, overworked group of people and that was before President DumpsterFire took office. I work in state government now and I’m very happy. My dad seems to think a federal job is the gold standard of jobs, but I won’t even apply for one now.

          1. Chickpea*

            I think it really depends on the branch and the agency. I’ve heard that some are god-awful as you describe, but my friends who are in federal service love it.

        4. gmg22*

          I interned in the fed govt and kept in touch with my supervisor afterward. When I finished my master’s the following year, she sent me a couple of openings along with some advice about how to game the USAJobs system — basically it amounted to “where you have to rank your various skills on a 1-5 scale, just choose 5 for everything. Don’t worry, everyone does it.” Ummmm …

      3. Optimistic Prime*

        Ooh, that’s the worst advice because federal jobs take longer to apply to than most others ones and they’ll reject you very quickly if you’re not qualified. In fact, I took the opposite approach with federal jobs: I only applied for the ones I was pretty much 90% qualified for or more, whereas a lot of private sector jobs I’d apply to on a whim because they only required a cover letter and standard resume.

        1. nonymous*

          The bureaucracy of the HR process in fed jobs means a lot of hiring managers are gaming the system in other ways. I honestly wouldn’t consider applying unless I had a positive convo with someone in the actual working team (preferably the supervisor or someone in their chain of command).

    4. Solidus Pilcrow*

      Yeah. So much “gumption” advice, especially with regard to resume/application submission and contacting employers, has changed so much with computerized applications and job systems.

      Was watching a recent Dr. Phil episode (guilty pleasure, shut up) and he tends to hold the “If you don’t have a job, your full time work is getting a job! Spend 10 hours a day taking your application to every employer in town!” mindset and doesn’t get that taking your resume in person just really isn’t done anymore. Granted, most of the people he goes off on are chronic moochers, but I really want to send him a link to AAM for him to get his head on straight.

      1. FormerEmployee*

        I don’t always defend Dr. Phil, but think that a lot of the people on his show are from small/small-ish towns in the South and Midwest where you might well walk into the local fast food places or retail stores and be able to apply for a job. None of the people he suggests that to seem to have any special skills or a real work history, so they would all be trainees at entry level jobs.

        I think his approach might be different for an out of work engineer or the like.

      2. GumptionIndeed*

        But walk ins are still being done, even for engineering jobs! Two jobs ago, for the four years I was at that job, I could expect a round of walk ins right around the time of graduation. And every year didn’t disappoint. I took their resume, gave them a blank business card with the website info and told them all to apply online. One poor girl had a background in hairdressing and was hoping to branch into administrative work with zero experience and (a necessity for my particular office) zero French. I gave her lots of tips, burst her bubble and sent her on her way…

        1. Tiny Soprano*

          Oh wow. And I say that as a trained opera singer currently sitting behind a desk at an engineering firm (it’s incredible how many transferable skills you get out of opera…). We don’t get so many walk-ups, but ring-ups definitely. A couple of uni grads a week will ring up and extremely nervously ask to speak to HR. Pretty sure they only hire people who apply through the online channel though, because at least they know those people can use the internet :s

      3. eplawyer*

        Oh the “job searching is a full time job” mindset. Try doing family law. The judges are convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that if you are not spending 8 hours a day job searching, you are not really looking and are voluntary impoverished. Since I usually represent the one seeking child support/alimony I have been known to use this mindset to my advantage. What do you mean you only sent out 4 applications last month? Your children need food on the table.

        Sadly another 2008 grad — from law school. No one hiring. Started my own practice, but no one could afford lawyers either.

        1. Mominus*

          Ugh. I ran afoul of this one when I divorced. They “imputed” a 40-hour-a-week minimum-wage job to me despite the fact that this was 2008 and I’d been a chronically ill stay-at-home mom for the past decade. So there was no way I could have obtained that 40-hour-a-week, minimum-wage job in the first place, because people with actual recent experience were flinging themselves on every opening by the hundreds and I hadn’t worked since 1999; and on top of that, even if I had found it, I couldn’t have held it, because I had an untreated (and, at that time, untreatable) medical condition which made working pretty much impossible for me. But the court decided that I *should* have such a job, and based my spousal maintenance off the presumption that I did, figuring that economic pressure would surely be all it took to get me off my duff and impel me to go obtain said job, right?

          What I ended up having to do instead was to stay in an abusive relationship with someone who, whatever else they did to me, did help pay the bills. By five years later, when I ended that relationship, I had successful treatment for the medical condition, and I went to trade school and got a license for a trade which was, by 2013, hiring. I’ve been working steadily ever since, but that little trick of imputing jobs to people who don’t have them in order to push them into getting one really needs to be used with a somewhat greater sense of realism.

          1. Anxa*

            What kills me is that almost every government service from student loan forgiveness to direct aid assumes that working part time is a choice, as if employers are offering full-time jobs for low and mid skill jobs as the default. And I know that there really ARE lot of average skilled, normal people with full-time jobs, but for a lot of people it’s just not as easy as choosing to work 40 hours.

            Never mind if you can’t actually work those hours anyway.

            1. Candi*

              “You have to offer benefits at 30 hours.”

              Part time drops to 28-29 (looking at you, nearby Walmarts).

              Do these people not see this is a thing??

              @Anxa, those people suck. They sure didn’t have trouble putting in my actual part time hours for my divorce*. Or putting in my ex’s non-hours when he quit his job two days after I walked out. ($40 per kid per month.)

              *(He filed for divorce as a display of power move, and wasn’t shocked when I didn’t contest it.)

      4. ella*

        I like to listen to Dave Ramsey sometimes and he recently told an unemployed or underemployed caller to offer to do consulting work for free to “get his foot in the door.” I was yelling “NOOOOOOooooooooooooooo” at my phone. I listen to the podcast. Dave super extra couldn’t hear me.

        1. Candi*

          Wouldn’t the FLSA or intern laws or some department have issues with that if it didn’t fall under volunteer stuff?

      5. Optimistic Prime*

        Also, what if you’re launching a national job search? Last time I applied for jobs only a handful of the orgs I was applying to were located locally. I can’t quite march 2500 miles across the country and hand in a resume.

    5. M is for Mulder*

      The saddest part of the ’08 recession for me was being out of work for so long that employers assumed I’d left the workforce to have a child and get it into kindergarten before coming back. That was not the case.

      1. A Nonny Mousse*

        The 2008 recession worked in my favor because I did have a kid around that time and it looked like I was struggling to find a job like everyone else was at the same time.

      2. JAM*

        That’s depressingly accurate for my un/underemployment period of that era. I decided to go back to school for a certification just for a better cover story but maybe I should have just gone fake kid.

    6. Girasol*

      Your parents were told by their parents how to get a job. That was how: go door to door through town asking for applications. My parents told me that and it worked, too, back in pre-computer days. Don’t do it but do forgive your folks. They mean well.

      1. Allison*

        They mean well, but it’s fair to be annoyed with someone who refuses to consider that things may have changed in the last 15-20 years, get mad at you for telling them how things are done now (how dare you, they know more than you, respect their wisdom and knowledge of the world, etc.), and insist you continue to do things the old fashioned way. They don’t realize that in this case, the “old fashioned way” isn’t charming and refreshing, it’s irrelevant and annoying.

        1. Anlyn*

          Oof, the getting mad because they’re adults and you’re just a kid* and know better than you. And I would agree, if this were 1960.

          *My mother just cannot accept the fact that I am a grown adult who can successfully make my own decisions, and I am too young to know what I’m doing. Argh.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          I’d like to say “oh yeah mom? Well you didn’t even make us wear seatbelts. See, things change.”

        3. Starwatcher*

          Also they’re refusing to consider the fact that a lot of those “gumption” jobs were actually “our dads know each other from way back” jobs, or “The boss and I belong to the same church/boy scout troop/social club/local sports team” jobs, going by my own family and social circle experience…

          1. Optimistic Prime*

            Or, more darkly, “Sure, we have lots of open slots, because we can legally bar women, minorities, and gay people from working here!”

        1. paul*

          I got pretty irate at my MIL about pestering my wife with it. She’s 70 some now, so was in her 60s then, and refused for the longest time to believe that job hunting in 08 was different than job hunting in 78.

        2. Amber T*

          Yeah, it’s one thing if it’s a real innocent “have you tried going door to door?” Then you can roll you eyes and let it roll off your back. But if it’s a consistent, never ending “you need to go door to door/stop playing on your computer/email this random person!” then it can get infuriating.

      2. Jessica*

        Oh come on. They’re not stuck in a castle under a magical spell that kept them asleep since 1976. There’s no excuse for not being at least generally aware of current technology and how people job-search today (especially since “today’s” methods have been the standard since the year 2000).

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Yep. My mom was had to job search after getting laid off at 62, and she adjusted just fine to online applications. She wasn’t fast at it, but she got it. The advice I got from my mom (and she got from her dad) was, “What does the job posting say? Follow the instructions. They’re there for a reason.”

        2. Tedious Cat*

          I know, right? My mom’s still working at almost 67 and she’s a whiz at Excel and all sorts of programs. The small-town library I worked at as a teen has had an electronic card catalog for twenty years. I long ago realized that when most people say “oh, I’m too old to learn new technology/practices/etc.,” what they mean is “I can’t be bothered and this is a handy excuse to try and make you do it for me.”

      3. Sans*

        My husband is unemployed and my mother recently asked me if he was taking his resume door-to-door. She was very skeptical when I explained (and not for the first time) that it’s done by computer these days.

        Of course, she’s 90 and hasn’t worked since she was 21. So there’s that.

        1. FormerEmployee*

          I think that counts as being under a spell, as Jessica questioned. Someone who is 90 and hasn’t worked since they were 21 has been out of the work force for generations.

          However, I will say that in retail, even in major urban areas (I am in SoCal), if you work in sales, you might go into stores in your area and ask if they are hiring. Particularly if the store is not part of a large chain and if you have experience in their type of product sales (widgets, of course), if they need someone, you might have an advantage. And if they aren’t hiring, they may know someone who is hiring because there seems to be an informal network among people who own and operate widget stores in a given area.

          1. DouDou Paille*

            Same with the restaurant business – my husband has gotten several jobs just by walking into a store and asking.

        2. Anonygoose*

          My in-laws were so proud of themselves for buying my husband his first suit, because they thought he’d wear it to every job interview he’ll ever have. I had to explain that he’s in a tech industry where it would seem really weird to show up in a suit for an interview, but they refused to believe that it was different than their blue-collar 1990s factory jobs (FIL) and white-collar top management jobs (MIL).


            1. dragonzflame*

              My dad still has, and wears (without irony), a suit bought in about 1973. It’s brown with flares. I paid to hire him a suit for my wedding.

          1. SusanIvanova*

            My mom insisted I wear the female equivalent of a suit when I was flown from Texas to Silicon Valley for an interview. 1992, so while I was pretty sure she was wrong, the only thing I could cite was pix of the rather hippy-looking Apple engineers in the 70s. Everyone in the interview mentioned that I “really didn’t need to wear a suit, you know?” Oh, I know. But I got the job and that suit went in the donation bin.

        3. TrainerGirl*

          I interviewed for my last position via phone and Skype (because my direct manager is in Australia, and the office POC was out of town on travel when my interview was scheduled), so my mom was convinced the whole thing was a scam because of something she’d seen on tv. This despite the fact that the last 15 years my dad worked for his company was via telework.

      4. INTP*

        I don’t think anyone is not forgiving their parents. It can just be really frustrating when you already feel awful about something and your parents are telling you that it’s your fault for not being ballsy enough, even if you know logically that they are wrong. And a lot of young people are still living with their parents, in which context it feels like you’re being forced to self-sabotage your career. The people you have to listen to because you’re dependent on them are demanding that you do something you know will be bad for your career – it’s a sucky dilemma to be in. I know that in 2010 when I graduated and was living with my parents at their insistence, the constant job rejections were really wearing on my self esteem, and the fact that any time I tried to talk about it or vent my mother would tell me to apply to some job requiring 8 years of experience and treat me like an overly negative person for not thinking I’d get it made my emotional state a lot worse.

        TL;DR I think we all know that our parents mean well, but sometimes this is a situation that’s a little too raw to entirely brush it off as harmless good intentions and not be bothered by it.

        1. Labguy*

          Man, I guess I got lucky with parents who were a doctor and a teacher and recognized that their fields have more abnormal hiring practices. They didn’t really push any bad advice on me.

        2. Dolorous Bread*

          I had a similar experience during my last round of unemployment after a layoff, only the reverse. Somehow, despite having a professional career for years now, everyone in my life who offered advice thought I was totally junior and would sometimes even send me completely irrelevant job postings for entry-level roles.
          My aunt suggested that the job search might pick up “in September once college kids go back to school”. What? I’m a project manager in digital media, there are no college kids in these office buildings!

          1. Bubbles*

            I hear you… My Mum recently told me (Right after an agent packed me off to an interview at a minute’s notice which it turned out I was completely under-qualified for, seems they were looking for a rocket scientist or something pretty close!) that I should tell the agent I will be happy to “just accept any graduate job going”. One, this is a small city and there are very few jobs graduate or not; two – I have not been a “graduate” for 10 years. Go good luck with that one!

        3. Stranger than fiction*

          Agreed. Slightly different than the topic, but my mom gets on my last nerve when she can’t understand why my sister can’t get a job and will point to all the corporate buildings we pass driving down the street, like united healthcare. I’m like (for the 20th time) mom, she’s been mostly unemployed for the last seven years, has several short stints with lots of time off in between, her resume is not even getting considered 99% of the time because there are way better applicants…there’s a reason all she can find is telemarketing jobs. And my mom says but what about all her other experiences for 25 years? I’m like that’s being erased by her recent years of what appears to be total flakiness…
          I’m convinced no new information can penetrate her brain at this point.

        4. Gazebo Slayer*

          This so, so much. If you nag and nag and nag someone to do something that’s a bad idea and they explain why it’s a bad idea and you refuse to listen, then no, I am not convinced by your “good intentions.”

          1. Artemesia*

            There are people and my mother was one who actually have to be told ‘I heard you the first time and I never want to hear another word about this’ and then have it enforced by walking out or hanging up the phone before they stop nagging.

        5. Anxa*

          My mom didn’t even really push me, but even just mentioning the unemployment situation would set me off. Like I didn’t already feel like gigantic failure with negative self-worth. I mean, I understand that she had to make sure she wasn’t enabling me. But I was TRYING. To try and fail that many times and than have someone insist that you need to try harder is just…hard.

          1. Bubbles*

            I am in the same boat right now. Moved to a new (much smaller) city because my husband got a job but after almost 3 months and pretty much applying for anything that is going I cannot seem to get anything… I have begun avoiding speaking with particular family and friends because I feel so useless and worthless. They mean well, but of course they ask well-meaning questions and I feel like screaming “Don’t you think I would have TOLD you if I had been offered a job? Did you really think I was prioritising this conversation in favour of the weather when I was sitting on such big news??” We’re not talking about choosing a new dress here, it is a very emotionally delicate and draining process! There are very few people with whom I will recount my “Also Ran” stories, only my husband, sister and best friend…. Then of course there’s the ugly reality that this ain’t the 1950s anymore and one income is no longer enough sustain most households but that’s a complete other angle…

      5. Gadfly*

        And they were here while the world changed. Sure, it didn’t mean that they were involved in all of the change, but it shouldn’t come as a complete shock to them unless they are pretty actively choosing not to have any sense of the modern world…

      6. Candi*

        I ‘d like to see a list of statistics and an analysis on the whole thing.

        Specifically, how many of those jobs were low vs mid vs high vs specialized back then vs now, how many were foaf/personal network hires va official hunts, and how many of each of those first four categories were walk in the door hires -because I bet the high skill and specialized jobs were not pound the pavement job hunts in the lasted 80 years.

        You’d think betweenness robotics and offshoring, parents would have a clue that it’s harder to get walk-in jobs, even before you factor in the net.

        My dad and I may have our problems with (recent major family trouble), but at least he gets that you can apply for thirty jobs and never leave the house.

    7. k.k*

      ’09 graduate here…same same same. I was clearly lazy or felt I was too good for low level jobs. All this being said while I was applying to every minimum wage part time gig in existence.

      Also, I eventually did get a job at a mall store. It was a small store, super low tech. And I got it by applying online.

      1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

        ’07 grad with the same recession “bonanza” of jobs. My first three jobs after graduation were “Oh, this was only temporary for the summer, didn’t we tell you?”, “Oh, this was only seasonal, didn’t you realize?” and retail. So much for magna cum laude being a ticket to a better salary.

      2. INTP*

        ’10 here, I was the opposite. I was a negative person with no self-confidence who thought I wasn’t good enough for good jobs, because I wouldn’t apply to jobs requiring 5+ years experience when I had zero. CLEARLY if I put my SAT score on my resume they would see that I was smart and hire my inexperienced self for jobs an experienced professional should be doing.

        1. JD*

          If someone put their SAT score on a resume for a job requiring 5 years plus experience, I would laugh, show my coworkers, who would also laugh, then delete it. Just saying. I know a lot of intelligent people who can’t do a darn thing I hire them for.

        2. Gazebo Slayer*

          Oh, I have spent my whole adult life getting this shit. I mean, maybe it means I seem smart to people, but it mostly means they have no clue what the job market is really like.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        For me, it’s “Apply to fast food jobs or shitty office jobs–you can always work there until you find something better.” But the food places don’t want to hire me because I have no recent food service experience. And the shitty jobs think I’m overqualified and I’ll quit. So no one is calling me.

        But maybe, if I work up some gumption and go by their office, they might just offer me a job!! /s

        1. eee*

          Yes! That thing works okay when you’re a teenager with 0 work experience trying to find a part time job–yeah, you can probably find fast food or retail work. But when you’re an adult who already has several years of work experience under your belt, you’re competing against a: people who have actually worked in the industry and have experience, which is a valuable thing because ANY job requires skills. or b: teenagers who also don’t have any work experience, but are planning on doing this for maybe 2 years until they graduate high school, not leave as soon as they can find a job in their regular career.

        2. Risha*

          Yes! I have a job now (finally, thank god), but for a couple of years there my parents just plain didn’t believe that A) I was also applying for low paying retail work and the like, and B) yes, even Target requires an online application these days, and C) literally nobody’s hiring someone with a degree and white collar experience for low paying retail or fast food positions, even as a seasonal worker. All they saw was the Help Wanted signs up all over town, and that they had gotten those kinds of positions 40 years ago via walking in and filling out a paper application.

        3. Tiny Soprano*

          Also, not sure if it’s the same in the states, but once you hit a certain age they legally have to pay you more in low level retail/fast food jobs, which makes anyone over the age of 18 a very undesirable hire regardless when they could get a 16 year old and legally pay them less.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            I think we have something like that in the States (or at least in some of the states—I’m the weirdo who reads those government mandated posters in the break room), but most of the shit jobs I’ve worked don’t like hiring 16 year olds because of the restrictions on the hours they can work, unless they’re emancipated, in which case they have to be paid regular minimum wage anyway.

          2. Candi*

            In my state, minors and anyone still in high school have restricted work hours Sun thru Thursday, especially during the school year.

            My son looked it up when a neighbor would not get off his back about summer hours re: yard work. He kept going back because they paid really well, but he had chores to do here and wanted to, you know, enjoy the last summer before he graduates.

            In a shining AAM-style moment, he said to the neighbor, “I don’t want us to get in trouble by breaking this law.” (Internal happy dance.)

            @Risha: businesses still put up help wanted signs? The only time I’ve seen them around here the past few years is between mid-October and mid-December, and when the Chipotle went up last month.

        4. Front of the House Manager*

          That’s what I did. I took a job, any job, because it would make finding a better job easier.

          Since 2011, I’ve been trapped in food service. I have been resentful ever since I followed that well meaning, but completely off base advice.

          1. Scott W.*

            Same here. For me, it was either find a job before the car insurance bill came, or sell the car. I took the first (and only) job that gave me an offer. That was 4 years ago. Fast forward to now, and the pay and benefits are good, but that’s about it. The work/life balance is bad, it’s physically demanding, the work environment is fairly toxic, and I’m living in a city I don’t care for. Did I mention that we’re in the middle of a labor (union) contract negotiation that could make the working conditions even worse? I’m looking for something else, but even though I have a college degree, I’ve been out of my field for 4 years and haven’t had much time or opportunity to build a portfolio. In the meantime, I feel trapped and it’s terrible.

        5. Bubbles*

          …Or firmly and impolitely turn you away!
          Reminds me of when I was buying a sandwich at a café and a young man sidled up next to me to enquire to the serving lady about a job. She was quite rude and abrupt to him, bit like shooing out a stray dog. I wanted to point out that, “Look, at least he is trying to do something to support himself, not going about breaking into peoples’ homes!” But of course I lack the gumption, don’t I?

        6. Kay*

          I know this is post is several months old, but… YES. This is exactly what I’m going through right now. I’m searching for a job and my family keeps saying I shouldn’t be so picky and might need to work in something lower-paying for a while, without realizing that my master’s degree and lack of experience in those sectors mean that retail/food service are unwilling to hire me.

        7. M*

          YES THIS! I was laid off at Old Job last summer and was unemployed for 6 months (got over 30 interviews in those 6 months) and retail jobs wouldn’t even call me back, a few jobs flat out told me they wouldn’t hire me for part-time (in my field) bc i was “overqualified” and had worked full time and thus paid more so of course i’d find something better and quit, got to final rounds multiple times and was either ghosted or told i was under qualified for entry-level in my field (despite having between 1 and 7 years depending on how nitpicky you get with specifics) and the whole time my parents were scratching their heads or yelling at me about how “everyone’s hiring” and were confused at how i couldn’t just “get a job” at McDonalds or something and the fact I hadn’t showed I wasn’t trying and the fact I’d been unemployed for 6 months without even a crappy retail job would tell employers that i was lazy and so on. Most stressful 6 months of my life.

    8. Allison*

      I was in college 2007-2012, and in that time some stores did have paper applications to fill out, but the jobs I managed to get were pretty much all from online applications, including my first one where the store had computers set up (they looked kinda like Coinstar machines though) for applicants.

      I did “hit the pavement” and go into stores and ask if they were hiring, but if they said “you have to apply online” I was cool with it, thanked them and left. But in 2010 I was working at a bookstore and lots of people would come in and ask if we were hiring, and we didn’t have paper applications, we had to tell people to apply online and some people acted super put off, like we’d told them to get the fork outta the store and never come back. We just didn’t have applications for them to fill out! Didn’t even occur to me I should get the manager for the people who really wanted to interview right away. Besides, after the store opened we had a surplus of employees, the manager was chatting with strong applicants and occasionally hiring new people, but the people who’d been there for setup were slowly seeing their hours cut to nothing due to a lack of reward card signups.

      Protip, if you’re trying to apply to a customer service place that doesn’t seem to be actively hiring, the employees may already be hurting for shifts, and a new person would mean even fewer hours to go around; they should still be nice to you, but forgive them if they’re tripping over themselves to help you get a job there.

      1. Lucy Montrose*

        I admit, I have to struggle not to sympathize with the “gumption” crowd.

        Because I do not trust online applications. When they first started being widely used, I suspected them of being used *specifically because* it was easier to ignore one of those than a paper one. Yes, they are an unavoidable part of the job-seeking landscape, but I think the unemployment figures are higher than they should be because of them. Because algorithms freeze you in time and act as if you have no transferable skills. Because job seekers are now put in the position of hoping employers who like them and find them good fits, gift them with jobs and experiences. Jobs should not be gifts!

        Because, above all, I have a hard time with the whole “shut up, follow the directions, and don’t ask questions” mentality that goes along with the online-application-driven job search. Send your app off into the interwebs and never hear back, just like waiting on the phone for your crush to never call. “Sit and wait for us to contact you” is terrible advice for romance, and I find it unconscionable when it comes to making a living.

        But I don’t know if there is any alternative. This is how it’s done now. I don’t want to end up on anyone’s “never hire” list. And the gumption crowd shoots itself in the foot by busting boundaries, being irrelevant, talking to the wrong people… showing questionable judgment instead of courage or initiative.

        I just think that if we’re stuck with online applications, we need to make them actually help instead of hurt.

        1. Wintermute*

          Consider the converse though. There are a LOT of places where online applications really help because they’re not in-person. If you’re a minority, you can take steps to make sure that you don’t get discarded automatically because you’re not white, which is the biggest point to mention, but it goes beyond that.

          Humans are creatures of bias. And many of these biases are awesome for a hunter/gatherer world but not so great for hiring for a modern job. The bias towards tall people, for instance, makes sense in a tribal context: you know they were well-fed children and could feed themselves as a teenager well, they walk faster, fight better, etc. You have a bias against people with obvious physical differences or deformities because that can be a liability if you ever need to rely on them to feed you or protect you. Same goes for beauty standards: you want a classically beautiful (symmetric features, good musculature, proper body weight distribution) because a member of your “tribe” is also a potential reproductive partner in a tribal stone-age world and those things are considered indicative of good genetics

          Same goes for acculturation, the biases against poor people and those that grew up poor because of they don’t quite fit in, they’re not “members of your tribe”, they dress slightly differently, they may act slightly differently. There’s also all the cultural loading that comes with things that mark someone as “the other”, accent is a huge one. Ask someone with a deep south accent in the north how hard it is to get a job in a field that requires intelligence and skill… studies have shown that just by changing their accent to a southern one people’s estimation of someone’s intelligence goes down by a huge margin, and the reverse for british and commonwealth accents.

          The problem is that these biases, in favor of “people that look, sound and act like they could be your son/grandson” (and the fact this discriminates against minorities, the poor, the disabled, those with speech impediments or heavy accents, etc) are immediately obvious in person.

          Online you get a fairer shake .

          1. selena81*

            this very much.
            i believe that online applications have led to resume and education having gained importance compared to ‘looking the part’, which is good news for anyone fighting discrimation.

        2. Optimistic Prime*

          The difference between online and paper applications is more perception than anything else…it is no easier or harder to ignore an online application than it is a paper one. You can always toss a paper application in the trash immediately after being handed it, or stack a big stack of them in a top office drawer and forget about them for weeks.

          And online applications don’t change any of the other relevant advice about networking, developing relationships, informational interviewing, “it’s about who you know,” etc. They’re just a tool – a more efficient tool, frankly, than paper apps, but still just a tool. An application process can still be high-touch but conducted virtually.

        3. Ego Chamber*

          What the hell does any of that have to do with online applications though? The hiring process, almost by default, involves submitting applications and not hearing back unless you get an interview: paper or online, that’s the way it’s done most of the time. I’ve rarely gotten calls back from paper applications (proportionally much fewer of my applications have been on paper but I was alive when this was a thing), but one time I went back to a store to check on the paper application I’d dropped off and someone found it on a shelf under the register. It had never even made it to the manager’s office. :(

          At least online applications get sorted by a machine, instead of just getting lost by a human who has nothing to do with the hiring process at all.

          At least the information on an online application is encrypted and usually not accessible to random employees who might have a clandestine use for my addy or ssn (I was 17, I didn’t know better yet).

    9. LawPancake*

      Graduated undergrad ’08 and law school ’11. Doing alright now but the first few years were brutal.

      1. swingbattabatta*

        Undergrad ’07 and law school ’10. I hear you. We were actually in the middle of on campus interviews when some of the news started to hit, and partners were walking around on their phones freaking out. We had been assured that pretty much everyone would have multiple job offers to decide between (top 5 school), but the reality ended up being that you were lucky if you had one offer that was deferred for 6 months.

    10. Stackson*

      Graduated 2009, with a degree in a foreign language. Parents also gave me the “just go in and apply!” advice, and my mom at one point screamed at me and told me I was wasting my life spending all this time on the internet.

      …she has since successfully acquired two (retail) jobs by applying online and then walking in every day thereafter and asking about the status of her application, so it’s hard for me to try and tell her that most jobs don’t work like that anymore because in her mind she’s living proof that her methods still work. Ugh.

      1. bopper*

        my DD applied to target on line, and the people there told her to keep coming in and asking about the status of her application so the manager would get to be aware of her…it helped her get an interview and a job!

    11. Jadelyn*

      Ah yes, the classic “pound the pavement”. My dad, who’s worked in a specialized white-collar trade field his entire adult life and has only ever changed jobs by word-of-mouth since it’s a very small industry and everyone knows everyone worth knowing, used to give me this “take your resume in and ask for an interview on the spot!” stuff. I never could convince him that that’s not how this stuff works anymore.

    12. LAF*

      I graduated with my MA in ’08 and had multiple job offers before I even graduated. One of the amazing things about working in mental health. If you have a pulse and they are reasonably sure you won’t *deliberately* be unethical, you can pretty much get a job in any community mental health setting.

    13. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

      My Dad still tells me to do this. Um, no, Dad. Even the temp agencies tell you to go away and fill out the form on the website.

    14. Had Matter's Pea Tarty*

      Oh, so you’ve met my parents!

      My Mum’s also one of those infuriating people who knew what they wanted to do since age 12 or something, did a lot of specialised training and qualifications, volunteered for years, and got into the niche job of her dreams. Her jobsearch advice is kinda useless since I don’t know what I want to do, don’t have any useful qualifications (BA Criminology – “Just get a degree to show you can get one!” but now recruiters pull faces at my CV because I look ‘overqualified’), and I’m firing out applications to any catering/retail entry-level job I can get to. And I’ve been doing that since the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Fifteen with no results.

    15. bookish*

      Yeah, I graduated in 2012 and while I was looking for work in my field, walked into a clothing store with a “Now Hiring!” sign. They were desperately understaffed and I still, of course, needed to go home and apply online. It’s a thing!

    16. Sarah*

      Same! My mom hasn’t applied to jobs since the 1990s and tells me walking around and giving every job my resume is a surefire way to get a job. She gets annoyed at me for spending a lot of time on the computer even though she doesn’t even know what I’m doing on it.

  3. PepperVL*

    Teen Vogue put up an article on Sunday about a guy who delivered his resume printed on the inside of a box of donuts. And it’s a positive article, which is especially damaging considering their target audience is teenage girls – a demographic that many already don’t take seriously.

    (Link in the next comment.)

        1. PepperVL*

          I saw the link on Facebook and my first thought was that Allison needs to let them know what a terrible thing this is to teach teens.

        2. Just Working Here*

          Also, as the recipient, would you eat baked goods sent to your office by a completely random person? I wouldn’t.

          1. PepperVL*

            Not delivered that way I wouldn’t. If they were pre-packaged and sealed by a known company, maybe, but not something a stranger who isn’t following food protocol has touched.

          2. T3k*

            I now work at a well known company in its industry and where many try to get a job at. I was told that one time this girl showed up in the parking lot with a plate of cookies and her resume and both ended up in the trash.

            1. Patricia Spranza*

              That reminds me… years ago our punk rock band was looking for a singer. We had a woman show up for the audition with a plate of homemade cookies. My first thought was “homemade cookies aren’t punk rock!”

              1. HRish Dude*

                But were the cookies were stale because f*ck captalistic society and its expectations of fresh cookies?

              2. Ego Chamber*

                Nooo… homemade cookies are about as punk rock as you can get. Real homemade though: none of that “it’s a store bought log of cookie dough but I sliced it up and baked it myself” bullshit. ;D

          3. GreyjoyGardens*

            Heck no I’m not eating some rando’s baked goods. Especially if they’re homemade. I love when my *friends* make homemade goodies, but these are 1) people I trust and 2) they’re at least decent bakers.

          4. broadcastlady*

            Oh man. We live for food our radio listeners bring us. Homemade tamales, cakes, and pies. One of the perks of my office is all the free food brought in by locals.

          5. Tiny Soprano*

            At one of my old workplaces we had a sweet little undergrad boy who was being stalked by a girl in his science class. Problem was she kept bringing in homemade sweets and leaving them at his work… which everyone else would claim and eat, because homemade macarons, yum! Problem was it just encouraged her, and after a while our poor sweet undergrad had to ask us to reject the baked goods. Which we should have been doing in the first place anyway.

      1. serenity*

        That’s horrifying advice, and yes the article positions it as a positive way to get yourself noticed.

        1. babblemouth*

          I, for one, am looking forward to all the free donuts that will appear in my office around June brought by new graduates who followed terrible advice.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Make sure someone tells them that if they really want to get noticed, it needs to be bespoke donuts from that hip, designer bakery that’s overpriced af but so good, not the Kroger 12/$6 kind.

      2. Luku*

        Oh god.

        >So far, more than a quarter of the places have been impressed.

        So 75% of the places have WTFed you? How is that a good success rate?

        Also would it be accepting bribery? Ethics around accepting this are questionable.

        He’s in marketing so maybe there’s more of a creative aspect to his desired job. But like. This rubs me the wrong way.

        1. Lance*

          Not just bribery, but flat-out deception. Pretending to be a delivery man? Who could possibly think that would end well?

      3. Optimistic Prime*

        “Recruiters, marketing pros and people in general love this kind of approach, it’s something you didn’t expect, fun and out of the box.”


    1. anon24*

      Delivering your resume in a box of donuts to get noticed: bad

      Deceiving staff and pretending to be a delivery guy to get in the door: oh hell no! Now I know that you are willing to lie and manipulate to get what you want

          1. Anion*

            Lol, that’s what I was thinking. I bought a copy for my teen daughter once; sat down to read it, noped out about halfway through, and tossed it in the garbage.

            What I’ve seen online about them since then has not made me regret that.

            1. Justme*

              Interesting. I bought a subscription because they’re really on the forefront of political reporting. And telling teenage girls that it’s good to be informed and active.

              1. PepperVL*

                Yes. They also are very good on issues of consent and bullying. Are there fluffy stories? Absolutely. But they’re teaching teens good stuff too.

                1. GermanGirl*

                  It strikes me as odd then that they would advise young girls to bring baked goods with their resume. Even if they get a job that way, they’d be in the “woman who feeds us” corner from the start and would have to find their way out of that first.

                2. Justme*

                  Definitely. I would have loved a magazine that dove into more serious stuff when I was a teenager, which is why I am supporting them now. And I do appreciate their makeup advice.

              2. Fiennes*

                Teen Vogue has REALLY stepped up the last couple of years — frankly, they did a better job covering the election than most big papers/magazines/networks for adults. Their editorial staff recognizes that teen girls can like fashion and K-pop while still caring intensely about issues that matter.

                Which, of course, makes a piece like this more troubling. I’m sure it was seen as something light and funny, without anyone considering how young female readers might emulate it.

              3. Indoor Cat*

                Huh. As an adult currently into fashion (and has freelanced some articles for fashion magazines, including a different Vogue spinoff, “Knit Vogue,”) and as someone who, as a teen, participated in our local branch of Amnesty International and was interested in world events: Teen Vogue is boring.

                Their reviews, critique, and coverage of fashion trends, styles, and collections shown lack any kind of depth, nuance of aesthetic principles, or context (sociological, historical, or otherwise). And the interviewers were often clumsy, asking the same five-or-so rote questions of every designer rather than trying to engage in great conversation. It’d be like if there was a “Teen Rolling Stone” that consisted of generic YouTube-esque blurbs of new albums and celebrity-crush quizzes. It diminishes the character of the brand and insults teens to boot. A teenager interested in fashion should read Vogue. Or Nylon, or any of Tim Gunn’s books, or anything put out by the Kyoto Costume Institute, or the MOMA.

                And, as a teen, if I wanted to learn about current events from a magazine, I was more than able to understand Al Jazeera Magazine, Time Magazine, Newsweek, Times of India (relevant to me, possibly less relevant to others’ interests). Or read the front page of Wikipedia, if it came to it.

                Teen Vogue is, at best, a benign distraction. But it’s kind of expensive for that. If Teen Vogue is really up your alley, log onto instagram and follow your favorite models and celebrities. It’s the same type of content, but free.

                1. Gwenderful*

                  One thing to keep in mind – usually the “teen” magazines aren’t actually read by people in their teens, but by tweens and under. I remember being super into teen magazines at age 11 and by the time I was actually 13 I was far too “grown up” to read that kind of “kid’s stuff”. It’s aspirational.

            2. Alli525*

              What have you seen? I’m curious because most of the articles I’ve seen (both their original content PLUS articles written *about* them) have been uniformly positive.

      1. GreyjoyGardens*

        Donuts aside, the “pretend to be a delivery person” and more often “pretend to be some mucky-muck, an important client, or a personal friend of Big Boss” in order to get past gatekeepers has been around for quite some time. I’ve even read the “pretend to be someone to get past the receptionist” advice in job-hunting books (not recently, thankfully)! I think it’s another one in the annals of Bad Rom-Com Ideas, as this is the plot of many a movie.

        There is something just so creepy and stalkerish about this advice. Not to mention it gets you off on the wrong foot with deception and lies.

        Bottom line: don’t take any advice from rom-coms. Not relationship advice, not job-hunting advice, nothing.

        1. JoJo*

          Not to mention that the poor receptionist will get in trouble if people make it past her. I guess the possibility of causing a stranger to lose her job doesn’t seem important or even occur to these ‘gumptioneers’.

          1. babblemouth*

            And in any workplace i’ve ever been in, it was never a good idea to get on the wrong side of the receptionist.

          2. Gazebo Slayer*

            This. (Though a decent boss will understand sometimes jerks bamboozle you skillfully.)

            When I worked reception I took delight in shutting down people like this and pushy salespeople. I’d confront them directly about their dishonesty. They’re usually shocked to realize that a receptionist 1) isn’t all sweetness and light and 2) isn’t dumb.

    2. Amadeo*

      One of my instructors when I was getting my design degree told a story about resumes. As graphic designers, we’re supposed to ‘design’ ours, at least to a certain extent. The presentation/layout is almost as important as the content itself in a lot of instances.


      He told us about this one young man who drew his resume in comic form. With a crayon. And got an interview. And got the job. And since said young man didn’t know anything about Adobe Creative Suite (which was actually why his resume was a comic on crayon) he had a lot of catching up to do and fast because he told his interviewers he knew those programs.

      Apparently it worked out for him. He learned the CS programs rather rapidly because he had to and apparently went on to be successful.

      But really. A resume. In crayon.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I do know a guy who applied for a job in crayon, BUT.

        -The job was for working with kids–it was a day camp type scenario.
        -He already worked there! It was a thing that happened every summer, and he was good buddies with the guy doing the hiring, and his application was pretty much just a formality–everybody knew he had the job again if he wanted it. He’d applied normally the first summer.

        1. Amadeo*

          I’d never have the guts to try it. Mostly because in the area where I live I really doubt it would be looked upon favorably. I saw one recently where the designer got a Lego toy of himself made, complete with that infuriating clamshell packaging you need the Jaws of Life to open. Personally, those kinds of things would annoy me just as much because now what do I do with the dang toy if I don’t want to hire this guy? Do I feel guilty for chucking it in the garbage or what?

          1. Just employed here*

            Hire him and hold on to the doll for possible future Voodoo needs, should he turn out to be a bad hire?

          2. Library Land*

            Yes! I came here to say the Lego guy! Who posted a self promoting blog – which suggested that he was successful in getting a job through the Lego promotion but when you read closely, he only thought he was going to be successful (unless he’s updated it recently). My husband and I got in a pretty decent argument, he wanted me to do this since I’m switching to Youth Services Librarianship and I was staunchly against it.

            The funniest part is that this guy is/was going into academics. So the back of the package was his CV but if his CV was so short to fit on the back of the package he would definitely NOT have the experience/publishing to work in academia.

            1. Used to be a lurker*

              Really, academia? IME (at least before I got out of there and back into industry) it’s one of the most conservative fields when it comes to stuff like hiring, not sure how he thought something like that was going to impress.

              1. Artemesia*

                Academia doesn’t use resumes, they use CVs and they are always too long and cumbersome to fit on a box or cake or whatever.

        2. Mary*

          I once got an application form that said under “Supporting Information”, “I can write using both a pen and a pencil” and “I have two legs and can climb stairs, ladders etc.”

          Years later, someone pointed out that it was probably someone who had to apply for a certain number of jobs a week to get Jobseeker’s Allowance and wasn’t taking it seriously, but it was the most bizarre thing to receive.

          1. Lissa*

            When I was a young teen I used to think it was funny to take applications from places like Tim Hortons and fill them in “in character” as like, Darth Vader or Indiana Jones. I am sorry to whoever had to deal with those….

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              Skills: Dark Side of the Force (20 years experience), downsizing*

              * Force-strangling subordinates who have failed you counts as this, right?

            2. Anonicat*

              Reddit recently had a thread asking for the best way to mess with an interviewer if you didn’t actually need/want the job. My favourite was to do the interview in character as a Faceless Man from Game of Thrones.

              A man needs a job. A man could be an asset to the company, if the company gave a man the chance…

          2. serenity*

            Years ago I was hiring for an administrative support role in a major city. I got a resume from a former bouncer named “Ms. Fire” – yes, that was how her name was listed on the resume.
            I also got a resume from someone with a PhD who listed “nuclear fission expert” under skills. It seemed like a serious resume and not a joke, but I’ve never forgotten it. Definitely the most overqualified person for an admin role I’ve ever seen (this was circa 2009 and right in the middle of the economic downturn, and maybe he just really needed a job. But still).

              1. serenity*

                I agree. It was definitely a memorable “stage name” though since I still remember it after all these years.

      2. GreyjoyGardens*

        I remember back in the early 90’s when graphic design was The New Cool Career and you could even show your tattoos at work! So a lot of people wanted in and “lie your way in the door” was something a lot of people did. Have friends pose as references, say you knew Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. when you didn’t and then spend a weekend cramming at the library.

        Overcrowded field + Gumption! = lots of unethical job-hunting practices.

        1. Amadeo*

          It might have been a story from the 90s. I was a non-trad getting my first bachelors at the time this story was told, ’round 2007, the instructor was an ad agency veteran, so the timing is about right, give or take.

          I had to do that cramming thing with Quark though. I got what could’ve been a decent job, but the pay was so crappy I kind of did a visible double take that my interviewer caught when he told me the hourly wage (hello, another 2008 grad, $9.50 an hour for a job that required a bachelors). It was a newspaper still using Quark 6. I struggled with that software for a year before another designer and I managed to convince them to switch to InDesign. Whew.

          1. VC*

            I’m an ’07 grad and my first design job was at a newspaper that was stuck with an antiquated ad management system that only worked with Quark 4 and approximately 15 fonts. I remember looking for the opacity controls for quite a long time before I finally realized… there weren’t any.

            Eventually the other graphic artists and I revolted and started building everything significantly more complicated than a legal ad outside the system in InDesign.

            1. Gadfly*

              My old job was stuck between the the artists the presses and the sales team. That sort of thing caused us SO much trouble. I mean it was obvious why people did it, they wanted their ad to look right, but then the presses couldn’t do it and the ad came out funky when translated into the closest thing it did use and the client was pissed. And because the ad was built in something other than what the ad management system used it was always a huge issue to find the native files to try to fix anything.

              And we were dealing with what my company was proud to claim was the most advanced newspaper press in the country where our problem was people saving ads with lots of red in RGB instead of CMYK or over saturating (we had our specs on the website! We provided it to anyone who asked! I only had someone ask once in 7 years!) or using something newer than InDesign CS4 and not downsaving. The older presses–I missed them, I came on right with the new one–I heard so many horror stories…

            2. Amadeo*

              LOL, except at the time the paper had CS3, and InDesign worked just fine with the system as it was (make a Quark ad, export it so there was a PDF and an EPS, dump the EPS into a system folder, the copy desk drops them in – all they ever needed was an EPS!!) so there was absolutely no reason to keep struggling with Quark 6 and it’s lack of transparency.

          2. Kelly L.*

            Quuuaaaaarrrrrkkkk. I had one job where I had to use some ancient version of Quark for this unwieldy annual project, years after anyone stopped really supporting it at all. Ugh, Quark.

          3. Gadfly*

            I worked for a company that was proud to have (and I think still has) the most advanced newspaper presses in the US. And ad designers were constantly throwing fits that we needed them to downsave to InDesign CS4. I know we had to reformat the national papers that we printed the local copies of that were set up for their press.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          A person I know who worked in recruiting at one time told me to fudge a title and some skills on my resume and then learn on the job. She said “All my friends do it!” I was seriously questioning her judgment at that point.
          She’s far more successful than me, but she also went to college and is in the career for which she studied. I wisely avoided pointing that out because I would probably have gotten snipped at.

          1. Starwatcher*

            Right, people who have followed a tenure track or other similar career path, Dunning-Kreuger all over you with “helpful advice” that is completely irrelevant and if they knew the SLIGHTEST thing about your field, they would realize how ridiculous it is to suggest it!

            “What do you mean, there’s no possible trajectory from Flight Attendant to Airline Pilot? Don’t be silly! You just have to show Enough Gumption! If you wanted to get promoted enough, you could do it! Just apply for the next Pilot opening, and you’ll see!”

        3. Connie-Lynne*

          OMG a friend who worked in Graphic Design in the 90s wrapped his resume around cans of spam and shipped them to potential employers.

          1. Batshua*

            … Why would this work? This sounds like the worst gimmick, because I would NOT be excited to get spam with someone’s resume. A food bribe kind of makes sense if the food is good, but … SPAM?!

            1. Connie-Lynne*

              Yeah, it was a pun.

              It worked to get him a job. I interviewed at the same place for a different role and I … would not have worked for that boss.

      3. Mike C.*

        To be honest, I’m not at all surprised that the lack of knowledge about a p[articular software program/suite wasn’t a hindrance. I’ve found so many times that learning how to navigate these tools is really, really easy to learn.

          1. LavaLamp*

            My webdesign class in high school consisted of the teacher putting a Youtube tutorial on the projector… <.<

      4. Bryce*

        Reminds me of stories I’ve heard about my granddad. He had a photographic memory (or whatever the proper term is, the stories are second-hand) and when he was looking for a job after moving here to America he’d schedule an interview, go the the library over the weekend and memorize everything he could about the area, and then walk in Monday with “experience”. They cut pine there? He knows all about pine logging. No clue whether it worked, they moved around a lot but that may have been lack of success or just the nature of the industry.

    3. Former Recruiter (Canada)*

      At a previous company we had multiple (at least 4 that I can think of) people show up with boxes of food (cupcakes, cookies, donuts) along with their resumes.

      This was especially awkward because we never had clients drop in, so our building was locked/key card access only with a doorbell. We didn’t have reception or a receptionist so whoever was closest to the door would answer it, and would have to awkwardly take the food and tell the person they needed to apply online because we didn’t accept paper applications.

      Of course the person with the food/resume usually tried to get in to speak to someone, but the hiring managers were usually travelling or in meetings. I think the worst part was that you could tell the person doing it was super uncomfortable, but they were usually older and either returning to the work force after being off for several years or had been laid off from companies they were at for 10+ years and were likely feeling pretty desperate. Food (sadly) went in the garbage because no one wanted to eat something dropped off by a stranger.

  4. boxtoppler*

    This is not necessarily “gumption,” but my spouse hired their most recent direct report because he wore a bowtie to the interview. (and, of course, was qualified – as were others – but the bowtie was the tipping point.) Thus far, and it’s only been a few months, my spouse is happy with this decision.

      1. Phantom*

        As a Matt Smith fan, I agree.

        But, I worked with a guy who always wore bowties and was a total jerk. When I first met him, someone commented on his bowtie and got back a rather snippy response. So, I’m not going to make any generalizations about people who wear bowties.

        1. Marillenbaum*

          Let’s all remember that Tucker Carlson wears bowties. So, they could be charming and delightful, or they could be a bigoted trashfire.

          1. Specialk9*

            Yeah, the bowtie guys I’ve known have mostly been the bigoted trashfire kind rather than the Bill Nye/Dr Who kind.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              My entomology professor had a lot of bow ties that were butterflies. Maybe if they have a doctorate, it neutralizes the trashfire properties inherent in the bow tie?

      2. Temperance*

        As a lawyer, I hardcore disagree. If i see a dude in a bowtie, he’s probably a dbag. I have some friends in DC, and they constantly joke that since the er, change in administration, all of the bars are full of jerks in bow ties chugging Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

        1. Cercis*

          Awww, and Tito’s is good stuff. I hate that it’s getting so popular because the price point is rising. I also really, really, really hate the “handmade” thing. How do you “hand make” vodka?

          1. Kelly L.*

            I like them because they’re big donors to pet rescue in my area. I’m not really a vodka person, but I’ve given it as gifts a few times because of the floofs.

          2. Just Working Here*

            Handmade vodka makes me think of the story I heard of an exchange student in Russia in the 1990’s, who couldn’t use the host family’s bathtub for baths because it was being used for making the potato vodka.

            1. Marillenbaum*

              That is amazing! When I lived in North Carolina, I had a roommate whose claim to fame in high school was dating the grandson of the most famous moonshiner in the valley–this reminds me of that.

        2. Edna Mazur*

          Depends on the type of law. My dad is a scientist turned lawyer (patent) and discovered that a bowtie was more practical when reading and writing than a necktie. One other attorney in his firm started wearing one to, until the managing partner made them stop.

        3. Artemesia*

          My oldest colleague was a portly guy who wore bow ties; the salt of the earth. But in my experience these days, it is not a good sign. I once won a bottle of Tito’s and just laughed at the idea of artisanal vodka from Texas. Is it supposed to be good.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          There’s a retired Stanford English professor in the Stanford choir I’m in who wears hand-tied bow ties and will loan one to any student who needs to dress up, and also teach them how to tie it. He’s definitely cool – he used to hang out with people like Jack Kerouac.

    1. Master Bean Counter*

      Well a bowtie speaks to a level of class and whimsy. It might be a tipping point for me.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          To be fair, one of the best-dressed women I’ve ever worked with often wears bow ties with her suits.

        2. Master Bean Counter*

          No. I’ve seen just as many Women wear them as men. In fact I used to wear one as part of a work uniform in a bakery in a big box store. It was my favorite part of the uniform.

        3. Specialk9*

          My apparently female co-worker often wore a bowtie. I thought it might be a queer signifier, but never asked because not remotely my business. Maybe it was just quirky fashion.

          1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

            Maybe, but I used to wear one all the time in high school and it only signified that I was a dork.

    2. Phoenix Programmer*

      That is different though. You can definitely tip the scales by being well dressed all other things equal.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      We used to have an employee here who wore a bowtie daily. He was not in sales and wanted to be, and his clothes became a point of contention about him getting to move into that role (one of many reasons. . .).

    4. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

      My 7 year old son is requesting a tie rack, long ties, and bow ties for Christmas. I am more than happy to comply!

      1. mrs__peel*


        My partner insisted on wearing ties starting in kindergarten, and still wears a three-piece suit and tie almost all of the time. (He also had a lot of fights with his mother in the ’70s about bell-bottomed vs. straight-legged trousers…)

    5. broadcastlady*

      LOL! My husband and another guy were hired as Assistant District Attorneys at the same time, the first job out of law school for both. The DA teased the other hire mercilessly about getting the job DESPITE having worn a purple shirt. Both are now defense attorney’s, but the other guy never wears purple shirts (and the DA boss is now the Judge).

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I once read of a boss who hired a candidate because she turned up to the interview wearing an identical jacket to one the boss owned. The reasoning being that obviously they would work well together if they had the same taste in clothes.

      2. Specialk9*

        Weird. Was purple too “girly eww cooties we’re manly men”? Because darn that they’re now in positions of power

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          That is weird. Purple is a fairly common color for men’s shirts/ties in my office. One of my employees has a light purple shirt/dark purple tie that he gets tons of compliments on.

          Pale pink for men’s shirts isn’t uncommon either.

          And I work in a very staid, conservative law firm.

    6. mrs__peel*

      I used to work with a wonderful judge (my favorite one in the office) who always wore a matching bow tie and cardigan every day, in an array of colors. When he left, the whole staff wore bow ties to his going-away party.

    7. nonyme*

      I had a former boss at a Big Box Retail Store who was quite disappointed she couldn’t hire the guy who showed up wearing a metallic silver suit and purple shoes. He didn’t pass the drug test. She said he would have been “interesting” to work with LOL!

      There was a fairly low bar to get hired there …

  5. A Certain Party*

    Be persistent. Call or visit the employer regularly. They will be impressed by your initiative.

      1. A Certain Party*

        No, just the bad advice I used to hear back in the day.

        But yes, the advice deserves a sarcastic comment.

  6. Startup HR*

    Not quite gumption to get hired, but there’s a lot of “Get a job by agreeing to work for free. Never ask for a raise. Tell them to pay you what they think you’re worth and then work really really hard.” type of advice. If you follow it and you’re lucky in that the manager is good, you’ll probably be ok. If they are in any way bad or unethical or cheap, you’re going to be exploited.

    1. Katie*

      Seriously! A) Working a regular job for free would be illegal. B) If hard work was all it took to move up and get paid what you’re worth, I’d be a CEO by now with a six figure income. Even the good companies enjoy saving a buck when you don’t negotiate up on salary or title. You have to know the right people, make moves, and advocate for yourself to build your career in pretty much any industry.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        I know this is illegal now, but my bf did actually get his first job by working for a guy for free. Of course that was in the 80’s.

          1. EH*

            It’s how I got my gig reviewing movies for my hometown paper, too. I just kept sending reviews in until they ran one, and after they’d run a bunch I asked for their usual freelance rate.
            But this was 2002, the paper was a free weekly with 50k readers, and I was so desperate for bylines to fill out my portfolio that I didn’t care if they paid me as long as they spelled my name right.

    2. Robot Fencer*

      Mark Twain claimed to have given this advice (work for free) to several people who used it successfully.

      The footnotes from the editors in the latest edition of his autobiography note that surviving accounts from the people he claimed to have given that advice to don’t support his claim either that they took or that it worked.

    3. Samata*

      YES! You totally just sparked a memory of a time a recruiter told me I need to start doing what she called “pro bono work” for companies to get my foot in the door. She suggested things they would normally source out like event planning, recruitment or workshops in my area of expertise (which at 26 was very shallow). This would be in addition to my full time job that was already sucking 50 hours a week out of me.

      It didn’t matter if these tasks were actually things I was qualified for or things they would ever bring in house – the goal was to get my foot in the door and show them what a great work ethic I had.

      All I could think was that I’d be burning the candle at both ends and a bunch of opportunities right along with it. I stuck with bartending on the weekends and rode the recession wave until I could find better work out of state.

    4. Elemeno P.*

      Slightly related to working for free, I am all about volunteering (in a legitimate way) to build up an otherwise empty resume. Long-term volunteering shows a lot of passion and dedication. The weird thing that I’ve seen is people saying, “I’d like to volunteer to build up experience, but nobody is offering full-time volunteer work.” I’ve seen multiple people saying it, so it isn’t just an isolated misunderstanding. I’m not sure where the good advice of “volunteer to gain work experience” turned into the bad advice of “full-time work is the only relevant work.”

      1. de Pizan*

        Part of that could be the industry they are trying to get into in. I have a Library Science masters degree, and I’ve done some volunteering at both a public library and a museum archives for a few years each to try and beef up my experience. The problem is when applying to federal/state library jobs. Federal jobs especially, but some state jobs also, will prorate your experience based on the actual number of hours you worked, not on the overall length. So if my most relevant experience for a position is 2 years at the archives, because I only work there one day a week, in essence, they are only counting that as 42 weeks experience, not 2 years. Many of these jobs require at least one full year experience, so that makes me ineligible for the job, even though I’m qualified every other way.

      1. Worker Bee*

        The money you make is a fraction of the value of your labor. Most of the value you produce goes directly to handful of executives. Fast food CEOs make, what, 300x what their kitchen workers make? Are they working 300x harder? No, they aren’t– and they’re exploiting their workers, who often don’t even make a living wage.

        Even people who have decent white-collar jobs are subsidizing the boss’s extravagant lifestyle.

        1. Just Working Here*

          Salary is not just about working x times harder, though, it’s mostly about bringing x times the skills, experience, etc. to the job.

          I’m not denying that there are some unfair pay disparities out there, but casting it as being all about exploitation and how hard one works seems a tad simplistic.

          1. Worker Bee*

            If you’re interested in ending unfair pay discrepancies, I would strongly encourage you to ask your local government to support worker cooperatives and to enact ordinances that protect workers.

            1. Just Working Here*

              I live in Northern Europe, we’re pretty much already sorted for worker cooperatives and ordinances that protect workers. :-)

              1. Worker Bee*

                It’s funny you mention that. Big companies in Northern Europe tend to outsource a lot of work to poor countries that have no worker protections, like Bangladesh. So, many Northern Europeans can afford to have a comfortable life and enjoy all those worker protections because their businesses are profiting off of sweatshop labor far away. Maybe you work for a company like that and maybe you don’t; regardless, it’s important to remember that economic policies (even somewhat progressive ones) can have a devastating impact on vulnerable people.

        2. MommaTRex*

          I have a lovely white-collar job and my bosses don’t have an extravagant lifestyle. Please don’t make such wide-spread generalizations.

          1. Worker Bee*

            You can’t describe a systemic problem without making some generalizations. By the way, if you’re interested in making sure everyone can get a nice job like you have, I would strongly encourage you to lobby your city council to support local worker cooperatives and to enact ordinances that protect workers.

            1. Layla*

              Some jobs / bosses are exploitative and some aren’t. Of course if you see capitalism as inherently exploitative that’s a different story.

      2. Worker Bee*

        I’m not saying nobody likes their job. You can have a job that’s pretty cushy, and a manager who is nice to you. But, your manager could take that away from you in a second. If they wanted, they could fire you for almost any reason (within the bounds of the law, which are pretty difficult to enforce, frankly). The fact that someone else has that much power and control over you is wrong. The fact that they make money off of that dynamic is exploitative.

        Maybe you’re thinking, “I could just get a new job with a better manager if I got fired.” Well, most of us don’t have that luxury. Personally, I wish I weren’t subsidizing my boss’s expensive lifestyle. But I work in a competetive job market, I’m struggling to avoid getting gentrified out of my neighborhood, and I have to pay the bills somehow.

        1. Devils Advocate*

          In your statement you are basically saying that if you anyone makes money off of your work than they are explorating you. I find that to be a very out of touch and cynical statement and degrades those who are truly being explorated.

          I have a skill set–if I opened up shop for myself selling my skill set, it would not make any money. My skill set does not translate well into self employment. However, my skill set is awesome in a company setting. So I find a job that needs my skill set and they pay me for my skill set. This is not exploitation.

          I can tell you are very unhappy in your job as you say you are “subsidizing your boss’ expensive lifestyle” but if he is paying you at the wage you agreed upon when you took the job and you are doing the duties you agreed upon when you took the job, that is not exploitation.

          1. Worker Bee*

            It looks like we have a misunderstanding. I was absolutely not saying that anyone who makes money off of your work is exploiting you. Some people work at co-ops, where every employee is a partial owner of the company and participates in the high-level decision making process, including decisions about pay. This is a model that I would strongly advocate for. In fact, I’m more than a little disappointed that Alison hasn’t discussed the merits of worker cooperatives in her blog.

            That being said, I want to address your comment about the “wage I agreed upon” at my current job. Most people, myself included, take whatever job and pay they can get. The ability to negotiate your wages or pick and choose the best-paying job is a luxury that many commenters in this blog take for granted. Just because I have a “choice” on paper doesn’t mean that I have one in reality, and being forced to work for low wages while someone else uses the profits to buy themselves a shiny porsche– that is definitely exploitation.

            1. Layla*

              Have you considered setting up / joining a worker’s co-op yourself? You seem unhappy in the typical 9-5 type job. (Which is fine, different roles suit different people).

    5. CanCan*

      I know someone who was hired that way. Her cover email was along the lines of: I know it’s hard to assess appliants, so how about I work for you for free for a week, no strings attached, so that you can evaluate my work. My boss agreed, took her on supposedly for free, but then he actually did pay her at the end of the week. Then did the same for another week, and then she was hired.

    6. Snowy*

      That is how we get an economy based on unpaid interns and senior employees at barely above minimum wage.

  7. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

    Well, it was the 80s, and gumption was big back then. My dad handed me the car keys and said, “Don’t come home until you have a job.” So I went out and filled out applications until I did. Again – 1980s. There *were* jobs. The job I got was working the women’s lingerie area of a local department store, which turned out to be HELL for a shy teenager in a college town.

    1. RA Patient*

      In high school I did this too and got a job at Long John Silver’s. But this isn’t really professional job seeking advice.

        1. paul*

          “Dear father; I am in Albany, New York. The people here are strange, and the weather is colder than our Florida climes. Sadly I do not yet have employment. Please send a gas card and ramen.”

          1. Nekussa*

            In my mind this letter is being read with a fiddle playing in the background and “Ken Burns Effect” photos on screen.

                1. Nana*

                  It’s Peter Coyote’s ‘real’ name because he changed it from Peter Cohan.
                  [I was his sister’s classmate, many years ago]

    2. Breda*

      Yeah, this is not terrible advice for most retail/service jobs, as long as you go off-peak. It’s how I got most of mine. (Showed up at the local used bookstore in 2010, asked the owner, “Are you hiring at all?” “Do you like books?” “Yes!” “Ok, come back on Wednesday and I’ll train you.”) But stores are, you know, all about the arrival of random strangers, so it’s not remotely weird or creepy to show up unexpected! Offices are not into that.

      1. Elemeno P.*

        I also got a retail job that way in 2010, but there were many more examples of being flat-out rejected.

      2. babblemouth*

        I did that – walked in a bookstore, asked the owner if he was hiring. He looked at me like I’d grown an extra head.

      1. Mike C.*

        I’m trying to figure out if I missed an episode of AD (since this sounds like something that would happen, given who your “in-laws” would be) or if you’re speaking from personal experience. :)

    3. nnn*

      I’m slightly mindblown at the idea of a job market with such a need for workers that a shy teenager could get a job in a lingerie department!

    4. Yetanotherjennifer*

      Yep, I filled-in applications at the local mall and got a job at a software store in part because I was the only woman to ever walk in and apply.

    5. Beckie*

      Yes, my parents did this to me as well, and it worked — but it was the mid-1990’s, and a bunch of chain restaurants were opening up in my hometown.

    6. 2mc1pg*

      Hahaha, I did this too! In the mid-90’s. I needed work, I was down to rice and eggs to eat for ten days (literally), so I picked a busy commercial street with a lot of mixed businesses.

      I hit every business on that street, walked in with my resume in hand, and sat there until I met with someone.

      It…worked? But it was also 1996-7. And I didn’t care what work I got. I interviewed at (1) a lighting store, (2) a small criminal investigation and background reporting shop, (3) a DMV, taxes, and title shop, (4) a tea shop, (5) a framing store, (6) a hippy grocery store, (7) a bowling alley, (8) a Baskin Robbins, (9) a car dealership, and (10) a tire and auto repair shop.

      The tea shop was weird and fake-British. The tire and auto repair shop considered it. The lighting shop gave me the worst runaround of them all. The framing store hired me.

      It was a very weird time, I was quite literally very hungry, and 1996-7 was probably the last possible year such an approach could have worked anywhere.

      There’s a reason 20 years ago is 20 years ago.

  8. k8*

    this isn’t too bad, but a couple of years ago i was interviewing for a pretty prestigious gallery internship and my mother insisted I wrote the thank you note by hand. She literally waited for me to write the letter, took it, and posted it herself to make sure i couldn’t conveniently “forget” to put it in the mail. I didn’t get the internship and I wouldn’t be surprised if they thought I was super weird because of the note. . . .

      1. Kelly L.*

        Email is more standard now in most cases–a written note is likely to arrive after the decision has already been made.

        1. Where's the Le-Toose?*

          The reality is that if someone is a really strong candidate, the decision will be made before you even send the email. If it’s a close call, it will take a few days, so there is time to send the handwritten card.

          1. Finance/Accounting Professional*

            I disagree with this. In my experience with recruiting for my old company, we would interview all candidates and then set-up a time for a meeting for the interviewers to get-together and discuss – usually the following day. If we all agreed on the top choice, the offer would be made that day.

            Postal mail takes at least 2 business days to arrive to the office, and then it has to be sorted and routed to the individuals office mailbox. In addition to that, most people don’t check their office mail frequently (unless they receive paper invoices or something) because almost everything is done by email today. A handwritten thank-you will realistically take at least a week to reach the intended person – which is probably too late if you are at the final interview/offer stage.

            An email is more convenient for both parties (the candidate and the interviewer) and the interviewer is more likely to actually see it before the decision is made.

            Not to mention, in my field a handwritten note seems a little…over-the-top or out of touch? When the mail takes several days and an email is instant, it looks odd that you wouldn’t use the fastest and most efficient tool at your disposal. But I suppose if you work in a field that is more people-oriented or interpersonal (like sales or fundraising) then it might make a difference.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Yep. And especially here, where the Postal Service ended overnight delivery in many places by closing processing centers. They started sending all our mail to the big city three hours north of us, so now it takes a week to get across town.

              1. Getting There*

                Urgh. Yes. Off topic, but, our water bill now gets routed from city hall two blocks from my home, to a city two hours birth, and then back to my small town. (My city still sends paper water bills.) Several times, it’s arrived quite late, imagine That! The woman in the finance office at city hall told me it’s been a real problem since they started routing our mail up there. (And up until a few months ago, there was no pay online option for water/sewer/trash. They finally implemented one, but for the first year or so we lived here, I took my bill over to city hall to pay, because I was concerned about arrival time.)

            2. Optimistic Prime*

              I don’t check my interoffice mail unless I get an alert that something I was looking for is actually down there. So if I got a thank you note from a candidate, I’m not going to see it until 2 months later when I’m down there looking something else.

              Plus I work in tech.

      2. JD*

        same. Every single job I interview for, that I want, I send a hand written card. I have always got the job when I have done this and it has always been mentioned to me later and more often than not I later see that card still on the persons desk or pin board later on.

    1. Temperance*

      I always send paper thank you notes after meetings and interviews. People like them. I do think it’s strange that your mother is so involved in your career activities and that she doesn’t trust you to mail a letter, though.

      1. k8*

        lol well i certainly wasn’t going to mail the letter! I would have just emailed them and told her I sent it. I’m not sure if it’s a generational thing or what, but I know that if an interviewee sent me a letter today I’d be totally confused, at least.

        1. Lynn Whitehat*

          I wouldn’t be *confused*, exactly, to get a snail-mail thank-you. I mean, I have parents too. I would just figure the applicant got some outdated advice from the “older and wiser” people in their lives.

      2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        By the time snail mail arrived, I would have already hired whoever was being hired. E-mail is a much better choice so you don’t look like the only person who didn’t say thank you for the interview.

          1. Jesmlet*

            You send an email and a card? That just seems bizarre to me. What can’t you put in one that you have to put in the other? It wouldn’t swing me one way or the other but I would be questioning that person’s ability to be efficient and concise. I’m pretty anti-snail mail but I’d rather get that than a prompt email and a card a day later.

          2. Manager #3242352345*

            No no no, this is really not a good idea. The email is fine alone. Snail mail is just weird and makes you seem out of touch. Doing both is so weird that it would make me think you had forgotten sending one of them, or that you had no idea how hiring works. Either way, you are going to the bottom of the pile.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              “Doing both is so weird that it would make me think you had forgotten sending one of them,”

              This. I would hope an otherwise outstanding candidate wouldn’t really go “to the bottom of the pile” for sending two thank you’s, but I would definitely wonder what had happened, and if I found out it was something the candidate always did… I wouldn’t think it was “charmingly eccentric,” I would think it was the other kind of eccentric, and I would wonder what other norms they weren’t aware of.

    2. Where's the Le-Toose?*

      Sending a hand written thank you note is not bad advice on any level. It’s actually a tipping point for me. It takes almost no effort to send a thank you email. But to send a handwritten thank you card takes some effort and time on the applicant’s part.

      And I agree with Temperance about your mom being so involved in your job hunting prospects.

      1. BPT*

        But you risk the chance that it’s not going to get there until after they’ve made a decision. I’m not going to penalize them for doing it, but I’m not going to give them extra points either. It’s on par with an email to me. If anything, though, email to me is better because it indicates that 1) you understand that the hiring process can be quick, and 2) you don’t waste time on things that seem impressive but add no real extra value. Substance over form, for me.

      2. Natalie*

        ut to send a handwritten thank you card takes some effort and time on the applicant’s part.

        This seems awfully arbitrary. Applying for a job and preparing for and then going to an interview all take a ton of effort and time. What does an additional five minutes of effort really tell you about a person?

        1. Rainy*

          I guess it tells you how good their handwriting is, if you care.

          But most things are emailed these days.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            If handwriting is relevant, I’m out. Mine has reverted back to kindergarten scrawl because I can go a month at a time without writing by hand—and that’s only because my landlord needs a rent check.

      3. Anononon*

        I think this shows how varied it is. I would see a handwritten thank you note as out of touch and out dated. I would much rather a thoughtful thank you email.

      4. Optimistic Prime*

        Assuming the message is the same, the only additional “effort” a handwritten card takes is the effort expended to write it by hand and stamp it – which frankly is effort I don’t really care about. The purpose of a thank-you note is to follow up and demonstrate your strong interest in a position, which is done far more efficiently via email.

    3. Phoenix Programmer*

      Yeah the thank you note in hand writing on a card is a classy touch. My previous boss kept my card pinned to his bulletin board.

    4. A.N.O.N.*

      I once received a hand-written thank you note from a candidate we interviewed. We ended up hiring her. We would’ve hired her regardless of the note, but the hiring manager and I agreed the note was a nice touch that showed an aspect of her personality that would fit well with the culture of the team she was joining.

    5. Former Hoosier*

      I used to always hand write a note but now most decisions are made more quickly than mail can arrive. However, I don’t think this turns anyone off.

      1. My Cat Posted This For Me*

        I work for a very large public university and we only get mail delivered three times/week. I’ve only gotten 5-6 pieces of mail in over two years of working here and almost never check my mailbox, although my colleagues who do receive mail keep an eye on it for me. One piece of mail was from a friend after I gave her an extensive informational interview about how to get hired by the university (which worked) and I got it a week or two later. It made her seem out of touch and I winced a bit—we’re both in our fifties and I worried it would make her look old-fashioned if she did it after job interviews. The other was more awkward. Our supervisor had quit, and management had trouble replacing her, failed searches, etc. So they borrowed a supervisor from another unit to supervise us one day/week. Eventually she applied for the job and we had to interview her as though we hadn’t already worked with her for several months (awkward! and we weren’t fans!). She mailed us handwritten thank you notes that were not particularly personalized. Got them days later and we all felt weird about them. She got the job and the awkwardness continues…

        1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          Jeez. That reminds me. I haven’t checked my snail mail box in at least a month, maybe even two.

      2. Xarcady*

        When I was in a job where I did some hiring, thank you notes weren’t quite as expected as they are now. The only ones I got were handwritten. They were also from people who I had decided were never going to be hired by me.

        I think thank you notes can help an already strong candidate a little, say if there is a debate about which of 2 equally good people to hire, but if you aren’t qualified, they aren’t going to do a darn thing for you.

      3. k.k*

        I can only see it turning people off in certain industries. Say, applying for a tech company, a social media manager position, etc. Using snail main in some instances could make you seem really out of touch.

        1. Jessica*

          “Just had an amaz. interview with @john_in_marketing at @MajorCompany! Thanks again 4 the exp. and hope to hear from U soon! #futureemployee”

        2. JM60*

          I work in the tech industry, and I’m pretty sure that if someone sent snail mail instead of email for a thank you note, it would make them appear very out of touch, old fashioned, and unaware of potential time issues on my end. That said, I just started working in the tech industry, and haven’t been involved in the hiring process yet. Obviously, it probably wouldn’t affect whether or not I would want to hire them very much if they were a strict candidate, but I think it would give a somewhat negative impression.

        3. Crylo Ren*

          I used to work in the tech industry and receiving a handwritten note did actually turn the hiring manager off to the point that it tipped the decision from “seems promising” to “definitely do not hire”. It was seen as extremely out of touch.

        4. Optimistic Prime*

          I work for a tech company and do interviewing on my team. Getting a handwritten thank you card wouldn’t necessarily turn me off; it’s simply no better and no worse than getting an e-mailed thank you. The real problem is that there’s a 90% chance I won’t see it until after we make a decision because I don’t check my physical mail box very often.

    6. Allison*

      A lot of people insist you should be sending thoughtful, handwritten notes on personal stationary. To be fair, some hiring managers who’ve been around for a while still appreciate this, they think it’s a nice touch, but it’s not expected anymore and won’t do much to boost your candidacy – maybe a tie breaker, but only if it’s a really tough decision. An email is fine now.

    7. HRish Dude*

      This isn’t weird and is actually the sort of thing that makes me remember a candidate. It’s not pushy. I don’t think it really counts as gumption, though.

        1. Alli525*

          Caveat: sending thank-you notes VIA SNAIL MAIL is what’s not expected and won’t hurt you. Sending a thank-you note is definitely still expected in most industries, but email is pretty much the official norm now.

          1. Mary*

            I really can’t get my head around this. I’ve never heard of someone sending a thank-you note after an interview in the UK!

            1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

              I gather that it’s a uniquely American thing. My husband looked at me like I’d grown an extra arm when I asked him about it.

    8. Note Writer*

      For my current job, I had leftover thank you cards I was never going to use so I sent hand written, personalized notes to my interviewers since I knew they’d get there before they made a decision.

      They claim it helped me get the job, although they were learning towards me even before I got it.

      The joke around the office is that they felt I fooled them about my true personality. They thought the notes were classy, considerate and that I’d be warm person to work with. I saw them as “eh, gotta use up these cards.”

    9. Elle Kay*

      My mom once insisted that you should bring your thank you notes with you, hand-write the Thank you in teh car after the interview, and then drop it in their office mail pile so it’d be there in the morning!

    10. Snowy*

      That used to be a common standard for post-interviews. Just a brief handwritten note saying thank you, look forward to hearing from you, etc.

  9. JN*

    Back when I was a new college grad and trying to get my first teaching job over a decade ago, besides doing the district applications I was also (at my mom’s ‘encouragement/suggestion’) mailing or hand delivering cover letters and resumes directly to the principals in those districts. I doubt if any of that effort actually resulted in a single response or interview.

    I was also told that substitute teaching was a great way to get my foot in the door, get to know the schools/teachers/administrators and for them to get to know me. After a couple years of doing that (and only a handful of interviews), a teacher acquaintance of mine from one of the districts that used me heavily (sometimes calling me 3 weeks head of a teacher’s planned absence to snag me) told me that the district superintendent had an ironclad rule *against* filling classroom vacancies out of their sub pool even if the sub in question had the degree and certificate/license the way I did.

      1. Anna*

        Yeah, but that’s not a good reason to not hire someone. It’s incredibly self-serving to the district and a little unethical.

      2. JN*

        Yes, and I’m sure that’s both why I was in such demand and also why that superintendent didn’t want to deplete the sub pool of quality people. But it was frustrating to be “doing everything right” (or so I thought) and not to see any results from it. Now I know that it’s not necessarily a matter of me being a bad person to hire but that someone else was just better, but back then it was very demoralizing.

    1. Julianne*

      I usually suggest subbing as one aspect of a job search for new teachers, but it needs to be combined with other more proactive search strategies for sure. And in the limited (anec)data I have, effective long-term subbing is much more likely to make a good impression. A couple of permanent teachers in both my previous and current schools started as long term subs in those schools.

      But going in to drop off your resume? Nooooooo.

      1. Greengirl*

        The only time I know of that working was when a friend of mine did it at a school that had just fired its orchestra teacher during the school year. Which she knew because of her violin teacher. So really, it was networking that paid off, not the resume on fancy paper that did it.

    2. Caelyn*

      I sub now and both the district I used to teach for and the district I sub in hire primarily from their sub pool and paraprofessionals. I wonder what that superintendent was thinking!

    3. Academic Addie*

      > the district superintendent had an ironclad rule *against* filling classroom vacancies out of their sub pool even if > the sub in question had the degree and certificate/license

      This is often the case for higher ed hiring, as well. I often hear people say that you should adjunct to get your foot in the door in a department. But if you’re in STEM, adjuncts have no time or funds to support research, which is what departments usually hire for. So adjuncting often has the double-whammy of being poorly compensated, and causing you to fall further behind by not accumulating research outputs.

      It’s possible that’s different in other fields where dedicated research support is not as strongly required.

      1. Competent Commenter*

        Agree with all that. One exception in our state seems to be community colleges. Unwritten rule is that you need to have community college teaching experience to be hired into a tenure-track position, so adjuncting for a semester or two can serve you. On the other hand, my husband was an adjunct for a semester at a state college, was strongly encouraged by the chair of the department to apply for a very specific tenure-track position in his relatively rare field of study, and didn’t even get an interview. And then they asked him to adjunct teach again next semester. That was kind of a slap in the face after all the encouragement.

        1. cc prof*

          I work in a community college, and from what I’ve seen, it is more common for full-time positions to go to adjuncts than it is to hire from outside. In my department, for example, all but one of the six hires we’ve made recently (including mine) were people currently adjuncting for our school. The only exception was an adjunct in a different community college system.

          As stated above, though, this is not the case for four-year universities.

        2. Academic Addie*

          My friend was hired last year as an adjunct in his very narrow subfield, with the promise that they were going to ask for the funding to make his position tenure line. I’m very concerned for him getting into that exact situation.

        3. GT*

          Samesies as your husband. I was brought in as an adjunct as a replacement for a specialized course. I got above average teaching marks. I had plenty of research products. I did not get an interview. They asked me to fill in as an adjunct for the next year, as the new person needed to “get up to speed” and their other adjunct they relied on had left. Yeah, no thanks.

      2. deesse877*

        Re: adjuncting–I’m in a field that does not require much infrastructure or financial support for research, but adjuncting is definitely not a foot in the door for us at R2 or R1 schools either. Partly that’s because of oversupply in this and related fields, but it’s also the case that adjuncting as such carries a strong stigma, as essentially a form of pink-collar labor and not real professionalism. It will hurt you, especially in the departments you already work for. People who’ve adjuncted for a while (2 yrs+, give or take) also seem, anecdotally, to end up very distant from professional norms and expectations, and without resources to redress their deficits.

        So in other words, any advice that one adjunct to advance one’s career (with the one exception of community colleges as noted above) is bad ‘gumption’ advice.

        1. Academic Addie*

          Thanks for the insight on that. You never know what’s different between fields. I’ve never actually know anyone at a 4-year university who was hired from adjunct to TT. I wonder if it was more common in the past, or the if it’s just spontaneous generation of nonsense, or happens just often enough to get perpetuated.

        2. Kristal*

          In my field adjuncting, particularly where you completed your PhD, is useful because you retain your institutional affiliation (so cover letters can be on institutional letterhead) and you maintain access to any faculty who might be your letter writers, though of course getting your department to call you a “post doc” would be exponentially better on your CV.

    4. MHR*

      When I was a sub I had so many interview offers and one “it’s yours if you want it” offer…despite the fact that I had no teaching degree and was subbing just while my baby was little before jumping in to my actual field

    5. An AAM Fan*

      I don’t think that’s typical, though. I’m a teacher and I was hired at my first job from the substitute pool. Part of what you want, though, is to get in as a long-term substitute, so that you can really show you can handle the day-to-day aspects of running a classroom.

      Really. For shame on that superintendent!

  10. PB*

    I heard this one second-hand. My father was at a leadership seminar once, and one of the administrators there said that he would throw away any application, if the applicant didn’t follow up with him within two weeks to re-express their interest. So his advice was to follow up within two weeks of applying.

    At the time, I thought it sounded like a poor idea. Now, as a hiring manager, the idea of every candidate calling me within two weeks to remind me they’re interested and ask for an update make me sweat.

    1. Specialk9*

      Some people get very full of their own importance and get hung up on made-up rules that nobody could intuit. That’s obnoxious.

    2. Jesmlet*

      With the number of applications we handle, I’d never get off the phone if they all called after they apply. This is the stuff of nightmares.

    3. Is it Friday Yet?*

      This only worked for me when I applied to work at a fast casual restaurant. I think they had HUNDREDS of applications and probably were being lazy about interviewing. I’m not really sure.

  11. Sara*

    One of my parent’s friends had a kid who mailed her resume on bright red paper to a bunch of ad agencies she wanted to work for. I think she got a couple interviews out of it, and it was all my mom could talk about for a while. I think that works ONLY if you have the ad copy portfolio (which she had online, so I’m sure they checked it out) to back it up.

    1. Midge*

      One summer an alum of my high school who worked in advertising offered a mini advertising class to students. I’ll always remember her resume. Her name was Wendy, so she designed it to be like a Wendy’s hamburger. Every layer of paper was a different part of the buger (bun, lettuce, pickles, etc.) and also represented a different project she had worked on. I remember being so impressed at the time. But it’s not like that could work in most fields.

      1. Mary*

        When I temped in HR we had a vacancy in reprographics – mostly just photocopying, but some graphic design and potential for more. So we got a load of creative graphic design CVs sent in. Absolutely beautiful creations that folded into cubes or birds, or were on gloss or metallic paper, some of them in matching envelopes.

        BUT some of them were also impossible to read, and when I’m giving advice about creative CVs I always point out that if you can’t access the information you need, the design isn’t working!

    2. Lynxa*

      That could backfire if you choose a color of paper (like red) that is impossible to copy.

      I had an attorney that would always answer discovery on red paper just to be a jerk because he knew we wouldn’t be able to copy it to attach to motions.

      1. krysb*

        It depends on your hardware now. Some copiers can drop color; scanner software almost always allows you to drop color. That leaves behind a nice white sheet with print.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Judges are rarely every impressed by this sort of thing. I do a lot of discovery work, and judges having to be involve in the process, particularly to tell someone to stop being childish, burns a lot of political points.

    3. Havarti*

      My favorite are resumes printed on fluorescent color paper. Because you’ll definitely get the job after making the recruiter’s eyes bleed! :D

      1. Alli525*

        I hated the movie Aladdin because there was too much red in it! Can’t imagine having to read a resume on red paper – eesh.

    4. Just employed here*

      Come to think of it, the only time I’ve been involved in hiring someone who turned out to be a bad hire, the candidate in question had a faint picture of himself, like a seethrough headshot kind of thing, as a background for his CV.

  12. Kiki*

    Not me, but my husband. His mom’s cousin is a VP at a very large global company that’s a household name (you probably own an electronic device of theirs). When husband graduated college, his mom set him up with an informational interview with this VP so husband could learn more about the industry and how to get a job.

    This VP told husband to reach out directly to higher level people at similar large companies and to call them directly asking for jobs. My husband thought for a moment and asked, “Does your assistant put though any of those direct calls to you?” VP responded with, “Oh no, I don’t have time for that!”

    My husband did not take his advice.

    1. GermanGirl*

      That might work for VP level people who already have a well know name in the industry, but otherwise … BS.

      I think since advise givers live very much in their own bubble, be it this vice president or the farmer who hires his harvest helpers by handshake as they walk in.

      And most advice givers are neither entry level office job candidates nor hiring managers for such positions.

  13. GumptionIndeed*

    Advice received? None. But a walk in, of which I had a lot a couple of jobs back, a fellow with the name Hazem demonstrated his gumption with his slogan. “Need something? Ask him – He “Hazem!”” and then was really hoping to meet a director or hiring manager. He was really eager, keen, looked bright…but we didn’t take walk ins, ever.

      1. Sam Yao*

        It reminds me of campaign posters for junior high student council. Specifically, I remember a kid named Heller whose posters were all “For a Heller of a good school, vote Danny Heller!”

          1. Ego Chamber*

            I had school politics ruined for me in junior high.

            Candidate 1 for class president stood at the microphone and gave a list of campaign promises that were all reasonable and likely to happen. Candidate 2 had his uncle drive him in on the back of a motorcycle (because the school was not okay with a 16 year old driving a motorcycle through the gym, and he apparently also wanted to shoot off bottle rockets but the principal shut that one down fast), then he jumped onto the stage, stripped down to swim trucks and flopped around in a kiddie pool full of jelly, screaming about “free soda Friday!” and “free pizza all day every day!” and “three day school weeks!”

            No one seemed to get that you can make all the campaign promises you want, but you can’t institute them unilaterally. Just being the president doesn’t make you the king, you know? Anyway, he won by a landslide, none of the shit he promised happened (obviously), everyone hated him for not keeping any of the promises he made, and he complained a lot about the school wrecking up all his good plans.

    1. GumptionIndeed*

      Actually, after reading those gumption articles (including an example of the resume printed on the label on a wine bottle), I saw a job posting at the Lung Association and I very nearly recreated my c.v. so that it was in the shape of a pair of lungs, so to demonstrate I was totally on board with their mission. Then I changed my mind.

    2. M is for Mulder*

      It took me SO LONG to get this because I was mentally pronouncing that name totally differently!

      1. Princess Cimorene*

        lol same I was reading his name as “Hah-Zeem”
        and when I finally said it out loud to myself “Haz-M” it made sense! lmao

  14. Temperance*

    I know I’ve shared this story here before, but a few years ago, my FIL printed out a ton of copies of his resume, put on a suit, and then stood on a street corner in our neighborhood. He handed the resume to everyone who “looked important” (read: was also a man wearing a suit), because showing that you’ll really put yourself out there is what important business men are looking for.

    He thankfully didn’t even get a call back from this ridiculous stunt, but he absolutely told me I should do the same when I was job-hunting. (Secondary to this advice was “The Secret”.)

    1. Turquoisecow*

      I love when the advice you receive is demonstrably awful like this.

      “You should do this thing I did!”

      “Did that work for you?”

      “No, but you should do it! It’ll totally work for you!”


    2. Bryce*

      Oh man, that thing. My well-meaning folks sent me a copy once. You know that scene in Bodysnatchers when they discover a pod in the trunk of the car? I had about the same response.

      1. Anonicat*

        I’d light it on fire and toast marshmallows over it while visualising myself toasting marshmallows over a cheerful little fire.

  15. Linzava*

    My parents told me to call every day for a job I’d interviewed for. I was 18, and very new to the job world. I had interviewed for a security job at a big box store and remember feeling put off by the amount of football related interview questions. I am a woman, by the way. My gender did come up in the interview. The manager gave me the date he’d call with the final decision.

    I ignored my parents at first, but the date passed and they pushed me to call every day. I remember feeling like the creepy person on a date. I should also point out that I already had a job, I don’t know why they pushed so hard, maybe the discount.

    I called every day for two weeks, knowing that if they wanted to hire me, they would have called, but I did what my parents said. When I finally stopped calling, my parents told me I hadn’t called early enough. It was like they were convinced this place wanted to hire me and I stood in their way.

    1. Kiki*

      My mom gave me the “call every day” advice when I was applying for jobs in high school. Even 15 years later I can distinctly remember the manager of a Bath & Body Works ripping me a new one for bothering her and her employees incessantly.

      1. anyone out there but me*

        I got that same advice when I was just a few years out of high school. I really wanted to work at our local bank. They were doing a huge remodel and enlarging their facilities, so we knew they would be hiring. I submitted an application before the remodel was even finished, then I called the bank VP once a week to “remind” him that I really wanted to work there. They DID hire me…. and it was the start of a very long career in banking/finance! So, it worked for me. But it was a long time ago and maybe it actually meant something back then.

        Fast forward to today, where I have been in charge of hiring new employees. If an applicant did that to me, I would immediately take them off my list!

      2. Lily Rowan*

        Calling every day worked for me once, in the 90s, when I was trying to break into temping. It makes sense that it was hard to get my first assignment, because of course they were sending out known quantities first. But regardless, I called every morning to ask if they had an assignment for me. Eventually, the receptionist at the temp agency was going on vacation, and she recommended me to fill in! And after that, I was a known quantity and got good assignments from them.

        1. GreyjoyGardens*

          I had a very similar experience breaking into temping many years ago. I had to call every day for a month (!) before I finally got an assignment, but then it was like the dam burst and I was placed regularly. It seems like it’s harder to get placed as a new temp, and sometimes the newbies get less desirable assignments in order to prove themselves.

          This makes me raise an eyebrow at advice to get temp work because “you can go to work the next day!” This might be true in some places, but in others, newbies will be waiting for a call because the regulars get first priority. I think it all depends on how much work there is and how many “perma temps” the agency has.

          1. Lily Rowan*

            Yeah, especially now — how many places even hire a temp for vacation coverage anymore? I’m guessing they mostly make do now.

          2. Silver*

            Yeah, you totally need to nag temp agencies. I’m terrible at calling; if I don’t get a call in a week or so, I know I’ll probably never get work from them.

            (Of course then there was the temp rep that got me a bunch of factory work, then was surprised when I got a data entry job through another agency cuz she could’ve gotten me that job. Well then, why didn’t you? The vast majority of temps there were from her company.)

            1. Rana*

              This. Temping was what led me to get my first cell phone, because I needed to make sure I could leave the house without missing a call. If you let anything go to message, the offer went to someone else. I also called them twice a day (just before work hours, and just before end of day) to remind them I was available; if I didn’t, they moved on to the next person. It sucked, but it did eventually get me a longer-term job.

              I wouldn’t do it to another type of employer.

        2. Nox*

          I have encountered candidates who do this. If they are young I provide feedback and tell them we filed the position. However I have 0 patience with it and have gotten permission to advise callers that if they continue to follow up we will escalate to law enforcement if they decide they don’t want to respect my space.

          1. Linzava*

            I love this, I think it’s a courtesy to the applicants who are doing what they think they have to do. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized, if I wouldn’t do this with a person socially, don’t do it with a hiring manager.

        3. Turquoisecow*

          In my experience, temp agencies will totally forget about you if you don’t constantly remind them you exist. You will not hear about any assignments if you do not call or email pretty constantly. So maybe that’s one instance where the “call twice a day!” advice actually works.

          1. Jessica*

            Back in 2003, I temporarily relocated to Florida to try to find work there, since I had no luck in my home state. My parents had a little condo as a vacation property. I signed up with some temp agencies since I was a tech person, but could also do general office and data entry. Except for calling me at the crack of dawn the next morning for a gig that started sooner than I could physically arrive even if I had left that instant, I never heard from them. I ultimately moved back to my home state later that year, struggled for several more months, then landed the job at which I still work.

            5 YEARS LATER, the temp agency calls and asks if I’m available for an assignment the next day.


        4. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Temp agencies are the one exception to the “don’t keep calling to follow up” rule. I wouldn’t suggest calling every day, but at least once a week to let them know that you’re still available/looking.

  16. Jade*

    I’m one of those people who got a job using the gumption method, albeit it was for a fast food job. I called a couple times a week for a few weeks to see if the manager had taken a look at my application yet. When I finally got hired, the assistant manager told me they weren’t even looking to hire anyone, but they figured if someone was that excited about a fast food job, that’s someone they didn’t want to let go of. The reason I was so excited is because my parents were trying to pressure me into taking a job at a less “upscale” fast food joint (lol), and I wanted this one to come through so I didn’t have to hear them jawing at me anymore.

  17. Kat*

    Ugh, my husband just interviewed someone who clearly has gotten a lot of “gumption” advice. The candidate had been calling him every two weeks for the past 8 months – long before the job opening was posted – giving a “I’m the man who will solve all your problems” pitch. It was so obnoxious and husband told the guy so but he was not deterred. Sent letters too I think. Even though there was no way he’d ever get hired, he got an interview once the job was posted (it’s government and he met the quals) and the whole panel thought the candidate came off as weirdly aggressive and also unable to answer more in-depth questions about the work which he claimed to be such an expert in. Being prepared, thoughtful, professional and personable in an interview is far more impressive than “gumption”.

  18. Grits McGee*

    Here’s one from back in my NPS intern days- a woman I worked with ignored a direct order to not go to work after a blizzard because the power was out, and proceeded to sit in the dark doing nothing for several hours because, surprise, there was no electricity. She point blank refused to evacuate during a natural disaster because she was a temporary worker and “you have to show that you’re willing to work!” She was not rehired into a long-term position.

    1. Esme Squalor*

      It turns out making yourself a liability for your company gets you noticed in the wrong way. Poor woman! She’d obviously gotten some really bad advice.

    2. Mephyle*

      And yet some employers might have been impressed. The ones that we’ve read about here and elsewhere, who insist workers come in even in the face of major weather events when authorities have ordered non-essential traffic off the roads, and penalize the ones who obey the restrictions and stay home.

    3. Em*

      Somewhat related, but when I was new to the workforce and temping, I was in an accident that required stitches on my upper lip (and left a lovely scar later)–I took a sick day the next day because I had been in the ER until four in the morning, but was convinced that I could still go in the day after (even though I basically looked like Frankenstein’s monster–and I was the temp receptionist). My boss didn’t know the extent of my injuries until I came in, and after I was there an hour he sent me home for the rest of the week to recuperate.

      My thoughts were equal parts “show you’re willing to work!” and “I get paid by the hour and my health insurance hasn’t started yet!”

  19. Shannon*

    Not advice, but a local story. A man in his mid twenties rented a large billboard on a busy highway and posted his phone number and basically “hire me!”. He has a masters degree in Human Resources. You would think he would know better. Haven’t seen any follow up stories to see if it worked.

  20. sometimeswhy*

    When I first start looking for jobs, I read some advice to cold call employers and try to schedule an interview! Either they’ll be caught on their back foot and just go with it and/or they’ll be impressed by your gumption. The script was something like, “Hi! My name is ___, I’ll be in the area next week and wanted to schedule an interview for a position in [group] with [name of head of group]! When would be good for her? Does Wednesday around 2 work?”

    And here’s where I admit crimson-faced that, just out of college, I did just this. And the head of HR LAUGHED at me. Like uncontrollable, gasping for breath laughter. That experience put a very sturdy nail in the gumption coffin.

    1. JulieBulie*

      I was told to do this too. I may even have tried something like it myself.

      I know for sure that my first couple of cover letters said that I would call next week to schedule an interview. Blush!

      1. Nox*

        This week I had someone pull this card on me after he broke into our office [he snuck past the security desk] to drop off his resume. Before I even got to his resume [I intentionally placed it on the bottom of the pile] he called us to have an interview booked.

        I proceeded to let him know that I haven’t reviewed his resume yet and that we don’t have a practice of scheduling people who attempt to cut in line. He hung up.


  21. Anon today...and tomorrow*

    Years ago my husband used to work as a radio DJ so he had opportunity to meet some famous people. He used to send a thank you postcard after an interview – basically he’d take a photo he’d had taken with a famous person and write a quick thanks on the back and pop a stamp on it. He only did it after interviews for jobs in the radio field and he always got a lot of positive feedback about it. I don’t think he got all the jobs he interviewed for, but he always got a follow up email on the postcard.

    1. Breda*

      While this would be ridiculous in almost any other field, that’s actually kind of a cool trick for radio! It works because it builds on your resume: “Here’s a person I interviewed/a show we put on/etc.”

  22. NoMoreMrFixit*

    Looking for a new job and went to a resume consultant to get advice on updating my resume as I am changing careers. Their advice was to add every single keyword in a given job ad onto my resume whether I had the skill or not. Put it all in a tiny font on the bottom and make it white on white so it’s invisible to the reader but will get flagged by tracking systems. When I asked what to do when interviewers asked about those skills I don’t actually have they had no advice.

    1. Sigrid*

      That’s especially stupid because most jobs that do that kind of resume screening for keywords also require you to copy your resume into an online application, which strips all the formatting so that there is no such thing as “white on white”.

      1. thewondermutt*

        That advice is actually pushed around a lot for federal jobs – not they lying part, but to copy and paste the job description or input a bunch of keywords in white at the bottom in small font that are relevant and true. There have been many, many terrifying stories of people in the *exact same* position or essentially extremely highly qualified and well fit for the job with strong, well written resumes not making it through to HR as qualified because of the initial automated search system – and no you don’t have to copy and paste anything anywhere else in USAJOBs the document is scanned through as the original PDF. So people started doing the white text thing to make sure their resume at least got eyes on by HR. I have no idea if it makes any difference.

        1. nosy nelly*

          if they’re relevant and true, what’s the point? just use them in the relevant and true sections of the resume. key words are important, but hiding key words is a bad idea.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            This!! Go ahead and tailor your resume for that job and pepper in some keywords from the job description, but copy & paste it wholesale.

          2. Genny*

            I think people don’t realize that resumes for federal jobs are meant to violate everything they tell you about resumes. If your resume isn’t ten pages long at least, your doing something wrong. I think that’s why people say to do the white-on-white thing, they don’t realize that the hiring system (automated and in-person) is expecting ridiculously large resumes and they aren’t going to doc you points because of that. They will doc you points if they don’t see the knowledge, skills, and abilities you claim to have clearly supported in your resume.

        2. Mike C.*

          Ask The Headhunter had a piece on this recently, as Zip Recruiter focuses similarly on keywords above all else.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That is terrible advice. Some applicant tracking systems strip formatting out and display all the text that’s there (even white font text), which will not make you look good when a human eventually looks at your stuff, which they will do. I feel like this advice — which I’ve seen a lot — was made up by someone who has never actually used an ATS and just thought it sounded logical.

      1. Specialk9*

        As far as I can tell, the US Federal job application systems have zero to negative sense. It wouldn’t terribly shock me to learn that only resumes with hidden panda bears make it through.

        1. Bryce*

          Hey, that polar bear in a snowstorm is a critical example of my job experience and not to be mocked!

    3. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      I have been given that advice too… but just to get past annoying applicant tracker systems. I have never actually done it though.

    4. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

      That’s like a 1998 way to manipulate search engine results for your virus-laden porn site with the blinking glittery text and hot pink lace background.

  23. Leatherwings*

    I once had a huge argument with an acquaintance who suggested to a mutual friend that the best way to get a job was to bring chocolate to the receptionist, sweet talk her (pronouns he used, gross) and convince her to let you see the boss (a man, of course) in person who would obviously love that you did this and hire you. So many wrong assumptions there it’s hard to count.

    1. Kiki*

      Hahaha. I am not a receptionist but I cover my boss’ line and calendar when he’s out of office. I also interface with the public. If anyone tried this on me I would shut them down right quick and then the copy machine in the back room would mysteriously break until they left. I might take the chocolates, though, for my time.

    2. Esme Squalor*

      “You gotta get in good with the receptionist, see? Broads love chocolate, so bring her a box and say ‘sweets for the sweet.’ She’ll swoon straight into the boss man’s appointment book, and cut a rug right to his office to stick your resume directly in his mitts. Make sure to give her a “nice gams, sweetheart,” and a killer diller wink on her way out to seal the deal. Birds dig that kind of gab. Putty in your hands, I tell ya!”

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Even on TV, e.g. Leverage or Brooklyn 99, this technique–while per script it would work to get in the door–would have been developed after a careful analysis of the specific gatekeeper’s interests and weaknesses. (Thus was Captain Holt made to fake having strong opinions about Sex and the City.)

    4. Samata*

      I was the in-house HR Manager/Recruiter for an org about 10 years ago and a guy brought me a dozen muffins to a 1st interview once. It really rubbed me the wrong way and I bounced him out pretty quickly and did not move him to the 2nd round. I probably reacted overly dramatic but man did it chap my hide.

    5. Specialk9*

      I hadn’t even realized before now that all our lobby receptionists are men. Now that’s interesting.

      1. Rainy*

        Definitely post the CCTV footage to youtube if anyone ever tells your lobby receptionists they have “nice gams”.

    6. Tiny Soprano*

      Best way to get on a (particularly female) receptionist’s bad side: be a sexist jackass. Slimers don’t get past the front desk, and any chocolates from said slimer would be fed to the engineers downstairs.

    7. Alienor*

      Nearly all the receptionists and admins at my company are no-nonsense older ladies who have 35 years of experience as gatekeepers. All this dude would get from them would be a long, hard stare as they slowly tucked the chocolates away in their desks for later.

    1. PlainJane*

      This is an interesting one. I’ve given this advice on occasion, but with a very limited scope, as it’s somewhat acceptable in my field. But it’s usually truly an informational interview–a chance for someone considering the field to learn more about it or for someone new to an area to make a contact. I’ve also done informational interviews for people, usually with new grads or people considering the graduate degree I have. But I’d never recommend someone use it as a backdoor way to ask for a job.

    2. Chickpea*

      So yes and no. I’ve gotten bad advice in the past about asking for an informational interview (usually gumption-style).
      But informationals, when done right, can be one component of network building you need to do to break into my notoriously cliquish field. It’s how you find out about open jobs that aren’t posted (which are many of them).
      That said, you can’t go in expecting that the person you sit down with will ever hire you— just that they might be able to point you in the right direction, either through advice or useful gossip.
      Also, contrary to advice I’ve gotten from people who have likely never done these, you can’t just waltz in off the street without an introduction.
      I think people whose industries aren’t so relationship-based like the idea of asking for an informational because it sounds novel and like a “good way to let em know you’re interested!” (hence the bad advice), but in the end, there’s no magic— you’re just expanding and leveraging your network.

  24. HigherEd on Toast*

    I have a colleague who claims she got the interview for the job we now share through “excitement.” She supposedly sent the search committee pictures of herself in short skirts and low-cleavage tops. This is not exactly the attire she wears on a daily basis now- we don’t technically have a dress code, since it’s academia, but we are supposed to look professional- but sometimes I do see in her an outfit I blink at. My colleague insists that her outfit (plus tons of jewelry and makeup and dyeing her hair blonde) are the reasons her students love her so much and so many of our colleagues are friendly to her. She keeps pushing me to dress either the same way or more femininely than I do. And it’s like, uh. No thanks?

    I honestly have no idea whether the pictures had anything to do with her getting the job, since half the search committee was female anyway, but it’s not advice I’d follow even if it did.

    1. Esme Squalor*

      … Like the Elle Woods Harvard application, but in real life?! There is no cringe strong enough for this.

    2. Blue Anne*

      Oh my god.

      When I was an admin/receptions, my boss said that a lot of the applicants had put heavily made up, glamour headshots on their CVs. He tossed all of them, not only because it showed bad knowledge of professional norms, but also because “no one wants their wife to stop by and see they’ve got a secretary straight out of Saint Trinians”.

      1. Mary*

        >>“no one wants their wife to stop by and see they’ve got a secretary straight out of Saint Trinians”

        I think that reflects much worse on your boss than it does on the candidates.

    3. The OG Anonsie*

      This is a mix of wildly off base and… Something I actually kind of do. Not sending photos of myself with applications like I’m trying to get an audition or something, but trying to look especially put-together and pretty when meeting new people or trying to get people to do what I’m asking. Not to play it up like I’m trying to appeal to them sexually, just that people tend to like pretty people more and are more inclined to believe that an attractive person with nice clothes / hair / makeup is smart and on top of things. I try to exploit that little implicit bias sometimes.

      1. J*

        I collaborated with the Army on a project once, a project that was totally failing when I took over, due in no small part to my predecessor being a huge jerk and alienating basically everyone, and you better believe I wore tight skirts that were just a liiiitle too short every time I had to go to the base. To be honest, I didn’t really care if they were only paying attention to me because of what I was wearing, the point was they were paying attention, and I stayed focused 100% on work. We got a lot done, and the relationship between our organization and the Army improved A LOT.

  25. Anon Accountant*

    “Send a resume weekly because they’ll keep seeing your name and qualifications”.

    “Call to follow up with them” followed daily by “did you call today”. So I’d lie and tell my family I did.

    “Forget that online crap. Take your resume in person and ask to see who’s in charge. Can’t let it get lost in space”.

    1. You're Not My Supervisor*

      “…they’ll keep seeing your name and qualifications”
      This reminds me of The Office when Kelly decides that if every time she walks into the manager’s office and says “you wanted me?” he would eventually want her after hearing it enough times.

      1. Say what, now?*

        Yes! This is so spot on. I always wondered, does the reverse work? Because he had to have been saying “No, I don’t want you” enough to make her not want him, right?

  26. LadyMountaineer*

    We once had a guy who continued to send our CIO funky, colorful socks with the message “I just want to get my foot in the door” which the rest of us loved. I have one pair that has an orange cat on them that says “my cat is f*ing awesome.” However, we were a municipality and you needed to make it through HR to get to us (not a big hurdle if you applied for a job you were qualified for) and we couldn’t just call him in for funsies even if we wanted to.

    The tough part for the applicant is that it made him seem a bit out-of-touch with norms including giving gifts to municipal employees. Not a good look if you break into this sector.

    1. Kiki*

      >I have one pair that has an orange cat on them that says “my cat is f*ing awesome.”

      Do you know where these socks are from? I need them.

        1. SSS*

          Oh… I own a pair of the “*ssholes are everywhere” that I bought at a convention booth. I wore them when I had to travel (personal trip, not work) by airplane and I was just expressing my frustration at the thought of all the crowds and lines that day. Of course that ended up being the time the TSA needed to special wand me and made me lift my pant legs.

          1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

            I’d think that a TSA agent could identify with that statement, though. Airports bring out the worst in many people.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I own about 10 pairs of Blue Q socks right now. I would buy more, but I don’t wear socks often enough. I love them.

  27. Master Bean Counter*

    My Niece got a job at a fast food place by calling every week until they hired her. Now she’s in constant fights with one of the managers who doesn’t like her pushy ways. Thankfully for my niece the general manager/owner of the store seems to like her.

  28. Aphrodite*

    My late father, who was born in about 1923, used to tell my sister to walk into places and fill out applications. This was at a time when fax machines were huge, and ads would provide only fax numbers without a company name. He couldn’t believe it when she told him that often she didn’t even know the name of the company. In his day, it showed initiative when you took the time to dress up and go in person. (And companies liked that too.) I can imagine his horror at today’s methods.

    He may have been old fashioned but it worked well for him. He knew things that worked even though that changed. I have always dressed up for any interviews, always arrived exactly on time or a few minutes early, and was always was polite and eager (without being of the effusively fake “I really, really, really, really, really want to work here because your company is the bestest ever!”).

  29. Spooky*

    I don’t know if this counts since it’s more about building a portfolio, but I’ll throw it in just in case. Back when I was still trying to break into writing in 2012, a coworker at my magazine internship told me that her mom’s friend was looking for a writer to do all the articles for the new charity she’d started. The only catch? I had to build the entire website that would host said written content (I am not a web developer). I was naive and desperate, and I’d taken a Dreamweaver course, so I agreed.

    The charity turned out to be – I kid you not – an Elvis-themed dog charity (me: “Oh, like Hound Dog?” Her, offended, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world: “No, Love Me Tender.”) She requested an utter hellscape of a design filled with glitter-gif tiled backgrounds and auto-playing songs, and every request was followed by the reminder that it would look great in my portfolio. Again, I’m not a web developer. When we finally got around to the content of the actual articles, she insisted on “paying me in exposure.” I walked.

    1. Junior Dev*

      > The charity turned out to be – I kid you not – an Elvis-themed dog charity (me: “Oh, like Hound Dog?” Her, offended, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world: “No, Love Me Tender.”)

      This is the best part.

    2. Ell*

      Slightly off topic, but I’m looking into animal adoption and I KNOW THESE WEBSITES. Old people who love animals and dedicate their time to them are wonderful but should not be allowed to be in charge of the website unless they’re professionals in web design.

      I’ve seen so many weird pages with quotes about God and animals, song lyrics about animals and cutesy sayings about animals all thrown onto old 2000’s era buttons but little useful info on actually adopting the animal. The Elvis love me tender page sounds awesomely bad.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Some years back, I had a pet pass away and was just flabbergasted by the terribleness of some of the “how to cope with pet death” sites. Glittering .gifs, Comic Sans, flashing text, all very Geocities circa 1995. Because nothing says “sorry for your loss” like Comic Sans.

        1. FD*

          “Because nothing says “sorry for your loss” like Comic Sans.”

          BRB, stifling a hard-to-explain burst of laughter at my desk.

      2. Silver*

        It’s unfortunately not just pet lover sites. I redid the website for the dance lessons/club my mom was in. It was bad. The new design was still bad, but at least a little better. And so much better than the sites they sent me for inspiration. I was able to shoot them down by telling them how hard they would be to keep up-to-date (I was switching them from plain HTML to WordPress so they could maintain it)

      3. Jessica*

        Here’s the thing, though. If you’re a professional web designer and someone hires you to build their site, and you’re all up on best-in-class practices while they want the Angelfire Special because “they have amazing design sense and they know their business!!!1” then that’s exactly what you’re building them. Nobody, and I mean nobody, hires a professional designer and says, “Here is my content, provided in a timely fashion, and these are my business requirements, please make a site that meets modern standards!” No, they will insist on purple backgrounds and a picture of their dog for their law firm because it’s their money and they know best.

      4. The OG Anonsie*

        Oh yeah. I immediately thought of a dozen different rescues with impossible to deal with websites like that.

  30. it_guy*

    Back in the late ’80’s, I was REALLY looking for a job because my company was relocating and because of the financial part of it, I couldn’t go. What I did was send a letter and resume to the president of every company in the region that was in my industry (insurance). My thinking was that they would just send it down to HR and it would have more gravitas coming from the big boss than just some average Joe…..

    And surprisingly enough it worked! I got interviews with 3 companies and 1 job. Of course I only stayed there 6 months because it was pretty awful, but that’s another story.

  31. Gnome Ann*

    Bob Schieffer’s story of how he got his job at CBS. He walked into the offices, made it up to the second floor (not much security in those days, even less for a white man who looks like he knows what he’s doing). He runs into the secretary, says, “Hi, I’m Bob Schieffer and I’m here to see [CBS CEO].” She ushers him right in, he gets the job. Later he finds out he *took someone else’s appointment* to get the same job. Never apologizes or acknowledges that literally ay other person would have been thrown out.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      This seems to be a thing–statistically, if you walk into enough offices and say “I’m here for the interview with Big Boss” eventually he’ll be on the verge of interviewing and talk to you by accident.

      …. Now that I think about it, this is how Mrs. Pollifax became a CIA agent. She showed up to volunteer to serve her country, they were expecting someone similar for a courier mission, and she charmed the interviewer so much that they hired her.

      1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

        Thank you so much. I saw that movie when I was a kid and recently spent a fruitless hour on Google trying to find it again!

        Turns out googling ‘old lady secret agent’ and every variety on this doesn’t work very well.

      1. Say what, now?*

        Maybe they thought they’d picked up the wrong resume. Or that the admin had switched appointments around in their head and told them the wrong thing. I could see it.

      2. PlainJane*

        I just heard about this last night. Apparently the other guy was also named, “Bob.” Presumably the last name was different though.

  32. ms-dos efx*

    My dad has given me some gems over the years:

    -When applying for retail/food service jobs as a teenager and the application asks what position you’re interested in, make sure to put down “cashier/server/etc., with an eye towards management” and they’ll hire you because you’re a go-getter.

    -Shortly after submitting your resume and cover letter, you should call and ask to update a small piece of information on it. This will make them look at it, which will get you an interview.

    -If you have a bachelor’s degree, you will get hired directly into management jobs straight out of college.

    He had the same job from 1993 until his retirement a couple years ago. My mom has had the same job since 1982 or thereabouts. Bless their hearts, they have no idea how things have changed since their last job search.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      If someone called me to update a piece of information on their resume, I’d toss it because obviously they don’t have good attention to detail.

      1. Leatherwings*

        Right? Like either you didn’t need to update that info because it wasn’t critical which is annoying OR you left out information that was critical which raises questions as to how/why.

        Either way not a good look!

      2. MHR*

        I could see if it was something like “My phone number has changed” or something you wouldn’t know before turning in a resume

        1. Liane*

          Sure, but if your contact information really changed you would update your information in the ATS or, if they had already contacted you, call/email your contact with the update.

      3. Evan Þ*

        I assume ms-dos’s dad (uh, 86DOS?) wasn’t talking about fixing an error, but putting in something new like “I just got a new award”! At least, that’s what I’d hope, because the alternative would be a really bad idea like you say.

      4. LiteralGirl*

        I actually did that once, when I had completed a license that was helpful but not necessary at the time of hire. It was a temporary gig, and meant that I could hit the ground running rather than having to ease into the job. I found the name of the hiring manager and was called almost immediately for an interview.
        Granted, that’s a pretty specific situation, and I wouldn’t encourage people to do that unless there was a substantive change.

    2. Artemesia*

      Back in the day young men got hired directly into management tracks straight from college. Young women of course went into the secretarial pool or similar.

    3. Bea*

      *shiver* The idea that you’ll get hired directly into management right out of college is still a huge misconception among students. I have heard tales of unemployed graduates simply because they refuse to take a job lower than “the boss” because they spent 4 whole years reading books about how things work.

  33. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Answer every want ad in the Boston Globe, whether you’re qualified or not.

    Yeah, someone in IS/IT spent $5,000 for a half-page ad, looking for a specific and very rare skill set, I tried to explain to my parents that ‘re not looking for just anyone, especially someone who has no clue as to what they’re looking for.

    Then I got on the other side of the fence. I went to work for a company – we advertised in the Globe – for a very specific skill set – we received over 400 applicants – and I would guess 300 were “gumption” applications – not for positions we were looking to fill.

    1. AKchic*

      The welfare-to-work office here in Alaska actually gives that advice to all of it’s “clients”. As part of it’s system, each person is required to show proof of 5 employment contacts per day, whether it’s applying for a job, interviewing, attending a class (resume building, interview prep, etc.).
      People who are 40 years old with no GED, no drivers license, and felonies are told “apply for anything and everything” to “see what sticks”. Longest job held has been 4 months at a fast food restaurant? Apply to be the CEO of an international oil company! See if it sticks! Just APPLY! 10 drunk-driving convictions? Go ahead and apply to be a long-haul truck driver. See if it sticks!
      That’s not gumption. That’s an insane waste of time and material.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        I told the case of a fellow IS/IT professional – now, mind you, I haven’t been looking for jobs for 20 years, but there ARE some things that are common sense.

        This gent was out a year. I asked – did you ever join professional groups in your specialty? Uh, no.

        OK, networking – he was on LinkedIn. But all of his contacts were other unemployed people. He didn’t network in with me.

        I asked him to send me a copy of his resume, he did. I commented – “it looks like boilerplate, and it was bland and generic. It looks like a form that someone punched up at the unemployment office” — and – it was.

        My only experience with the unemployment office – I collected checks. When my last one came through – they referred me to a counselor – and there was a way I could extend it – if I signed up for a welding course.

        I quickly realized that they couldn’t find me a job in Massachusetts (1990) and I declined, and began looking for opportunities out-of-state. Alaska? You’re not alone.

    2. ginger ale for all*

      That is very similar to some resumes we receive at the library when we ask for a masters in library or information science. We usually get a percentage of people applying who say that they should be hired because they like to read, no other qualifications.

      1. many bells down*

        An online game I used to play would occasionally hire Game Masters to moderate the game. They’d get literally *thousands* of applications, often from people who weren’t even old enough to work but “had a birthday in a few months!”, and no skills other than that they played the game and had some high-end item. So they started putting “Please put {Random Phrase} in the subject line of your email.” midway through the job description.

        99% of the applications would not have the random phrase in the subject line.

      2. DaisyGJ*

        That’s similar to applications I’ve got trying to hire social workers. It clearly says in the ad that candidates must be qualified registered social workers, however we get so many applicants that are people with no qualifications who want to work with children.

    3. Jaune Desprez*

      Ah, this was my mother back in the ’80s.
      “Look, honey, you should apply for this job! It’s perfect for you!”
      “Mom, the ad says they want someone with a master’s degree in Psychology. I don’t know anything about Psychology.”
      “But you’re so intuitive!”

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

        My family does this sometimes. “You should apply for this full professorship in Egyptian archaeology! You have a PhD so you’re qualified!”

        “But I studied Europe and North America.”

        “Yeah, but you loved Egyptian stuff when you were in middle school! Remember how you went to see the Ramses exhibit three times?”

    4. Anonicat*

      My boss semi-regularly drops 150+ resumes on my desk and asks me to weed out all the ones that are either not remotely qualified or vastly overqualified for the job. I usually have to toss 75-80% of the pile.

    1. AnnieO*

      A friend who I’d gotten to interview with my company, got really mad at me when I wouldn’t give her information so she could send cupcakes after the interview. I told her it would make her look out of touch with workplace norms and she said, “Well that’s not how we do it on the East Coast! Cupcakes will seal the deal.”

      Still confused about that one.

      1. Say what, now?*

        You did her a big kindness, though. It would have seemed off. Of course, it’s a funny thing to think that East Coast Mannerisms will win the day in West Coast business (or whatever part of the nation you were in).

        1. Batshua*

          If cupcakes ever “seal the deal” in my life in any way, shape, or form, I will be much amused.

          1. Batshua*

            (You know, something like “I kept proposing, but it wasn’t until I brought her cupcakes that we sealed the deal”.)

          2. Wannabe Disney Princess*

            At my last retail job, people always asked if we took credit cards. It was a Mom-n-Pop type store. We had one of those old time-y cash registers on the counter. But we did indeed take credit cards. So, my response was always, “We take it all – cash, checks, credit cards….maybe a dozen chocolate cupcakes.” One day a local bakery stopped in. They had 4 dozen mini cupcakes for us! I was TERRIFIED that someone had actually taken me up on my offer.

            Turned out, the bakery was holding a competition for most liked business in the area and we won! But, hoo boy, I was nervous for a few minutes.

      2. Al*

        The most baffling part of that is the fact that I’ve worked in 3 major cities on the East Coast and that would NEVER happen.

    2. Rebecca in Dallas*

      Haha, I actually got a job by bringing cookies!

      Note: I was 16 or 17 and this was a fast food job. The restaurant sold cookies at the register and at the time, I thought I could start a cookie-baking business. I ate at the restaurant a lot and one day I brought a batch of cookies in and gave them to the manager, saying I was trying to start a cookie business and would he think about selling my cookies. Well, it was a chain restaurant, so no, they couldn’t just sell some random teenager’s cookies, they had to sell the cookies they got from corporate. But he liked my “gumption” and offered me a cashier job, which I took and actually enjoyed.

  34. RP*

    I interviewed internally at a large mutli-office company for a promotional role in another office. The first interview was scheduled during the busiest time of year for our company. Literally everyone on my team was working 15 hours a day for two to three weeks to meet deadlines.

    I asked for some flexibility to do it in the morning at the beginning of the day – as it was a bit more flexible and was told I needed to meet at Noon and this would be a test of me “Flexibility. I took a half day off work to attend – as there was a couple hours travel required in either direction from my current office. And the director wanted me to meet with his team – each individually on different days. I did it and got repremanded for taking so much time off to do so. In total I took 4 half days off during our busiest time to “showcase my flexibillity.” The job was ultimately cancelled when the director suddenly quite halfway through the process…..

  35. Julianne*

    Annual conversation at our alumni association’s “How to get a job” meeting for new grads:

    Program Director: Definitely go to the office in person and drop off a hard copy of your resume! You can even ask to meet with the hiring manager right then and there!
    Program Director’s Husband who is a Hiring Manager in our field: No. Don’t do that. I hate when people do that.
    PD: Well, Husband hates it, but he’s the outlier. Every other Hiring Manager likes it.
    PD’s Husband: They do not.
    PD: Hahaha! Oh you grouch, you just hate hiring.
    PD’s Husband: No, but seriously: don’t do it. Just apply online. That’s why we made an online application.

    1. Been there*

      Am I the only one who is suspicious that college career centers give intentionally bad advice to grads in the hope they give up and go back to school?


      1. AKchic*

        You are definitely not the only one. There is one “degree” (and I use that term very loosely) mill here in my town that gives such erroneous information that most companies won’t even hire anyone who claims to have a “degree” from that establishment.
        Their goal is to keep their students perpetual students so they can keep raking in money. In this establishment’s case, they aren’t even able to transfer the “credits” to other schools.

      2. SaraNoH*

        I definitely felt this way about my alma mater’s career center. I graduated with the intention of teaching high school English right around the time that all of the schools in my state were cutting teachers. After two years with no luck finding a job, I made an appointment to see a career counselor at my former university to help me figure out what else I could be doing with my degree. After spending about 20 minutes trying to convince me to get my master’s, she turned to her computer and Googled “jobs for an English degree other than teaching.”

        Super helpful, that lady.

      3. KJ*

        I completely agree.

        I remember going to the career center my senior year of college to get resume/cover letter advice. About 70% of the hour-long meeting was them trying to convince me to go to grad school (after I told them that I had no intention of going to grad school at the very beginning of the meeting), 15% was them telling me that I shouldn’t look for jobs in the field I wanted to work in (and had interned in), and the last 15% was them actually looking at my resume.

        I found the AAM archives that afternoon and never looked back.

      4. Mary*

        Well, my team is the opposite – we’re very clear with managers that we’re person-centred and that it’s not our job to promote our institution’s postgrad courses to students! That’s what Recruitment is for. :-)

  36. Odyssea*

    I was on a hiring committee this summer, and we had our kick-off meeting where we brought in the names of the candidates with whom we were interested in doing phone interviews. Several of us agreed on one candidate, until my boss told us this story.

    The candidate’s wife had called to ask about the job/promote her husband. In my organization, only our HR representative can talk to the candidates before the interviews, to avoid impropriety (we’re a public institution, so we have very strict HR rules). My boss gives her the HR representative’s information, and tells her he can’t speak to her again about the position. What he didn’t immediately realize is that she then proceeded to call and do the same thing to the other members of our admin office, all of told her to talk to HR.

    Once they realized that each of them had spoken to her, they decided they wouldn’t pick up her calls. She ended up calling them 17 times each in one day! My boss’s phone would ring, and once it stopped, the next office would ring, and so on down the hallway until she started at the top again. This happened for a week, and she did it to everyone in the HR department, too.

    Suffice to say, he did not get an interview, even though he was qualified and we all liked his application. It turns out his wife works at another division of our company, and I guess she really wanted him to work there, too. It might have happened if she hadn’t been so obsessive about it – I guess she thought we would be impressed by how persistent she was?

    1. Hermione*

      Did anyone tell the candidate that his wife was calling persistently and ask him to ask her not to call? Or directly tell the wife not to call them anymore? I’d be mortified if my spouse did this, and would want to know.

      1. Odyssea*

        Everyone did directly tell her not to call, even saying, “I will not pick up the phone if I see your number”. It didn’t seem to matter! She just kept doing it.

        We couldn’t contact her husband, though, because that violates our HR policies (which are very strict).

        1. Elfie*

          Maybe it was reverse psychology? She knew he was qualified, but didn’t want to work with him, so sabotaged his attempt to get the job?

    2. Not Tom, just Petty*

      Did this get back to her department? Not necessarily her manager, but how could everyone not be talking about the crazy lady who tried to get her husband a job?

      1. Odyssea*

        Yes, my boss knew her boss and mentioned it, in a casual “hey, tell her to knock it off” way. I don’t think it had any real repercussions besides costing her husband an interview.

        1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          I’m really surprised she wasn’t a punchline for awhile. Fortunate the repercussions were contained. But still sucks for husband. Although, he married her, so I’m sure he wasn’t surprised. Maybe glad they wouldn’t have that much togetherness.

    3. AKchic*

      How much you want to bet he only applied because she wanted him to?

      Maybe SHE put the application in for him? *laugh* I’ve heard of that happening before.

      1. Odyssea*

        Honestly? I wouldn’t be surprised. Our application system is all online, so she would just have to fill it out as him.

        I actually have a student right now who I am pretty sure is taking an online class as her husband. But I don’t have any concrete proof, so… It probably happens more often than that – especially with some of the helicopter parents I’ve seen.

  37. MicroManagered*

    I work at a university and wanted a job here for a long time before I actually got one. My father had some pretty whacked ideas about showing “gumption” and “standing out” when I applied.

    – He thought I should hunt down the person listed as the contact on a job I applied for and email my cover letter and resume directly to them (after already submitting this stuff through the application system).

    -Then I should call that person and follow up/request an interview after a week.

    -I should contact *every* instructor I had, including grad student TAs, and ask them to call the contact and vouch for me… whether they were in any way related to the area I applied to or not.

    Now that I actually do work here, I know why these suggestions are wrong on so many levels:

    -The contact listed on a job posting here is usually someone in HR. They are not the hiring manager and usually have zero influence over the decision–they are listed for precisely that reason.

    -Applications for postings are often not touched/viewed until the posting has closed, which could be 2-3 weeks from the date I applied. Contacting someone multiple times who has no influence on the hiring decision, would seem exceedingly tone-deaf, even creepy.

    -Faculty, unless you’re applying to work directly FOR one of them, are usually so far removed from staff positions. Grad student TAs would have next-to-no influence on a staff hiring decision. The only exception MIGHT be if they happened to know or be related to the hiring manager, who, again, from my previous point, is usually not listed as a contact on the job posting.

    -Getting a job here is so much more about tailoring your resume to the exact job you’re applying to, adding key words that align with the description (without merely regurgitating it) and not having a 400-page resume.

  38. Murphy*

    Not gumption per se, but I had a “friend” tell me that “no one gets jobs anymore through just filling out an application and getting an interview.” I was going to have to network with strangers on LinkedIn if I wanted to get in anywhere.

    Networking itself isn’t bad advice, obviously, but the notion that I had to do all that work . But I’ve been at my current job for over two years. How did I get it? …I applied online and and got called in for an interview.

    1. BPT*

      I’m so tired of hearing “networking,” because people really misunderstand how it’s supposed to go in most sectors.

      You have a “network.” Those are people you’ve worked with before, mentors, professors, and to a lesser extent, friends. Using your network means keeping up with these people, letting them know if you’re job searching and if they have leads, and using them as references.

      The concept of networking as “go to random happy hours and meet strangers” or “connect with strangers on LinkedIn” is so off base. I’m not going to meet someone who has one conversation with me and says, “we actually have a job you’d be perfect for, I’m going to put your name through!” No competent person, anyway. I’d never actually recommend someone I just met.

      1. Specialk9*

        Are you in a specialized field? I am, and I reach out to people I meet at professional meetings, and ask for advice related to something in my program, if applicable to something they mentioned. I help people try to fill job openings. It’s a small field and that kind of networking is awkward but required.

        1. BPT*

          But to me people you meet at professional meetings fall under the “people you’ve worked with,” since people at conferences and such are usually working and you’re looking to make work connections too. You have a work reason to talk to them, which can lead to other things.

          But even then, the most you’d ever reasonably get is, “oh I know of this job opening, I’ll send it to you” or something along those lines. I’d never actually serve as a reference for someone I hadn’t closely worked in the same office with. People overestimate how much “knowing someone who works there” counts. If someone sends along your resume without being able to actually serve as a reference, the most it’ll usually do is make sure it gets a good look.

      2. KellyK*

        I think connecting with strangers to broaden your network can be useful, but the connections are more tenuous. Nobody’s going to recommend you for a job after one conversation, but the acquaintance you go to happy hours with might let you know about a job you wouldn’t otherwise have seen. Or the friend of a friend on LinkedIn might be willing to chat over coffee about what they look for in candidates.

        It’s probably the most useful if you’re switching fields. If your entire professional network is focused on rice sculpture and you want to get into llama wrangling, then it’s probably worth going to some llama wrangling network events and meeting some llama wranglers or checking out LinkedIn to see if any of your coworkers or former bosses know any llama wranglers.

  39. MyInnerDemonNeedsCoffee*

    The comment about the resume on red paper made me remember — I used to work in law firms and at the last one, was the first-line review for attorneys applying for open positions. I’ll never forget the one that we received from a gentleman who used bullet points on his resume that were heart-shaped. The two managing partners (also men) had quite a bit to say about that . . . and no, they didn’t call him in for an interview.

    1. Not Tom, just Petty*

      I’m curious if it was sent electronically and your system used a replacement font for his or if he’d mailed a hard copy that way.
      In former case, quite unfortunate. In the latter, also unfortunate, but a helluva story. Dude, heart bullets!

        1. MyInnerDemonLikesCookies*

          It was a PDF attachment (I actually had to explain this to the partners, that it somehow hadn’t been changed in transit electronically). Definitely memorable.

    2. Had Matter's Pea Tarty*

      Maybe his screen didn’t make them look heart-shaped, or his mis-clicked trying to get another shape.

  40. Rosie*

    I used to work for a very major and famous Wall Street company. A few years ago they were doing a ‘thank you for your service’ event for veterans and the CEO gave out his direct line on camera in order to emphasize their commitment to this hiring diversity. Call us and ask about it, kind of thing.
    His assistant spent the next week fielding the worst phone calls in the world, to the point that he apologized to her in an all-staff global meeting. But of all those horrible, timewasting calls, only one was from a veteran saying, I need a job, how about it?
    That veteran was hired.

  41. Not Tom, just Petty*

    My mom, bless her heart, was giving me cover letter advice after college. She told me to put that “I’m willing to learn while earn,” in the letter.
    So help me, I did.
    It never came up at interviews.
    I think because I never got any.

    1. Say what, now?*

      I sympathize. I had written that maintaining my strong work ethic was important to me (I was just out of college so don’t dump on me) but my dad reviewed my letter and suggested that I change that to “I believe in putting in a hard day’s work in exchange for my pay.” I didn’t, it felt off to me when he suggested it and I’m glad that I didn’t.

  42. JustaTech*

    Here’s the time I tried “gumption” (it’s so embarrassing!):
    I was trying (desperately) to get a science job after college and hadn’t figured out my new area yet. So I applied to an infectious disease research company (dream job!) and then, as a bit of “gumption” FedEx’d them a box of giant disease microbes I had crocheted. (My now-husband thought it was a brilliant idea, showing how very interested I was in the topic.)

    And then, if that wasn’t bad enough, I actually went to the office to check on my application. They told me they had just hired someone for the position.

    1. Not Tom, just Petty*

      If you had gotten the job, those would have been awesome gifts to give friend-coworkers, though!

      1. JustaTech*

        At the next job I got in the sciences I did in face give a giant herpes to a lab-mate who worked on herpes. She loved it!

        1. Rebecca in Dallas*

          Hahaha this is the only instance that it’s acceptable to say that you gave a coworker herpes!

      1. saffytaffy*

        Yeah, that’s what it made me think, too! Of course, that was ~after~ I finished sobbing because my mentor and idol had just revealed himself to be both completely out of touch and completely unwilling to give me any substantive help, but whatevs. :)

    1. Half-Caf Latte*

      Sibling works for them at Mountain View! Just texted to ask- they were actually in the mailroom at the time, and said there’s probably hundreds.

      Which I should have known, since we recently discussed getting all packages delivered to work to thwart porch-thieves.

      So, not terrible advice!

      1. Bookworm*

        They do contract out a lot of their services, so there’s still a chance you wouldn’t actually be working FOR Google, just AT Google.

      2. Half-Caf Latte*

        Update: apparently the Google mail rooms are full of Amazon packages for employees.

        Sibling is going to try to find out how many pieces of mail are processed through their mailroom. I’m weirdly invested in the answer. Stay tuned!

  43. Shellesbelles*

    Yep, a place I worked for hired a guy with “gumption.” We had an opening (online applications only) and he showed up at our tiny, out of the way office in a suit with a resume. The resume was printed on a page with a blurry ice climbing photo as the background. Lots of firm handshakes and “nice to meet you, sirs.” This was for a job in marketing in the outdoor industry. We had nothing to do with ice climbing and the industry is well known for being pretty casual. He did get the job, but he was let go after less than 3 months. Funnily enough, he was a really bad cultural fit and was more interested in the “little details” (press samples with lots of little extras in the package, awkward follow-up phone calls) than actually executing on the bigger ideas or overall strategy.

  44. Nea*

    Work for free – for multiple companies! An actual job advisor told me to find three or four companies, get the name of someone high up in management, and contact them directly saying that I had seen that they needed x to be done for them, and suggest solutions.

    A week later, I was supposed to contact all those people again having accomplished one of said solutions. A week after that, identify another area of weakness. A week after that, solve it.

    Basically, to continually harass upper management in companies that I did not work for and did not know the inner workings of with invented solutions to invented problems until someone was Just So Impressed that they would hire me.

    The other bad advice was to apply for any job at all, including ones that I was not qualified for and had far too low a salary, with the idea of dickering up to a liveable wage in my area of competence at some unspecified point in the process. But even that pales next to “do a lot of work for free for a lot of people who probably want you to shut up.”

  45. Raddest*

    We don’t do walk-in applicants, and people can’t come in to the building without an access card or an escort. This applicant, hereafter codenamed Mr. Gumpt, told me he had an appointment with the CFO, who doesn’t usually do hiring, but also doesn’t have his name featured on the company website. I let him in and left him to wait in the lobby while I searched our massive building for the CFO.

    CFO? Was not in the building. Also, once I got a hold of him, had never heard of Mr. Gumpt, who had probably gotten his name off Wikipedia.

    I have no idea how he thought lying his way into an appointment with the CFO would go even if the guy WAS there, but I cannot imagine it would end in ‘congratulations, you’re hired’. I’m still mad.

  46. mAd Woman*

    A candidate at my nonprofit made a donation after her interview and sent me a thank you note saying her college counselor had advised doing so. When she didn’t get the job, she demanded her donation back.

      1. Southern Ladybug*

        I’m curious, too.

        I probably would refund it, and then blacklist her for everything. And probably share the story if her name came with trusted colleagues hiring.

  47. Squeeble*

    Sigh. When I was in college I was getting interested in writing and journalism. My mom was super encouraging (bless her heart), and insisted that I call a reporter at the small local newspaper to ask about internship or job opportunities. It was a weekend when she came up with this idea, so she made me call this woman’s HOME PHONE NUMBER. The reporter didn’t answer and so I had to leave a voicemail, on which I got so nervous that when I tried to say my number at which she could call me back, I completely blanked and just said a bunch of random digits.

    1. Boötes*

      Ha, as someone who’s worked in journalism, I think that’s absolutely fair play in this particular case. Many journalists have few qualms about getting hold of people, using any and all contact info available to them, and then proceed to be pushy about having the person’s time RIGHT NOW. I’ve watched and listened in horror to calls unfold. That phrase “didn’t respond to our requests for comment by press time”? — no shit, sugar.

      On reflection, many techniques I learned in j-school seem to have leached into How to Get a Job advice.

  48. Translator*

    I’ve had the following conversation with at least half a dozen different people:

    Well-meaning person: “You should apply for this translation job!”
    Me: “I don’t translate in that language.”
    Well-meaning person: “But you speak that language!”
    Me: “Not well enough to translate in.”
    Well-meaning person: “But the person doing the hiring might not be able to tell!”

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Oh lord, I had this conversation so many times.

      That, and “Oh, you speak Spanish? You should teach it!”

    2. Turquoisecow*

      A few years back, Jet Blue came to a nearby airport and announced they were hiring. They specifically wanted people who spoke multiple languages, since they’re an international airline.

      I took 6 years of middle/high school Spanish, two semesters of (college) French, and two years of Japanese. I am faaaaarr from fluent in any of those, partly because I haven’t interacted much with native speakers. My mother urged me several times to apply for a job with Jet Blue despite my caveats regarding fluency. She was convinced that I would be good enough.

    3. YawningDodo*

      Archivist here. When I was in the home stretch of grad school a helpful friend sent me a posting for a position that was 100% technical in nature, related to digital asset management systems, on the basis that she knew someone who worked there and would recommend me. I did not specialize in DAM and had none of the specializations they wanted and very little desire to work in that type of position even if I knew what I was doing. Let her know that I wasn’t qualified for it and got back something or other about “They don’t know that / you’ll learn on the job!”

      Noo. Did not apply.

    4. SusanIvanova*

      Make that a computer language and a very similar conversation would describe the person hired a few weeks before I was, on a brand-new cross-platform product. Only one person on the interview team knew anything about Macs, and that was by osmosis from sharing an office with me at our previous job. He had his suspicions but everyone else was convinced. And they were all so very wrong.

      1. Translator*

        Ugh! Especially since the very personality traits that make me and many others suitable to being a translator (introversion, working well sitting quietly alone at a computer) mean we would be highly unsuitable to teaching or interpretation!

        (Yes, I do know some people who have done more than one of the above, but we aren’t all triple threats)

  49. grasshopper*

    We had someone show up and berate the receptionist for a position. His message was essentially “I am overqualified yet I have decided I will work for you, please begin my on-boarding.” When he refused to understand that there is an interview and screening process, someone from HR did meet with him and explained how the process worked, and the online application form. After he left, HR told reception that if any job candidate or volunteer ever spoke that way to them again, let HR know so that they could be blacklisted.

  50. Lily Evans*

    Advice from my dad: I should call an employer every day to show enthusiasm. I should go into random stores and ask if they’re hiring.

    Advice from my aunt: I should always send a follow up email after an application because when she hires people, she only wants people who really want the job, and that’s how to show that. *insert eye roll emoji here*

    Advice from my uncle: Apply for librarian position despite not having an MLS, or just lie on my resume and say I do have one because they probably won’t check. I don’t even know if this is gumption related, but it’s terrible advice.

    I have no idea if I’d have found a job so quickly after college if I hadn’t fount this site! Especially the post about not listening to your parents advice!

    1. Solidus Pilcrow*

      After reading all this bad advice from parents, I just want to give a big shout-out to my mom who has the sense to know what she doesn’t know and never gave this advice to me or my brother when we were job hunting. (Despite being retired and not having job-hunted in 20+ years before that.) Helping pick out interview suits? Yes. Telling us to show ‘gumption’? No.

      Thanks Mom!

      1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

        I agree. Reading the advice well meaning relatives have given people here makes me appreciate the fact that from the moment I applied for my first job my mom’s attitude was “You’re old enough to work so prove it!” I remember being 14 and so nervous about my first interview and really just wanted my mom to come with me and maybe sit in the car outside. She said no. She made me walk there by myself. She did go over the basics of what an interview was prior to the event and we did one practice interview so I’d have an idea what might be asked, but she told me she wasn’t holding my hand through the process. I appreciate that!

      2. Red Reader*

        Haha, right? I never got a single piece of advice about job hunting from my parents, and bless them for it.

      3. Master Bean Counter*

        I’ll give my mom credit as well. She used to suggest openings for which I should apply. After I told her one time that one of the positions would pay half of what I make now, she stopped. She finally figured out that I might actually have a good handle on my career.

      4. Ellie*

        That’s great! My Mum and Dad also did not give me any bad advice. My son has asked me for advice with resumes, etc, and while I do help proof them, I always refer him to Ask A Manager. I’ve been out of the work force now for five years and wouldn’t presume to give any “helpful advice” without checking here first!

      5. Mary*

        My parents gave me lots of good advice (both of them worked in higher education, where I also work), but they were both quite obsessed with the idea that applications had to be handwritten and not typed or word processed. They are very not woo-woo about most things but they did/do have persistent ideas about certain handwriting tics showing Weak Moral Character or something and that selection panels needed to see your handwriting to judge you.

        I finished university in 2001 and they were both deeply sceptical about my habit of doing my job applications in MSWord! Fortunately when I got interviews and then my first graduate job they grudgingly admitted that I might be right.

      1. Lily Evans*

        They aren’t even on the same side of the family! The aunt is my dad’s sister and the uncle is on my mom’s side by marriage. I was really getting bad advice everywhere in my family after college.

    2. I'm A Little TeaPot*

      My dad has never said much. Mom used to be pretty good, or at least knew that she didn’t know. More recently she’s gone off the rails and said some real doozies. My sister basically isn’t talking to her right now as a result of one of them.

      Luckily, we’re old enough that we’re ok.

  51. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

    I had someone attempt to gumption their way into an interview. At the time I worked for a state agency and there was one office where the public routinely visited. This woman who had gotten my name and branch from a conference website, went into the building as if she was going to the public office and then somehow made her way up to my floor. At the front desk, she handed the receptionist her resume and asked her to send her back for an interview. The receptionist called security and Ms. Gumption was escorted from the building. We held on to her resume to make sure no one ever hired her.

  52. EW*

    I know this doesn’t count, but my old manager told me the story of how he hired me.

    He was sitting at his desk ready to give an offer to a candidate. He decided to check the online job portal one last time because he was 100% on the candidate. He saw my resume and immediately set up a phone screen for me. I got the job!

    Goes to show that following the process and being a strong candidate is enough a lot of times.

  53. Ruth (UK)*

    I’m still quite embarrassed by this: in about 2013, I was a recent-ish grad, and considering training as a teacher. I got a placement for 3 weeks in a highschool doing a mix of classroom helping and observing.

    While I was there one day towards the end of it, I was chatting to a woman who worked as a teaching assistant and had for many years. I expressed that I had been trying to find school based jobs and she told me the SEN (special educational needs) department was looking for new people. She advised me to go to the SEN department and ask them about it and they might talk to me then about a job.

    This seemed a little off to me and I expressed doubt – I didn’t even have a CV handy. I probed a little I asked, was she SURE this was the right approach? She was very insistent that it was. Had the advice come from someone else, I wouldn’t have followed it, but as it came from someone who was employed at that school and had been for a long time, I followed it. She encouraged me to go right away

    I went to the SEN department and said I’d heard they might be looking for new classroom/learning assistants. The person I spoke to quickly took me into a back corridor, and explained in a stressed way that, though we were not in a classroom, it was highly likely students had overheard my enquiry as they came and went from the area, and that many SEN children would be very upset by hearing me enquire this and would begin speculating over which staff member they thought or worried might be leaving. She said it would now be more difficult to get them to settle and that it was extremely inappropriate for me to have enquired in this way about a job and the fact that I had showed that I was not a suitable person to be dealing with such children.

      1. Havarti*

        Yeah, I agree – you went there because someone told you to. And anyway, it’s not like people who work with SEN children come out of the womb with those skills in place already. That person chastising you likely screwed up at some point herself!

    1. Emma*

      I wonder if she was extra stressed because someone *was* leaving, and she knew it was going to be a big challenge for some of the kids to adjust – so while she’s there worrying about how the department will cope with this disruptive change, and thinking about strategies that are in place to manage the transition, someone comes in and blows it and she overreacts a bit.

  54. Emi.*

    My beloved grandfather (who’s done federal contracting and should really know better) told me, a mathematician, to call federal hiring managers and say (a) that I had a such-and-such GPA from Thusandso University, (b) that my grandfather said I was incredibly smart, and (c) did they have any open positions?

    He later told my husband, an artist (an oil painter, not even a digital artist or graphic designer), that he should call the NASA Public Affairs front desk and offer to do free work in exchange for studio space. My husband came to me and said, “Emi, I don’t know how to interact with this man.”

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      He actually thinks “my grandfather thinks I’m really smart” is going to get you anywhere?


      1. Artemesia*

        Everyone knows the correct line here is ‘My mother things I am really smart and nice too.’

  55. Turtle Candle*

    I was once told (thank god, NOT by my college’s career counseling center) that because I was a good writer, I should write my cover letter in the form of a short story depicting myself at the job and showing what a good employee I’d be. Like, “As always, Turtle arrived at work that morning ten minutes early so that she would have time to make a cup of coffee and exchange ‘good morning’s with her colleagues before digging into work. Once in her seat with her coffee (two creams, one sugar), she conscientiously checked her email to ensure that nothing urgent had come up overnight.” And there was supposed to be some kind of plot twist to ‘keep it interesting.’

    I thought it sounded totally freaking goofy even at the time, with no professional experience at all, and didn’t do it. Now, of course, it gives me a full-body cringe even to imagine. I would haver stood out, all right–the same way a clown stands out.

    1. Kathenus*

      OK, it wouldn’t get you a job, most likely. But am I the only one who wants to hear the rest of the story now?

      1. Turtle Candle*

        Hahahah, I was so unclear on what kind of twist they even wanted us to do! Was it supposed to be like “and then Our Heroine was faced with a dreaded paper jam!” or “And then the kraken attacked.”?

          1. Anonicat*

            Perhaps the accounting department have all become zombies after being infected at a meeting, and are even now shambling through the corridors seeking braaaaains!

        1. glenderella*

          If someone managed to use the word “kraken” in their cover letter, I would want to interview them regardless of anything else.

          1. Emma*

            When I did my GCSEs (school exams at age 16) I had a bet with some friends to see how many exams we could cram the word “zeitgeist” into. I didn’t win on numbers, but I got an honourable mention for getting it into my maths paper.

    2. HRish Dude*

      In which our humble narrator arrives ten minutes early, checks her email, and makes her coffee only to be shocked and horrified when her office discovers her short story about how our humble narrator arrives ten minutes early, checks her email, and makes her coffee only to be shocked and horrified when her office discovers her short story about how our humble narrator arrives ten minutes early, checks her email, and makes her coffee only to be shocked and horrified when her office discovers her short story about how our humble narrator arrives ten minutes early, checks her email, and makes her coffee only to be shocked and horrified when her office discovers her short story about howour humble narrator arrives ten minutes early, checks her email, and makes her coffee only to be shocked and horrified when her office discovers her short story about how…

      1. Anonicat*

        I once saw a piece of fanfic about a particular actor who was amused by fanfic about himself until the day he came across a writer who consistently portrayed him as being bad in bed, when he resolved to find said fanfic writer and prove her wrong…

        I wish I could find it again, because it really was a Jane-Austen-level satire.

  56. Tammy*

    When I applied for my first role at CurrentCompany, I did something which could have been looked at as an instance of “attempted gumption”, but it worked out for me. In the course of my first conversation with the recruiter, one of the things we connected about was our mutual love of books…and I’d recently written a mystery novel. So, I sent her a thank you note, and I included a copy of my book.

    This isn’t as cringe-worthy as it might sound. I made it clear I was just sending the book because we’d chatted about it, and that it was without expectation. And I asked her if it would be okay before I did it. And, I’m still here, almost 5 years later, and I’ve moved from an individual technical contributor to Team Lead, Manager, and now Senior Manager in that time. So clearly, it all worked out okay, and in this particular set of circumstances, I don’t think it was especially . But every time I read an AAM post about job applicants sending gifts, I admit I wince a little.

    1. Fiennes*

      That’s different, though. You’d asked first, the recruiter had shown interest, so that was an appropriate follow-up. Unless you went through and wrote the recruiter’s name over that of the heroine, on every page…

    2. Artemesia*

      Sending YOUR book is not like sending a gift. It might be a bad idea in many cases. I have read a ton of horrifyingly bad mysteries that actually got published and one always runs the risk of their work not being well received. But growing out of a conversation that mentioned your work and if it is pretty good then it might not be inappropriate. So different from sending muffins, chocolates, a scarf, wine etc But your own book possibly appropriate.

  57. LQ*

    Have all your references call unsolicited. (Not like people they actually know, or when you are interviewing, but just when you apply.) I think someone brought that up here too. But I actually heard someone say…they wished more potential employees did that. It was not someone I worked for or ever wanted to work for!!

    Always be the first one in and the last one to leave, even if you’re just doing your own stuff.

    And my personal favorite…go into big buildings downtown and chat with people in the elevator and give them your resume.

    1. fposte*

      “Wait until they’re in a small room and can’t get away from you and corner them! People love that!”

      1. LQ*

        Right. This advice came from the advice giver hearing a story of someone getting stuck in an elevator and while they sat there (presumably hot, worried, and desperately having to pee) the guy managed to talk the person he was stuck in the elevator with into giving him a job. So there was always a little bit of a, and you know, if you hit that emergency button “accidentally” it wouldn’t hurt undertone to the advice.

        1. Artemesia*

          And here I will pass along excellent advice from a former colleague. ‘Never get into a car or an elevator if you have to pee.’ It has served me well.

  58. GingerofOz*

    My dad told me to in interviews say that I am “new to town, don’t have friends or family in the area, no social life, an am not looking to date or get married/have kids soon.” So they would know I don’t care about anything but the job and could work all the overtime….
    When he turned to my step mom for backup she shut him down.

    1. Murphy*

      I feel like, not only is that unnecessary and way oversharing even if true, but it could backfire. “I have no ties here and could up and leave at any moment!”

    2. Anon today...and tomorrow*

      LOL! this made me think of John Mullaney’s “New in Town” special on Netflix. Look it up…very funny. And yeah…about as relevant as the advice your dad gave. :)

  59. Applesauced*

    Look at the the gimmicks cities have pulled to “wow” Bezos for the Amazon HQ2 RFP!
    Cities have constructed giant Amazon boxes, made pun-ridden videos with native sons, offered to RENAME themselves after Amazon, send a 21-foot tall cactus (which was not accepted), offered to rebuilt the whole city to suit Amazon….
    I’ll admit, I’m following these pitches and speculations like it’s a car on fire…. I know it’s going to end up going to the place that can offer the best tax incentives, and it’s
    going to severely impact the economy and displace many people in whatever city they choose (please, please, please don’t pick my city…) but I cannot look away!

    1. MechanicalPencil*

      My city has enough issues right now with other corporate headquarters here. And my rent is jacked enough. NO. STAY AWAY.

    2. burgermeistermeisterberger*

      My dear mayor has ordered a ton of products off Prime and is reviewing them while making nods to the city. I mean it seems like he’s having fun with it so it might be just as much about appealing to his constituents with a kind of “Dad-Humor” as it is trying to do a thing.

      The latest one I saw was a megaphone and in the review he talks about shouting at his family across the house with it, by the way did you know hometown is a great place with a lot of locally owned resturaunts

    3. gmg22*

      What’s amazing to me about this whole process is that I can almost guarantee Bezos has already picked the winning city/metro area. (Hint: He made a very large purchase there about four years ago.) So it’s like they decided to see how many hoops they could get every other city to jump through, just for fun.

  60. twig*

    I had TWO phone calls from a gumptioneer yesterday.
    Background: I do admin work for the head of IT at a state university. There is a search on for a director level position (I am not on the search committee — just have awareness of its existence)
    The dude called at 11 am asking for the CIO (my boss) said he was following up on his application and asking where the search is in the process. I told him what I knew (and am allowed to say) that the search had closed and that the committee was reviewing resumes and that he should hear back within the next week or so. He implied that he’d spoken with the CIO and said that he’d gotten his application in just under the deadline. I told him I’d pass his info on to the coordinator for the search and that she could update him.

    3 hours later, he calls and asks the same questions as if he hadn’t spoken to me already. Also mentions having spoken to the CIO — only calls him the wrong name: “when I spoke with Bob last week. I mean when I spoke with Mike last week.” I tell him the same thing I’d told him previously.

    Turns out — he lied about sending in his application. He’d missed the application window and had cold-emailed the CIO.

  61. AnotherAlison*

    My husband has not had a job since 2003. He is a self-employed electrician, and alternates between a one-man show and having an apprentice. When he had jobs, he worked in maintenance at regional printing companies. He has little idea how corporate jobs work, but he still gives me on-the-job gumption advice. . .”You just need to tell them ___.” (Whether I want a raise, am complaining about workload, etc.) If I tell him that’s not how it works here at this F500 company, he gets annoyed and stands firm that I need to make my point to my management.

    Our son is a college sophomore and is now back in the baseball recruiting process to move from a junior college program to a DI or DII school. He tells him, “You just need to call the coaches you want to play for and tell them.” Then he tells me that Son needs to tell the schools he needs “X” or he isn’t going there. Okay, there is some room for negotiation, but college baseball has a lot of money problems. . .they get 11 scholarships for 35 players at D1 schools. Again, it’s like talking to a wall.

    You can’t just make up how you want it to work and force everyone to play by your rules.

    1. Specialk9*

      I’m not clear – does he not work, or is he self employed and you only call working for a company a job?

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Yes, I only call working for a company a job. I call self employment working, but it isn’t a job. He definitely works plenty, and I would not be able to tell him how to navigate his professional challenges any more than he can mine.

    2. Moose and Squirrel*

      This kind of advice drives me batty. I already have social anxiety and I’m a follow the rules type. The thought of being pushy with someone I’ve never met or barely know makes it 10x worse. I’ve also been on the receiving end of pushy people in a work setting where I had to find a polite way to defer or say no and that was even more stressful. I know there are appropriate times to push back or emphasize what you need, but they aren’t as common as some people seem to think. I can’t see this approach being good for your son, especially on a sports team where it could make him seem like a primadonna.

    3. Artemesia*

      It is my experience that any advice that begins ‘you just need to’ or with ‘why don’t you just’ is going to be hopelessly out of touch.

    4. An AAM Fan*

      It’s really odd to consider being self-employed “not having a job.” I think I would rephrase that. My husband is a contractor (tech) and “self-employed,” but he would be quite offended (and rightly so, as he does bring in tons more money than I do) if I referred to him as “not having a job.”

      1. nonegiven*

        When DH was self employed, it was work but not a job. Within his self employment, a job was something he would bid on and sometimes win. When he won, he would supply the materials and labor, do the job and get paid the amount of his bid. At the end of the year he would get a number of 1099s, usually totaling much less than declared income because most of his work was not a job.

        Now he has a job with steady pay and benefits and a boss and grandboss and board of directors.

  62. Ms. Mad Scientist*

    “Hiring managers get so many resumes. You have to call them!”

    I was terrified of cold calling, but I contacted a few principal investigators I was interested in working with. Believe it or not, one hired me and the other one wanted to interview me.

    1. nosy nelly*

      Gumption is actually really necessary in the process of enrolling in graduate school in the sciences (this sounds like what you’re talking about)! I always regret doing the PhD application-and-PI-finding process “by the book”–that is, according to the processes outlined in the application, just passively applying and working with professors whose classes you take and enjoy–rather than they way the successful students did it–finding multiple PI options very early in the process and having their support locked in before arriving to campus.

      1. Ms. Mad Scientist*

        Not quite-I had finished grad school and was looking for a job as a tech.

        In retrospect, the PIs this had succeeded with were both fairly new-I was my current boss’ first full time hire. This probably wouldn’t have worked with a more experienced PI.

  63. Emalia*

    After I was hired at Old Job, the HR manager told me that the person who had interviewed before me had pitched an entirely different job for himself during the interview. This job didn’t exist at the organization.

    I also want to thank AAM for helping me realize that cold call/frequent follow up wasn’t a good thing. I hired several dozen college students for summer positions at Old Job. Every time I got a call or email to follow up on an application, I felt HORRIBLE that I wan’t following up more quickly. Thanks to AAM, I re-framed this particular way of thinking and created a stock script for our admin and myself to use when we got obnoxious follow-up. The one person who did squeak by before this change got an interview and the job. I learned a hard lesson about managing someone with “initiative”. In this case, she showed a pervasive lack of understanding on the impact of her actions on the people she worked with.

    1. Anonymouse*

      Could I get a copy of that script? I have one guy who called seven times in one day, emailed twice, and then *stopped by the office*. This when we’re not even hiring! I feel kind of bad because he’s an older man from another country, so there may be some kind of cultural difference there, but I’m struggling with how to tell him, “Don’t do this if you want a job.”

      I had another who came by for their interview, told them we were interviewing other people and would let them know by the end of the week, he thanked me, then went around and introduced himself to the other employees as “their new coworker”. Oy.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        I think “don’t do this if you want a job” is fine. Calling seven times in a day is beyond inappropriate. People like that don’t usually understand anything short of a blunt, direct message to stop.

        And the “I’m your new coworker” thing is so slimy. Ew.

      2. emalia*

        It’s been a couple of years, but it was basically a statement of our process. EX “Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis. If the team moves your application forward in the process, you will be contactd for an interview”
        Then don’t engage with the candidate and repeat message as often as needed.

  64. Seespotbitejane*

    I graduated in 2007 and was job hunting in the midst of the recession. I lived in Seattle at the time and because I could help my grandparents access their email, they were convinced that I was a computer expert. My grandfather told me multiple times that I should “Walk into Microsoft and tell Bill Gates to give me a job.” He was constantly frustrated with me for not doing literally that, as if 1) that’s how hiring works, 2) my basic computer literacy qualified me to work for Microsoft (I graduated with an art degree), and 3) anyone can just “see” Bill Gates by asking. He’ll just meet with anybody.

  65. BigSigh*

    My grandpa. Oh grandpa. A few years back I was having trouble finding anything in my field. He told me someone he played poker with had an adult child who worked in my field. Same city too, yay! So I should obviously call this person, who I don’t know, who’s own role is unknown, and ask for a job when the company may not even be hiring. But I’ll definitely get it because I said my grandpa knows her dad. Ummm, right.

    He brought this up multiple times over the course of yeeeeears. In fact, I think he said it to me again this year when I mentioned considering a switch.

  66. dawbs*

    I heard the tale (allegedly successful) of a lab intern who wanted to get the real, full-time gigs at the lab.

    When she was there, she was insanely helpful to everyone. When she left the lab at the end of her shifts, she hid basic things like pipettes. So basically, everyone knew that Sansa was on top of things and knew where everything was and was super helpful, and Anya, Robb, and Wakeem could never ever find the damn pipettes so possibly were incompetent.
    Apparently it worked.

        1. dawbs*

          I know, right!?
          She was protege to the prof. who told me about it (and I am reasonably sure it was true, he didn’t try to hide who he was speaking about), and I think he thought it was a step beyond where he would have taken it, but damn we all admired the moxie.

          Except possibly her co-interns.

    1. The OG Anonsie*

      I’ve encountered a handful of people like this in the health sciences field, I think it’s actually straight up a Thing. Not even just with bench folks, but like administrative support people and everything.

  67. AnonManager*

    In my previous role, my director forced me to hire “this wonderful person with gumption.” The candidate not only emailed me her resume (as requested), she went over my head and mailed it to the director. On fancy paper. With perfume on it.

    And we hired her. Against my advice.

    Unsurprisingly to me (but surprisingly to my directors) she turned out to be a pushy addition to the department and not a good fit for the role.

    Of course, this was also the place that forbade me from calling references.

  68. NaoNao*

    Not sure if this is gumption exactly, but my mom went to a tony private college (mostly on merit scholarships, she was a very good student) in the 90s as a returning adult student. The college had a careers office that would legit place you in an entry level job (back when entry level really meant something!) that paid a decent, if rather low wage.
    Also note: she had substantial alimony and child care payments to help her as she transitioned to the work force from being a SAHM. She got an entry level job in an insurance company doing PR and parlayed this into a series of increasingly solid jobs, until she landed in her current job in about 2001. She hasn’t job searched in almost 20 years, y’all.

    The year was 2008. I was graduating in the apex/nadir of the worst Recession since the Great Depression. Her advice? Panicked doesn’t begin to describe my mood.

    “Just contact the careers office at your SUNY school! They’ll find something for you no problem! That’s how I got [first job]!”

    Uh, your college was 30K a year, mom!! For that, they *better* have placed you in a job!

    She also thought the newspaper still printed classified ads like “Seeking female secretary, ages 25-30, must be fluent in shorthand, single.” and I should just “go through the newspaper” and apply. God bless her.

  69. Statler von Waldorf*

    Am I the only one who thinks that all gumption advice isn’t terrible? Maybe this is a strictly small town & small company point of view, but I’ve gotten a large percentage of my jobs by directly contacting managers I barely knew and letting them know that I was looking for work. I’ve had at least three employers who let me know after I started that my “gumption” was what put me over other candidates. Two of those jobs was kinda crap, but the third was honestly the best job I ever had.

    Now I can absolutely understand why my methods wouldn’t work in a larger city where each job has more applicants, or in a larger company where they have a defined hiring process that you really should follow. However, in a small town when applying to a small company, the rules are a bit different, and a little gumption can go a long way. I recommend treating it like salt. A small amount will make things pop, too much ruins the dish.

    1. Michelle*

      I’m in my mid-40’s and grew up in a small town. Gumption was more…accepted/admirable… back when I was looking for my first job in 1988. My aunt (who taught at a jr. college) gave me gumption advice and I used it and got a job. But I think as hiring practices change and become more standard, gumption doesn’t have the same effect it used to and can come across as weird/annoying.

    2. Anon attorney*

      I think there’s a difference between being proactive and “gumption” that is tone deaf to hiring culture. After I passed the bar, I wrote about 150 letters to local law firms seeking a job. The hiring market in law in a my area had tanked (this was in 2008) and I wasn’t getting anywhere with
      recruiters or ads. I have 149 politely regretful rejection letters in a file somewhere, but I got hired by firm #150 who just happened to have someone quit the week they got my resume. That worked well for me but I also was a solid candidate and my resume wasn’t on pink glitter paper. I think sometimes we have to reach out, but in a way that aligns with professional norms.

    3. CoffeeLover*

      I think there’s good gumption and bad gumption. Bad gumption is acts of desperation like calling someone 5 times a day. I view good gumption as a more personal approach to job searching, though it’s becoming more and more looked down on as we go further down the online application rabbit hole. There’s nothing wrong with online applications, ok there’s plenty wrong, but anyway… with my field, location and the types of companies I’m applying to I have always followed the online application process (and believe gumption would come across poorly). But! There is a time and a place and a type of person that can pull off gumption. I can think of two immediate family member that got jobs through “gumption”.

      The first: My dad went into a mid-size company and asked to speak to someone that would be interested in his skills. A few meetings later, he got a job.
      The reason it worked: My dad is in a technical field and had good experience, plus the market was booming and he’s in a tradition/old school field (oil and gas).

      The second: My brother walked around to small law firms to ask for work after graduating uni.
      The reason it worked: Small firms are more willing to speak to someone off the street and my brother did a lot of research for each firm so that he came prepared… mostly though it was a numbers game as he did this every day for 2 months before he found something. He was looking for work in an economic downturn and few firms were hiring, but he said once he got his groove (got over the awkwardness), he was positively received by a lot of places. A former classmate of his didn’t get hired for 1.5/2 years because he stuck to the online application thing even though it wasn’t working – eventually, he got a job through a family friend.

      My conclusion: Not all gumption is bad and I think we do ourselves a disservice by thinking the only way to get hired is to send online applications. Of course, using your network to get into contact with desired people would be better, but sometimes you don’t have that option. I suppose it’s similar to what Anon attorney said above about being proactive vs. having “gumption.”

  70. AmyNYC*

    My college graduation (in 2010, so I didn’t have a job lined up) was at Radio City Music Hall…. which is right next to Rockefeller Plaza, where they tape the Today Show.
    I made a big sign saying something like “I just graduated with X degree and need a job!” with my email address below, and took the sight, wore my cap and gown, and went to the Today Show before the ceremony.
    It did not work, and I didn’t even get on TV :(

  71. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

    Not exactly interesting gumption behavior in this case (just garden variety pushiness + too many follow ups), but we did have a referral candidate who was great and would have been offered a job except his gumption behavior was so off-putting that we decided to look externally instead.

    Someone sent his nephew’s resume around (to targeted/appropriate depts) and it seemed like kismet – my boss was just about to post for a role that this person seemed great for (the role would start in about three months once the budget opened up). We brought him for an interview early and explained the situation. Boss thought he was great. Then he started to follow up practically everyday (with me, not my boss), and I was very clear about the time line we’d be getting back in touch (Dept. head is out of the country, once they return Boss will confirm the budget for the role and then we will be in touch from there – expect to hear from us in about three weeks). After several times I had to tell my boss what was going on because he was driving me crazy. Boss was alarmed but asked my thoughts on him. Told her honestly that I was concerned about him in the role – he’s well qualified and she did need a “go-getter”, but he’d be interacting with people all up and down the org chart and the person in this role absolutely needed to be able to do that appropriately. His follow up behavior caused me to be concerned about his judgement, listening skills and his sense of office norms/appropriateness.

    Boss agreed and decided right then and there that he was out. We posted the job externally and ended up hiring someone else. I debated whether I should say something to his uncle – to maybe pass along to him. Not the whole story (that we were pretty set on hiring him, but his gumption turned us off), but just a “hey, you might want to let Percy know that following up repeatedly before the time frame given is not generally a good idea when it comes to job hunting”, but I decided not to. I interact with the uncle occasionally, but not enough to get a sense of how he might take that info. Though if the uncle or Percy had asked for feedback directly I would have said something, but neither did.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      You jogged my memory with Percy. This candidate wasn’t using ‘gumption’, she was just aggressive. She was an employee referral, and I thought she was qualified for one of our roles. She was extremely persistent in her follow up, almost obnoxious. But I can deal with his. However, because she already knew the hiring manager’s name, thanks to the employee, I told her that I was her point of contact. I also said it would be at least a week before I could talk to the HM – she asked – as he was traveling. I also told her we were in the early stage of candidate review.

      The next day I got an angry call from the HM. The candidate left him a voicemail, posing as a vendor, saying she had an extremely urgent issue to discuss related to some tech aspect of the job I can’t remember. HM called her back, and she did the old, ‘Now that I have your attention…” pitch. When I called to tell her we were not going to hire her – ever – I asked why she did it. She said, ‘I needed answers and you wouldn’t give them to me.’ I told the referring employee the whole story, and he was embarrassed and irritated. Not his fault, though. Some people just ruin their chances all on their own.

  72. Arya Snark*

    In the mid-90s, I was working for a large health insurance company. I was relocating 2000 miles away so, using the company data base, I looked up the addresses for all the insurance companies and third party administrators (TPA) near where I would be living. Once I moved, I walked a resume into all of them and asked if they were hiring. One, which a TPA that was super close to my apartment, was received well. The branch manager actually came out to take my resume, told me she liked my initiative and said they had someone going out on maternity leave and would have an opening soon.
    Months later, I got a call and the job. Worst boss and 2nd worse job I ever had!

  73. AnnieOakley*

    My mother told me that to get a good job at a place like Microsoft, you just need to get your foot in the door with any job and then they’ll realize all your talents and give you a better job. I followed this advice and got an interview at Microsoft for an administrative assistant role. I wanted to be a designer or a developer but didn’t have a computer (this was the mid-90s – not everyone had one yet!) or know how to design or develop and when I told the interviewer this and that my mom had said they’d figure out what I’d be good at once I got in, she looked at me like I was quite daft. Didn’t get a call back for the admin role.

    Did eventually work for Microsoft for 13 years, AFTER paying my dues in a startup, an agency, and starting at Microsoft as an hourly contractor. And heck no I didn’t tell them about my previous interview!


    1. Venus Supreme*

      Ugh. I hate this. My mom made me volunteer EVERYWHERE when I was younger to ‘pay my dues’ and then they’d discover me and I’d get hired on the spot. It didn’t work like that for me.

  74. Stacy*

    Saw an article early yesterday morning about a guy who sent his resume to potential employers in boxes of donors. The article labeled him a “genius.”

      1. Specialk9*

        (Snort) Depends on how big the box was, whether there were airholes, and the condition and generosity of said donors!