Is it Time to Make a Video Resume?

Last Updated Jan 18, 2011 9:24 AM EST

You want every edge you can get in applying for a job right now. And you want to prove your social media bona fides. A video resume could help you do both, right?

Not so fast.

True, the idea is already going mainstream. Tufts University now allows students to include a supplementary video as part of the application process, and big players in the advertising industry have set up a contest where hopefuls can leverage a clever video into a freelance gig at a top agency. With these hints of real world respectability and corporate America's all around obsession with new media, a candidate could be forgiven for thinking, What have I got to lose?

But there are four questions to consider before you fire up the video camera:

  • Do you look the part? One of the advantages of the traditional resume is that it has a high signal to noise ration -- employers can get a sense of your abilities and experience without being distracted by, for example, a piece of broccoli stuck in your teeth. Not everyone looks like a given employer's dream candidate, after all. Recruiting blog Fistful of Talent makes this point from the employer's perspective: "the fact that you have already [seen] their resume and heard their communications skills/energy over the phone will allow you to give them a chance, even if they don't look the part."
  • Is your video worth the time? Resumes are generally a page or less for a reason -- hiring managers are chronically pressed for time. So before you bother to create a video resume, you should probably consider if the content will justify the time it would take a potential employer to watch the thing. Unless there's a specific reason a video is called for (it's a broadcasting position, say, and your on-air persona is key) or you'd like to show off your exceptional production or design skills, you're likely to be wasting everyone's time. As Ask the Headhunter blogger Nick Corcodilos reports, your video resume is likely to be simply ignored. Also worth considering is whether your industry is ready for video. You'll probably have more luck sending your efforts to a funky, new media savvy communications agency than an old school manufacturer.
  • Are you exposing potential employers to legal challenges? In 2007, Time reported that video resumes could raise legal issues. George Lenard, an employment lawyer, said he could "envision a case centered on 'disparate impact.' If an employer requires applications by video, then those without video cameras and broadband-equipped computers might argue they lacked access." These concerns continue.
  • Are you prepared for the risk of your video going viral? A lame video resume can be extremely lame and also easy to share. You don't want to forget the infamous case of Yale student Aleksey Vayner, whose awful video resume to UBS went viral and made him the laughing stock of Wall Street.
Still convinced that a video resume is right for the type of gig you're applying for? Don't be the next Aleksey by following these common sense tips:
  • Keep it professional. Sure, a video resume offers a looser, less structured format than a traditional CV, but don't use that extra rope to hang yourself. Keep the content strictly professional and follow the usual guidance about dress and presentation.
  • Add value. If all you're doing is reciting your written resume, what's the point? Your video resume should demonstrate something above and beyond what your paper resume conveys.
  • You're not applying to be the next Spielberg. Leave the special effects to the film professionals. On the other hand, you still have to make the thing visually appealing and interesting. Think this sounds like a tough tightrope to walk? You're absolutely right.
  • Bragging is annoying. This isn't all about you, it's about what you can do for the company. Actually watching someone sing their own praises is even more off-putting then reading an overly boastful email or cover later. Sell yourself but beware coming off as a jerk.
  • Size matters (and so does format). No one wants your resume to take up half their hard drive. If you send a file, make sure it's a manageable size. Also consider if it can be played on both a Mac and a PC.
Take all these considerations into account, stir in a bit of taste and video tech savvy and you might just succeed like the guy in the video embedded below, which won raves from Forbes. But beware, a Google search for video resumes turns up far more horror shows than shining examples. Video resumes are among the trickiest job search tools to get right.

Or, if you're convinced that sending out video resumes isn't the way to go, don't just leave your camera sitting around collecting dust. Check out our post on other ways you can use YouTube videos as part of your job hunt.
(Image courtesy of Flickr user jsawkins, CC 2.0)

  • Jessica Stillman On Twitter»

    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.