Students take novel approach to job applications

CEO's have taken notice of creative websites dedicated to cover letters and resumes

· February 14, 2013, 9:06 pm

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From resume websites to online cover letters, Penn students have found ways to woo companies by innovating online.

Alice Lee, a 2012 Wharton graduate and a former DP columnist, loudly proclaimed her love for Instagram in February last year. She crafted a resume website titled “Dear Instagram” directed at the company, with the introduction “In a nutshell: I am a huge, huge fan of Instagram. And I want to be a part of your team.” The website went viral, and was reported online by multiple news publications such as Business Insider, Time Magazine and The Atlantic Wire.

Having interned at another startup, Foursquare, before that, Lee was inspired when Charles Birnbaum, director of business development at Foursquare, told her about the creative and proactive approach he used when applying. An hour later, Lee decided on the idea of creating a resume website for her job application.

“The more time I spent in the tech world afterwards, the more I realized that a lot of people have a pretty unique path to their current jobs that involved some kind of creative, stand-out application,” she said in an email.

Lee is not the only Penn student who has came up with an innovative way to impress a potential employer.

Stephanie Weiner, a Wharton junior, made a Tumblr page titled “Why First Round Should Hire Me” directed towards the venture capital firm last October. On the page was a cover letter crafted using logos of companies First Round invested in, ending with “I am a ‘Readyforce’ itching to get ‘On Deck’ and ‘rockyour’ Dorm Room Fund.”

Weiner decided to use an nontraditional approach to reach out to her potential employers as she was studying abroad in Australia during the application process. Given the prompt “One page why we should hire you. Be Creative,” she did exactly that.

“I think that here at Penn everyone is just so smart and creative that if they say ‘be creative,’ you really have to try and do something that makes you stand out and that you are proud of.”

Most recently, Ankit Shah, a Wharton senior, spent nine days creating a website titled “Rap Genius, I’d love to work with you,” complete with customized memes and a redesign of the company’s website. A good friend of Lee’s, Shah discussed his idea with Lee before going forward with it.

Shah has been fascinated by Rap Genius for years, and wants his application to showcase his passion and personality.

“I think that in line with their personality, in line with how creative they are, I thought how else would I apply for a position here if not with a lot of ‘swag,’” he said.

Showered by attention, the companies for all three applications reached out to the applicants.

Although Lee was not hired by Instagram, she spoke to Kevin Systrom, Instagram’s co-founder and CEO, on the phone. She also attracted the attention of other tech companies, and is soon starting as a product designer at Dropbox. First Round listed Weiner’s application as “most creative app” on their annual report in 2012, and she was one of 11 students accepted for an internship position at Dorm Room Fund. She will be working there until graduation.

Rap Genius reciprocated Shah’s attention by tweeting out his website with the description “dopest resume we’ve ever received,” and Shah has spoken with the company founder and a few of the team members since launching the site.

In response to this innovative way of applying to jobs, Patricia Rose, director of Penn Careers Services, acknowledged its value, but also cautioned students to use this tool judiciously and include adequate samples of earlier work.

“For programming and design positions at tech companies, this approach will work better than for non-technical positions at companies in other industries,” she said in an email.

Lee echoed Rose’s thoughts, saying that “‘Dear Goldman Sachs’ would probably not be appropriate given the context. The most important thing is to display your strengths.”

Shah also stressed the importance of being truly passionate about the company and its mission before deciding to make a resume website, and felt that it would be disrespectful to the company if one was not really passionate about it.

“I think it requires a lot more. It’s not just a cool thing to do,” he said. “You have to have enough passion to take the bet that it will work out.”

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