Cornering the market
Most people who hold cardboard signs next to oncoming traffic aren’t hired off the streets by law firms, but that’s what happened last week to Damian Romero.
After graduating from USF, Romero said he and his friend, Jarod Fluck, realized they were lost in the crowd of countless other job seekers.
“If you’re doing what everybody else is doing, it’s really hard to get ahead,” Romero said. “You got to try a different approach, you got to think outside of the box.”
So they held up signs reading “Not Homeless (yet)” and “Will Work for Good Company,” while handing out resumes to morning traffic on the intersection of Kennedy and Westshore boulevards.
Romero graduated last spring with a bachelor’s degree in finance and Fluck graduated in 2012 with a bachelor’s in marketing. Two fields, Fluck said, with a high barrier to entry.
“If you ask any job seeker out there, they’re going to tell you it’s hard to find a job,” Fluck said. “If you ask any company that’s hiring, they’re going to tell you it’s hard to find the right people for jobs.”
The majority of hiring is done through internal recommendations, Fluck said, not through job fairs or websites such as Monster or LinkedIn.
“We went to a few job fairs, that was a total joke,” Romero said. “The companies there were looking for sales people … if you have $30,000 or $40,000 in loans, who wants to work on commission?”
As for job listing websites, Romero said it’s almost impossible to stand out to employers who rely on keyword searches and personality tests that fail to measure creativity.
“The personal touch has been taken out of it. There’s parts of the person much more important than a few lines on a piece of paper,” Romero said. “What is important is character, whether that is going to blend in with the company. That’s why we’re trying to get out there first — and it’s working.”
Less than two weeks after deciding to hand out resumes to “people in fancy suits,” Fluck said the two received multiple interviews and job offers.
“At first we weren’t expecting really anything … it started taking on its own shape,” Romero said. “By Friday, people were driving by, honking, and they already knew our names.”
Fluck said he was interviewed on the spot in a Walgreens parking lot, and Romero at a nearby gas station.
One of the biggest challenges is making an impression before the light turns green, Fluck said.
“If you’ve heard of an elevator pitch, we’ve shortened our elevator pitch to 5 to 10 seconds,” Fluck said.
Romero said they didn’t just go up to anyone driving a Mercedes and wait for people to ask for the resume.
“This was not us throwing things into the dark and hoping something was going to catch,” he said.
The two also received local and national media coverage, which further helped get their names out there.
“When the news cameras were here, one homeless lady came out and was getting mad that we’re getting press and she doesn’t,” Fluck said. “It’s not so much of an attention thing as it is a unique, creative way we came up with to get our faces out there.”
Creating an impression is something potential employees don’t often get to do without a recommendation. Fluck said the stunt made that impression.
“Not only do (employers) have a face and the resume, now they have a story to go along with it,” Fluck said. “No matter what industry you’re in, you’re marketing yourself as a product.”
Other than creativity, Fluck said it also showed employers drive to wake up at 5 a.m. to stand at a corner in a suit “sweating bullets,” all to put yourself out there.
“Just the fact that we’re standing out there at 7 o’clock in the morning, ready to go to work, is already a big deal,” Romero said.
Romero said it was worth it. He was offered a job at a law firm in Ybor City, and Fluck has multiple interviews lined up.