Why Isn’t the Video Resume More Popular?

I am currently in the process of hiring a new assistant. (Yes, Nicole has been here for more than a year, and I vow at the outset to hold no assistant captive for much longer than that.) I posted an ad on Craig’s List and received roughly 200 resumes. Many of them are impressive. From an anthropological standpoint, nearly every single one is interesting, just to see the kind of skills and traits that people use as employment signals. I had no idea, for instance, that Eagle Scout membership would show up on so many young men’s resumes.

But what’s most striking to me is the disparity between what a person looks like on paper and what they’re like in person. We touched on this notion briefly in Freakonomics – the fact that a resume is a pretty unreliable set of clues. But it goes beyond that. When you’re hiring someone, their personal manner, attitude, quickness, humor, curiosity, and a few dozen other traits are really important. And you get almost none of that on a paper resume.

So the question I have is this: Why, in a world of excellent, cheap, and fast technology, hasn’t the video resume become more popular? It’s certainly not unheard-of, and maybe one infamously over-the-top video resume scared some people off. But I am still surprised that we are relying on paper resumes. Here are a couple of thoughts:

1. The cost of making a video resume falls on the applicant, not the employer; but it’s the employer who reaps most of the reward in terms of not wasting time interviewing unlikely candidates. The applicant inherently has more time to waste than the employer.

2. Applicants may want the chance to impress an employer in person, and fear that they’ll be poorly represented in a video.

3. Maybe employers, in their embrace of status quo-ism, think that video resumes are just too weird, or modern, or revealing; or perhaps they’re worried about being charged with discrimination if they respond disproportionately in favor or against a certain type of applicant.

Any thoughts?

Leave A Comment

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

 

COMMENTS: 101

View All Comments »
  1. econ2econ says:

    I think it’s 90% the last answer. People have long been told not to send photos with their resumes (some fields are an exception, like in entertainment), mostly with the thought that it could lead to discrimination, and that it looks unprofessional. I think people think that accomplishments and experience should matter most, and resumes are just a weeding-out process.

    Also, I’m not sure a video resume would capture a person’s true personality and body language. It would be rehearsed, edited, acted. Even though in interviews there is a lot of “acting” going on, it’s easier to draw out their true personality through the dialogue.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  2. econ2econ says:

    I think it’s 90% the last answer. People have long been told not to send photos with their resumes (some fields are an exception, like in entertainment), mostly with the thought that it could lead to discrimination, and that it looks unprofessional. I think people think that accomplishments and experience should matter most, and resumes are just a weeding-out process.

    Also, I’m not sure a video resume would capture a person’s true personality and body language. It would be rehearsed, edited, acted. Even though in interviews there is a lot of “acting” going on, it’s easier to draw out their true personality through the dialogue.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  3. microcars says:

    also getting good production quality in a video resume is pretty difficult for the average person. It can make them look worse.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  4. microcars says:

    also getting good production quality in a video resume is pretty difficult for the average person. It can make them look worse.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  5. You can skim 20 paper CVs in the time it takes to watch 5 minutes of video.

    Speech tends to be less structured than text – talking about your accomplishments and qualifications to camera may convey less useful information than a written CV. In practice, potential employers watching videos would have to take notes.

    It’s just about socially acceptable to write about how great you are in a CV, and even so many people find it awkward and embarrassing. Talking about how great you are, even to a camera, may just be a narcissism taboo too far.

    Competent writing is a key skill for most jobs in the knowledge economy, making video isn’t (yet). You follow up a good CV with an interview. You’d probably have to follow up a good video with a written test and an interview, further expanding the workload.

    There are possible technical issues. Try getting twenty people to send you a video and see how many new apps you have to download and how many calls you have to put in to tech support before you’ve managed to watch them all. You could ask for them to just put the videos on YouTube, but that would introduce its own risks.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  6. You can skim 20 paper CVs in the time it takes to watch 5 minutes of video.

    Speech tends to be less structured than text – talking about your accomplishments and qualifications to camera may convey less useful information than a written CV. In practice, potential employers watching videos would have to take notes.

    It’s just about socially acceptable to write about how great you are in a CV, and even so many people find it awkward and embarrassing. Talking about how great you are, even to a camera, may just be a narcissism taboo too far.

    Competent writing is a key skill for most jobs in the knowledge economy, making video isn’t (yet). You follow up a good CV with an interview. You’d probably have to follow up a good video with a written test and an interview, further expanding the workload.

    There are possible technical issues. Try getting twenty people to send you a video and see how many new apps you have to download and how many calls you have to put in to tech support before you’ve managed to watch them all. You could ask for them to just put the videos on YouTube, but that would introduce its own risks.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  7. dgriffith says:

    In technology fields, the purpose of a resume is to get a phone screen, the purpose of a phone screen is to get an interview, and the purpose of an interview is to get a job offer. The vast majority of resumes (>95%) do not merit a phone screen, and are simply binned, usually with little more than a 20 second skim. I’ve personally done this over a thousand times. Presenting a resume in video form would do nothing other than annoy me, as it would require a lot more time than a skim, and would likely not be any more helpful than a resume for deciding who to phone screen. Resumes that annoy me are, of course, simply binned (why would I want to work with someone annoying?).

    There is also the discrimination angle. Corporate HR goes to a lot of trouble training interviewers which questions to avoid so as prevent there from being not only actual discrimination, but also evidence which could be used in a discrimination suit. For instance, it’s not illegal to look for job applicants with high IQ, but if you actually ask an applicant their IQ, that fact can be used against you in a discrimination suit. For similar reasons, resumes with pictures on them will often have the pictures purposefully discarded by someone in HR before they are reviewed by hiring managers, specifically to avoid any possible evidence in suits for discrimination based on physical characteristics.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  8. dgriffith says:

    In technology fields, the purpose of a resume is to get a phone screen, the purpose of a phone screen is to get an interview, and the purpose of an interview is to get a job offer. The vast majority of resumes (>95%) do not merit a phone screen, and are simply binned, usually with little more than a 20 second skim. I’ve personally done this over a thousand times. Presenting a resume in video form would do nothing other than annoy me, as it would require a lot more time than a skim, and would likely not be any more helpful than a resume for deciding who to phone screen. Resumes that annoy me are, of course, simply binned (why would I want to work with someone annoying?).

    There is also the discrimination angle. Corporate HR goes to a lot of trouble training interviewers which questions to avoid so as prevent there from being not only actual discrimination, but also evidence which could be used in a discrimination suit. For instance, it’s not illegal to look for job applicants with high IQ, but if you actually ask an applicant their IQ, that fact can be used against you in a discrimination suit. For similar reasons, resumes with pictures on them will often have the pictures purposefully discarded by someone in HR before they are reviewed by hiring managers, specifically to avoid any possible evidence in suits for discrimination based on physical characteristics.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0