With the popularity of YouTube and the proliferation of digital video, creative job-seekers are beginning to send short clips known as video résumés presenting their qualifications to potential employees to distinguish themselves from the legions of other applicants.
By Meridith Levinson
Two years ago, Sean Ebner received an e-mail from a job applicant that included a link to a website. Ebner, the vice president of professional services for IT staffing firm Spherion, was familiar with the candidate, who wanted to transfer from Spherion in Canada to a position as an account executive in its Phoenix, Ariz., office, having already received her résumé and cover letter.
Intrigued by the link, Ebner clicked it and uploaded a 55-second video that featured the candidate, Gina Hanson (then Perkins), talking up her background and interest in the account executive position with Spherion. The video ended with her politely asking for an opportunity to fly to Phoenix, Ariz., to meet with Ebner and his team in person.
Ebner had never seen anything like it. Impressed with the confidence, initiative and professionalism that Hanson demonstrated in her video, Ebner brought her in for an interview.
Had Hanson not followed up her résumé and cover letter with her impressive little video, she might never have gotten an interview with the VP. Ebner says that when he first received her résumé, he saw that she was a Canadian citizen and was therefore less inclined to consider her because of the complexities around hiring foreign workers. The video made him realize that Hanson was worth getting to know.
“She recognized that as a Canadian citizen she’d have a tougher time getting a job and that I had other résumés to look at. She used this technology to get me off the dime and to move herself up as a potential candidate,” says Ebner.
The video Hanson produced did exactly what she intended it to do: It distinguished her from the other job-seekers vying for the position, and it helped her convey why Ebner should consider her for the job.
“Creating that video and being able to have him see me and my demeanor definitely gave me an advantage because I lived so far away,” says Hanson. “I knew I needed to impress them in order to invest in flying me out to Phoenix, and I thought the video would make a strong statement about my interest.”
In the age of YouTube, job-seekers armed with webcams and digital videocameras are now beginning to tap into their inner Tarantino and take advantage of the power of video to help them score interviews and ultimately land jobs. They’re creating one- to two- minute presentations, during which they summarize the skills, experience and qualifications they possess that make them the ideal candidate for an open position. The idea of the video résumé is to give the hiring manager a better sense of the individual behind the paper résumé, so it’s a supplement to traditional curriculum vitae-not a replacement. As Hanson’s experience shows, it can be an effective way for candidates to distinguish themselves, provided they create polished, professional clips. But video résumés do have their drawbacks: They’re not for everyone, including some IT professionals, and the emphasis they place on looks may make some employers fearful of discrimination claims.
A Nascent Trend
The growth of online video, coupled with the prevalence of digital cameras and video technology, has set the stage for the emergence of video résumés. WorkBlast, a Web-based company that launched in 2006, is looking to capitalize on the trend. Its website, Workblast.com, hosts and showcases job-seekers’ video résumés in much the same way that Monster.com serves as a clearinghouse for traditional résumés.
Speaking of Monster, a spokesperson for the online job board says the company is exploring the use of video for job-seekers. CareerBuilder launched a video résumé service in June 2007. Liz Harvey, CareerBuilder’s consumer products director, says her company had been considering featuring video résumés on its site for at least four years. “We were waiting for the market to be right to implement. With the advent of YouTube and the acceptance of short form video and it being so easy for people to create, it seemed like the right time to move forward with this product,” she says.
A CareerBuilder.com survey of more than 2,200 hiring managers and human resources professionals conducted in November and December 2006 found that 60 percent of respondents expressed some interest in viewing video résumés of potential candidates. Of the 6,000 workers CareerBuilder polled about their willingness to post a video résumé, nearly half (49 percent) said they’d do it.
Those survey numbers haven’t yet translated into a game-changing juggernaut for job-seekers and hiring managers. Bill Wiseley, client relations expert with IT staffing firm Xsell Resources, says less than 2 percent of his firm’s clients ask for video résumés from candidates, and only about one percent of the 100 to 1,000 candidates his firm interacts with each week offer them. Spherion’s Ebner says he’s received only about seven video résumés over the past two years from job prospects. Robert Urwiler, the CIO of Vail Resorts, says he’s never received one.
Nevertheless, Wiseley and Ebner think video résumés could take off. “I think we’ll see more of this in the coming days because the technology is so much cheaper and more readily available,” says Ebner.
Those professionals who do create and send video résumés while they’re still something of a novelty may have an edge over the competition. “E-mailing a video is more novel [than a paper résumé], and folks are more likely to click on a link to check out a video than to open a Word doc with someone’s unsolicited résumé,” says Ebner.
Indeed, Urwiler says if a candidate sent him a video in addition to a traditional résumé, he’d be “very likely” to check out the clip. “If I liked the presentation coupled with the information in writing, the candidate with the video would find themselves differentiated from the rest of the candidates in the pool. It would give them an advantage from a screening process standpoint,” he says.
The Medium Is the Message
Job-seekers complain that even though they have more ways to distribute their résumés today than they had 10 years ago, it’s even tougher for them to capture hiring managers’ and HR professionals’ attention. They also complain about those decision-makers’ inability to respond to their e-mails and return their phone calls. Thus, the Internet has actually made it harder for job-seekers to stand out, but video résumés could change that.
The beauty of the video résumé is that it communicates an individual’s personality in addition to highlighting their skills, experience and professional background. “It expresses a candidate’s intangible qualities that don’t come across in a paper résumé,” says Nick Murphy, CEO of WorkBlast. “It’s almost like a first interview.”
Since companies look as much for an individual’s fit with a team as her skills, video résumés can go a long way toward representing what a candidate is really like, her social skills, how she presents herself and how she might mesh with a team. Because video résumés offer more dimension, hiring managers can more quickly decide whether they want to bring in the candidate for an interview. (For more information on the benefits of video résumés to employers, see How Video Resumes Can Save Employers Time and Money When Hiring.)
Video résumés also demonstrate that candidates are innovative because they’re taking advantage of a new technology, says Ebner.
Discerning a candidate’s professionalism and creativity is increasingly important for some positions in IT, such as business analysts and developers working on customer-facing applications, says Vail Resorts’ CIO Urwiler.
“We’ve all experienced the interview where someone looks great on paper and sounds great on the phone, but when you get them in the office [for an interview], it’s just not working,” says Urwiler. “Although I have not personally experienced the use of video to augment résumés in practice yet, I can clearly see how a video clip might convey the sense of professionalism and ability to communicate that we strive to find in IT candidates today yet is hard to convey on a résumé.”
What makes video résumés so compelling-their immediacy and visual presentation of the candidates-is also what makes them something of a hot potato for job-seekers and employers. Both note that video résumés-and the individuals screening them-potentially put too much emphasis on a candidate’s looks.
“Opportunities for discrimination increase with the use of video just as when candidates include photos or other personal data on applications or résumés,” says Urwiler. “Managers have to be well aware of the dangers of only screening people who look like them.”
If HR professionals decide the risks associated with video résumés outweigh the benefits, they won’t embrace the concept, and video résumés won’t do job-seekers any good. On the other hand, at a time when the competition for qualified workers-especially in IT-is particularly stiff, video résumés can, by expediting the screening process, make employers more likely to embrace the technology because it gives them an edge, too. It saves them time and money, says Wiseley.
Doing It Right
Just as a good video résumé can give a candidate a leg up, a sloppy one can do more harm than good. Wiseley says his firm would think twice about sending a candidate to a client if that candidate presented an unprofessional video résumé.
So just what makes for a good video résumé? Clarity, concision and enthusiasm, say experts and practitioners. A picture’s worth a thousand words.
Gautam Banerjee, an electrical engineer based in Los Angeles, Calif., produced a slick, two-plus-minute clip that won Vault.com’s best video résumé contest in May 2007. In his video, Banerjee touches on his educational background and a formative experience he had working in Japan. He also communicates his passion for media and technology. Jump cuts and different shots of him in front of the camera bring energy and personality to his presentation. (For more advice on how to produce snappy video résumés, see Seven Tips for Creating an Effective Video Resume.)
But video résumés don’t have to be as splashy as Banerjee’s to be make their point. Gina Hanson’s short piece was straightforward. She simply reiterated her background and her interest in the account executive position, and showing gumption, she ended with a wish to fly out to Phoenix for an interview. (Hanson declined to share her video with CIO.com, feeling it was too dated to present.)
Hanson’s gumption was exactly what Ebner was looking for. She went the extra mile, he says. “I get broadcast e-mails that begin, ‘Dear Madam or Sir.’ Her video was specifically tailored to my organization and the role I was filling,” he says.