Recruiting on YouTube

Vendors selling products to recruiters as well as corporations trying to get the attention of job candidates are producing short, hip, fun videos that, deliberately or not, are winding up on the online video-sharing site YouTube.com.

Though not suitable for all audiences, this clip from Accolo sends the message that hiring the right person makes all the difference.

The video, produced to spoof a controversial Carl’s Jr. fast-food television advertisement starring Paris Hilton, was based on the premise that perhaps the rail-thin celebrity had neither washed a car nor eaten a hamburger in her life, according to John Younger, president and chief executive officer. The video was uploaded to an internal link ? the link was forwarded to a few friends, who let their friends know about it ? and within days, numerous news organizations were contacting the company and the video became an unexpected hit. Younger estimates that 17 million people have since seen the online video, a data figure that does not include television audiences.

Likewise, a Yahoo! HotJobs video found its way on to YouTube; the video is decidedly part of the old-school music-video route, complete with an in-house boy-band singing a catchy rap (“Tell me where to post, tell me where to post. HotJobs! HotJobs! Turn your search engines on!”) to convey the ultimate message: Yahoo! HotJobs is “where to post.”

However, unlike the Accolo video that was produced with corporate approval, until ERE contacted the company about this video, Yahoo! executives were apparently in the dark about how it had wound up online. It turns out the video was a skit put together for an internal sales event in June.

Although not pre-approved for mass viewing, “YouTube is part of the social media. Our policy is to let employees post what they want and be a part of that generation, within reason,” says a Yahoo! HotJobs spokesperson. “Although Yahoo! Video is our preferred destination, HotJobs is excited about what we offer and how we harness the Web as a marketing tool. We’re always looking for new, innovative ways to market ourselves.”

Another video is from Vurv, a company at the top of Workforce Management magazine’s “HotList” for its applicant tracking system (based on the number of clients using it). Unlike Accolo, which produced the video but didn’t post directly on YouTube, and Yahoo!, which apparently was in the dark about its online video, Vurv actually produced and uploaded its video two weeks ago.

In one of the company’s “webisodes,” “Uncle – The Performance Review,” the company paints a witty, irreverent view of itself, complete with the popular lighting and interviewing styles straight out of the hit NBC show, The Office.

In fact, Greg Wineman, brand manager, says word-of-mouth advertising led the company to join the YouTube trend. “People come across a video on YouTube and then they forward it to 10 friends.”

The video was produced completely in-house with its own equipment. Everyone featured in the video is a Vurv employee.

“Not only was it a great campaign idea, it was also a great way to cause buzz internally,” Wineman says. “Posting the video was a cheap way to get our message out; plus it’s free advertising and free brand building. You couldn’t ask for a better combination.”

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The Jacksonville, Florida, company says each webisode is connected to a different product. The company says its next video is titled “Pick a Number” and examines the “offboarding” experience. It’s in the process of producing it now, and hopes to have it completed in the next few days. It plans on following up with an onboarding video, then a compensation video. The idea is to create a video that highlights each product offering from the company.

The company says its move to these online “webisodes” is based on viral marketing. “We spend tons of money on traditional advertising ? print ads, electronic ads, email blasts, banner ads, etc. ? and we had a feeling that we could get a similar response out of this type of marketing. So far it seems like we have,” Wineman says.

From another category, the corporate-recruiting video aimed at candidates, comes one from Google. Google hopes that engineering grads would relish the thought of signing with Google and instantaneously becoming the coolest person at cocktail parties while a crowd gathers ’round, intently listening to the secrets of GMail’s origins.

Google’s engineering director Jenn Fitzpatrick narrates a video that sells a happy lifestyle in the San Francisco Bay area, good weather, nice people, effective mentoring, and exciting work. During the course of the video, Fitzpatrick steals a moment with a colleague, a four-year Google veteran who exclaims that it’s great “working on a product that millions of people are using! It’s fun to go to a party and meet people who use GMail, which I worked on for over a year.”

The company uses this opportunity to share other benefits, such as the free organic snacks, gym, and outdoor volleyball field. Yet this video is not only aimed at younger grads. To attract working parents, the video features a new mom, previously recruited from a small start-up, who enjoyed a 75%-paid, 12-week maternity leave, before returning to work with flex hours and on-site daycare.

Blurring the Professional Line?

Whether companies should avoid or embrace YouTube is still up for debate. “You get into the visual story online. The twenty-somethings are bored with static text,” says John Williamson, IT manager and webmaster of candidate recruiting at Williamson Employment Services in St. Joseph, Michigan. “The newest group coming up cut their teeth on nothing but video games; static text is not catching their attention as much as something that moves. This generation is used to five gigabyte downloads per second and don’t realize we used to have 56K, if we were lucky. I am 50 and prefer my media to be text.”

From videos that are salacious to serious to downright silly, some critics point to the fact that less-than-strict standards mean that anyone can post a video on YouTube. For example, in order to find every legitimate Google or Vurv posting, it’s nearly impossible to skip the South Park parodies or a political sound-bite.

“But what isn’t blurring that line these days?” Williamson asks. “Is it that much different than news shows that have as much flash and funny as they do actual data? It’s the direction in which our culture is moving. We have to keep people entertained, in most cases. The downside is that the true data-per-minute is going down because the amount of entertainment content has to go up,” Williamson says. “It’s a shame, but especially a shame when companies do this and don’t make a conscious effort to think out the alternative and what they are losing for what they are getting. How much hard information can you transmit in a video format?”

Elaine Rigoli has nearly 15 years of experience managing content and community for various B2B and consumer websites. Elaine has written thousands of business and technology articles and has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal and eWeek, among other publications.

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