Avoiding the pitfalls of a job application.

While sorting through the attic recently, I came across a treasure trove of my childhood memorabilia (or a load of old crap if you listen to Rachel’s account of the task). One box contained my extensive collection of Top Trumps, a card game that I spent many hours playing in the seventies. For those of you not familiar with the game, what on earth did you do during playtime? Each pack of cards has a theme such as dragsters, supercars and motorbikes, and each card lists the details about a particular dragster, supercar or motorbike. The idea is to select the best value on your card, and if it is better than that of your opponents’, you win their cards. But, one pack always baffled me. Scramblers. Every motorbike on every card had one cylinder, so what was the point of it being there? With every card the same, there was no point considering it because it could never win.

Standing out by being the same.

What Google doesn't tell you about Creative Job Applications image

Over the past few weeks I have been looking through a bunch of job applications and it hasn’t been as easy as it could have been.

For one brief instant, I thought we had found the perfect candidate and struck creative gold with the very first applicant. Apparently, he is a team player, has the ability to work under his own initiative, has drive and ambition and is constantly trying to improve himself. Never mind an interview, give him a starting date. I was about to call HR and inform them that our search was over when I looked at the second application form. Ah. The next applicant is a team player with the ability to work under her own initiative, has drive and ambition, and is constantly trying to improve herself. Why is everyone obsessed with being a team player and working under their own initiative? Roger Federer isn’t a team player and requires a coach to tell him what to do, but he is doing all right by it.

Creative positions require some creative thinking.

As well as the standard formulaic answers, there is also the bigging-it-up syndrome to contend with.

If someone claims to have run a successful catering division it probably means they made the tea for the department meetings, and if they ever ordered a new box of pens from the stationers they will say they have a strong track record in negotiation and procurement. As for people claiming to be proficient in Photoshop, just don’t get me started. Only Harry Potter and Sooty ever made a career with a magic wand.

So where does one begin? I now have to decipher the reality from the bollocks.

Creative job applications Top Trumps image

Do employers really look for these meaningless formulaic phrases? And especially in the creative fields, would it not be better to show some creativity?
It may not be the place to admit a chronic problem with wind, a penchant for cross dressing or a habit of stealing from colleagues, but surely every applicant must have at least one unique feature to offer.

If only there was a pack of Top Trumps for job applicants. With a card listing the genuine merits of each person we could easily see who was an Aston Martin and who was an Austin Maxi.

Top Trump!

If you have a genuine value that is better than the opposition, why not play it?

Don’t be a one-cylinder scrambler.


Luke Sutton, a graphic designer from London did just that and an example of his imaginative CV can be seen here.

It also appears that this phenomenon is not restricted to application forms, as this article by Stephanie Vozza points out.