Getting Noticed; Unusual Ploys Set Resumes Apart, but the Risk Doesn't Always Pay off.(BUSINESS)

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Byline: Marguerite Higgins, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Elizabeth Rennie found a way to get noticed as she searched for copywriting jobs in a tight employment market. The Arlington resident and mother of two decided a resume and cover letter wouldn't cut it. Instead, she sent prospective employers small packages of jalapeno seeds that stated, "Spice Up Your Copy," along with her name and telephone number.

"I figured a little promo piece would be received better and I liked the idea of 'spicing up' copy," said Mrs. Rennie, 32.

Her unique approach worked last week as various creative directors, including Tim Kenney of Tim Kenney Marketing Partners in Bethesda, offered her a free-lance job. Mr. Kenney and Mrs. Rennie are negotiating terms for a job.

The employment market is tough, especially in the fields of marketing and advertising. Mr. Kenney and other hiring executives in creative fields said job seekers increasingly are sending employers more than just cover letters, resumes and portfolios.

A nationwide survey released last week by the Creative Group, a marketing company, found that about 60 percent of executives said they had seen unconventional tactics by job candidates.

"It's a tough industry to get into, and candidates have to take a different approach to beat out the competition," said Tracy Turner, founder and creative director of the Menlo Park, Calif., firm. "I admire job seekers who really work to get the job and try these gutsy ideas."

Such tactics may not work outside of advertising and marketing. But in fields that thrive on ideas, being a little creative may get someone hired.

"It's not the sort of thing you see from most people looking for work in other professions," said Miss Turner. "But we've always seen a different sort of approach in the creative field, and it's even more pronounced now, given the current job climate in our industry."

Job offers in general were down last month from a year earlier, according to the Conference Board's Help-Wanted Advertising Index, which surveys the advertising volume of employment ads in newspapers across the country. The Index stood at 44 in August, down three points from 47 in June and 57 a year earlier.

Meanwhile, the nationwide unemployment rate stands at 5.7 percent, and many economists expect that to rise in the coming months.

Some candidates are going the traditional route and sending flowers, T-shirts or doughnuts to employers, according to the survey, but others are going a step further. One candidate rented a billboard facing the employer's office that listed his qualifications for the job.

Tracy Marshall, chief executive officer of a Silver Spring Web design firm, said more job candidates are vying for attention by sending electronic personalized portfolios.

"One good tactic I got recently was a cover letter via e-mail, and it was the opening that caught my eye," said Mr. …