The Nina case study: making the ultimate job application

One of the case studies that has most inspired me in my life is the story of Nina Mufleh – the person behind the stroke-of-genius campaign Nina4airbnb

Her campaign was the result of a single-minded determination to join Airbnb’s team after having joined their community as a host and falling in love with their ethos.

Nina applied to join their team in the traditional way you’d expect; by completing an application and submitting it alongside those of many other hopefuls. 

Unfortunately their response wasn’t what she hoped for.

Nina wasn’t deterred though, and remained dead set on joining the AirBnB team. As it turned out, their rejection inspired one of the most creative modern approaches to demonstrating value to a prospective employer that I’ve ever seen. 

Nina created an online holding page using Airbnb’s branding and on it posted a research-based infographic she’d created from scratch. 

On it she detailed; 

  • Her understanding of Airbnb and its values; 
  • Six areas where she felt she could provide value to the Airbnb team, and;
  • A gap she’d identified in the global tourism market where Airbnb didn’t have extensive presence.

The crown jewel of this report was, of course, her final point and it’s a spectacular piece of work. 

Not only did she identify that Airbnb had only a minor presence in the Middle-East, but she broke down why the market had significant potential value, how Airbnb could begin entering that market and even listed 9 potential partners that Airbnb could collaborate with to get the ball rolling

She spared no detail and created a report as if she intended to present it directly to the company CEO in their boardroom…and she kinda did!

Nina tweeted the report direct to Airbnb, as well as to Airbnb’s CEO, Brian Chesky and CMO, Jonathan Mildenhall

Needless to say that did the trick. 

Ok. You floored me with this brilliance. We’ll set something up for us to meet.
I love your smarts. Very much.

— Jonathan Mildenhall (@Mildenhall) 21 April 2015

Not only did Nina get the interview that she hoped for from some seriously impressed directors, but her campaign garnered much social media attention.

This led to Nina receiving emails of interest from the tech giants Uber, UpWork and LinkedIn.

That attitude of using creativity to stand out from your competitors in such a bold way is something that always stuck with me.

When I talked about applying for my first communications role in ‘The story behind Inkbike’, I took inspiration from Nina and decided to format my cover letter and CV in the style of our company branding. 

That was one of the best things that I could have done. 

As it turned out, by choosing to format my application in that way, I’d demonstrated that I could perform several of the main responsibilities that the position required (in this case; the ability to recreate company branding, write in the company tone of voice and a level of creativity in delivering messages). 

This meant that they had confidence in me as a candidate before I’d actually spoken to anyone in that room, despite having no significant professional experience in the field.

I feel that there’s such a good lesson to be learned from Nina’s story, and it’s one that isn’t just for creatives. 

The importance is in realising that traditional routes of securing employment aren’t always the most effective. Sometimes finding the courage to try something a little different is the best way to get results. 

When Nina originally applied for a position at Airbnb, her application clearly didn’t do the proper job of demonstrating the level of value she’d be able to add if she were employed.

That isn’t a poor reflection of Nina’s ability to write an application. When you fill one out, you never know who else you’re up against or even how much attention your application is getting from the reviewer after you’ve sent it through.

Sometimes it pays to do something a little extra to get across to an employer that you’re the right person for the job.

You can be damn sure that your competition isn’t going to think of doing anything other than fill in their application; so it just becomes a question of whether you’re willing to invest a little extra time to be certain that you’ll stand out, and whether you recognise that you have the opportunity to do so.

Besides, by giving something like that a try you have absolutely nothing to lose. At worst, you’ll have spend some time creating a report or graphic which you can use as your very own template for impressing future employers.

I also totally appreciate that the execution of Nina’s seems to inherently require extensive creative skills and this can make it seem intimidating to people without a background in design –  but the idea behind it is something that could be executed by anyone. 

What Nina did wouldn’t need to be recreated exactly in order be effective, anyone that doesn’t find the idea of creating and designing a holding page attractive can instead create an infographic for example.

Tools like Canva are free to use and make creative design accessible to anyone with an internet connection. 

Since it offers exactly one metric sh*t ton of infographic templates to help you as well as a drag-and-drop style of design (meaning you don’t need extensive training or skill to create professional quality products), it leaves the design aspect suddenly more achievable.

That way, instead of sending a link for a holding page to your company of choice, you can just send your infographic as an image instead.

The only thing left to do is research – research the business, what they do and what their competitors are doing.

Look at the marketing materials of their competitors – does it look like someone else has recognised an opportunity that the company you want to work for might have missed? 

See what you can come up with after a couple hours of research and you might be amazed with what you find.

The main takeaway that I want you to have is that, without needing to spend a single penny and just with access to the internet, you can create an opportunity to get attention from employers in a way that very few people are taking advantage of. 

Nina’s campaign provides a framework for that.

I personally took inspiration from aspects of Nina’s campaign in applications I’ve submitted, and it was one of the best things I could have done to progress my career. I truly, truly believe that it could do the same for you.

Need a little more inspiration? Great! That just gives me the perfect segue into an interview I’m incredibly excited to present in this issue. 

Bethany Thielen is a brilliant creative from San Fransisco who decided that the traditional model for seeking employment just wasn’t worth the bother – and instead created the Hire Bethany campaign to stop her having to get in touch with businesses, and make them contact her directly instead. 

Read here to learn more about her brilliant journey.


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