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?


econ2econ

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.

microcars

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

seamusmccauley

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.

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dgriffith

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.

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LiteraryMonkey

I think it's a certain amount of everything people have mentioned.

To take it first from the applicant's perspective, it's much more of a production to do a video resume - you have to buy all the equipment, and of good enough quality that it will come out well. If you get a job with the first resume, was the cost worth it? How do you know you wouldn't have gotten the job anyway? Also, we are socialized, as previously mentioned, to not exalt ourselves too much, too be humble. People who spend too much time talking about their achievements and how great they are come across as sounding pompous and self-involved. In a paper resume this is acceptable, in a video resume it might be a turn off for the viewer. As the applicant, I feel it would also be very awkward. There's no connection with the person on the other end, you can't feed off their energy, and personally, I would just feel silly discussing my accomplishments to a camera.

From an employer's perspective, I think it is the looming threat of discrimination that would deter most from accepting video resumes.

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editorguy

I think it might be simple: people do not enjoy looking into the lens of a camera, still or video. The majority find it uncomfortable and even vain.

SuperRob's database comment is certainly disturbing. But his last remark is, I agree, the bottom line, and will be for the foreseeable future: for the really good jobs, it's still who you know.

Nathaniel

Geez, it would take hours and hours to go through a stack of video resumes. I can go through a hundred paper resumes in 10 minutes with time left over. Please, don't ever send me a video resume.

JohnOfCharleston

For the record, Eagle Scout is an achievement; "Boy Scout" is a membership. It shows up on resumes because people like me look for it. I know the requirements; among other things it shows applied leadership and project management experience. Since most early-20-somethings won't have that type of experience in their entry-level jobs, it's useful to include, to a point.

Shooty

I think it's interesting that the "fear of a discrimination charge" keeps popping up, but no one wants to acknowledge that discrimination may actually be more likely with a video resume. This blog has previously described Justin Wolfer's research on racial bias in NBA officiating. The whole point of that research is that discrimination often occurs unconsciously. Why do people like to think that they possess superpowers that allow them to accurately assess "personal manner, attitude, quickness, humor, curiosity, and a few dozen other traits" by watching a video of them? And is there any evidence that these traits are necessary to be a Freakonomics assistant?

Finally, I have no idea why you would ask someone their IQ, but I also don't see how that question could be used as evidence in a discrimination suit. I think that's another example of irrational fear created by legal-centric decision-making in organizations. But that's a whole nother issue.

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bertrecords

I suspect that in another five or ten years, there were be more video resumes, particularly from the young. The paper resume will reference the online video resume.

Are on-line video phone interviews here yet? I am imagining candidates at their computers or at Kinkos wearing headsets, answering questions and looking into the camera.

Speaking of resumes, http://www.alexwg.org/ , gives me hope for future generations.

elle

seamusmccauley -- your thoughts prompted me to think of a few questions, all of which could only be answered empirically. if you would like to help me bounce some ideas around, please email me, lilunia.steinman@gmail.com

dgriffith

Finally, I have no idea why you would ask someone their IQ, but I also don't see how that question could be used as evidence in a discrimination suit. I think that's another example of irrational fear created by legal-centric decision-making in organizations.

The Supreme Court disagrees with you: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Griggs_v._Duke_Power_Company . As to why you would look for high IQ individuals, there are a lot of jobs, particularly in technology, which require similar skills to those measured on IQ and similar aptitude tests. Since employers can't safely ask for IQ, many tech companies (including most notably Microsoft and Google) specifically train their interviewers in asking questions correlated with IQ.

discordian

I'm the world of manufacturing and have been for about 20 years.
I guarantee video resumes will never catch on in this world.
I can review a paper resume in 2 minutes looking for the key experience/education I need in order to consider someone for a postion. It's easy to find.
With a video I'd be tied into watching the whole thing.

JanneM

All of the above.

But, in addition, doign a video resume is, for all intents and purposes, acting. You aren't discussing your accomplishments with a sympathetic listener, after all; you're acting the part of it for a camera lens, trying to achieve a rapport with an unknown later viewer. And most people absolutely suck at acting, even - or perhaps particularly - when playing themselves.

Unless the job actually requires the (specific, specialized) skill of behaving naturally in front of a camera I would say a video resume is a net negative for a job applicant. Conversely, if you find a video resume with an applicant really reaching out across time and distance as a sympathetic, competent person, all you've found is a decent actor. Which, for most jobs, is not what you were looking for.

erggggg

i made a resume that was a flow chart. it looks cool and catches one's eye in a pile (and i like to think someone who looks at it says, hey this girl knows how to visually communicate! but probably not). i used to send it alone (along with a portfolio of course) but i think it immediately turned people off since it was different. now i send it with a more traditional one and get more interviews. and its either never mentioned and nowhere to be seen in an interview or its the only thing the interviewer wants to talk about--how creative it is. i like to think its a easy way for me to see if they will be cool to work with or not.

Jia

http://www.guru.com/resources/pro/video/sample/pro_resources_freelance_video.cfm
I recently had the chance to help produce a video resume, which you can find at the above link.

Based on my experiences producing the video, I would agree with the previous commenters who said that videos currently lack a consistent style and format. While everyone knows what's to be expected in a print resume, online videos can vary from the over-the-top Aleksey Vayner video to a very basic recording of a mock job interview.

As the format evolves and best practices become widespread, I expect both employers and job-seekers to be more comfortable with videos. Already, there are unique advantages to video. For the above video, we were able to incorporate an audio testimonial, which could replace a list of references with contact information. Additionally, by creating a time-lapse video segment of the person at work, I think the video provides something that would be impossible to convey in print, over the phone, or even in person.

Finally, I have to disagree with previous comments that video resumes would encourage discrimination. If your prospective employer is racist or sexist, you'll be discriminated against by your name and other standard print resume information. I feel video resumes serve to give a better overall sense of the person, kind of like Gladwell's Blink phenomenon. With video, you can pick up on subtle cues early on that would only come across in later face-to-face interviews.

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spicey

People often don't have speakers on their computer in an office, and if they do have internal sound, they may not want to disturb others by watching a video.

goinglikesixty

I did it 15 years ago on a videotape because I was applying for a job with an ad agency so they were used to viewing videotapes.

It depends on the employer, but for your job, it should have occurred to at least someone, that you might like something a little out of the ordinary.

And it needs to be done well - not fancy - but well.

You say "paper resumes." You mean people are actually snail mailing you paper?

We prefer people put resume in the body of email, so the fancy layout is meaningless, and sometimes our firewall doesn't like attachments.

Shooty

The Supreme Court disagrees with you: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Griggs_v._Duke_Power_Company . As to why you would look for high IQ individuals, there are a lot of jobs, particularly in technology, which require similar skills to those measured on IQ and similar aptitude tests. Since employers can't safely ask for IQ, many tech companies (including most notably Microsoft and Google) specifically train their interviewers in asking questions correlated with IQ.

Griggs does not forbid employers from asking someone their IQ. My point was not about IQ as a predictor, it was about the particular measurement. Interviewer guesses about IQ would have the same legal risks of asking applicants their IQ. You seem to think that asking an applicant would be a valid measure of IQ. Then you seem to think that interviewers can be trained to detect it. Huffcutt, Conway, Roth, and Stone (1991), however, found that interviewer assessments of IQ were much weaker predictors of performance than professionally developed tests of IQ. The legal risk is in using a predictor that a) produces adverse impact AND b) does not predict job performance. In those jobs you mentioned that require intelligence, asking someone their intelligence would pose no greater risk than an interviewer assessment. Both of these, however, would be extremely bad ideas because of the superior validity of professionally designed tests. Of course Frank Scmidt would argue that intelligence tests are valid across all jobs and therefore legally acceptable in all situations.

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dgriffith

Griggs does not forbid employers from asking someone their IQ.

True, but it does greatly increase litigation risks if you do ask. That's all that is necessary to make it a bad idea from the point of view of most employers.


The legal risk is in using a predictor that a) produces adverse impact AND b) does not predict job performance.

No. The legal risk is in doing something which will be presented in court and shown via preponderance of evidence to do a) and b). That's a very different issue. For professional positions, interviewer evaluations have the great legal advantage over objective tests in this regard, in that they are purposefully subjective, idiosyncratic, and vague. (If you're smart, they also aren't written down anywhere, beyond a simple hire/don't-hire decision.) Moreover, a direct question about IQ is more likely to result in someone thinking they could prevail in a discrimination lawsuit, and thus raises the risks of having to defend against such suits, even if you could win under the Griggs rule.

When all this gets out the the cubicles, it boils down to, "you can't ask about test scores, but try to see if they are smart enough to do the job". It's a pretty good rule of thumb.

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