The Video Resume — Modern Necessity Or Domain Of Epic Fail?

video resume fail
Michael Cera’s “Impossible is the Opposite of Possible” parodies all that is wrong with the video resume.

With recent reports on employers using social media to screen job applicants, it’s clear that technology has changed the hiring process. Job seekers competing for positions in a brutal job market must look for ways to stand out from the crowd, and one strategy that has often been touted as the modern-day must-have is the video resume. Video resumes promise to combine the information packed in a lifeless paper resume with the humanizing personalization of an interview. The relative ease of recording video and the rapid distribution of the Internet should make the video resume as common as the business card, but the reality is video resumes have never become the mainstays they were promised to be, and instead, are often clunky, awkward, and begging to become the next humorous viral phenomenon.

About a decade or so ago, murmurs about video resumes appeared on news programs or in business articles, usually by experts studying the job market and making predictions about how it was going to naturally evolve with the rise of technology. In 2007, the online search site CareerBuilder introduced a feature to accommodate the expected demand for video. But the service was shut down a little over a year later from lack of interest. Since then, numerous web startups have jumped on the bandwagon to create video databases for the unemployed. Whether they take a broad approach, as the recently launched does, or target a highly specialized market, like, these companies exist because of the underlying belief that video resumes will become the norm.

Yet, they haven’t, even as the demand for candidates to present themselves in a video exists and the advice for making good ones continues to flow.

A 2007 survey by indicated that though 89% of employers said they would watch a video resume, only 17% said they had actually seen one. A YouTube search for “video resume” reveals slightly over 10,000 hits, hardly a vote of confidence from the millions of people out of work. No one seems to know for sure why there’s such a lack of interest in using video as the means to land a job, but perhaps it comes down to something Jerry Seinfeld said about screening actors trying out for the part of George: “[A tape] is the worst way to ever see anyone audition. No one ever comes off well.”

Unfortunately, the video resumes that people have seen are likely ones that are either painfully bad or are parodies of the format. A 2006 video by Yale student Aleksey Vayner called “Impossible Is Nothing” sought to profile the candidate’s philosophy of success and the innumerable ways he has mastered various life challenges. Instead, the video went viral and is now.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth taking the time to see how a good idea can go bad:

After it became an Internet meme, numerous parodies appeared. The most famous is “Impossible is the Opposite of Possible” by Michael Cera, which is convincing enough that if have never seen Aleksey’s version, it would be easy to believe Cera’s was real:

So why is it hard for people to come off well in a video resume?

Part of the problem is expectations derived from watching entertainment and mass marketing on television, which has established fairly high standards for video productions. A video resume that comes across as entertaining is hard to take seriously and one that leans heavily toward the marketing side seems impersonal. But the flip side is a video resume that’s boring or, worse yet, as self promoting as an infomercial. This means that video resumes make video production skills part of the assessment for job fitness. While there are a few ways to screw up a paper resume (Comic Sans anyone?), there are innumerable ways to make a bad video, such as making them too long, for instance. In the survey, half of employers also indicated that video resumes should be under a minute, and a recent study by The Ladders revealed that recruiters spend an average of 6 seconds scanning a paper resume to determine if the candidate is a fit or not, so a video resume that’s long is highly inefficient. Finally, video resumes make appearances, not experience, the first impression. That’s a big issue because a 2010 Newsweek survey of hiring managers revealed that physical looks are perceived as making an enormous difference in the job market from who gets hired to who succeeds in the workplace. On top of that, a Rice University study showed that people who have facial blemishes, scars or other disfigurements were discriminated against in the job hiring process.

In light of this, check out the following video resume and determine for yourself if you’d use it as a basis to hire someone:

Like someone who isn’t a horror fan watching Evil Dead 2, it’s hard to know whether it’s trying to be funny or not.

So if you’re in the market to make a video resume, do it right: hire professionals using the best technology to make a short, highly polished, entertaining-yet-serious video production that makes you look like a movie star and avoids all the mistakes the web has kindly archived for your reference. In other words, make a commercial in which you are the product.

[Media: YouTube]

[Sources: Business Wire, Forbes, Mashable, The Ladders]

David J. Hill
David J. Hill
David started writing for Singularity Hub in 2011 and served as editor-in-chief of the site from 2014 to 2017 and SU vice president of faculty, content, and curriculum from 2017 to 2019. His interests cover digital education, publishing, and media, but he'll always be a chemist at heart.
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