Finding Employment – The Art of Video CVs

By Ed Cartledge (Managing Director)

A chap (who we shall name Norbert Snodgrass in order that he remain anonymous) got in touch recently to ask my opinion on how he should approach video production companies and marketing & communications agencies in order to try and find employment. Norbert had tried the more conventional routes (emails, phone calls, printed CVs) and wondered if producing his own video CV would be time well spent or not. He insisted that he wasn’t looking for work experience at Sort Of…Films, just that he wanted advice. I was very happy to give it.

I strongly encouraged Norb to follow his instincts and utilise the power of personality-led video (his own personality in this case) to his advantage. I confirmed that it would demonstrate a) a willingness to go the extra mile for an employer, b) an ability to use initiative and think outside the box and c) technical, organisational and storytelling skills that are vital to many employers, not just to video production agencies such as ours.

I could have added to that list that it also allows employers to get a much more rounded and personable first impression of an individual – even if it’s been scripted/shot/edited in a way that suggests the overall image has been carefully controlled.

If I had seen this utterly amazing video CV when I initially replied, I would have sent him the link and encouraged him to attempt to surpass its brilliance:

Who, in their right mind, would NOT employ Mark Leruste?

We’ve recently recruited a new intern following a very arduous process of CV filtering and interviews. It struck me at the time that not one of the 120 people who applied for the job had produced even the simplest video CV as part of their application. The fact that this wasn’t explicitly requested should not have led to the assumption that we would be unwilling to watch something like this. When we recruit again in future, I will have to weigh up whether to explicitly request it or to again leave it unmentioned in the hope that someone will find the initiative within themselves to do something that helps them to stand out. Of course, by that point, those people may well have read this self-fulfilling prophesy of a blog post.

So what makes a good video CV? The following are my opinions and these have been formed with only limited experience of the recruitment process and of video CVs so feel free to argue with me in the comments.

  • As short as possible without being so short that the impression of the individual is only partial.
  • Immediate, to the point, efficient: don’t waste time with a slowly-paced opening graphics introduction – the first thing the employer needs to see is your face as you introduce yourself. Equally, don’t linger at the end of the film on longwinded ‘bog standard’ personal statement stuff. Avoid dullness, repetition and leave them wanting more.
  • The best production values you can manage. If you’re not a skilled camera person/sound recordist/editor, you need to pull in the services of someone who is. A quick selfie video in a dimly lit room might be better than nothing, but it’s never going to compare to Mark’s film!
  • Personality. For inspiration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bomkgXeDkE. Or maybe not. The film needs to reveal your personality in a way that is sincere. Don’t perform to such an extent that the person depicted no longer feels like you. The form of the film should also be reflective of this personality. If you ARE a funny person, make a funny video. If you are passionate about social causes, make sure that passion comes across, not just from what you say and how you say it but from elements such as the music you choose and the style of editing you employ. If the video feels like a lot of effort has been put into it beyond just turning a camera on and talking, then the employer will expect you to be someone willing to put lots of effort into a job.
  • Structure. This is flexible according to exactly what you need to get across and the kinds of jobs you’re applying for but it makes sense to broadly follow the structure of a written CV but to be less focused on dry facts about your education (for example) and more on your own feelings about your achievements and what they represent in terms of your employability. You might want to use brief chapter headings to signpost the film’s progression. Be aware of the ‘flashback structure’ that is inevitable with a video CV – are you going to represent the changes in time period (present day > school/university/college > first employment > present employment > future aspirations) in an interesting way?
  • Storytelling. Rather than a dry delivery of information that, frankly, might as well just be written down instead of offered in video format, is there a way in which you can apply storytelling techniques to your video which will help to captivate your audience. Is there a question which underlies everything and that will only be answered by the end of the film? Is there a mission/quest on which you (the protagonist) must go in order to learn more about yourself and the world and therefore achieve the resolution you required (eg. becoming employable)? Is there a first act inciting incident within your normal status quo life which led to you beginning this journey? Is there a way in which you can demonstrate the evolution of your personality (storytelling is all about confronting and demonstrating internal and external change)? Are there forces of antagonism which can be vanquished by the end of your story (lack of confidence, lack of know-how, uncertainty of direction etc)?
  • Contact details – make sure they are provided!

I hope this has been helpful and encourages you to think laterally about potential employers’ perceptions.

Oh, and I received an email from ‘Norbert’ this morning. It reads:

“Hi Ed,

Thanks for your advice. The only production companies that were interested in me were the ones I sent video CV’s to. Both of them responded. I’ve now got work experience with one and a second company is interviewing me for a possible internship!”

 

Good luck everyone!