Resume Hail Marys

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of posts on Job Seeker Hail Marys.

When a football team is about to lose, the quarterback often throws a Hail Mary: a long, high-risk pass. He has nothing to lose--if he doesn't throw it, he definitely loses.

Many job seekers also reach Hail-Mary time, for example, when a zillion people are applying for the job and, for the last two years, that applicant has been an, ahem, "consultant."

Here are some resume Hail Marys:

Radical honesty. Most employers want to hire a candidate whose work history is perfect for the job. But the wise employer recognizes that, sometimes, the best candidate may have a work history that could generously be called circuitous.

For example, imagine you were an employer reading the summary section of a resume. Mightn't you be intrigued by this?

After graduating from college, I took a job as a management trainee at Enterprise Rent-A-Car. This job taught me about customer service and sales, but in the end I found myself thinking, "Is that all there is?" I looked at lots of job listings and they all somehow felt empty. Maybe I needed to start my own business? I wanted to try that in a quick, low-risk way so I just bought some Oakland A's caps, stood near the stadium, and to attract attention, wore a tall stack of them on my head. I kept changing prices and inventory based on what was most profitable. After a week, I got sick of standing there like an idiot, so I took the time to find a replacement who would be reliable, honest and a good salesperson. The business is growing but I'm not sure I want to spend my life supervising street vendors. Do I try to build that business? Sell it and start another? Or should I get an intrapreneurial job in a company where I could do something bigger and more interesting? Should you and I talk?

Mightn't you want to talk with that person? Maybe even more so than if the summary read, "Self-starting team player who delights in exceeding customer expectations seeks opportunity with a dynamic company."

An unscripted video. On your resume, include a link to a one- to two-minute YouTube video in which you tell your story. Draft a script like the one above, but then ad lib a little rather than reciting it verbatim, putting a card with a few reminder words just above the camera lens. If you recite it, your video may seem sterile, not revealing of a human being.

Extreme length. An axiom in ad copy writing is "long sells." Think of how often mail solicitations consist of a long letter. So, you might try a five- to 10-page resume, using stories, quotes--everything that would make an employer think "this person brings a lot to the table." Or try the reverse: a 75-word resume, for example:

Jane Jobseeker

(insert contact info)

A think-on-her-feet hard driver who'd kill (well, not literally) to make smart things happen in fashion.

--As a lowly retail salesperson at TJ Maxx, beat the store record for most sales in a month.

--Most recent performance review: "This girl's gonna go places. She doesn't just sell. She thinks. She should be in corporate." (As we speak, they are considering me.)

--Spends too much time shopping--has 85 pairs of shoes ... at last count.

Moxie language. Jane Jobseeker will turn off many employers with the tone of her resume, but the right employer would admire the moxie. Especially for a long-shot job or one for a salesy or informal workplace, an edgily written resume may well be worth the risk.

Aesthetics. You might format your resume using different fonts, colors and cleverly using white space.

A mug shot. Physical attractiveness matters--probably too much--in and out of the workplace. So if your mug shot makes a pretty picture, you might include one on your resume. It should be a head-and-shoulders shot in which you're looking alive, connecting. Here's a trick: Look into the lens as though that lens was a friend you just ran into.

Express it. In addition to the "de rigueur" e-version of your resume, why not FedEx a hard copy? That gives the employer a second exposure to your crafty resume.

For more Hail Mary resume ideas, read this post. It includes such long-shots as a resume formatted as an Amazon page, with the job seeker as the product.

The San Francisco Bay Guardian called Dr. Nemko "The Bay Area's Best Career Coach" and he was Contributing Editor for Careers at U.S. News. His sixth and seventh books were published in 2012: How to Do Life: What They Didn't Teach You in School and What's the Big Idea? 39 Disruptive Proposals for a Better America. More than 1,000 of his published writings are free on He posts here every Monday.