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Job Search: Why Ted Williams' Sandwich Board Approach Won't Work For You

Ted Williams
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Ted Williams

Technically, Ted Williams didn’t wear a sandwich board—he held a sign, which simply stated his “God-given gift of voice” as an ex-radio announcer, and his plea for help, of any kind from by-passers on Interstate 71.

Intrigued by that sign, a reporter for the Columbus Dispatchgave the Ohio man a dollar—in exchange for a sampling of his voiceover skills on camera. "When you're listening to nothing but the best of oldies, you're listening to Magic 98.9,” he says smoothly on the now-viral clip. “And we'll be back for more right after these words.”

The rest is internet history.

24 hours after video-coverage of his talent hit the web, Ted Williams had his pick of jobs—including an offer from The Cleveland Cavaliers, which comes packaged with a house to live in.

With a fresh haircut and a smile, Williams has already graced several morning shows to discuss his newfound success. Judging by his clean-cut look and assured speaking manner, you’d think his homeless days were months, even years behind him. But amazingly, it’s been hours since life-changing opportunities have started pouring in—so many that Williams is reportedly caught in a bidding war, and has turned down a position with the NBA.

It’s happened so fast, in fact, that nobody bothered checking Williams’ background. The Smoking Gun reports, under the headline “The Felon With the Golden Voice,” that Williams’ 20 year rap sheet includes theft, forgery, robbery and drug possession—and at least one count of public urination, according to an “aggravated” business owner who’s storefront Williams frequented.

One can only imagine how Joshua Perskyfeels about all of this.

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Cynthia J. Kohll

You remember Persky. The name might not ring a bell, but the image will: an otherwise dignified looking, well dressed investment banker in a sandwich board with his education and contact info printed on it, trolling the length of Park Avenue like a harbinger of the Wall Street Apocalypse.

With a degree from MIT, a manila envelope of resumes, and a smile, it took Persky 6 months to get a job. That’s with the same media coverage as Williams—morning shows, the covers of finance journals, the topic of much water cooler and news radio discussions alike. Oh, and no criminal record.

A similar job-seeker, Paul Nawrocki, was pounding the pavement for two years before the tactic paid off. Slightly less dignified, he took a page from Williams’ playbook with an “almost homeless” message printed on his sandwich board like a headline.

It didn’t work for him either.

It’s possible that the entertainment industry may be more forgiving in general, or the radio business less appearance-conscious. But one thing is clear: gimmicks don’t work in the professional world. And though time will only tell with Williams’ case, you can assume that gimmicks and felonies are unlikely to fare better.

There are simply too many factors involved in hiring that fly in the face of stunt job-seeking. Potential employers look for stability, sanity, ability to work with others, and good decision making. Standing in the street with a sign doesn’t bode well for those attributes.

Unlike Williams, who was given the chance to transcend appearance and circumstance, putting your "crazy" foot forward for a job will not likely result in a real opportunity; employers will simply be much too wary to give you a fair shake.

Instead, let others put the word of your talent out for you and, you guessed it, network network network. A real live person’s good word goes much further than your own scrawled tag-line on a sandwich board on interstate 71.

Don’t believe us? Ask anyone who opened a forwarded email over the last couple of days with the subject line “listen to this guy’s voice!”

Oh, and if you have a criminal record, wait until your new boss loves you to say anything. That will likely work for Williams as well.

Cathy Vandewater is an associate producer for Vault.com. Originally from Utica, NY, she holds a BA in writing from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where she currently resides. Comments? Send them to executivecareers@cnbc.com