Résumés Paper Please

By Dr. Sullivan

Nov. 5, 2007

There has been a good deal of discussion recently about the need to transition from paper résumés to video résumés. If you’ve been involved in recruiting for a while, you know the concept of accepting video résumés was also hot during the late 1990s.

    Although leading firms like Hewlett-Packard and Intel experimented with it, the approach died rapidly. Curiously, most of those who now seem to be supporting the switch are not recruiters, but career counselors, academics, and vendors that provide video resume services. Instead of rushing to acceptance, corporations need look at any new technology or idea through the lens of practicality.

    The primary flaw with the concept is that you just can’t get managers or recruiters to view these videos. Their main issue is time. While traditional résumés can be scanned in a minute or so, videos cannot be easily scanned. If each video resume is only five minutes long, for a position with 30 prospects that’s an eternity.

    A second problem is that managers and recruiters are generally resistant to change, and it’s almost impossible to treat video résumés the same way that you would handle traditional ones. For example, using paper résumés, you can highlight certain key items for others to see or even make notes on them for later follow-up investigation, but neither option is possible on video résumés.

    It’s a common practice for those involved in screening to place paper résumés literally side by side on their desk. You can’t instantly compare multiple video résumés in the same easy manner. In short, I have found that managers hate video résumés and simply reject or ignore them.

    A second area of concern involves legal issues. In the U.S., we long ago dropped attaching pictures on résumés for EEOC reasons. But almost by definition, video résumés are pictures of the candidate. As a result, there are numerous possibilities to identify an applicant’s sex, race, disability, age and other characteristics that should not be available to those assessing résumés.

    To make matters worse, some might voluntarily include information that should be excluded from résumés, such as hobbies and religious affiliations. Even the fact that an individual can actually afford to provide a video resume probably tells the firm a lot about the applicant’s economic status.

    Unlike with printed résumés, questionable material cannot be marked over or cut out, and proving that these characteristics were not used in the screening decision would certainly be difficult. In addition, because video résumés are verbal and visual, rejecting individuals on weaknesses in these areas could be problematic if the job itself doesn’t require excellent verbal and visual presentation skills.

    There are certainly technology issues. First, most applicant tracking systems just can’t handle them. Next, some IT systems might actually block them because video files can carry viruses that are difficult to detect. If they are received, not all video résumés will even be viewable because they can be produced in various formats that not all corporations support. Because video résumés would have to be stored as part of record retention requirements, finding a way to economically store these large files would be difficult.

    A final area of concern is assessment. Accurate assessment is difficult because there is no standard format. As a result, the content of video résumés varies widely. To make comparisons even more difficult, only a percentage of applicants will actually utilize the video format, so accurately comparing video résumés with those in the standard resume format will be difficult. If your company gets a significant number of international résumés, the fair assessment issue becomes even more complex. Finally, even though they shouldn’t, bad video production values will likely negatively influence the selection decision. I’ve reviewed many of them, and it’s rare when one actually impresses.

    I’m a big fan of technology, but at this time, the pitfalls of video résumés outweigh the benefits. In this case, 1,000 words are worth more than a (moving) picture.

Workforce Management, October 22, 2007, p. 50Subscribe Now!

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