What would happen if you took your job application, added some humour and laced it with profanity? It might get tossed in the trash bin. Or, if you’re one of a lucky few, you may actually get hired.

I came across such a job application online and had a laugh, thinking it had to be a joke. Not so—the guy was hired for a position with a software company. More about the profane resume that worked. Wait, what? Does this mean I need to forget all those resume-writing tips I learned in college and take tips from this guy?

Maybe, or maybe not, says Iain Morris, a partner at Mercer, a human resources consulting firm.

“I think it depends on what organization you’re applying to and what style they have,” Morris says.

If you’re applying to a conservative law firm, the edgy approach probably won’t fly. But if you’re hoping to get noticed by a trendy social media company, a unique application just may get you noticed.

“Advertising and job searches have some similar principles,” says Morris. “You need to know who your target market is, capture its attention and differentiate yourself as a product.”

No matter which approach you take, follow these few tips and you’ll be more likely to get the outcome you want:

  • Do your research. Get a feel for the organization you’re applying to. Does it have a blog you can read to get a sense of the language employees use and the style of the organization? Scour the company’s website and job ads for more hints about the company culture.
  • Make your cover letter and resume visually appealing. That means simple formatting and not a lot of text. According to Morris, HR professionals are likely to decide if your application is a keeper based on the look of it alone, before they even read what you have to say.
  • Use straightforward, results-oriented language. HR professionals don’t care what you did at your last job—they want to know what the results were. Write clearly and always do a spelling and grammar check before you send your application in.

If you have a good idea of the kind of person the organization is looking for and can show them you’d be a suitable fit, you’ll have a better chance of getting hired.

Six wickedly creative job applications for the digital age

Trina Rehberg is a Winnipeg-based writer and editor who has written extensively on job hunting and the labour market.