Time to Hit Pause on Video Resumes

I recently became aware of a recruiting innovation: the online video resume. The first site offering these is RecruiTV. Video resumes have been around for decades but had little popularity because of the logistics of creating, distributing, and viewing them.

However, now anyone can get a webcam for under $50. Distributing videos online is simple, so video resumes are going mainstream. While it sounds like an interesting idea, their value is somewhat questionable and in fact, could be downright detrimental to the recruiting process.

Defining the Video Resume

While a video resume introduces applicants on camera, the value such visual imagery adds is debatable. A text resume allows for specific pieces of information to be parsed out and compared across candidates. When the information is delivered verbally, recruiters need to glean the details themselves.

This can be tedious and time-consuming given that there’s no way to jump between sections of the “resume.” I also doubt that many recruiters are eager to watch hours of amateur video. Candidates often demonstrate an acute case of verbal diarrhea, carrying on endlessly in rambling sentences that would test the patience of Job.

Instead, the video resume could be used to augment a text resume since it may provide certain other information about the individual that can’t be assessed from a text resume. For example, an individual may be able to demonstrate exceptional communication skills.

Or a video resume may help where a candidate wants to demonstrate a specific skill that cannot be described well in text. This may only be relevant to an extremely limited number of occupations (no prizes for guessing what those are). In one case, a candidate applying for jobs at political lobbying firms created a political ad, featuring himself. That’s creative but it’s hard to envision equivalents for jobs in accounting, HR, engineering, or law.

Candidates wanting to differentiate themselves by showing some creativity in their presentations may find this quite a challenge since creativity isn’t an innate or easily acquired skill.

A casual review of available video resumes shows that creativity most frequently means some attempt at humor. Humor works in a traditional advertisement, but applicants might come off looking foolish. Add in the fact that most people are not comfortable in front of a camera, and you begin to wonder why anyone would do it.

Recognizing the Pitfalls

Video resumes are being pitched as a unique way for candidates to market themselves, but that doesn’t necessarily make them a useful device for employers. There isn’t any legislation or guidance around the use of video resumes, but the EEOC is already warning employers not to let any information related to race, gender, or disability affect hiring decisions.

Someone should enlighten the agency that most recruiters (in fact, most people) can, after reviewing a resume, partially describe a candidate’s demographic profile. But that doesn’t mean they let it influence their decisions.

If candidates get rejected based on their video resumes, it’s more likely because they came across as unprofessional or worse, as a dim bulb because of their attempts at creativity.

Nonetheless, this is an area of significant uncertainty today. We do not know if viewing an individual’s video resume makes them a “candidate” in the legal sense and it’s not likely to be known for a long time.

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It’s not a reach to believe that a creative lawyer can make a case for discrimination if it’s known a video resume was viewed before an individual was rejected. Given how easy it is to find out where someone has been on the Web, recruiters may want to use an anonymizer to mask their IP address before browsing through video resumes.

It wouldn’t hurt if video resumes included a transcript of the presenter’s speech. That could be kept along with other documents relating to a candidate and make a recruiter’s job much easier. Since that’s not the case today, anyone receiving a link to a video resume should demand it, or else be prepared to take detailed notes.

There’s also the technical limitation that there’s no way to download the files for archival or capture a video resume in an applicant tracking system. That would be unreasonable to expect, given how new the concept is, but it’s still a problem. This is not a minor issue, and in an audit, it could be impossible to justify selection decisions without the original video.

Since there are no standards for video resumes, candidates may end up revealing information they would never include on a text resume. Most candidates (at least in this country) know not to mention personal details or things unrelated to their professional life on a resume. There’s a generally agreed upon structure that’s widely known and usually respected. But there’s no such limitation on video resumes. A candidate can say anything, and it would have to be included as part of their record.

Conclusion

For highly sought-after jobs, video resumes may help candidates distinguish themselves from the rest of the monkey troop.

But employers and recruiters need to consider the ramifications of accepting and viewing video resumes. If your business card doesn’t have a rabbit’s head, an elephant, or the Comedy Central logo, you might want to stay away from video resumes for now.

Frankly, these exist because the technology allows them to be created easily, not because they represent some great innovation or add anything to improve recruiting. Recruiting processes are designed to include highly structured elements to ensure consistency. Video resumes are, for now, at odds with the requirements of structured processes.

Due to the current explosion of online video sharing, it is inevitable that video resumes will make their way into your recruiting universe. Do you have the policies and procedures in place to deal with jobseekers’ non-traditional tools?

Just be glad we don’t have video job postings. But who knows what the future holds?

Raghav Singh, director of analytics at Korn Ferry Futurestep, has developed and launched multiple software products and held leadership positions at several major recruiting technology vendors. His career has included work as a consultant on enterprise HR systems and as a recruiting and HRIT leader at several Fortune 500 companies. Opinions expressed here are his own.

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