A Better Way to Apply: Video Cover Letters
The cover letter is dead, according to recent reports by job recruiting firms. Two-thirds of recruiters think that it is no longer an important part of candidates’ applications. Yet, most job postings still call for something–anything–when applying online.
So what should you do to push your job application to the top of the slush pile? The solution requires a hi-tech response. Send a video in place of a traditional cover letter.
Chris Brown, Vice President of HR at West Corporation, likes candidates to take a more interesting route to accompany their resumes—video cover letters. Think of these as a movie trailer and the hiring manager as the audience. By submitting something just engaging enough, the audience can not help but want more.
HackCollege.com interviewed Chris Brown in an exclusive exchange to get the inside scoop on how you should prepare your cover letter alternative. He spoke frankly about what he is seeing in the latest job submissions.
Millennial Comfort Zone Required
Millennials are far more comfortable with digital video than previous generations. That gives college students today an edge over other non-video savvy applicants, Brown suggested. They are often seasoned YouTubers. Recruiters are getting applications that pair resumes with video presentations, which stands out amongst the crowd.
Your video cover letter, however, needs to be more than a regurgitation of what the resume shows–more than a picture portfolio.
“The personal brand and the corporate brand have blended,” Brown told me. He had some key tips on how to do that.
Do not take your traditional cover letter and verbalize it in front of a camera. It should be more than a restatement of a cover letter, he said. The worst cover letters in both formats are filled with a lot of I statements: I did this, and I did that.
“We have your resume so we know who you are and what your skills are. The video cover letter is all about parlaying that into a larger view of the type of person that you are,” said Brown.
Typically, he likes to see a person with obvious confidence. The video does not have to reflect a corporate presence. It does not have to be green screened. In fact, it should be more authentic, or organic.
“You don’t have to shoot it a dozen times to get it perfect. That becomes too mechanical and rehearsed,” he cautioned.
“It should say, ‘Hey, I’m interested in your company. Here are the things that interest me about your company.’ That shows them you have some knowledge about the company,” he noted.
Mention one or two things from your resume that show how your skill sets match the role you are applying for. Also, just talk about yourself.
“Mention your own personal interests and your personal growth. Include hobbies that show your depth,” Brown urged.
Mixed Bag Is Key
Make your video a mixture of content. Think of it as an ice-breaker approach that you would use at a party.
“You do not know this person. You want to engage or network at a high level. But you do not want to throw everything corporate. You do not want to make everything personal. You want a good mix of both,” Brown offered as a guiding principle.
The most successful video cover letters are the ones that capture who you are and how you are a fit. You do not want to present a verbal resume. Recruiting audiences generally like to see a conversational speech.
“We are all performers now. Your ability to perform is not just in front of people in a traditional public speaking venue. It is your ability to perform in front of a camera. You have to be comfortable in having confidence in front of that camera,” said Brown.
Consider the Logistics
Getting the video to the viewer can be done two different ways. We are all savvy with social media. So you could have a more generic presentation hosted there. You could take that YouTube link and embed it on your Facebook page, LinkedIn page or Twitter. You can host it in many areas associated with your social media contacts.
The other approach is to make it more specific to the company to which you are applying. Then you want to be able to insert the video into your application. You can do this by inserting a hyperlink into your resume. Or you could include it as a physical media in the application packet you mailed to the company. Or you can send the video cover letter to a recruiter who responds to your inquiries.
“What I see being submitted for the most part is a generic introduction on social media websites. Sometimes it is not associated with an application submission,” said Brown.
The only people that used to have a portfolio were those who worked in marketing. Now, everybody has one. This is how you can maximize your social use of social media.
Beware the Obstacles
The trap in distributing your video cover letter on social media is maintaining a balance of work and social presence, warned Brown. You want to try to keep your private life separate. You do not want your friends making comments on it.
“I’m not saying you have to carry two cell phones. When it comes to your video cover letter and how you host it, do not post it on your main Youtube page or subscribing channel where you have your friends having access to it,” Brown suggested.
Instead, set up your own professional YouTube account. Relate it to your job search. That way you do not have the wrong people making inappropriate comments.
“Friends are not your friends when it comes to your job hunt,” he said.
Make your video short. It should not go longer than two minutes. Longer than that and recruiters usually cut out.
“You want to be succinct. You want to capture interest. Hit your main points, and get out,” said Brown.
Plan your process before you start filming. You may not think two minutes is a long time. But that changes once you start filming. So blueprint out each point you want to make, he suggested.
Your video does not have to be perfect. Unless the mistake is something blatant, keep it in there. Your energy or presence suffers as many times as you do it over, Brown noted.
If you are doing company-specific presentations, make sure that you do your research. Make sure that you understand how you fit that company.
“It is more generic to just introduce yourself and what your interests are, so talk about them. When you pick your subject, it should be something that you are excited about and interested in. Talk about things about which you can bring positive energy into that video,” said Brown.
Personal works very well. Quirky personal not so much. Stagger your content. For instance, do two personals and two professionals, and try to make it seamless in that process.
Brown suggests that you make sure you have a good closer. Asking for the job or asking for the opportunity is the best way to end it. People in the hiring mode generally want to see people wanting to work for them. You have to convey that attitude.
You can do this with a statement followed by asking what the next steps in the application process are. Everything you do is about showing your personality.
“Make it real to you. Do not try to be someone else,” he said.