Video Resumes Revisited

Recently, I wrote about video resumes and their somewhat dubious value to recruiters. But a recent conversation with John Sumser has prompted me to expand on what I wrote, since maybe video resumes need a second look.

In my earlier commentary, I said I was unclear about anyone’s motivation for creating a video resume, given that the resume is often unflattering to the candidate. These resumes are amateur videos, usually produced without any script or editing and are far from the slickly produced ads for politicians. The overall effect can be the opposite of what a candidate intends; instead of impressing recruiters, a candidate may turn them off. Then again, well-produced video resumes don’t necessarily work either. (Just ask John Kerry.)

But video resumes are likely to grow in popularity, given their appeal to the crowd that frequents sites like MyFace, SpacedOutBook, etc. A video resume is the antithesis of a paper resume. And what is a paper resume but a document that has been stripped of all personality and is the fa?ade the candidate presents in hopes of ensuring that a search engine will lock on to the key words and move them to the top of the list.

When jobs are scarce, candidates make every effort to hide any sign they don’t fit. Show your authentic self, quirks and all, and you risk being summarily rejected. When jobs are plentiful, as they are now and are likely to be for a while, candidates know they are in the driver’s seat.

I’m reminded of the late ’90s when we last saw such a situation. At the time, a Fortune cover story featured a candidate who demanded as a hiring condition that his employer give him a place to bring his pet parrot to work. Problems ensued: the parrot didn’t like the employee spending time on the phone and would start screaming and biting. And it used the employee’s desk as a bathroom. Apparently it was worth it to the company; desperate times call for desperate measures.

The recession of 2000 to 2002 erased most employers’ memories of those days, given how candidates are generally treated today. So much of hiring resembles a game of liars’ poker, with each side trying to figure out what the other is doing while hiding some information about themselves.

Half of all resumes are estimated to contain some false information or outright lies. Employers routinely hide embarrassing facts about their organization or anything they consider has the potential to turn off a prospective employee. Candidates tolerate this when they have no choice, but with demand for candidates exceeding supply there’s no need for them to put up with it.

Enter the video resume: a manifestation of all that a candidate is. It would admittedly be easier for recruiters if candidates could just be slotted into nice little boxes and we didn’t have to deal with any outliers, but that is not going to happen.

Like it or not, we need to accept the new reality. That doesn’t mean we have to relinquish all control. The recommendations I made in my last article, such as demanding a transcript of a video resume, still apply. Our hiring processes will have to adapt to include these and that will not be easy. Creativity is not encouraged or supported by our systems.

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I recall a visit to a resume-processing vendor who showed me a resume submitted for a marketing job at P&G. The resume resembled a box of Tide. It literally was a three-dimensional box. The vendor had no idea what to do with it. I assume the candidate never even made it into the hiring process. This is an extreme example, but the point is that we have virtually no capability to deal with anything that’s outside some very narrow boundaries.

This is exactly what we confront with video resumes today. Hiring is still very much a structured process and we have to make video resumes work within those confines. There are technologies emerging to address this need.

HireVue is one company that has launched a service that eliminates many of the barriers to using video resumes. Their process provides structure by limiting candidates to addressing specific questions, allowing for comparisons across candidates, and preserving a permanent record of the results. The service is really more of a video interview, but then a video resume is basically just an interview as well, with no structure. HireVue’s service gives the recruiter much more control, as well as an archive to help with in an audit.

Other solutions are also emerging. PeopleScreening gives candidates the ability to create a structured video resume and a virtual-interview wizard that walks job seekers through the most common interview questions. Once the job seeker completes the process, they can distribute both an attached resume and the video resume link directly from the PeopleScreening website. There’s even a teleprompter.

Video resumes will only gain in popularity. They may help employers hire better and have other benefits as well. Knowing that candidates are more than the sum of their work experience and education could even expand diversity to where it actually has some real relevance.

We may laugh at what many video resumes show today, but they will improve as standards develop as to what’s acceptable and technologies evolve to help staffing deal with them, as is already happening. What is certain is that they are here to stay.

Raghav Singh, director of analytics in Korn Ferry's products group, has developed and launched multiple software products and held leadership positions at several major recruiting technology vendors. His current role includes developing data and analytics products to support candidate sourcing. 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.