IT Hiring Goes Multimedia

IT job seekers embrace social media, video and graphics to enhance their resumes and set themselves apart from other job applicants.

Tim Ondrey has glimpsed the future of the job-search market, and it's going multimedia.

One of his friends used a blog and a 30-second video to apply for a marketing job, and another, an IT colleague, interviewed via Skype for a developer position.

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Ondrey figures it's just a matter of time before he -- and everyone else -- uses more than just an old-fashioned resume to land a job.

"I'm kind of nervous about it, but we're all going to be in that same boat, figuring out what works and what doesn't," says Ondrey, an active member of the IBM user group Share. An applications report specialist at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Ondrey isn't currently looking for a job, but, like a lot of people, he keeps an eye on the market.

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What he's seeing is that video, graphics and social media are becoming part of the job-search landscape. Recruiters and hiring managers say younger workers, who grew up online and use FaceTime more than landlines, are more apt to show off their assets via personal websites, blogs, videos and online portfolios with embedded examples of current work and links to online communities in which they're active.

It's no coincidence that LinkedIn recently began encouraging its users to amp up their profiles with videos, illustrations, photography and presentations. And Toronto startup Vizualize.me has attracted 200,000 users to its tool, still in beta, that turns text-based resumes into online infographics.

"People are open to new formats, new ways of presenting credentials," says John Reed, senior executive director of Robert Half Technology, an IT staffing firm based in Menlo Park, Calif. "People are trying to figure out how to stand out in the crowd, how to bring life to their profile and experience, and they're using social media tools to do that."

Reed says that neither he nor his colleagues have seen many applicants submit videos yet. And the videos they have seen function more like cover letters than resumes. "The videos are, 'Let me introduce myself before you look at my resume,'" Reed says. "The companies look at it and say, 'That's cool, that's an interesting twist, that makes the candidate stand out.'"

That's the thinking at Hire IT People, a Washington-based staffing firm. Owner Dan Nandan says Hire IT People is turning to videos as a way to showcase its IT talent.

"We felt they'd have a more powerful impact if a video resume was submitted" in addition to the traditional paper CV, Nandan says. "And it's working," he adds, explaining that well-done videos presenting candidates' skills and background "definitely make a big impact."

Nandan recently worked with Neeraj Uppal, an IT project manager who had made a video in which he talked about his background. The Hire IT People staff used the video to evaluate Uppal and were impressed enough to recommend him to a client company. That led to the conventional application process, with Uppal sending a text resume, then interviewing and getting the job, a contract position.

"I don't know if he was hired based [only] on the video, but it made an impression," Nandan says. "It gets people's attention. If I get 50 emails, and there's one that says, 'Please watch my video,' I will watch the video first."

Video can also function as a second chance for IT hopefuls whose resumes might otherwise be rejected by scanning software looking for specific keywords to quickly -- if not always accurately -- match people's qualifications with open positions. Those candidates might be able to catch a hiring manager's eye with a well-crafted video pitch (see box, below).

Video Interviews, Pros and Cons

Video is more than just a resume enhancer; it's playing a larger part in the entire hiring process. For example, many companies now conduct first-round interviews via Skype or other videoconferencing technologies, rather than holding in-person meetings, to save time and money while still getting a sense of candidates' interpersonal qualities.

Some companies also screen candidates by asking job applicants to record and submit videos in which they answer specific questions. "That's where I've seen a greater evolution on the video side, because the convenience factor is tremendous," says Dan Pollock, a senior vice president at tech staffing firm Modis.

Modis acts as a middleman in the video screening process. Typically, a hiring company comes up with five to 10 questions and passes them on to Modis, which invites candidates to its offices to record videos in which they answer the questions. Some candidates choose to record the videos on their own, but Pollock says Modis can ensure that the audio and visual quality are up to par when it handles the recording. The firm uses a hosted system from HireVue that allows Modis to set a time limit for each response (three minutes) and control the number of retakes (one).

Hiring managers can then view the videos at their convenience. "It's much more tailored to the position that they're trying to fill," Pollock says, adding that the videos also show hiring managers whether candidates know their stuff, can think on their feet and can communicate concisely.

Others say video interviews -- either live or prerecorded -- help hiring mangers winnow out candidates who might have Googled answers during phone interviews, as well as those who lack interpersonal skills, which are important for IT professionals who interact with customers, corporate executives or the public.

Tips for Job Hunters

Video Do's & Don'ts

If you plan to submit a video as part of a job application or online profile, or if you've been asked to take part in an interview via videoconferencing, here's what you need to think about before you turn on that camera:

aC/ Keep it short. Hiring managers who don't have time for multipage resumes won't have time for lengthy videos or rambling responses.

aC/ Pick a professional, quiet spot. Stay out of Starbucks. And your bedroom.

aC/ Have a solid or bland background. Check behind you for distracting artwork, offensive material and unkempt home offices. (Hiring managers say they have indeed seen all of those during video interviews.)

aC/ Maintain eye contact by sitting still and looking into the camera. Don't fidget or multitask. Such behavior wouldn't fly in an in-person interview, so it wouldn't be acceptable in a video interview or presentation.

aC/ Dress as you would for a face-to-face interview. For those who need reminding, that means business attire suitable to the position and the company's culture.

aC/ Guard against interruptions. Shut off your phone. Give the dog a bone, and make sure no one comes knocking at the door.

aC/ Don't forget to smile.

- Mary K. Pratt

On the other hand, some point to potential problems with using video to screen candidates. Some employers wonder if it would leave them more vulnerable to charges of discrimination, since they could more easily see traits (age or ethnicity, for example) that they shouldn't use to eliminate candidates. Other IT industry watchers worry that use of videos could lead hiring managers to favor job candidates with good presentation skills, even if they're filling jobs that don't necessarily require such skills. After all, coders don't need to come off well on camera to do a bang-up job.

Reed says such concerns keep many employers from using video. "Companies don't want to be susceptible to accusations," he says. He points out that candidates, too, often hesitate to use these tools because they're worried about where their videos will reside and for how long.

Resumes With Graphic, Social Flourishes

Those concerns aside, video is undoubtedly becoming more prevalent in the IT hiring process. It's just one of the multiple new formats and platforms that job hunters are beginning to utilize. "The resume hasn't changed in 40 years. It just feels like it's time for it to evolve, and technology is at a place where it's helping us evolve it," Pollock says.

Pollock says he's seeing candidates successfully use graphics to represent skill sets, responsibilities and accomplishments on, or as a supplement to, text-based resumes. Some IT professionals, particularly Web designers or UI and UX professionals, maintain online portfolios or submit links to their work.

Others, such as developers, point to their contributions to open-source communities like GitHub. And, of course, job hunters ignore at their peril the reach of LinkedIn and, to a lesser extent, other social media sites like Facebook, Google+ or even Instagram.

"[Hiring companies] want to see what people are doing within the tech community, the development space -- are they contributing? So I encourage people to have a strong digital profile as well as a resume. And LinkedIn is the primary tool for a strong digital profile," says Doug Schade, principal consultant in the software technology search division at WinterWyman, a Waltham, Mass.-based recruiting firm.

Schade says savvy candidates know how to leverage social media to separate themselves from the pack. They don't just paste traditional resumes into their LinkedIn profiles but rather focus on showcasing themselves with links and presentations that highlight their skills and accomplishments.

"There is an opportunity to be more robust with one's persona," Schade says, "because social media is used by hiring managers to gain more intel, gain more insight."

Web developer Avery Anderson, 27, gets that. A 2008 graduate of the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Mass., Anderson holds a degree in mechanical engineering, but she decided that wasn't the best fit for her after working in the field for a year.

Anderson did some contract work in robotics, and then in February 2010 she sought out a Web engineer position at an Internet startup for wine aficionados called Second Glass. "Web development seemed like a huge opportunity, but I didn't have a lot of experience, so I started with a personal website. It was like, 'See, I can make a website.' That got me in the door," says Anderson, who was hired right away.

When she left Second Glass in April 2012, Anderson turned to her website again, updating it to reflect more of her skills and personality. She says her site, along with her LinkedIn profile and her account at GitHub, got plenty of traffic; she estimates she was contacted by about 50 recruiters during her two-month job search, and those contacts led to nearly 10 interviews -- including some Skype sessions.

Anderson landed a software engineer job with Minerva Project, a startup that's building an elite online university. Although she was introduced to the organization through a roommate, she says she knows the company checked her out online before she even walked in the door. "People Internet-stalk everyone before meeting in person," she says.

And even though she's not looking for a new job now, she maintains her personal website to provide what she calls "a landing page" for people who want to know more about her and her work -- and that's particularly important because she's trying to gain more experience, recognition and speaking engagements.

"It's not just about what jobs you get. Every time you do things like that and work your way into the community more, you make yourself more valuable as an employable person, you build your reputation," she says.

Ondrey, the Marist College applications report specialist, says he and his colleagues are getting that message, so they're beefing up their online professional presences by posting or tweeting articles they find interesting along with their own commentary. They're updating their lists of skills and responsibilities on their resumes more frequently. And they're adding videos -- both their own and others that are relevant to their field of interest.

That fits with what's happening at Appirio, a San Francisco-based cloud technology company with 650 employees globally.

"We have definitely seen more candidates modify their resumes to include links to their social media profiles," says Jennifer Taylor, Appirio's senior vice president of HR. Resumes now include Twitter handles and links to LinkedIn profiles and blogs.

The process works both ways, Taylor says; she and her colleagues use social media to reach out to potential prospects. "Often we have found that it's through a Twitter conversation that one of our employees will identify someone in the ecosystem who is contributing unique ideas or products," she says. "We use those as an opportunity to say, 'Look at what this person is doing, we should start a conversation with this person.'"

And while Taylor says she hasn't yet received a video resume, she and her hiring managers use video to promote the company to prospective employees and to interview candidates -- something they do live using Skype, Google+ and occasionally GoToMeeting.

"We still believe that there is no replacement for face-to-face interviews, and we do make that a requirement before anyone is hired. But video is a very powerful format," she says. "It makes information about our company as available as possible, and it gets people familiar with us. It creates some rapport right off the bat. The candidate feels like they're getting to know us, and vice versa."

Pratt is a Computerworld contributing writer in Waltham, Mass. You can contact her at marykpratt@verizon.net.

This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an article that appeared earlier on Computerworld.com.

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This story, "IT Hiring Goes Multimedia" was originally published by Computerworld.

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