Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Video Resumes

Video resumes and video interviews are here. Yet some employers, afraid of the legal ramifications of reviewing videos of people in the hiring process, are curling up into the fetal position and taking steps to avoid them altogether. Here’s why you should do the exact opposite and fully embrace them.

I recently had a conversation with a director of recruiting at a large organization who said that he had just put a policy in place to reject all video resumes. “And why would you do that?” I asked.

“Because I don’t want the EEOC or OFCCP breathing down our necks and want to be protected if we are ever sued for discrimination,” was his response.

As I’m about to illustrate, legally protecting yourself from video resumes or interviews would require locking all of your recruiters and hiring managers in a broom closet with a copy of the Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership.

I also fully expect pigs to fly well before the EEOC or OFCCP can develop sensible regulations that address the unique challenges presented by these new tools. This is exactly why you should embrace them for all of the benefits they can provide to hiring managers, recruiters, and candidates.

What Videos Can Do for You, Your Hiring Managers, and Candidates

Within the discourse on video resumes, I think we’re really talking about two different things here: video resumes and video interviews.

A video resume is something that someone uses to talk about their experiences as part of an online resume. It’s essentially an advertising tool for the job seeker. A video interview is something that an employer initiates to get a better feel for a candidate’s competence to do the job.

In short, a video resume can help you learn more about a person than you can on a resume, without expecting the candidate to undergo formal questioning or having them take the time to answer questions you design.

This may sound superficial, but sometimes you just know that someone’s not going to work out; every recruiter I know tells me stories about candidates who looked great on paper, sounded just great over the phone, but were loony tunes in person.

Recruiters won’t ever have time to sort through hours of video, but if videos are tied to resumes or profiles that provide more structured data, the unstructured video portion of their profile helps fill in some details that the resume wouldn’t (for example, if it’s a job that requires executive presentation skills, can the person deliver information on themselves confidently and credibly?).

Video interviews, like those provided by HireVUE or (coming soon) InterviewStudio, can save you the time and expense of flying in candidates for interviews, lengthen your memory about the interviews you had earlier in the hiring process (people who interview later in the process usually have a better shot than those who preceded them), and provide a more courteous experience for candidates, who can avoid flying all the way across the country for roles that they’re destined to bomb in the interview process.

There might be some shades of gray in between, such as a video resume that includes answers to stock interview questions. See The Vault’s recent contest winners for an example, most of whom treated the opportunity to create a video resume as more of an interview than anything. To be fair, the contest was for investment bankers, and we all know the danger of getting too personal or cocky with your video resume in that industry.

Why Your Recruiters Can’t Avoid Them

Video resumes can be anywhere, which is why your recruiters and hiring managers simply can’t avoid them.

Video resumes can pop up on YouTube or any number of sites like The Vault, Resume Movie, TalkingCV, personal websites, or even Jobster, which was recently one of the first major career sites to allow video resumes within profiles.

Unless you keep your recruiters off the Internet altogether, which would be foolish given the number of great candidates out there and the fact that some recruiting inevitably happens on home computers, you really can’t keep them from seeing video resumes.

So your range of options for regulating this phenomenon are:

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  • Discourage people from sending video resumes. But candidates are famous for taking whatever advice you give them and doing the exact opposite in large numbers.
  • Don’t accept video resumes. You can write whatever policy you like on this, but someone, somewhere is still going to receive a video resume. I’m not a rule breaker, but if I got one I’d look at it. Curiosity is a powerful thing.
  • Tell your recruiters to close their eyes. You might even give them a video resume blindfold that they can put on anytime they accidentally click on a link.

All of these policies are clearly unenforceable. The underlying fear here is that people in your company will discriminate against someone because of race, age, gender, and any number of other, more superficial factors not related to this person’s ability to do the job.

Well, there are plenty of other opportunities to do this, like job fairs, networking events, chance encounters with candidates, blind dates, and of course interviews just to name a few. You might as well outlaw recruiting if your goal is to eliminate all places where a subjective and discriminatory judgment could be made.

Why the EEOC and OFCCP Can’t Regulate Them

Any time a new technology comes out, you can bet dollars to doughnuts that someone in the recruiting industry will immediately start asking about how this will be viewed by the EEOC or OFCCP.

I know that risk avoidance and mitigation are necessary parts of our business, but come on, people. I’m not saying we shouldn’t look before we leap, but let’s not let it get in the way of figuring out how a new technology can add value in our recruiting process and to our constituents.

I would argue that video resumes simply can’t be regulated by the EEOC or OFCCP. It would be rather foolish for them to try. Any attempts at regulations are also likely a long way away. Keep in mind that these are the organizations that took 12 years to define an Internet applicant.

The OFCCP’s much-publicized recent guidance in the Internet-applicant arena sent companies scurrying to figure out how they start tracking every single search their recruiters perform. This is close to impossible given the number of sources a recruiter may search, from their own applicant tracking system to Google, Windows Live, or Yahoo!, at home in their pajamas late at night while watching The Matrix trilogy.

I can only imagine their guidance on the definition of a video-resume applicant. Any link to that video must be captured in the applicant-tracking system; a transcript of what the individual said must be documented along with their gender, ethnicity, race, and clothing preferences; and all websites with videos that recruiters visit (at home or at work) must be retrievable at any given time.

Whether you like it or not, a candidate might one day (if they haven’t already) use a video resume in a lawsuit against your company. They could argue that, because their video resume is out on the open Web, your recruiters might have seen it and their appearance, gender, ethnicity, etc. is why they didn’t get interviewed or offered the job. It would be quite hard to prove that your recruiters never saw it.

Perhaps there’s some good that can come out of this. Instead of focusing on how we restrict access to information that could allow someone to discriminate, perhaps we could focus on educating our employees on how to use this new medium and why we shouldn’t discriminate against anyone in the first place.

Here to Stay

The digital world we live in is like the Wild West: hard to live in at times and even harder to regulate. With social networks, personal blogs, and now video resumes, we’re reaching a level of transparency that a lot of people may be uncomfortable with.

But all of these phenomena are here to stay. It’s how we use them that will make a real difference on whether they positively or negatively impact the recruiting industry.

Dave Lefkow is currently the CEO of talentspark (www.talentsparkconsulting.com), a consulting firm that helps companies use technology to gain a competitive advantage for talent, and a regular contributor to ERE on human capital, technology, and branding related subjects. He is also an international speaker on human capital trends and best practices, having spoken in countries as close as Canada and as far away as Malaysia and Australia. His consulting work has spanned a wide variety of industries and recruiting challenges with companies like Starbucks, Boeing, HP, Microsoft, Expedia, Washington Mutual, Nike and Swedish Medical Center.