When you’re applying for a job you really want or really need, and you want to stand out to a potential employer, you often have to go above and beyond to make your job application stand out.
You could do something especially creative like reading your resume aloud directly to the hiring manager, after you’ve kidnapped them and tied them to a chair in an abandoned warehouse. Or you could go with something slightly more conventional but still interesting — like submitting a video resume.
What is a video resume?
A video resume or video CV is a short video that covers all of the same content as a paper resume. The difference is that you, the job applicant, are on camera talking about why you’d make a great candidate for the particular job opening. You can mention things like:
- Past job experience. As with a traditional resume, you’d lead with the relevant work experience that qualifies you for the open job. While you want to highlight your qualifications—such as your competence, experience, and leadership abilities—you’ll also want to refrain from bragging (ie, no need to mention your prowess at folding fitted sheets).
- Education. Tell them where you went to school and what your major was. If you won academic honors, that’s good to share, as are extracurricular activities, clubs or groups you joined, and so on. The further you get from graduation, the less important this stuff will be.
- Skills and experience. Here you can talk about the computer software skills, field experience, and special abilities that you might add to a work team. The key is to show you understand exactly what skills will be most important in the job, and then tick off experiences to prove you have them.
- Referrals. The hiring manager might like to know about the people giving you a glowing recommendation. Talk a little about your relationship with them, including how you worked together or know each other. A video resume is a great way to show off your human side, so emphasize personal connections, not just accomplishments.
If you’re a bit introverted and not thrilled about being in front of the camera, you can find other ways to create a video resume. You could adapt your portfolio into a slideshow presentation with voiceover about each item, or, depending on your computer skills, you could create a basic animation that accompanies your voice. Do whatever showcases you the best, but remember that the whole reason to create a video resume is to showcase yourself as a person, who is more than just bullet points on a page.
Why you should—or should not—create a video resume
A video resume is certainly optional; it should be considered as an addition to your print resume, not as a replacement. With that in mind, weigh these potential pros and cons of including a resume video:
Resume video pros:
- Stand out from the crowd. Today’s hiring managers typically receive hundreds or even thousands of applications for a single opening, so including an engaging video could help set you apart from other applicants.
- Showcase your video editing skills. If you’re applying for a creative role, you can show rather than tell your abilities with a video. A resume video gives you the chance to wow the hiring manager with your capabilities filming, animating, scripting, and editing a short video.
Resume video cons:
- They may not watch it. Not all hiring managers will watch a video if they didn’t ask for one to be included with applications—meaning you may waste time producing one.
- It could conflict with anti-discrimination policies. In countries with robust discrimination laws, like the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, submitting a resume video with your voice or likeness may result in your application being discarded. That’s because a video revealing your gender or race could create bias in the hiring process.
- It may not show you in the best light. Not everyone is great on camera, and not everyone has pro video editing skills. If your video isn’t top-notch, it may actually hurt your application rather than help it.
The bottom line: before you go through the trouble of making and submitting a video resume, make sure it’s not going to get you flushed out of the hiring process. Consider shooting a note to the recruiter (if there is one) or hiring manager to confirm it’s acceptable before you do the work.
5 key steps for making a video resume
Use this step-by-step guide to create a video resume you can be proud of.
- Write a script. Start with a plan. Working from a script can prevent you from going off-topic and keep you focused on the posted job listing. Tailor your video curriculum vitae script to the specific job you’re applying for, and accent the aspects of that job that make you feel inspired. If you plan to include animation or slideshows in your video CV, denote them in your script.
- Prepare your filming space. In most cases, you’ll want a neutral filming space so that the hiring manager focuses on you and not the background. A blank wall works as a backdrop, as does a well-stocked bookshelf (as we learned in 2020, be sure to curate the book selection). If you have access to a highly relevant location, you could also film yourself there—for example, if you’re applying to be a warehouse manager and have the opportunity to film in your buddy’s warehouse, go for it.
- Set up your recording device. You can record yourself on a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone, or—if you’re feeling nostalgic for bygone days—a video camera. The key things are to have a stable camera (no handheld shakiness) and the proper amount of light that neither cloaks you in shadows or washes you out. Join the kids on TikTok and get a ring light—it illuminates your face well. If you’re opting for a slideshow-with-voiceover approach, make sure to record in a quiet space with minimal background noise—like a closet.
- Collect additional visuals. In most video editing software, like Descript, you can add a few visuals—like charts, photos, and animations—which go a long way toward making your video stand out from those of other job seekers. This particularly helps if you’re applying for a creative field that prizes innovative thinking. Remember, however, that the star of your video CV isn’t your graphics; it’s you.
- Edit the video. Editing video can be quite simple on a smartphone or with video editing software like Descript. The goal of video editing is to cut out silences or filler words (which you can do automatically in Descript), make snappy transitions, and remove irrelevant content. You can also check out video CV demonstrations on YouTube—there are a million of them
9 video resume tips and recommendations
As you begin to create video CVs or resumes, keep the following key tips in mind.
- Make different video resumes for different jobs. The first, and perhaps most important, video CV tip is to make your video relevant to the job you’re applying for. If you’re applying for a job in the tech sector, you don’t want to send your potential employer a video resume that focuses on your healthcare experience.
- Dress professionally. Wear the same clothing in front of the camera that you would wear to a job interview.
- Stay on topic. Your video CV can be conversational, but make it relevant to the topic at hand. If you catch yourself rambling, stop and try again. The best way to avoid this pitfall is to type out a script and stick to it.
- Keep it short and focused. Attention spans are short, particularly among hiring managers who must weed through hundreds of applications. Two to three minutes should be the target length for your video. Anything longer is asking for too much time from your potential employer.
- Focus on a specific experience or skill. If it feels like you’d never have time to cover your entire CV in a single video, use the video to highlight a particular accomplishment or skill, and let your paper resume handle the full portfolio of your accomplishments.
- Discuss an element not in your application. Another use for a video resume is to highlight something that isn’t even listed on your paper resume or cover letter. You’d use this item to bring out your own personality and humanity, much as you would in a personal statement on a college application.
- Enlist the help of friends. Getting hired for your dream job is a big deal, and a good friend will help you strive for that goal. If you need someone to help you set up a camera, edit footage, or pass you props as you film, don’t hesitate to ask. Make sure it’s worth their time (it’s hard to say “no” to free pizza), and you can always return the favor the next time they apply for a job.
- Find ways to get creative. The safest route for a video resume is to stay seated at a table in front of a neutral background. But if you can add anything to spice up the viewing experience—from graphics to walking and talking to using multiple locations—go for it. Do what you can to stand out in a respectful way that isn’t distracting.
- Get feedback before submitting it to potential employers. Show drafts of your video to friends. Ask them for honest feedback and incorporate their notes into your edits. Don’t spoil your application by rushing a tossed-off video out the door. Take your time, edit as necessary, and put your best foot forward.
Video resumes are a great way to stand out from the crowd, but you should also include a paper resume and cover letter in your application. Perhaps your hiring manager will follow along on these documents as they review your video. Or perhaps they won’t even watch your video, despite all the time and effort you put into it. That’s okay. At the end of the day, the goal is to get hired, not to have some hiring manager watch a video you edited on your phone.
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