Lights, Camera, Hire Me!

Video resumes help, but don't include ballroom dancing or bench pressing.

Aug. 7, 2008 — -- I grew up playing "Space Invaders" and watching MTV, rather than airing my dirty laundry on LiveJournal and making YouTube videos about my undying devotion to Justin Timberlake. As far as I was concerned, Web videos were for Hollywood hopefuls and people born after 1980, not privacy-happy old farts like me. So, when a friend in her 30s told me she was thinking of slapping a video resume of herself on the Web to land a new job, my first question was, "When did I miss the part where you decided to become a TV spokesmodel?"

But my friend wasn't looking to become the next Lara Spencer or Brooke Burke. She simply wanted a job in sales.

As the 2007 predictions of media outlets like Time, Newsweek and the New York Times would have us believe, my video-savvy pal is riding the next big job-hunting wave.

Looking for career advice? Click here to send Michelle your questions and they might end up as a topic for her next column.

After all, job search sites like and now accept video resumes and provide helpful tips for creating one ("Don't ramble!" "Don't just recite your written resume!" "Don't forget to comb your hair!"). And since 2006, niche sites for video resume posters -- from, which caters to temps and contract workers, to, which prides itself on good, clean, Christian-leaning classifieds -- have sprung up like weeds.

Only thing is, job seekers aren't rushing out in droves to shoot their video resumes or letters of introduction -- mainly because most employers have yet to warm up to the idea.

But You Looked So Good on Paper

Just last week, a new survey from staffing agency Robert Half International revealed that only 24 percent of the nation's 1,000 largest companies said they accept video resumes from job seekers.

Aside from not having the time to sit through a two-minute video (not when you can scan a traditional resume in five seconds flat, or better yet, run a keyword search), employers worry that accepting video resumes could open them up to discrimination lawsuits.

"The legal risks are considerable," said attorney Jonathan Segal, co-chair of the employment group at law firm WolfBlock in Philadelphia. "If you know someone is older from the video and you don't hire them, they could say, 'It's because you know I'm older.'"

Ditto if an applicant thinks their sex, race, nationality, religion or disability status cost them the job.

But that's not the only problem, says staffing consultant Kristen Fife, who recruits technical workers in the greater Seattle area.

"There have been a lot of studies in the last few years about how attractive people get more jobs and make more money," Fife said. (Really. Here's a "20/20" story on the topic.)

"Unless a candidate is in an industry where looks really matter -- modeling, acting, et cetera," Fife continued, "any sort of physical representation at the beginning of the process is a bad idea."

Segal, who recognizes that employers are looking to hire "a personality" rather than "a brain in a jar," suggests applicants accompany any video they send of themselves with a traditional resume and cover letter.

For employers, Segal recommends not pressing Play right away; instead, screening candidates on paper first. Then, once the first round of cuts have been made, it's fine to grab the popcorn and fire up those applicant videos.

The "True Colors" Quotient

That's what BJ Cook is doing.

As chief marketing officer of, a Web company based in Solana Beach, Calif., Cook is looking to hire a community manager to schmooze online and off with SuggestionBox's users and the greater Web community. Besides asking applicants to send in an old-school resume, he's asking them to submit a two- to three-minute video, explaining why they're the right person for the job.

"I think once you put somebody on camera, there are little nuances that come through in terms of their personality that you don't get when you're sitting face to face," Cook said. By contrast, candidates will often act more tense and reserved, most likely due to nerves, in a formal job interview.

But, "If you can get someone in the comfort of their home, their true colors really show through," he said.

Rachel Jorgenson, 55, from San Diego, Calif., credits the "true colors" quotient in her video resume with helping her land a job as an accounts bookkeeper for a software design firm six months ago.

"I just felt that this may help me and give me an edge over a paper resume," said Jorgenson, who, despite describing herself as "very shy," posted her video resume for free on the site, and received her own URL to send to employers.

It was a good bet: Not only did she avoid having to hop on a plane to interview with the San Francisco firm that hired her (she interviewed by phone), she landed a full-time position teleworking from home and has yet to meet her boss face-to-face.

The Swagger Factor

Of course, there's being comfortable on camera, and then there's out-and-out swaggering, like the now infamous Yale grad whose overly cocky video resume of him ballroom dancing, bench pressing 495 pounds, and smashing a pile of bricks with a karate chop, made him the laughing stock of Wall Street (not to mention the Internet) back in 2006.

"A poor quality video resume can cost an applicant an opportunity in a heartbeat," said personal branding expert Dan Schawbel, who publishes the blog Personal Branding. Same goes for a video resume that's too awkward, arrogant, dull, or delusional.

Perhaps that's why YouTube only returns 1,350 results for "video resumes" -- many of them instructional or satirical.

Having seen a number of his contemporaries' ill-fated "Hire Me Now!" videos, Shane Cleveland, a 21-year-old MBA student at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., created a video resume spoof of his own. (Highlight: "I've been to Mexico a couple times on spring break, so I've got some international experience that I feel is very useful in today's international business climate.")

And while this aspiring advertising exec hopes to use a video resume to land a job when he graduates in 2009, he does worry a bit about "the danger of it being out there forever," in case his video isn't well received.

As for the hiring powers that be, Segal conceded that lawsuit-skittish employers can't stave off video resumes forever.

"We can be so cautious and say, 'I'm not going to ever look at a video resume.' But, as times change and as modes of communication change, we're going to miss out on hiring top-notch talent."

This work is the opinion of the columnist, and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

Michelle Goodman is a freelance journalist, author and former cubicle dweller. Her books — "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube" and "My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire" (October 2008) — offer an irreverent take on the traditional career guide. More tips on career change, flex work and the freelance life can be found on her blog,