Video Resumes: Helpful Trend or Half-Baked Fad?

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer September 13, 2021
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girl recording video with phone

​It might make sense that the written resume would someday go the way of the typewriter or the fax machine, especially at a time when more people consume digital video content and employers are stymied by a highly competitive hiring environment.

But not so fast, experts say.

The concept of the "video resume" recently attracted attention when TikTok, the uber-popular app known for short viral dance videos and general goofing around, announced it was getting into the recruiting space with the launch of TikTok Resumes. More than three dozen companies, including Chipotle, Shopify and Target, took part in a TikTok Resumes pilot program this summer.

The new platform allowed job seekers to apply for roles at participating employers using a video they created to introduce themselves. The videos were then sent to recruiters through the app for review. Most available roles were entry-level, which makes sense given TikTok's demographic—primarily members of Generation Z and younger Millennials. Over half of the app's user base is younger than 24 years old.

Kayla Dixon, brand marketing manager for TikTok, said the benefit of a video resume is that "it can give you a dynamic perspective on a candidate. It is about showing your creativity and authenticity, and that is what will make your resume stand out."

The move comes as employers are facing a shortage of applicants for front-line, customer-facing roles. Many companies are having to get creative.

"Given the current hiring climate and our strong growth trajectory, it's essential to find new platforms to directly engage in meaningful career conversations with Gen Z," said Marissa Andrada, chief diversity, inclusion and people officer at Chipotle. She added that "TikTok has been ingrained into Chipotle's DNA for some time, and now we're evolving our presence to help bring in top talent to our restaurants."

Not Really a Resume

First, it's important to clarify that applicants are not filming themselves reading their resumes aloud. These clips are more like video introductions, and, if contacted by a recruiter, the candidate would have to go through the traditional hiring process, including uploading an actual resume to the company's applicant tracking system (ATS).

"It could become a great replacement for a cover letter," said Todd Bavol, president and CEO of Integrity Staffing Solutions, a nationwide staffing firm based in Newark, Del. "It could add more personalization to what can be a cold process. Often when you apply for a position, your resume is filtered through an ATS before it ever gets to a human being, so here you're able to add a personal touch to stand out."

"I see it as more of a supplemental, personal pitch," said Carolyn Kleiman, a career coach, resume consultant at ResumeBuilder.com and senior career counselor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. "I have not seen anything where an employer has asked candidates to solely upload a video and that's the whole application. People are typically prompted to complete an application which largely repeats what's on a resume, and that's for compliance reasons. That's not going away."

The Benefits of Video

Using social media—including TikTok—is a tactic proven to be very helpful for recruitment, especially for employers facing labor shortages.

"Though many in our space seemed to criticize TikTok Resumes as a fad or stunt, I think that this might actually work," said Chris Russell, managing director of RecTech Media, a recruiting technology consulting and research firm in Trumbull, Conn. "Video is eating the world. It has become so pervasive in our lives that the next generation of job seekers has no qualms about showcasing themselves in a 30-second clip. TikTok itself is much more than just a music video app these days. In 2020, it had approximately 65.9 million users in the United States. Recruiters need to fish where the fish are, as the saying goes."

Kleiman agreed that employers could possibly expand their talent pool by accepting TikTok-type videos from interested job seekers. Another plus is that videos can convey a candidate's personality and enthusiasm better than a paper or electronic resume, she said.

"And job seekers are able to show off communication skills and creativity in a way that is more challenging to do in a traditional resume," she added. "They can also explain some things about their work or life experience, like an employment gap." 

Russell said critics of the trend are thinking about it from the wrong angle. "Instead of thinking that you will hire people from a video clip, think about it as lead generation for your hiring funnel. It's a candidate telling you that they want to work for you. Think of this as a sourcing and branding opportunity to connect with the next generation of candidates."

Experts agree that the format fits some roles better than others. "It could be great for roles where personality is a relevant deciding factor," Bavol said.

Kleiman added that using TikTok to find workers may be more common for creative industries, like marketing and design; for on-air talent; or for high-volume, customer-facing roles in hospitality, retail and sales.

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Potential Problems

The most vexing concerns with screening video clips are obvious: It might invite unchecked bias, can be time-consuming and has exclusionary features.

There would be nothing stopping recruiters from accepting or dismissing candidates based on how they look, talk or act. "How do you analyze short video clips with unbiased criteria?" Bavol asked. 

Russell added that the biggest drawback is time. "Recruiters tell me watching all these videos takes too much time," he said. A video requirement could also exclude qualified candidates who feel uncomfortable using video or don't have access to the technology. 

"If you are not tech-savvy, or your creativity and communication skills aren't strong, including those with introverted personalities, that could work against you," Kleiman said.

Surprisingly, even the targeted demographic is not sold on the idea, according to research from Tallo, a Mount Pleasant, S.C.-based online platform that connects college students with career opportunities.

Over half of 1,500 Generation Z respondents (55 percent) believe video resumes would increase bias during the hiring process, 48 percent feel uncomfortable with making a video resume, and 72 percent believe a traditional resume would best showcase their qualifications and skills.

Not a Replacement

In general, video-based outreach can be an innovative way to find workers, but it can't replace traditional resumes and interpersonal interaction, experts agree.

"Video will continue to be a critical part of the hiring process, but I don't see video replacing the resume and application as we know it," Kleiman noted. She said it may be best to use video as a supplement when submitting a resume.  

"I do see it gaining buzz as a recruitment tool to get Gen Z excited about getting their first job," she said. "My 13-year-old daughter tells me that TikTok Resumes is a great idea. She said she would much rather make a video than have to come up with things to write down. But she did recognize that while it would work very well for her when applying for her first job at the mall, it may not be great for Dad to find a new job."

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