Are Video Resumes Ready for Their Closeup?

Video is one way to stand out, but so is networking, researching the company and writing directly to the right person.

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“All these cover letters are the same,” says Al Biedrzycki, walking into the kitchen gripping a handful of cover letters. “I need to try something new.”

Biedrzycki pulls out a chair and sits at a table. The camera stays with him. He starts to write. Then comes the guitar soundtrack.

“To whom it may concern,” Biedrzycki begins to sing, “in regards to your job that I yearn…”

It goes on. “Went to Bentley Universiteeeee,” he sings, “Got Summa Cum Laude and a marketing degreeeeee….”

This is funny stuff. It’s creative, it’s innovative, it’s fresh. It’s also a perfect showcase for an extremely talented, creative professional, and after Biedrzycki Tweeted and Facebooked his video resume, it went viral in the summer of 2009. It resulted in interviews, referrals, freelance work, an interview with CNN.com and, best of all, it got Biedrzycki a job as a marketing associate at InkHouse LLC, a design firm whose slogan, appropriately enough, is “… communications campaigns that get our clients noticed.”

Having trouble getting hired? A video resume might be worth a try. Video-resume services abound, and plenty of job seekers have produced their own. In a job market that remains weak from the recession, employers report that they’ve seen an increase in job applicants submitting video resumes — not surprising, considering an increasing number of colleges are accepting video resumes with applications.

But among the senior ranks and outside of creative professionals, is there any benefit to using a video resume?

We talked to professional resume writers to get their take as well as to job seekers who’ve tried video resumes without success. Read on for their thoughts as well as some pointers on how to do it right if you decide to hit the limelight.

Video resumes aren’t for everyone

All the professional resume writers we spoke to agreed on a first rule for video resumes: They are appropriate only if the medium itself is germane to a given profession — for example, when creativity, salesmanship or presentation skills are crucial for a given position. “I never recommend that my clients use video resumes, with the exception of people who are applying for presentation-related jobs,” said Robin Ryan, a career counselor and author of ” 60 Seconds & You’re Hired!

Ryan said that account managers and trainers are examples of jobs where presentation skills are crucial. In such cases, she said, “a prospective employer most likely would appreciate a preview.”

Sandra E. Lamb, a lifestyle, career and etiquette expert as well as the author of “ How to Write It,” “ Personal Notes ” and “ Write the Right Words,” said that she’s had clients use video resumes “very successfully in situations where it’s their stock in trade.” It is, in fact, “the best and most concise way to encapsulate what they have to offer an employer,” she said, particularly in the fields of advertising, public relations, visual arts and performing arts.

In fact, one of Lamb’s clients, a PR and advertising-agency executive, put together a video to showcase several ad campaigns he’d produced. Lamb’s client used voiceover to highlight verbally the work he displayed in the video. Using the video resume/portfolio, he was offered a “handsome” salary and hiring package, Lamb said, which he accepted.

But when it comes to traditional, conservative positions, such as banking, financial planning and accounting, the video resume is “far from the norm,” Lamb said. That’s why she doesn’t advise its use unless a client has specific knowledge that the person with the power to hire would find it acceptable.

Not for accountants

Among the professionals who shouldn’t try to break the ice with a video resume are accountants, said Giselle T.M. Jiles, an accountant herself.

Jiles spent 20 years in accounting and finance for a firm that shut down in March 2009. Shortly thereafter, Jiles received, as a gift, her professional video resume from InterviewClips.com, a service that coaches professionals on their performance and films them, usually presenting a series of video clips of the job seeker answering standard questions such as, “What job are you looking for?” and, “What do your former employers say about you?”

But for Jiles, the resulting video didn’t fit her professional image and hasn’t resulted in any jobs. The script was more casual than she wanted as a representation of her career, and it could capture few of the numbers-based accomplishments that typically win interviews for accounting candidates.

Accounting is a profession where hard facts and clear, definable achievements with dollar signs attached to them get you a lot further than a smile in a video clip.

Jiles might have been able to insert concrete accounting accomplishments into her video, but it would have prevented her from tailoring the video resume for given positions.

Should your age/looks stop you?

Reasons to avoid going the video route include the potential for an employer to discriminate based on your age, your gender, your ethnicity or other visual cues. Such discrimination is not a given, of course, (it’s not even legal), but it happens.

The fear of age discrimination didn’t stop 50-something Bill Ross from working with InterviewClips.com on his own video resume.

His reason for shooting a video resume last year, which cost him about $300: He’d been in sales for more than 30 years, much of that time working for startups. In the startup ballgame, Ross said, you “can’t rely on standard ways of getting your message across to get your customers.”

As it is for startups so it was for getting a job during the recession: Doing e-mail blasts and sending resumes out “clearly wasn’t working,” he said, and it was evident that hundreds of people were going after each job. “I recognized I had to do something different,” Ross said.

Ross said the video got the attention of a number of employers and resulted in several interviews.

Old-fashioned techniques still required

Ross is now the vice president of strategic services for Designworks, a marketing-services firm that specializes in working with B2B companies as they conduct complex sales. But the video didn’t play a role in his job there. While the video was successful in getting interviews for him, Ross employed old-fashioned techniques to win the job at Designworks: He painstakingly researched each job opportunity that interested him. Then, rather than responding to a given posting, Ross sent an e-mail to the hiring person who was conducting interviews, including a simple note that contained a link to the video. This generated between five and 10 interviews, he said.

What really clinched his job-hunt success, however, is even more traditional: He got his position through a mutual acquaintance and no one at Designworks even saw his video.

The moral of the story is that regardless of whether you opt to do a video resume, researching the company and the position, as well as networking and presenting a solid, standard, non-video resume, are still required.

“The more networking and research you bring to a project, the greater your chances of being hired or getting a job offer,” Lamb said. “And you should always follow the norm and send a hard copy of your resume, or e-mail it, in whatever form they’re asking for.”

“I tell clients your resume is a tool kit,” Lamb said. “You want to learn everything you can about a particular job opening. That becomes your target. Then you fine-tune the tool kit to make sure you hit the target directly.”