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If You Don’t Like the Hiring Game, Change the Rules


Most of us have never been faced with a no-win scenario. In the Star Trek movies, Captain Kirk,when a student at Star Fleet, beat the Kobayashi Maru simulation scenario (which was specifically designed as a no-win scenario) by secretly reprogramming the simulation to provide him with a viable way out of the predicament.

He changed the rules of the game because he didn’t believe in the no-win scenario.

You can do the same thing with the unwritten, invisible, or non-existent “rules” of the hiring process. Here are three examples (long post).

Several years ago, I was driving past the main entrance to a large high-tech company here in Austin. Standing on the median outside the entrance to the employee parking area was a gentleman dressed in a sharp-looking suit, wearing a large sandwich board sign that said “Will design advanced microprocessors for food. Free résumé.” Nearly every other driver in the left-turn lane to enter the employee parking area rolled down the window to take a copy of this individual’s résumé as they drove past him.

Someone contacted the local news stations about this fellow, and later he was on the evening news being interviewed while he handed résumés to drivers. He followed this routine for several days at different high-tech companies. Within the week, he was hired. His creative approach—and probably some excellent TV exposure—helped him get the attention of hiring managers.

He changed the rules of the hiring process to his advantage. He made himself memorable.

My cousin lost her job in the finance department of a high-tech company based in New England. I helped her create a professional skills, knowledge, and expertise portfolio  (“PSKE Portfolio” as I refer to it in my books) and revised her cover letter. Less than two months later, she was on the short list for a vacant slot in the finance department at a major corporation that packaged and sold seafood around the world. Prior to being called for a second interview, she learned from the hiring manager’s executive assistant what his favorite cookies were. She showed up for her second interview with a batch of fresh-baked cookies—and got hired.

Bribery? Some may see it that way but the cookies were offered to others in the office—the cookies just happened to be the hiring manager’s favorite kind. What a creative coincidence. Was it the cookies that got her hired? Hardly. It was, after all, her second interview; the cookies simply reinforced her name and her PSKE Portfolio with the hiring manager.

She changed the rules of the hiring process to her advantage. She made herself memorable.

My friend Eric found himself in a similar situation. He asked me for any last-minute suggestions (other than baking cookies) just before his interview. I suggested he pay attention to the personal items displayed on the hiring manager’s desk or wall. They often provide clues to the things that are important outside of the hiring manager’s work environment, and may help establish some rapport with the hiring manager beyond the normal small talk preceding the harder interview questions. We all want to work with people we like and who have things in common with us, and that includes hiring managers.

Eric later told me that the hiring manager was a Houston Astros baseball fan and Eric (a New York Yankees fan) was able to engage him in some banter about a subject they both had an interest in. After Eric’s very positive interview, he purchased two tickets (less than $30) to a Round Rock Express game, which is a local Triple A farm team for the Texas Rangers, and dropped them off at the hiring manager’s office. Eric mentioned to the hiring manager that he would not be able to attend the game, so he thought the hiring manager would know someone else who might be interested in using the tickets. Eric purchased the tickets after his initial interview as a strategy for getting the hiring manager to remember him from among the other candidates.

Enticement? Not really because the tickets made their way into someone else’s hands (Eric knew the hiring manager could not accept the gift), so there was no intentional or perceived quid pro quo from such a transaction—other than the hiring manager remembering Eric’s positive interview and, of course, the gesture with the baseball game tickets.

He changed the rules of the hiring process to his advantage. He made himself memorable.

Eric’s strategy of doing something different to be remembered paid off. He did receive a job offer from this company, but he turned it down for a more rewarding out-of-state position.

To be clear: these three examples of creative rule changing were not cheap tricks. None of these examples would have been successful if these individuals did not already have strong cover letters, résumés, and interviews. They simply used cookies, baseball tickets, and off-the-wall approach as outside-the-box mnemonic devices in their overall strategy to keep their names and their qualifications at the front of the line.

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(portions of this post excerpted from my book, Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0, Second Edition.)

My name is  Donn LeVie Jr. and I am The ONE Hire Authority.  I’m a former hiring manager for Fortune 500 companies (Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and others) and have worked in the federal government (NOAA) and in academia as an adjunct faculty lecturer in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics for the University of Houston (Downtown Campus). I am the author of Strategic Career Engagement (September 2015), Runner-Up of the 2016 International Book Award for Business: Careers, and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies:  Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (June 2012, Winner of the 2012 Global eBook Award and Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers).  

I lead career strategy seminars (for job seekers and for hiring managers wanting to know how to spot talent) at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. military veterans organizations. I also offer a Career Engagement Evaluation subscription program to associations as a member benefit.

Does your conference need a keynote speaker or a professional development seminar for conference attendees? My 2017 engagement calendar is starting to fill up…contact me directly at for more information or use the Contact page on this blog.

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