Making a video resume can be tricky. Some employers love them, others think they are a cheap gimmick. The internet is awash with examples that are embarrassingly bad, but there are also a number of really stellar projects that certainly received positive attention.
While they aren’t appropriate for every position, making one might be just the thing to give you the edge. Check out our guide on how to make one, as well as some examples for reference.
Table of contents:
- When should you make a video resume?
- Rules to follow
- How to start
- Things you need: Equipment, software, and lighting
- Parts of the video
The greatest filmed resume…
When should you make a video resume?
Before we dig our hands in, you should know when to make one. While the jury is still out on whether they are the next big thing, there are some fields where using one could put a solid spin on your application profile. These are mostly industries dependent on visual engagement and consumption.
Media – this could be anything from video editing, production, or even news broadcasting. Some jobs involving acting or being on camera require a film reel of your previous work, so why not just go the extra step? In a field where video and camera work are necessary, a video is an extra opportunity to illustrate your abilities.
Fashion – if you are trying to design clothes, showing work you’ve previously done on living models might help sell yourself and highlight your abilities. Runway footage can be really dynamic, and it also gives you the chance to discuss your unique style and lay a foundation for an interview.
Sales / customer service – in fields where you are frequently interfacing with clients and customers, interpersonal skills and confidence are important features. A video helps to highlight these aspects before you’ve even been invited for an interview, so if a firm seems open to creative applications, this kind of resume may be a huge help.
Tech – IT fields tend to be more relaxed and forward-thinking than others and thus more receptive to unique applications. This style of resume might help demonstrate your experience and skills in a visual format (especially if you embed links to your work).
Design – this is another field where displaying past work might work as well, if not better, than the traditional resume. Whether you design interiors, cars, or websites, the additional visual aid of an eye-catching resume can be a big help.
There are some fields where a video resume might not be helpful. If you are applying for a position that requires a high degree of formality, say like an executive position or medical work, take a pass on preparing one. Other jobs that are “old economy” like accounting and archiving also probably wouldn’t benefit from applications with visual aides. Finally, some careers simply frown on the concept – it would be kind of silly to make one when applying for construction, transportation, or security work.
This video is a great example of a “reel” format, and it works great for someone who is looking to get into video production. The problem is, we see nothing of the creator and it’s unclear what he is aiming to achieve. It’s also really long and feels like a music video.
Here is a strong example of an interview-style video, but instead of the applicant doing all the talking, he lets former colleagues speak for him. The video showcases his work and is highly creative, but it is also entirely too long and maybe a little overindulgent.
Rules to follow
Before you even begin the process of making your resume, there are some crucial guidelines you should be aware of. These will help you avoid making the worst kinds of videos.
All you have are 90 seconds. Plenty of people have tried making longer videos and it doesn’t work unless it’s really, really good. Some people recommend 60 seconds maximum, but if it goes over a bit (and is solid), you should be okay. However, no hiring manager is going to watch five minutes of a candidate when they could glance at a traditional resume and know whether or not to engage the applicant in six seconds.
Combine shots – don’t try to do the whole thing in one take
Make sure that you take lots of shots, and break up what you are saying. Just like a traditional resume has sections, so should your video version. Make sure those breaks are clean and make sense. Feel free to cut often and have a different shot for every few sentences or so. Be careful though – don’t cut mid-sentence or in awkward places. Also, think about mixing your narration with other features, like photos or shots of your work, to hold the viewer’s attention.
Aleksey Vayner made a laughably bad video. It went viral.
Be creative (or at least sincere)
Because this resume format is most often utilized for positions demanding creativity, if not outright artistic capacity, you should showcase this skill heavily. If your video is canned or boring, it will end up hurting more than helping.
But what if you aren’t artistically creative but still want to use a video application for a sales position? If you aren’t prominently creative, at least be as sincere as possible. Visual resumes can dazzle a possible employer, but they can also allow your personality to shine through, and if you are earnest and genuine you will come across as a strong candidate.
Let your personality shine through
As we mentioned, videos have the ability to present “the real you” to an employer much better than a traditional resume can. Your job is to make sure your video actually does this. Showcase your talents and skills and do it clearly. This is your chance to tell people what you care about and what you want to share with their company.
Just like in a job interview, it is beyond important you display a positive and friendly attitude. Surprisingly, a number of job seekers seem to forget this. Avoid complaining about past employers or your current situation. Try not to rationalize why you might not have a skill – instead focus on skills you do have. Whatever you do, smile and stay upbeat.
The video resume is almost like a mix between an interview and a resume application – you need to embody some features from one and some from the other. Having confidence, like in an interview, will not only get you more attention, but it will instill a sense of trust from potential employers. You could be the best video editor in the world, but if you look scared and aren’t able to confidently articulate what you can do, a hiring manager just isn’t going to believe you. Remember, look into the camera, keep your head up, have good posture, and speak so they can hear you – just like in real life.
Mr. Leruste does a great job of being creative, showing confidence, showcasing his personality, and keeping our attention with strong editing. Being humorous is a great idea, but it does risk alienating some employers, so be careful.
Mr. Eldridge makes some fatal mistakes, most notably speaking straight through his video. Especially considering he is applying for a cinematography position, his resume lacks creativity and he doesn’t take the time to showcase his skills (or does so poorly). Also, always remember to check your spelling – it’s hard to get a job if you spell the name of the position incorrectly.
How to start
So you think a video resume is right for you? Then it’s time to get down to business. Follow these simple steps to make sure you start off on the right foot.
Make a paper resume
Before you do anything else, make sure you have a strong paper resume. You can think of this as your basic script. If you haven’t done this yet, build a resume and print it out as your first step.
Determine what you want to emphasize
What message are you trying to send with your resume? Say you are applying for a web design job; you need to decide if you want to talk about the technology you are most familiar with or if you should highlight your experience with a well-known client. Or say you’re trying to get a position in video editing – do you emphasize your skills or your years of experience? Some job seekers approach it from a personality or values perspective.
In contrast to a traditional resume, the video format allows you to showcase yourself. It’s not about your skills or experience or education, it’s about you.
If you are turning in a traditional resume along with the video version, the experience and skills info is already included. Using the video to promote your personality is a good way for who you are to shine through. Your emphasis depends on what you’re trying to accomplish and what you think your employer needs to know.
Pick a format
There are as many possible formats as there are angles from which to film, but choosing the right one can do a lot to support the aspects you’re trying to emphasize. This list certainly isn’t comprehensive, but these are a few popular format options.
- Narration – simply speaking to the camera can be plenty effective, especially if you have any degree of screen presence. Be careful though – some job hunters make the mistake of talking through the whole video, which is obviously boring. Try to break it up. A good spin on this strategy is to get others to do the talking for you – think of asking former employers or coworkers.
- Interview – another fun strategy is filming a mock interview. You can do this one by either asking another person to fill in as the interviewer, or you can play both roles. This shouldn’t be a real interview of course – it is just a clever format for introducing yourself. You can also film this style as a serious application or a humorous one.
- Project showcase – actions speak louder than words, so actually showing your work might be the best route. A showcase format is exactly what it sounds like, a showcase of work you’ve done. Many employers enjoy this style as it allows the work to speak for itself. The biggest pitfall with the project showcase is people have a tendency to show too much too fast. Pick your best five or six pieces and highlight those. The showcase format is best suited to design resumes.
- Reel – similar to the project showcase is the acting or news-style reel. This one emphasizes what you have done on camera, so it makes a lot of sense for aspiring actors, hosts, or newscasters – pretty much any job that requires a camera presence. As a matter of fact, a lot of on-camera jobs require a demo reel as part of the application (these are usually longer, however). Be careful that you don’t just turn your reel resume into a music video – it’s supposed to illuminate you as a candidate, not simply entertain.
- Mix – while all of these formats have their merits, taking the strengths of each of them can be the most effective approach. Mixing narration with input from former colleagues or clients along with a bit of showcasing and creative cutaways will do a lot to speak for you as a candidate. Be careful however – using a mixed format can turn into a hodgepodge, so keep it concise.
Outline a script
Now that you’ve decided on a format, you need to sit down and write out what exactly you’re going to say or show. This is important for any type of format. First, consider what your employer is going to want to know. Also think about your values, gifts, and talents, as well as how you’re going to express them.
Remember, professional language is crucial. Even if your style is relatively informal, you should still be able to speak to industry specific terms and with a professional feel. Informality is not the same thing as sloppiness. Finally, when writing the script for your video, you must decide how you will define yourself or your brand. This the whole point of the video – in contrast to a traditional resume, the video format allows you to showcase yourself. It’s not about your skills or experience or education, it’s about you.
Evaldas’s video is one of the better resumes we’ve found. He uses a mixed format, led by his narration. He dynamically showcases his skills, features a clear organizational style, and does it all in 68 seconds.
Mr. bin Rosli’s resume, on the other hand, has some pretty significant flaws. Most obviously, the music drowns out his narration, which doesn’t speak well of his editing skills. He also lists almost every technology he is proficient with, making what could be a concise resume last a little longer than it needs to.
Things you need: Equipment, software, and lighting
One obvious drawback to a video format is the amount of equipment needed to make it clean and professional-looking. Plenty of job seekers have tried with their laptop web camera and found it to be more difficult than they expected. While a laptop camera is workable, in order to do it right you need to have a bit of gear and some patience to get it all right. Otherwise you might be making a resume that provokes the wrong kind of laughter.
- Camera – this is the most obvious and important piece of equipment. The only hard and fast rule here is that it’s high-definition capable. You can use a webcam if you are interested in making a very short, very low budget video (which isn’t necessarily bad). However, if you have greater ambitions you might need a more advanced, stand-alone unit. Consider renting a video-capable DSLR camera with a tripod for relatively inexpensive, but quality results.
- Audio – besides being seen, being heard is next in importance. Whether it’s you speaking, someone else, or music, it needs to be clear and audible. If it sounds tinny, muffled, or if music is drowning out more important spoken info, you need to re-edit or shoot. Quality is incredibly important here – keep it clear and sounding great.
- Light – proper lighting is both critical and tricky to do. The easiest choice is natural lighting, but if you have soft, natural-looking light indoors where you’re filming, you can try that too. If you want to be sure to have good lighting, research some easy techniques for making your videos look more professional.
- Clean set / background – one of the most common mistakes in video production is not paying attention to what is in the frame. So many people film important pieces with messy or distracting backgrounds, and it’s a mistake that’s totally avoidable. Before you start shooting, pick your location, look at the frame, and clean up anything that ought not be there.
- Editing software – you could, in theory, make a video with no editing by shooting all at once, but we don’t recommend doing that. Fortunately, there are plenty of places to download free editing software. Not only will this help you adjust your lighting, audio, and other visual effects, but it will also allow you to break up your shots and integrate example work or other features.
- Think about a production company – it isn’t uncommon for people interested in making a professional level video to hire a production company to help them. While this might seem like an expensive choice, if you have to buy your own gear, use your own time, and still make a sub-par clip, using a production team is a wise investment. They will help with wardrobe, makeup, storyboarding, filming, and editing, saving you a decent amount of time, money, and stress.
Ms. Doty is applying for a position in finance and management, so it’s likely her video production skills aren’t her strong suit. Therefore, she wisely chose to employ a production company and was able to produce a solid and straightforward application.
Ms. Bad-e’s resume might not be the most polished, but it’s also not bad. Her narration is fairly clear and she is organized and to the point. It could obviously stand some work – she is just narrating straight through, and it would help to touch up the lighting, add music, and some graphics. Still, if all you have is a laptop cam, that shouldn’t disqualify you from trying out your own.
Parts of the video
Okay, it’s finally time to start making your own! There are a few standout sections that you must feature, as well as a couple other sections you will want to consider. Every resume is different, and that’s a good thing. Just make sure you follow the rules we mention above and you should be fine.
The main function of a resume, whether it be paper or video, is to introduce yourself to potential employers. There are a couple of things you want to state in this section.
First, obviously, you want to state your full name, and possibly have it written somewhere on screen for reference. Also, generally state what it is you do – are you a software developer? A videographer? An actor? Make sure viewers have a solid idea of what your expertise or title is.
Finally, you need to state what kind of job you are looking for. This may be difficult as you are applying for a number of positions, not all of which are exactly the same. If this is your situation, make sure you mention the field you are exploring and the kinds of positions you have your eye on.
You can consider introducing a few other aspects of yourself. Some people like to mention their age or where they live. If you are fresh out of school, it’s also not a bad idea to briefly introduce your university or your educational background here. You could also, very quickly, mention which companies you’ve recently worked for, especially if they are famous or seen as powerhouses in your particular industry.
Talking about experience on video can be tricky. In short, there are two paths for you to take – you can either talk about your experience generally, or the most recent companies you’ve worked for.
Remember, you have just seconds to express how much experience you have, so whatever you do, avoid listing off all the jobs you’ve ever had or projects you have completed. Save that for the paper version.
If you talk about your experience in general, mention how long you’ve been in the field and specific technologies or industry-specific skills you are competent with.
If you decide to talk about specific companies you’ve worked for, only mention the most recent and maybe the one previous, just briefly. State how long you worked for them, your most important accomplishments while you were there, and most importantly, what exactly you learned during your tenure.
Be careful not to take too long – when talking about your experience you will be tempted to get more in-depth, but this format doesn’t allow for a lot of that.
You also need to address what about you stands out or is most impressive. Think of this as your “skills section” but less fleshed out. Pick no more than four skills or personal attributes to emphasize. This is where things like specific knowledge of a technology or “soft skills” can shine through.
Make sure you show a mixture of both – if you are stiff as a board and only talking about the technical certifications you have, should you really be making this kind of resume in the first place? Show some personality for sure, and hint at skills you’re mentioning. If you have interpersonal skills, make sure you come across as warm and friendly in your video. Do you have a capacity for leadership? Make sure you come across as authoritative.
This is one of the core sections of your resume – make sure viewers see your personality through it.
The last mandatory part of your clip is the conclusion. This section is very short, but it needs to be strong.
What does that mean? Make sure you restate or quickly summarize why a company should hire you, but use focused and direct language. If you are narrating, exude confidence especially in this section. If others are speaking for you, make sure you use the strongest, most direct statement as your conclusion.
Regardless of the format, make sure the concluding part of the video is the most memorable and showcases what you have to offer.
Other possible sections or features
If you stick to these main parts, you should be set. However, if you have been brief and to the point, as you should be, you might be able to stick in another quick section. Also, there are a few more features you should think about including to really polish your video.
- Significant accomplishments: this is separate from your experience section as it gets into specific highlights of your career. It isn’t a bad idea to mix this in or extend your experience section with stand-alone accomplishments. These could include awards you’ve won, sales benchmarks reached, or even revenue from films or projects you’ve worked on.
- Clickables: if you plan on posting your video to Youtube (and you should be), we strongly recommend embedding links into your video for viewers to follow. This could be links at the end to your traditional resume, links to your university’s home page, or to further video / web evidence of your skills.
We strongly recommend embedding links into your video for viewers to follow.
- Music: music can be tricky, but we recommend using some. Make sure it’s relatively light but not tacky. Also important is to make sure you don’t make the music too loud or drown out any narration. This is a common mistake, but one that can be fatal to your application.
- Informational graphics: adding graphics to your video can be helpful and make it much more digestible than just talking into the camera. Using them requires a bit more skill in editing, but if you can swing it, use them. They can more clearly state what you are talking about. With onscreen text and images, your narration has something of a tag-team partner to lubricate the viewing experience of potential employers. If you can add them, you should.
With onscreen text and images, your narration has something of a tag-team partner to lubricate the viewing experience of potential employers.
Mr. Belling’s video is organized and outstandingly edited. He lets his personality and creativity shine through, as well as showcases his technical capabilities. It is, however, really long. He pulls it off with its format and links, but only because it is such a strong effort.
Ms. Villeno’s resume looks fine and is decently edited, but it also seems a little disorganized. She mostly lists subjective personality features, and not in any particular order. And while she seems able to use graphics for her attributes, she missed the opportunity to use them when introducing herself, her education, and her experience.
And that should do it – if you follow these steps and put in the time you are sure to produce a quality, even entertaining, video resume. Having one will significantly increase your chances of landing your dream job in a creative industry. Do you have any suggestions or ideas? Let us know in the comments below!
This article was written by Adam Hatch.