Special Delivery: Who Ordered the Spam?

I was silently hoping that someone had finally sprayed enough insecticide on the pests that continue to propagate terrible job search advice. Alas, plenty of evidence of their insidious and obnoxious existence still emerges regularly.

There are a number of sources in my local area that sponsor workshops, seminars and other events directed at job seekers. From what I can tell, the vast majority of the sponsors and presenters have literally zero relevant background to justify providing such content AND it shows. But, hey as long as they are building their brand and branding themselves up as experts, no one needs to bother being concerned, right?

They think and manage to get their unsuspecting prey to believe that they are being helpful and offering something of value. The problem is the general job seeking public seems to have lost its collective ability to use critical thinking and common sense when vetting vendors and others that are dispensing these so-called solutions as valid advice and relevant techniques.

One example I’ve noticed repeatedly is when these expertise-touting doucheneers try to convince job seekers to come up with some gimmicky item or idea to lure prospective employers. It takes various forms, but the most common terminology seems to be the “special report.”

That piece of work is purported to guarantee that a candidate will stand out by branding their own expertise in a flashy presentation or document. Supporters and sellers of this tool convince a job seeker that they should prepare a proposal on how well they understand their target employer’s business, outlining how they plan to come along and save the day. The content is based on the presumption (as an absolute outsider) that that the job seeker has deep comprehension of what goes on behind the walls and closed doors of that organization and thus is superbly equipped to lend a hand to the executive in need of their expertise.

Packaging ready made recommendations to fix any of the (speculated) present business challenges and problems that are keeping the top executive decision-maker up at night is the goal. Putting it all together with charts, graphs and colorful images to be delivered right to the executive’s hot hands is the next step. Then they simply picture that executive dialing their number with a lucrative job offer before getting to page three. Voila! Instant success for all involved…

A LinkedIn discussion the other day provided another primo package of solidified slime. A person posted that they (or someone on their behalf) had sent out 1500+ resumes since December 2011. If that isn’t the perfect example of spam peddling, I don’t know what is!

Visualizing an optimistic person seeking a quick and painless job search eagerly listening to the spiel from some huckster promising a miraculous result from a pathetically flawed approach comprised of resume blasting is just sickening. Wham, bam, thank-you, ma’am! Now just sit back and wait for the job offers to flood in…

While I’m all for differentiation and distinguishing one’s self and taking a more creative, even assertive approach, I have yet to learn of any specific verifiable examples of these particular unsolicited methods actually producing a job offer in the way that the promoters of this concept seem to imply.

To show how some things never change, I’ve included a previous related post from ERE, July 2010 below

Special report or cleverly packaged spam? posted by Kelly Blokdijk, SPHR on July 8, 2010

A career and branding expert presenting at an event I attended this week suggested that job seekers differentiate themselves by sending key decision makers in their target companies a "special report." The idea here was that they were to research the company's issues, challenges and problems and then formulate a proposal to solve them.

The glossy printed, multiple page, spiral bound special report would contain colorful charts, graphs and diagrams to show the person's level of expertise on that particular subject-matter. Supposedly, upon receiving this document the recipient would be so impressed that they would create a position and hire the author of the special report.

My questions to those of you involved with hiring processes - anywhere - are:

  1. Have you seen this done where you work?
  2. Do you personally know anyone who has been hired as a result of this tactic?
  3. Are the hiring decision-makers you serve impressed or annoyed with people who send unsolicited material?
  4. How does your company handle packages or electronic messages from people using creative means to avoid the traditional hiring process?

I suppose anything is possible, but I have a hard time imaging that this technique would be effective except in extremely rare cases. From all of my experience in HR and talent acquisition, anytime, anything remotely identifiable as unsolicited job application related correspondence was received, it was immediately passed on to HR to process and/or dispose of, as applicable.

The expert touting this type of job search strategy apparently charges people several hundred dollars to help them prepare and distribute these and similar types of "branding" materials. They claim that their clients have been successful using these methods.

What do you think: is this something "special" or cleverly packaged spam?

Views: 366

Comment by Darryl Dioso on March 28, 2012 at 10:02am

"doucheneers" - I plan on using that.

Great post.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on March 29, 2012 at 1:18am

Me too Darryl.  Love it Kelly and totally agree with you on all points.  These clowns are what Albright refers to as the engineers on the Hot Air express, running from town to town, seminar to seminar peddling their wares like a bunch of snake oil salesmen.

I just had a candidate decide that he was going to do something like you have described with this stupid "Special Report".  I suggested that he not send all that crap because the research information he had was totally wrong but i could not share with him the latest information as to what was happening.  He insisted that he send it after his first phone inteview went well.  He did.  Instead of being moved on to the next step he was declined immediately with a terse note that he was not a fit for the company skill wise or personality.

the HR director called me and asked why he had sent all that stuff.  The hiring manager felt that it was a clear cut example that he would be a problem to manage because it indicated that instead of doing the job he would be hired to do , he would probably be trying to tell eveybody what the company as a whole needed to do to fix all their problems.  End of story.


Special Screwup is more like what this will end up being.  I don't know how you sat through that presentation.  I would have had to stand up and say, "This is about the most destructive thing i have heard anybody propose to people."  Besides that it is presumptious  and will make you look like a fool.  Either you are qualified, have a good resume that represents what you have done or you don't.


Another failed recruiter who is looking for some way to make a buck touting another miracle cure.



Comment by Kelly Blokdijk on March 29, 2012 at 1:58pm

Thank you, both! 

Sandra, that is exactly how I envision this going over in the majority of cases. NO ONE wants this stuff and most sane people would question the judgement of anyone foolish enough to think this is a good idea.

How could you not expect any person doing that to be anything but a "know it all" or difficult, presumptuous, pompous buffoon that thinks they know how to run that business better than people who actually already work there? 

For some strange reason, I actually feel obligated to at least periodically examine what some of these doucheneers are doing, so I have listened in or read some of their blogs and watched their videos. The recent "special report" example was triggered by a person posting a link to some deal for that program. 

Following some of their activities actually is helpful so I have first hand knowlege of this absurdity. Sometimes when people tell me some of these outlandish things it is tough to believe without actually seeing or hearing it with my own eyes and ears. 

Ironically, when I deliver normal, straight-forward no nonsense, real-world job search advice people look at me like I'm crazy because I often say the exact opposite of what they've been hearing from all of these other morons.

From my perspective, the people who do get hired are getting hired primarily the same way they always have, by being qualified and presenting themselves well online, on paper and in person. Those are the things I offer help with. To me, the rest of that is either entirely useless or only relevant for certain situations and only after they've mastered the basics. 

For what ever reason, they are being told by assorted experts that they need to blog, have a visual / infographic resume, a personal "myname.com" website, a blog, twitter, YouTube video, catch-phrase, slogan, logo and so on... 

Meanwhile, no need to worry about getting the foundation and fundamentals down. That stuff isn't sexy!

They poo-poo the value of a relevent, well-written, targeted resume. They tell these people that no one gets a job using a job board. Funny, since statistics continue to show those as having a high % in source of hire.

They claim to know what hiring managers want and that happens to be what ever it is they are selling. How convenient! 

Personally, I've only seen rare cases when a traditional resume wasn't preferred over any of the other variations. I don't know anyone who has been hired or anyone who has hired anyone because of their twitter, klout, blog, website, infographic, video, pretty business card, special report or other stuff.

Thanks for sharing the real life story validating how poorly this comes across. 

Comment by Erik Morse on March 29, 2013 at 7:37am
A recent experience I had with this was borderline scary actually. I met with a candidate who came recommended by upper management in our company. No specific requisition, just heard through the grapevine he was a great person to consider. Not long into the 'interview' he excitedly derailed the conversation to pull out a pen and paper to draw me a diagram. As it turns out, he had been working on getting an interview for months. He had never applied online or through any traditional method to know if his luck or resume would serve him well. Instead, his diagram and description detailed for me the 'targeted ballistics missile' approach he had used to get to that very moment. He poured over his methods to find connections with our execs and upper management, decision makers in our company, and then his decision to unleash his attack on our attention at just the right time. It worked to a degree, as the grapevine through which we heard good things was our own internal grapevine created by the candidate. It all led to me. The diagram and dialog was part of the plan, and was aimed at showing me how effectively he could infiltrate on our behalf. He had even quit his former job now that he had made it to me, as our conversation was but a formality on the path towards inserting him into our company. Unfortunately, throughout his tactical plotting he failed to notice that we have no need or desire for any infiltration. So he asked about sales, as it would use the same skill sets. I laughed at that a bit until he asked how my wife and kids were. Coffee over.
Comment by Amy Ala Miller on March 29, 2013 at 11:35am

Holy cow Erik sounds like a near miss... people like that typically turn out to be all fluff no substance.

Great article as usual Kelly. :)

Comment by Kelly Blokdijk on March 29, 2013 at 7:42pm

Wow, Erik - that is freaky story. Sounds like he was pretty impressed with his scheming and finagling. Isn't that how con artists work? Getting others to trust and recommend them enough until they obtain a level of access to a bigger pool of suckers? Wonder why to went to such lengths to get in the door at your company and if he did the same elsewhere. It would be a shame to waste all of that infiltration at only one place. 

Thanks for the comments, everyone! 


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