when writing to a hiring manager, should I mention a shared hobby?

A reader writes:

I graduated with a master’s degree a few months ago, and have been looking for a job in my field ever since. I always thought that this degree would make my job search very swift and straightforward, as it’s in a red-hot field that generates more buzzwords than any other these days. The problem is, it’s a field that everyone wants to get into, and I happen to live in a metropolis where the supply of talent way outpaces the creation of jobs. I constantly find myself competing with PhDs for the same roles. I’ve gotten close a few times, but there’s always someone who has more experience than I do. Overall, the response rate has been unsettlingly low, and I’ve identified that my biggest hurdle is the relative lack of relevant work experience, even though I’m very confident in my competence and know I can do the job.

After a few heartbreaking setbacks, I’ve realized that the only way I can possibly stand out from the competition is to make an impression by reaching out to hiring managers directly – something that’s quite a step outside my comfort zone. I just found a tremendous opportunity that checks all the boxes for me, and have decided to invest more time and energy on this one than I usually do. I figured out who the hiring manager is using LinkedIn, and found his work email as well. I also found other social media profiles of his, including Facebook, where I found out he is as passionate a cinephile as I am.

So now I am crafting a cold email to this manager, and my question is, is it a good idea to leverage our shared taste in films in any way? I would like to make a connection in more personal manner, but certainly not at the risk of creeping him out. I understand that social media platforms have become an integrated part of job search, but anything other than LinkedIn feels a bit too personal to me.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this, if possible. Should I mention our mutual affinity for cinema in the email? Or rather strategically work the topic into the interview, if I ever get one? Or not to bother at all? Are there any established boundaries in situations like this?

Don’t do that. There’s a high risk of it coming across as creepy, and it’s unlikely to help you stand out in the way that you want.

There’s a widespread misconception about the idea of “standing out” when you’re applying for a job. The idea isn’t to stand out any possible way you can. If that were the point, it would be effective to print your resume on green paper or hire a courier to hand-deliver it to the hiring manager’s desk or show up at her house to present it to her in person. (Those things are not effective, for the record.) That’s not what “standing out” means in a hiring process, at least not if you want to stand out in a good way.

Standing out means that your qualifications stand out. That means that you write a compelling cover letter that explains why you’d be awesome at the job, and you have a clear, easy-to-read resume that demonstrates a strong track record of success in whatever area they’re hiring for.

It doesn’t matter if you both like movies, or if you found a beautiful font for your resume, or any of the other tricks that people think might earn them points. That’s not what good hiring managers hire for. They’re screening for people whose resumes, cover letters, and other relevant application materials indicate they can excel at the job.

I suspect the line of thinking behind the “standing out” misconception goes something like this: “I do have excellent qualifications, but I’m up against a sea of others who do too. Therefore I need to find something to make the hiring manager give my candidacy an additional look.” But that’s just not how it works. Good hiring managers are looking at all the qualified applicants they get, and obvious attempts to either ingratiate yourself (like the movie reference, or sending a chocolate bar, or whatever) or to circumvent the system they’ve set up (like dropping off your application in person) are far more likely to be a turn-off that a help. At best they’re a neutral — with a high risk of being perceived as worse than that.

And in your specific case, where you tracked down the hiring manager’s Facebook page, there’s a risk of seeming creepy too. Facebook isn’t a business site; it’s a personal one. And you really don’t need to research the hiring manager’s non-work life in order to create a strong application for a job with him, so at a minimum you’ll look like you’re prioritizing the wrong things and at worst, you’ll look like a boundary-crosser. (And really, liking movies is not a major rapport-establisher anyway; it’s a pretty common interest, so it’s not like you discovered that you both did volunteer work in the same tiny foreign village or that you both received the same obscure scholarship or something else unusual enough that it could make sense to mention it.)

I know everyone wants there to be some trick to get hired, but there really isn’t. What gets you hired is the basics: being highly qualified, and demonstrating that during the hiring process.

{ 146 comments… read them below }

  1. Newly Obsessed Reader*

    Would be great to see some advice (or links to past advice) about what to do instead in this situation…

    My only thought is to see if there are any volunteer opportunities to gain experience in this field. For instance, is there a non-profit you could do pro bono work for?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes — if the biggest hurdle is the relative lack of relevant work experience, then focus on ways to ameliorate that — volunteering, taking on a pro bono consulting project, interning, etc. And lean on your network, because people are more willing to take a chance on someone they know or who a contact knows. (That said, the OP says she’s gotten close to an offer a few times, so it also might just be a matter of the search taking longer than would be ideal.)

      1. Safetykats*

        I think that people forget (or have never heard) the general rule of thumb for job searches of one month per every $10k of anticipated salary. I see a lot of younger people who spend a couple of months looking for their expected job and think there is no hope. I also see a lot of people forgetting the idea that you should look for a job as if that is your job, and therefore thinking that spending just a few hours per week reviewing posting is adequate effort. I agree that it doesn’t sound like OP’s job search is necessarily off track, so possibly their expectations and/or level of effort want adjusting.

        1. CM*

          That sounds like a made-up rule, no disrespect intended. That certainly has not been my experience or the experience of anybody I know.

          1. Anonymoose*


            I got my job after 1 month of applying, 1 interview, for a well paid position in a great company. I think bloggers must be confusing work advice for dating advice (it will take X number of months for X number of years together….which is also a load of shit).

          2. Kathletta*

            Yeah I agree this “rule” sounds like anything but a rule.

            OP, you have my sympathy – long job searches are so disheartening, but in my experience sometimes there’s not much you can do other than keep applying, networking as much as possible and try not to let it get you down!

            1. Kuododi*

              Yep…the only place I have heard of that “rule” was on a rerun of Dr Phil. Otherwise Id say plan the job search as intensely or mildly as you choose….(then again, what do I know? Career counseling was so not my specialty!)

          3. Forking Great Username*

            It reminds me of the super random rule about how much of a person’s annual salary engagement rings should cost.

            1. Wintermute*

              I broke that rule down over at Captain Awkward, and it actually makes a lot of sense when you consider the social function of traditions. With the caveat that it does make a lot of assumptions about “what it takes” to get married, and there are a lot of problematic issues at play (the ethics of the diamond trade, the fact it doesn’t account for alternative priorities, the fact it ignores people that have kids, etc): the TL:DR version is that all traditions serve functions, and in this case the function is as a financial gate check– “can you keep your monetary shit together for 3 months without some emergency consuming your ring fund?” And that ability has HUGE implications for your ability to make life work as a married couple with comingled finances, and if you can’t, for whatever reason, do that, that means you need to have a conversation with your partner and decide if it’s a dealbreaker or not.

              1. SophieK*

                The diamond thing was 100% marketing by the diamond industry. Women did not, in fact, want diamonds. They wanted some of those newfangled appliances or a bigger house. So DeBeers went after men’s sense of masculinity as providers.

                So, no, it does NOT make sense.

                The whole thing is not only deeply corrupt but not exactly a secret. It’s all readily available on the internet.

              2. Beth C.*

                The concept of an engagement gift came from the extremely misogynistic idea that if a woman was engaged and the dude skipped out she was obviously “damaged goods;” quite possibly not a virgin, and likely unmarriageable in some other way and would therefore not be able to find another husband and would likely end up in poverty. The gift was to basically be a downpayment on the guy’s intentions towards protecting her virtue and if he did ditch her she would have something of value to help either attract someone else or start off decently on her own.

                As others mentioned it was DeBeers who started the trend of having that gift be a diamond and set the “three month rule.” While I think there is merit to the ‘can you get your shit together enough to save a decent chunk of cash’ concept before deciding to settle down, that isn’t how it started, and to assume only dudes are required to prove this ability is not all that great.

          4. Optimistic Prime*

            I’ve heard it bandied around a lot and I also think it’s a made-up rule. There are lots of lower-paying jobs that tend to be more competitive, and some high-paying jobs that are less so. For example, I’d bet a software developer or data scientists would find work faster than a social worker or a teacher (especially in a crowded urban market).

        2. MillersSpring*

          I’ve heard this before and have found it to be a useful guideline/rule of thumb. The more a job pays (director, VP), the less often such jobs are posted.

        3. k8*

          really?? i’ve never heard of that . . . sounds like maybe it could apply to certain fields, but not all.

          1. Tau*

            Yeah, this doesn’t sound right. Among others, certain jobs are high-paying because there are too few qualified applicants for the number of positions out there. I’m in a field where it’s an employee’s market right now and in my last job search I got the first job I applied for.

        4. Eye of Sauron*

          Just replying to you kind of in response to the other posters commenting on the 1 month rule.

          I’ve heard of it, but haven’t heard it used lately. I think it’s less of a hard and fast rule and more of a guideline. In other words, the more in demand or complex the job is the more time and effort it will take to find. As in all rules there are exceptions, such as employer vs. candidate market, field/industry, etc. (I would put this in the category of having X times your annual salary saved for retirement or you should be saving x% every year, Simplistic but it makes the point and isn’t applicable in all situations)

          It works to a certain extent though. For a no/low skill job (usually low paid) the time frame is very short to find a job, the more skills/requirements/pay the job has the more time it may take to find. I think that it’s a pretty good expectation setter for people new to the job hunt though. In other words, it will take more time and effort to find a post degree job than it would to find an fast food or retail job. New people to the job market don’t have a great frame of reference for this yet.

        5. The OG Anonsie*

          A few hours a week reviewing and responding to postings is adequate effort. This isn’t an issue of young people not knowing the way of things, this is an issue of the way you look for and apply to jobs has changed.

        6. Scion*

          I don’t think that it can be considered a “general rule of thumb” if nobody has ever heard of it before.
          Plus, it’s flawed in all sorts of ways. Higher-paying jobs are frequently higher-paying because they’re very in demand, which would lead to a faster job search. Not to mention that regional cost of living differences can mean that the same exact job can have wildly different salaries depending on what city they’re in. A software engineer in SF, for example, could have a starting salary of double that of the same posting in a different city – that doesn’t mean the SF search would take twice as long.

    2. H.C.*

      Also, check with your school’s career & alumni center. Mileage varies depending on school & program, of course, but doesn’t hurt to check in and ask around. (FWIW, my school/program had a really great career & alum center that’s constantly putting together job fairs, resume/interview review sessions, networking mixers, and nearly-daily postings of internship+job opportunities)

    3. Brett*

      In this particular case, if the LW is competing with people with PhDs, there are probably some lower level jobs that call on skills in the field but requiring much lower academic credentials/experience.

      My own field is somewhat like that. At my level, almost everyone has a masters or PhD on top of significant work experience. But there are several lower levels that pay much less (like 1/3rd the pay of the PhD level jobs) but also the competition is a lot less stiff. Someone with an MS/MA would stand out at that level, and would still not be considered over-qualified if coming in with no work experience. Since work experience leads pretty quickly to higher level roles, there are generally not concerns of overhiring someone who will be gone in 2-3 years; most people will be gone in 3-4 years anyway.

  2. ABK*

    It sounds like what you should be doing is focusing that energy toward networking. Getting to know the companies, people and industry by going to conferences or trade shows, getting an internship/on the side project to showcase your skills, go on informational interviews, etc. I think Alison has some nice pieces on how to network and why this will be helpful.

    1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      +1. The key item in avoiding that “cold call” cover letter is through knowing people before you ask for a job. Since there are many people in your field locally, there are probably industry associations, meet-ups, and other events where they gather. Find these professional opportunities and attend them. In place of finding commonalities on Facebook (which can be disconcerting), you will find them when meeting someone face-to-face. Even better, these commonalities are more likely to be directly linked to your field (e.g, instead of “we both like French films” it may be “we both take the same approach to this common industry challenge.”)

  3. Murphy*

    Unless hobbies are listed on their LinkedIn or work website, I would be creeped out by that. Even if it’s easy to find information.

    1. Tuxedo Cat*

      I would be as well. I get people look up others on personal social media- I do- but I would be weirded out if someone mentioned it in a cover letter.

    2. annakarina1*

      Yeah, the applicant would come off as a fixated stalker, I would be weirded out too by someone trying to craft their cover letter to me based on shared hobbies from my social media account and trying to make us into friends.

    3. LouiseM*

      +1. If it were on their professional website I can see mentioning it, but Facebook crosses a line.

      OP, we’ve all been here! Sometimes a job search that feels endless makes us forget our boundaries. Stay strong!

    4. Fiennes*

      Agreed. Also, the hobby in question is very, very common. Lots of people love movies; it’s not going to particularly stand out, except for (a) making it look like you’re trying to hard and (b) maybe creeping the guy out.

      My personal answer might be different if it were a *really* rare interest, and LW knew of them from connections based in that shared interest. I still don’t think it would meaningful but in that case it would read as an ordinary disclosure of common acquaintance/attendance/etc. Or if the hiring manager’s presence in that hobby was public in its own right–then, perhaps. Like “You happen to run my favorite bonsai tree blog, by the way.” Otherwise, no.

      1. Tau*

        I don’t watch movies and I always get to feel like a massive weirdo because it’s such a common interest. I’ve developed ninja topic-switching skills to avoid conversations a la “what do you mean you haven’t seen any of the new Star Wars?” I’m guessing by “cinephile” the LW means she and prospective hiring manager go a little beyond that, but I’d still be wary about trying to bond on something that’s seen as so typical.

    5. Mrs. Fenris*

      At my interview for my current job, one of my employers said, “So you’re from SmallHometown, right?” I sort of inwardly smirked because that information is not on my resume or anything I sent them, but it’s very easy to find out from mutual acquaintances or my Facebook page…I have a lot of ties to SmallHometown. I wasn’t overly creeped out that she had done a bit of snooping, and a little amused that she let it slip.

    6. Jadelyn*

      Honestly, even something on LinkedIn gives me a wee bit of pause. I did a phone screen for a guy who opened the conversation by talking about how his sister teaches at my alma mater – which is listed on my LI profile, obviously, and I have a unique enough name that it’s not at all hard to find me if you do a quick search, it’s not like sifting through a dozen Maria Gonzalezes to find the right one – and while it makes perfect sense that he’d look me up before our conversation, it still threw me off a little for a minute. I feel like shared interests or other non-work connections are really only fair game if they come up organically in conversation, not because someone sleuthed it out ahead of time.

      But yeah I’d go from “raising an eyebrow a little” to “oh no this is not good” if someone pulled up something genuinely personal from my FB.

      1. Kathleen_A*

        I pretty much assume that anybody who interviews with me is going to look me up on LinkedIn. I mean, that’s what it’s for.

  4. wayward*

    Would relocating to an area with a better job market for your field be an option for you?

  5. YB*

    Is this a repost? (I love reposts, but you usually identify them as such.) I remember reading a letter before that was very similar not only in content but in writing style.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Nope, it’s a new letter. But we did have a letter in the last couple of months about someone wondering if she should recommend a movie to a recruiter, which is kind of similar.

    2. fish*

      There was a recent-ish post about someone wanting to impress a recruiter by connecting about being into movies, although in that case the info was on the recruiter’s LinkedIn page.

  6. Moon Princess*

    I am an avid gamer, but literally do not care a hoot if the person I’m hiring shares that interest; I’m hiring someone to become a colleague, not my best friend for life.

    Your hobby is just that – a hobby. Unless you have had significant acheivements doing that hobby that are relevant to the role you are applying for, it stays off the application.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Agreed. In fact, I’ve had enough cringe-worthy interactions with fellow nerdy types that it would probably make me warier, not warmer, if someone reached out to me trying to lean on that shared interest.

    2. Allison*

      I think people do want to work with people who share interests and hobbies, but those people need to be qualified as well! I’ve been told that sharing a hobby with a hiring manager won’t compensate for not being qualified, but it could be a tie breaker if it came down between me and another candidate. I think talking to a department director about Portal helped me get my first job, because they were on the fence about me.

  7. Snark*

    Yeah, this would be a quick route to the “has no boundaries, never hire” folder for me.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Same. Even if you facebook me (or otherwise), please don’t tell me you did it!

      1. Allison*

        Yes, exactly! If I meet someone, and they add me on Facebook, and then begin conversations with me about stuff I’d posted forever ago, I’d be creeped out. If you look at my social media without adding me, and start talking to me about the stuff you saw there, I’d be creeped out.

        If you’re about to talk to me in a professional context and you feel like looking me up, look at my LinkedIn to get a sense of what I do and what my recent achievements are. If you recite my career back to me, like you want me to know you read the whole thing, that might make me feel uncomfortable.

  8. Let's Talk About Splett*

    I’d actually argue it’s not a good idea to send a cold email to the hiring manager AT ALL – whether or not you mention movies – unless the job listing asks you to apply that way.

    1. Kathleen_A*

      Well…I think it’s possible to do this and for it to be OK. I have VERY often received letters (with resumes) that say something along the lines of, “Hi, I am interested in a job in X field, and I’m hoping you’ll keep me in mind if you have any openings.” I don’t see anything wrong with that.

      But if there is a job posted, you really do just have to follow the process that the company has set up.

      1. BPT*

        But the difference is that there’s already a position being advertised with application instructions. Sending a cold email to the hiring manager on top of applying to the position is going to seem out of touch and like they’re trying to circumvent the process.

        1. BPT*

          And somehow I missed your last sentence where you agreed with what I just wrote. But yes, cold emails might not hurt (especially if you ONLY send one email), but once a hiring process is in place, don’t do it.

          1. Kathleen_A*

            Yep – exactly. Pre-hiring process, a cold email is fine, and actually might not be a bad thing. (It shows gumption, but in a good way. :-) ) But once that job is posted…no. You’ve just got to go through the system.

            1. Jadelyn*

              We once hired a guy who did both – he reached out to me cold to ask about opportunities at a specific one of our locations in his home neighborhood, but we didn’t have anything at his level at the time so we just chatted a bit and that was that.

              Then, about a year later, the manager for that location quit, so the position came open. And when this guy applied, he did so through normal channels, but in his email he mentioned our conversations the prior year about it, so I was able to connect his application with the cold email I’d gotten before. And it was the combination of the two, that he followed the regular process even though we’d already talked before, that stood out in a good way – we ended up hiring him, he’s been an absolute gem and we’re all so glad we did.

    2. k*

      I agree. It can very easily come off like you think you’re too good to use the normal application, or that you just didn’t bother reading the instructions.

    3. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      Agreed. If there is a specific job opening and I was the hiring manager, I would be annoyed to get a cold e-mail and assume the candidate wasn’t so great at following instructions

    4. Olive Hornby*

      I have a sense that this varies by industry and maybe even company–in mine, it’s very typical to apply both through HR and directly to the hiring manager if you’re able to determine who it is, because HR doesn’t always do a great job of vetting candidates for us (it’s a huge corporation and what we’re hiring for is very specific.) But talking about movies would definitely be weird!

  9. Not a Morning Person*

    Does your chosen profession have a professional organization with a local chapter? If so, then joining might be one way to begin networking with others in your community and volunteering with the chapter. It’s another way for people to meet you and for you to potentially make connections with people who work where you want to work.
    Good luck! I know “they” say the job market is getting tight, and maybe that will work in your favor eventually!

    1. SometimesALurker*

      This is a great idea! In the first couple of years in my field, I learned a lot from people at professional organization events about the culture of my field and of what to expect in job searches in my field. I got comparatively little of that kind of information in grad school.

    2. Aaaaaaanon.*

      This this this. I find it frustrating that I rarely see new grads/grad students at our professional association conferences despite our pretty affordable delegate fees and the fact that people on university campuses know our field exists. We’re a bit of a niche field that only seems to find new entrants by accident.

      If I had a dollar for every time I had to explain what I do to a freshly-minted-and-unemployed social science MA grad who’d be a great fit for our field, I’m pretty sure I could put someone through grad school.

      1. collective action problem*

        “affordable” may mean one thing to you and another to a grad student

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          There’s also travel/hotel expenses and being able to get time off from your current job.

  10. Trout 'Waver*

    If you send a cold e-mail instead of following application instructions, you’re telling the hiring manager that: 1) You don’t follow instructions, and 2) You think business norms don’t apply to you.

    Either one of those things will get your application rejected immediately in my book.

  11. Mom MD*

    No. Totally weird and creepy. I’d toss your resume if I felt I was facebook stalked. I’d feel like you may show up to my house next.

    1. LouiseM*

      I hope you’re exaggerating! It would definitely be strange to mention this to someone, but I don’t think it’s especially strange to look at someone’s Facebook. The profile is often the second hit on a google search.

        1. Seriously?*

          LouiseM, this commenter has a track record of taking pretty severe stances on other people’s quirks.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            In this case it sounds like she would feel threatened. Maybe bad experiences in the past?
            I have my FB settings on friends only. I hope no one else can see it!

      1. Allison*

        Maybe a little, but the unspoken rule about Facebook stalking is that you’re supposed to be discrete and not tell someone you dug into old posts, pictures, all the pages they’ve “liked,” recent event RSVP’s, etc. If someone emails me and mentions something on my Facebook page like that, I might wonder if they’re the type to show up at my house if they don’t get a response, because hey, that’d make them stand out and show even more gumption!

      2. Penny Lane*

        It’s not unusual to look at someone else’s FB. It’s tone deaf to mention it.

      3. Eye of Sauron*

        I don’t think it’s an exaggeration. I’m pretty sure there are 2 types of people these days, those that have embraced social media and those that haven’t.

        I once had someone apologize to me that they weren’t able to learn more about me via facebook. I was super happy and said great! that means my privacy settings are working.

        I won’t friend coworkers or even former coworkers that I like and saw in social settings, so an interview candidate viewing my facebook would be totally over the top for me and would automatically be rejected. I’d be more than a little worried that a candidate who actively looked me up in facebook would have the ‘gumption’ playbook and would try other inappropriate means of connecting (such as showing up to places that I’d be)

        1. Zillah*

          Even people who haven’t embraced social media should probably have a basic understanding of how it works – i.e., looking up someone on fb is not a thing that is generally followed by showing up at their house.

  12. YB*

    OP, I’m a very socially awkward person, and have randomly blurted out personal information from hiring managers’ social media profiles in any number of job interviews. It’s cost me several jobs—and on one memorable occasion, I got a job in spite of doing this (because I had the technical skills they needed), but the relationship with the boss was forever poisoned by my conduct in the hiring process—the boss was convinced that I was a cyberstalking creep, and we never really recovered. With what this has done to my overall professional reputation, “not getting the job” isn’t the worst thing that can happen.

    I know you’re not a creep—just a person trying to form a connection with another person. But, trust me – most hiring managers react badly to this kind of thing. Stick to job-related content only.

    1. Mom MD*

      The thing is we don’t know. So bringing personal information into it just heightens the creep alert. Someone who ignores boundaries.

      1. Luna*

        While I almost always check out the Linkedin profile and/or bio on the company website of the hiring manager (assuming I know who they are in advance) before an interview, looking into their personal social media profiles is just a bad idea. There isn’t anything work relevant on there anyway, so what’s the point of looking that up? It does come across as a bit stalkerish.

          1. Lunita*

            Well, if you really feel that way, I’m sure you’ve set your FB profile to private. Mine is, so someone looking me up wouldn’t see much anyway. That said, I don’t think looking at a FB page qualifies as “stalkerish.” Could just be curiosity.

    2. Eye of Sauron*

      Might I suggest not looking at the personal information of the people who are interviewing you? I say this in all seriousness (and not in a snarky way), I can’t think of a good reason to research the people involved in the hiring process, the organization yes, people no.

      Especially if you know that you have repeatedly made this error, it might be better just to not know anything about the people.

      But I absolutely agree with you… this would not go over well with most people.

      1. YB*

        Yes, I’ve finally learned that nothing good comes of this for me, and stopped doing it – it took a depressingly long time for me to figure that out, though!

      2. LouiseM*

        You can’t? I mean, Facebook might be a bit much, but it’s useful to get some sense of what kind of person you’re writing your cover letter to. Did they go to a small liberal arts college or a big sports university? Do they often tweet about liberal causes? There are ways to very subtly highlight similarities so they don’t even know you are doing it (which obviously is not what the OP is describing)

      3. SarahTheEntwife*

        In a lot of ways the people I’ll be working with/for make a lot more difference to my happiness in a job than the organization as a whole will. I agree that looking at someone’s personal social media is kind of creepy, but looking at LinkedIn, professional writings, etc. seems relevant and potentially really useful.

  13. ThatGirl*

    I think it’s POSSIBLE that commenting on a shared love of Disney pushed me over the edge into getting my current job — toward the end of my interview, I commented on the manager’s Minnie Mouse shaped ring and we had a brief chat about Disney World. But that was only after I’d written a great cover letter, gotten recommended by a current employee, had an initial phone screen and talked to two other hiring managers.

    1. Mom MD*

      This situation is far different. You didn’t stalk her social media, see she likes Disney, and randomly bring it up.

        1. Robin Sparkles*

          Oh see like Mom MD – I didn’t catch your point and was telling myself “oh but that is totally different and acceptable if not a good way to show rapport”!

          1. ThatGirl*

            Haha, sorry, I guess I should have worded my comment a little differently. My point was that it’s totally fine to bond a little over shared interests, but that should be after you’re already there for an interview and come up organically. I didn’t FB stalk my future manager to find out what she was into and mention it ahead of time.

  14. Lou*

    Thanks Alison, as someone who is job searching in a very difficult niche and who isn’t getting many responses, this was a good reminder that I shouldn’t be tempted to going too far. It’s easy when you’re feeling to downcast to wonder what on Earth you could possibly do to get a response.

    That said, agree with the comment above suggesting some advice on anything else to be done in LW’s situation. I know I could do with it!

  15. MuseumChick*

    OP, I understand the frustration. I applied to probably 100+ jobs before landing something in my field. I get your impulse here but I have to throw a giant STOP sign in your path.

    1) Unless it is normal for your industry do not cold-email the hiring manager. Look at the job posting a follow the directions for how to apply. A hiring manager needs to know that your can read instructions and follow directions. Cold emailing, showing up in person, etc gives them the information that your will ignore instructions and directions.

    2) During the hiring process do not mention hobbies unless they are relevant to the job and even then processed with caution.

    3) Look for volunteer work and internships to beef up your resume

    4) A lot of people I find misunderstand what a degree will do for you in the hiring process. A lot of job now require degrees so all it does is shift you into the “Maybe” instead the “No” pile. From there it’s work experience that matters. As you are finding there are a lot of people with both degrees and work experience.

    5) Please don’t cyber-stalk (this is to strong of a term but I can’t think of any other way to describe it) hiring managers. LinkedIn, find. Finding their Facebook page seems kind of creepy.

    1. DQ*

      Thank you for #4. I have been a hiring manager for years and have hired for everything from entry-level (degree is preferred but not required) to professional (degree required) to management (degree definitely required) and have not ever once put a candidate in the “yes” pile based solely on their degree. I honestly can’t remember a time I put a candidate in the “maybe” pile based on degree alone. OP, if your resume does not list work/internship/volunteer experience then spend your time more wisely focusing on how to get that experience. This will serve double duty because you will also gain contacts in the field and a shared contact is a million times more valuable than a shared interest in film.

      1. MuseumChick*

        It’s one of the reasons I worked for a few years before getting my degree. I tried a lot of different jobs before finding I loved working in a museum. I knew I had to get a Master’s to do almost any paid position so I went back to school.

      2. Aaaaaaanon.*

        Exactly. The degree tells me that you have some exposure to particular theoretical and applied approaches, but beyond that…meh. That said, having been in grad school means that you probably had good access to internship/volunteer/professional development opportunities to leverage what you’ve learned in the classroom. I don’t even care if it’s a paid internship so long as you’ve done something relevant and co-curricular. If I’m reading your resume and I don’t see evidence of that or job experience, I’m going to wonder what’s going on.

  16. Quickbeam*

    What a great reply! I assist with hiring at my company as I have a niche degree and background. The company is looking to hire others with my same background. It’s a great company and known for its benefits and perks. I often do phone interviews prior to the hiring process. I have an unusual name and am amazed at how often people try and friend me on Facebook.

    It’s no way to stand out. It’s more likely to make me shred the application. While I’m here, please don’t think you can lie about your experience, accomplishments or educational background. The HR department has me look at all the resumes and the pretenders are screamingly obvious. My field is so narrow that fudging your skill set will jump off the page.

  17. pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

    I think for this particular OP it’s not just the lack of work experience, it’s also that she has a master’s degree and is competing against PhDs. She might need to get a job in a related field that isn’t quite so glamorous for a bit and work her way into the red-hot field (if there really is a related field that has very transferrable skills and knowledge). Networking is good, but I imagine that the contacts already in the red-hot field are just overwhelmed with people wanting to network with them; so casting a wide net with people in parallel or supportive fields might yield better returns. I know it feels discouraging to not take a direct path into your desired field, but sometimes the scenic route can wind up giving you more resources and insight in the long run.

    1. Luna*

      Yeah I was also wondering about that. It is hard to say without more detail that LW probably can’t give without giving herself away, but maybe she also needs to rethink the type of jobs she is applying to or the job level. Granted many PhDs these days are forced into applying for jobs that they are technically overqualified for, so I don’t mean this as a criticism of the LW or that she is misunderstanding her skill & knowledge level, but that does make it harder on everyone else down the ladder. If PhDs are getting the jobs that only require a Masters, then people with a Masters start applying for jobs that used to only require a Bachelor’s degree, and so on. Especially in cities with tough job markets like the LW is in.

    2. Aaaaaaanon.*

      The other way of taking the scenic route is to aim for working at a smaller, less glamorous shop for now rather than switching to a less glamorous field. The smaller places may be more willing to take a chance on someone without the most competitive credentials, but who is mature enough to not need entry-level handholding. There’s a lot of risk involved in working for a small company, and there are valid reasons why new grads often don’t consider this route, but it’s a way to not be underemployed.

      Identifying these shops can be a bit tricky especially if the LW isn’t involved in the local chapter of her professional association (if one exists), but it’s a strategy that works. I’ve worked in two fields where I’ve seen slightly undercredentialed people play the long game this way to great payoffs later.

  18. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster*

    I’m going to be the voice of dissent. I think social media stalking *can* be used to one’s benefit, but it has to be done with a great deal of finesse — and only leveraged in an interview, not in a cover letter.

    If your resume/cover letter gets your foot in the door, your next goal is to create a rapport with the hiring manager. You’ve already shown you have the desired credentials, now you need to convince the manager that you’re the one that’s the best fit. Indicating shared interests can be a great way to do this. Again, with finesse.

    For example, I interviewed with someone that I noticed was an avid runner. Great — I enjoy running as well. I used that to my advantage by responding to a question something like “Oh, I was actually thinking about that on my run this morning…. blah blah blah.” If you can pull that off without sounding fake, of course.

    For the film lover, the way to bring that in could be to make a film reference during your interview. The answer to “tell me about a time you had to…” could be an anecdote where you refer to a colleague that reminded you of “Lieuteant Colonel Bill Kilgore from Apocalypse Now” (or whatever the appropriate reference might be).

    The idea is, you’re not beating them over the head with “Hey! I love x and you do too, and here’s why that’s cool!” because that’s creepy. But you are using a (very slight) competitive advantage of sleuthing the hiring manager’s social media to think of common touchpoints to drop into a conversation. Which is calculated, sure, but if you’re smooth at it you can score some points.

    Of course, if you’re a clumsy conversationalist, it could sink you. So, proceed at your own risk!

    1. Eye of Sauron*

      Great examples of how this can be done right. But definitely not for the novices out there as you said.

      1. Tau*

        Also my thought, and I think anyone who doesn’t know that sending a cold e-mail to a hiring manager about a shared hobby found out through their personal Facebook account is a bad idea is unlikely to be able to pull this off. Absolutely no offense intended to the OP – this is the sort of maneuver I’d never be able to manage either.

    2. CM*

      I was thinking the same thing. In an interview you can easily drop the fact that you have a certain hobby. The anecdote/analogy approach sounds too complicated for me to pull off, but even I could manage to say, “And in my spare time, I like to dissect Hitchcock movies.”

    3. Robin Sparkles*

      Yes but the key here is it’s about YOU and YOUR interest that just happens to match the interviewer. And you are absolutely right that this has to be done correctly because I can tell you that when I have had someone drop a reference to me about something I love- I usually can see through it. Especially so as a hiring manager who is savvy and aware of their public persona that people can google. So I would tread carefully if someone tries this.

      1. Robin Sparkles*

        ack edit- I meant especially so IF IT IS a hiring manager – I am NOT a savvy hiring manager! But I am aware of my public personal as I google myself periodically -but mostly as privacy checks! :)

      2. Free Meerkats*

        Since I’ll likely be hiring someone soon, and I’m well known in the small field, I’m thinking I need to throw something unusual and false in my FB and Twitter profiles to weed these out. And maybe try to remember my LinkedIn log in stuff; it’s not semi-mandatory in my field as it seems to be in so many others.

    4. LawLady*

      Ha, sororities at my university did this when rushing. They read the applications of potential new members and then made sure that the potential members were paired for conversation with sisters who shared interests. But they pretended that the way sisters and potentials are thrown together is random. Then potentials walk away from rush open houses feeling like they had great, genuine connections with the sisters. Which… they did, I guess, but it was more manufactured than they might have thought.

    5. Renata Ricotta*

      Yes, I can think of a couple of instances in which you could use social media intel as a very VERY subtle way to build a personal connection with them (but I don’t think they apply to the OP). In my field, it is incredibly common for entry-level resumes (usually of law students with little relevant work experience) to include a short section about outside interests; when choosing among your actual interests, it seems reasonable to lead with the one you know you share with your interviewer. It doesn’t sound like OP is in this type of field. Also in my field, a common interview question (usually over the lunch person) is to ask the candidate what types of things they like to do on the weekends, to get a better read of their overall personality and also to make sure they seem capable of maintaining work/life balance in a stressful job. If asked that, go ahead and lead with the common interest.

      Although Facebook is technically public, the social rules still apply, which means you pretend not to notice things too many things about other people. Where I go to lunch is completely public information–everybody else on the street can see me! But if someone mentioned in an email that they have noticed I go to Sue’s Salads every Friday for lunch, I would feel much too closely watched and scrutinized, even in my public activities.

    6. Aaaaaaanon.*

      This is awesome, but I agree it’s risky. It works really well with shared interests that are super common, like running. When it’s something a bit more obscure or specific…even if the interviewer shares your interest, at the same time they may wonder about the social savvy of a candidate who drops a reference that’s not likely to resonate with the entire panel or is out of step with the company’s culture.

    7. Michaela Westen*

      This reminds me of bad dates – I’m *not* a movie person, and at least two different men tried to impress me by quoting a movie I’ve never seen, a line about “creamy white thighs”. Ugh! In addition to the creepiness their smug certainty they were scoring points was very offputting.
      Which leads me to doubts about this approach – if the hiring manager doesn’t know you know he loves movies, he might think you always reference movies in conversation, and that’s not always appropriate… I’m not sure about this.
      Also, sorry I’m late to this thread!

  19. beanie beans*

    I’ve been trying to reframe my cover letters to include things that might help me “stand out” from other people with similar experience – but using things relevant to the job.

    Two people might have the same job title for 10 years (i.e. experience), but might bring really different skills and strengths to a job, and that’s what I’m thinking will help make you (or me, or anyone else) stand out. Accomplishments, what makes you stand out in your current job, things that show why you are perfect for the job besides just “10 years of llama herding.”

  20. Kimberlee, no longer Esq.*

    OP, I know it feels hopeless, but you’ve actually got a lot going for you! If you’re getting responses, that means there’s (probably) not anything fundamentally wrong with your application or background; if there were, you wouldn’t be getting interviews. So, from there, it sounds like you’re just getting edged out by better-qualified applicants. So, as Alison says, the way to deal with that is by making yourself better qualified. There are toooons of ways to do that, depending on what your field is (which I’m super curious about; I would have presumed something computer science based on it being red-hot but that’s not a field where I would have assumed there are a lot of PhD’s grabbing up entry-level jobs…).

    Otherwise, one piece of advice is to make sure you’re tailoring your applications well to each company. If you’re applying somewhere startuppy, they tend to like a more personable and casual tone in your application materials, even if the general field is one where the norm is very formal (like accounting or law).

    The other thing I’d suggest is to spend a few hours a week doing something you would be doing if you were already in the job, doing the work. That might be networking events, conferences, reading industry newsletters, finding folks in your field on Twitter to follow, listening to industry podcasts, etc. These are the networks you want to be part of, and having a job isn’t a prerequisite to being in those networks at all. They can help you establish credibility and expertise, which are some of the main things employers get from a resume with previous experience.

  21. Student*

    Different perspective:

    My workplace has a lot of people involved in the hiring process who aren’t managers, but co-workers. Real managers actually have very little to do with our hiring (and they also do very little managing of any of us – it’s a weird business). Real managers basically sit on the sidelines, then ask a room full of co-workers who actually interviewed the applicant whether the applicant should be hired and mediate a discussion on it, then do whatever the group recommended.

    As such, the people with a big influence on hiring aren’t managers and don’t actually think very hard about good hiring practices. Instead, they lean very heavily on information like whether they “clicked” with applicants. They tend to take an out-sized interest in stuff that I personally dismiss as “irrelevant hobby crap”. When somebody brags on their resume about their artisanal bread-making or airplane-flying hobby, that gets positive attention from the hiring committee. It lets applicants fill in conversation that would otherwise focus on technical skills with fun, content-free fluff.

    So, if you’re interviewing with a bunch of committee members who aren’t real (or thoughtful) managers, this is a depressingly effective tactic. If you have a different expertise than the people who will be interviewing you, this can be an effective tactic to build rapport with interviewers.

    I think it’s terrible that this pays off for anyone, but I’ve seen it happen repeatedly.

    1. Aaaaaaanon.*

      I’ve been involved in this kind of process as a hiring manager, co-worker, and applicant and…honestly, we need to spend 40+ hours a day with the people we work with, so “clicking” is important, even for the technically strongest applicant. I’d be wary of working somewhere where I was only asked technical questions because they have to work with me as a person, not just my skill set.

      That said, whenever I’ve been involved in these types of committees as a co-worker rather than a hiring manager, we’ve definitely done our due diligence to get a sense of the candidate’s technical skills. We usually do some sort of proficiency testing for entry-level folk, so the in-person interviews are dominated by behavioural/situational questions and a lot of this fit/feel stuff. But that’s not the same as giving interviewees the opportunity to pull the wool over the hiring committee’s eyes with their hobbies.

      Much like you, I used to think of some of this stuff as “irrelevant hobby crap” until I got to the point where I realized the effect of working someplace where your personal life isn’t respected, which begins to affect your professional life.

      1. Alianora*

        “40+ hours a day” made me snort :)

        But yeah, I agree that personality fit is very important, too. I don’t think sharing hobbies is necessarily important, but being able to converse with someone is. You need a blend of compatible and competent.

  22. Bea*

    You want to make it look like despite your lack of work experience you’re worth the risk. That includes not doing anything out of the box that could give off “lacks boundaries” vibes, that’s the huge risk you take by trying to reach out like this.

    When I’m hiring I want to connect on a business needs level and then if we also share a hobby, that’s neat too. I’m never ever hiring someone because we both like movies and cat memes, that’s how you end up with a horrible mess on your hands.

    Focus on getting a foot in the door on the professional level. Volunteering is great. Can you look for a job a step down from what you’re gunning for that allows to move upwards? A degree is important and necessary for many industries but you still may need to look for an entry level or intermediate step.

  23. puzzld*

    If you can figure out how to work the shared interest into the cover letter, in a relevant fashion, without mentioning the stalking. So say you’re going for a hospitality/tourism position and work in the fact that a love of old movies inspired you to visit the location where “Dances with wolves” was filmed in the area… something like that might work.
    I don’t know that it would help, but it shouldn’t hurt.

    As for cold letters to hiring managers? Those get tossed unread here.

  24. Robin Sparkles*

    I want to point out that you mention that you get close but lose out because someone else is more qualified. It may be worth your time- given this happens often – to spend time on building on your qualifications that leads you closer to the jobs you want. It would be a better use of your time to harness effort in that direction instead of trying to create personal connections. Even if pursuing a PhD is not feasible–if that is who is getting the job –then maybe it’s worth considering how you can make that work for you if this career path is the one you want. Other alternatives is moving out of the area to a less competitive market. Personal connections are not a bad idea IF they are part of the natural conversation in your interview. Someone above posted that they got a job because they mentioned an item on the manager’s desk. That’s a more natural way to show rapport and bring character into your interview. But that alone won’t work if your qualifications aren’t up to par with other job seekers.

  25. Curious Cat*

    If someone emailed me and mentioned our similar hobbies, I would be way sketched out and wondering “how on earth does this person know that about me??” And if I figured out that I had my hobbies listed on my FB, and that’s presumably how the person knew that about me, I would be turned off to respond.

    I also think it’s worth reevaluating the jobs that you’re applying for. If you’re in a field where degrees matter, it doesn’t seem to make sense that you’re applying for jobs where you’re competing with PhDs. Is it possible you’re applying to jobs a little bit too out of your league and you need to go down a level, especially if you don’t yet have the experience to match? I believe others have mentioned it above, but focus on networking. If you’re in a popular field, there’s sure to be a professional society near you that you can join, or meet-ups for professionals happening in your area.

  26. einahpets*

    There was a great article I came across last week about how social media is replacing what we used to do in terms of emotional labor – link here:

    Personally I think it is completely OK to find shared interests with folks in your industry and if you notice something during an interview that indicates a shared interest, go for it. (I had a friend once tell me that one of the folks I was interviewing with loved a certain marsupial, so I brought it up at the end of our interview and we shared a laugh.)

    But NOT through social media, because if you are using it to replace more traditional ways to network (volunteering, showing up at networking events, interning), it definitely doesn’t show me anything about you or your fit for the office.

    Also, just last week I discovered I share weird niche interests/hobbiers with a few of my coworkers, and it was kind of… fun? to discover the shared interests the ‘old-fashioned’ way of talking mundane ‘how was your weekend’ stuff.

  27. SpaceNovice*

    One way to stand out is to have a portfolio on a website if your industry leads to that–whether or not the hiring manager looks at it is up to them, but it’s there if you need it. Another way is to simply exist on more than just paper. You’re in a metropolis where the industry is thriving, so there should be related groups, meetups, and talks. Join those to increase your skills and learn more about the local industry–jobs might occur as a side effect, but your primary goal would be to make friends and learn new skills. Companies get involved to market themselves to prospective employees and clients while loving the work they do–you can do the same. (It sucks that you gotta get yourself out there like that, especially if you’re more introverted than me, but you can’t compete by experience or degree, so you gotta compete by likeability, dedication, and the demonstrated ability to learn.) You don’t have to say you’re looking for a job; they’ll figure it out when they check your LinkedIn profile.

    Me? I’m a software engineer who just happens to live in a place where they’re dying for talent. The PhDs all swarm to the central tech hubs and aren’t competition out here, save for a handful (and a lot of those folks are leading companies or R&D within them, generally). Startups are also moving away from “traditional” tech hubs because they can’t afford the $$$ real estate. There can even be several mini-hubs in those smaller hubs–some cities or counties have more companies than others. You can find articles listing alternative metro areas, find local governments talking about their industry (boy, do they ever love to talk!), and go through meetups to see what companies are scouting for talent or see sponsors of local companies. Where I am, they don’t expect as much specialization as tech hubs and are looking for general skills. You may even find companies where you’d be an exceptional cultural fit, as a lot of companies are starting to emphasize that over just plain skills. (Skills can be taught easier than not being a jerk.) If it’s possible, try indicating you’re willing to move to those areas on LinkedIn and resume sites so that you show up in searches. People will be willing to pay relocation costs for a Masters degree in other areas that aren’t flooded with them.

    Also, Google goes through local job sites and maps job descriptions, literally. You might be able to look for jobs specifically targeting someone who’s a new grad just like you that you might not see otherwise if you’re not doing this already. Jobs that other candidates don’t find will have a smaller pool of applicants, statistically increasing your chances. A place can still be great to work at even if HR doesn’t post to the “right” job sites. And sometimes cold but enthusiastic cover letters with resumes at places that are accepting them can land an interview and have a position created for you, even an entry level position–that’s how I got my first job. I actually sent a snail mail letter, funny enough. Cold emails have continued to work for me for years–but only for “smaller” companies that have maybe a few hundred employees at most–and only when I was genuinely interested in what they do.

    … now that I think of it, absolutely none of my positions did I get through directly applying. Cold letters/emails, being transferred to another position because the budget got severely cut, or being scouted through either an internal database (applied for another job that declined to interview me) or on career sites all the way. Other members of my family have, though.

    Oops, this got long. (It’s also very tech specific–sorry! That’s the industry I’m in, although young companies are sprouting up all over the place in other industries as well.)

    1. SpaceNovice*

      Okay, gonna make it longer:

      One way you CAN stalk social media is to read the company’s blog. Some companies put out blogs that obviously don’t mean things to the everyday employee. Other companies put out blogs that are CENTRAL to the lives of employees–things like tricks, tips, or even central philosophies. You can also sometimes find case studies. I’ve gotten a 100% rate of response on cover letters that showed general interest or rapport after doing some research. Companies really respond to someone who is applying to not just the job but the company itself. I’d pick an enthusiastic Masters Degree over a PhD that isn’t invested and will move onto the next opportunity rather quickly. Companies will scoop up good people that are a cultural fit even if they don’t have an announced opening. You don’t have to force it; it’ll just come up naturally in conversation or in your cover letter.

  28. Rule #1: Don't be creepy*

    For what it’s worth, we just had an interview process here for a role that includes running a lot of the company’s social media and the interviewer still confided in me that she found it a little creepy that one of the candidates had obviously found her on social media and made a reference to her profile.

    1. teclatrans*

      I had an interview for a position whose main job duty was researching everything I could learn about people. That was literally the core skill. But I totally creeped out several panel members when I casually made reference to something I had gleaned from LinkedIn (I think it was about how long people had been in their positions at the job, as there had been a massive layoff and so most people were super-localized, but some were not). I was trying to demonstrate my skills, but upon reflection I think I probably should have made some reference to LinkedIn and lampshaded my research of them, instead of just dropping what felt like personal info on them.

  29. PizzaDog*

    Honestly, with the lengths it took to find this information out, it’ll only look weird for you to mention it in the letter or even in passing. Also, (almost) everyone likes movies – it’s not like you both share an obsession with the collected works of some obscure director or something. It’d be like saying ‘oh we both love hamburgers, what are the odds!’ It’s not original enough to merit a mention.

  30. Flash Bristow*

    Another point – it might not *reach* the hiring manager. For oversubscribed jobs, often somebody lower down in the process will skim read the pile of CVs, with a view to “how can we whittle this down?” and basically pattern matching key skills. So your attempt to bond over shared interests may well be irrelevant, and worse, a waste of words that have to be skimmed through.

    I wish you luck in your search, but really you’ll do better putting your time into improving work related skills. I’ve got attention before by teaching myself C programming in my spare time, for example. You’re more likely to stand out by committing to relevant projects in your time off.

  31. Existentialista*

    This reader should spend less time researching the hiring manager and more time researching the business. Then their cover letter could say, “Because of my background/education, I can bring these specific benefits to your business,” and list some contributions that address the company’s strategy and product mix, the industry environment, current competitive challenges, etc.

    Candidates usually talk at length about their own background and experience, but they almost always make the hiring manager connect the dots to figure out how that can provide value in the new role. If you’re specific in describing the benefits you can bring, it will make you stand out in a relevant and powerful way.

  32. Gaming Teapot*

    In addition to Alison’s excellent advice NOT to go for the cold-calling email with the creepily stalkerish reference to something from the hiring manager’s Facebook page, I would like to offer the following two pieces of advice for the OP:

    1) Look for work in related fields.
    If you really cannot get any job in the field you’re trying to break into, check to see if there are related fields, or at least some that use transferable skills, which might be easier to get into, so you can build up a work history that shows off your transferable skills. For example, let’s say you want to go into Teapot Engineering. Look for things like Coffee Pot Engineering or Teapot Design. Working three or four years in Coffee Pot Engineering would allow you to demonstrate your engineering skills in a related field, whereas Teapot Design would allow you to showcase that you have developed an in-depth understanding of Teapot structure and form vs function, which is very important in Teapot Engineering.

    2) Find out if there are trade shows or similar (semi-)public events for this field.
    Many times these are either public or semi-public, aka you can attend, so long as you submit proof that you work in this industry or graduated from a college in a relevant course. Sometimes you can even get in there for free if you agree to work as a staff member for one day, which is how one of the most important conferences (3 days) in my field of study works. Once at the event, you will be able to talk directly to representatives of the companies, which will not only allow you to get to know them better (do your research, but also ask a few questions to show you’re eager to get to know the company more closely!) and will help you network.
    Don’t expect to find a hiring manager there who could take your full resume and cover letter, but prepare some business cards (e. g. through Vistaprint) with your name, degree, contact info and LinkedIn, if you have it, and ask whoever you talked to if they would mind if you gave them one, in case they wish to contact you at any time. Note that you are not saying “in case you wish to hire me”, but “in case you wish to contact me”, which means you acknowledge that they are the ones calling the shots and are not just there to grovel for a job (even if that really is the only reason why you went to the con). Ask for their business cards as well, and – once out of sight – jot some quick notes on the back about one or two things that you think went really well in the conversation (maybe you and the representative shared a love for Peruvian style teapots).
    Then, if you do end up having to send your application to someone you met at a trade show – and you will know, because you have the business card! – you can reference the conversation in the cover letter and – zing! – you have an instant connection with the hiring manager that not everyone else has.

    Good luck. :)

  33. LBS, INSEAD, or IMD, take your pick*

    I work in the career services office of one of the best business schools in Europe. I disagree with Allison. In Europe it is common to add a line to your CV with “interests” or “hobbies” for precisely this reason – you might forge a connection with a recruiter that you otherwise wouldn’t. And yes I have seen people get hired this way.

    1. Holly Day*

      That’s nice, and if there was any indication that the OP was in Europe it might even be relevant.

      Given that AAM is a US-based site, however, and there’s no indication the OP is not US-based also, Alison’s response is appropriate for the relevant cultural norms and yours is not. I assume your fancy business school teaches its students the importance of understanding cultural norms, and how to adjust their thinking/behavior accordingly?

      1. McWhadden*

        Putting “interests” or “hobbies” on a resume is not totally out of the norm in the US. Not to the extent you are making it seem. Until recently it was typical.

      2. Veronica*


        I don’t see any harm in LBS adding a bit of information – after all, she’s carefully provided the context in which her advice is normally used. There’s many AAM readers who aren’t in the US, so who knows, it may be useful to someone in a similar situation in future.

    2. Bea*

      Putting it on your CV is giving the potential employer the ability to take notice or ignore it.

      It’s different to say “oh and she’s likes kitten memes, that’s cool, me too.” while skimming applicants. Than compared to sending a cold email saying “I’m interested in movies too, how about you hire me because we have so much in common!”.

      If she wants to put this on her resume to add some fluff, the response would be much different. Unnecessary and elementary for the US but it’s not a huge “no, that’s creepy AF!”

    3. McWhadden*

      Putting it on your CV is a little different than cold emailing someone you’ve never met and saying some version of “I see we both love New Wave French Cinema” though.

  34. stej*

    This sounds entirely like the data science field in a non-SF/NYC semi-urban setting.

    I’d suggest that you focus on personal projects for your Github, connecting at Meetups for your language of choice and data-type topics, and collaborating on pro bono data projects to build that experience. Also consider taking a lesser title for the experience, because if you’re competing against PhDs for the coveted Data Scientist title with less experience, you will have the distinct disadvantage.

  35. Eliza*

    My hobby helped me get my current job, but A, at the time it was a small startup company with very informal hiring procedures and hazy boundaries between people’s professional and personal social media presence, and B, the hobby was somewhat relevant to the work I’d be doing.

    Also, keep in mind that hiring procedures both reflect and shape workplace culture. If mentioning your hobbies gets you hired, it’s likely to be at a place where people care more than usual about what your hobbies are, and that’s not necessarily an environment that everyone will be comfortable in.

  36. Leela*

    “I suspect the line of thinking behind the “standing out” misconception goes something like this: “I do have excellent qualifications, but I’m up against a sea of others who do too. Therefore I need to find something to make the hiring manager give my candidacy an additional look.” ”

    Don’t forget, as I know AAM has pointed out before, that guidance counselors and career centers are giving out this terrible advice! I almost gasped/laughed when I read the “green paper” remark AAM gives as a bad example because I was told to do that exact thing when graduating high school by a teacher (technically he just said “colored paper” not green but it’s in the same spirit).

  37. Tottenham*

    Is it uncouth to address the hiring manager by name in a cover letter? Or is it best to stick with “Dear Hiring Manager,”

  38. TheGoodBoss*

    Is there anyone who DOESN’T like movies? I’ve always thought movies are like music in that virtually everyone likes some form of them.

  39. Jo*

    Could you add this hobby to your resume under a short ‘other interests’ section? While I agree with the other commenters that this in itself wouldn’t swing it, it would be a way of highlighting your shared interest in a non-creepy way.

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