should companies require job applicants to submit videos to apply?

A reader writes:

I remember reading your “Don’t Use a Video Resume” post when it first came out, but what of a job posting that specifically requires a YouTube video to apply? Would you consider that a red flag?

And how’s a job seeker to meet the requirement for a YouTube link if their current employer doesn’t know they’re job-hunting? Would it even be worthwhile to ask the HR contact to add you as a “friend” on YouTube so you can share a private video “with friends” on an account created just to post that one private video… and is even THAT secure?

The ad I saw asks for a video that answers questions like: Who are you? Where are you from, and where do you live now? What have you done before that will make you ideal for this role? … and more.

The company does work with some video-based startups, but the role doesn’t seem to involve any video production beyond maybe some promotional clips for conferences that the average Flip camera user with a MacBook could put together easily. However, presentation skills are important, so that’s probably why they want video. I can see both sides.

Ugh. This is so, so stupid.

It’s not that I believe that video can’t have any place in a hiring process, but asking for it with the initial application is a terrible idea. Most employers receive hundreds of applications for job openings, and they end up rejecting the vast majority of those without ever speaking with them. So they’re asking people to go through an awful lot of work (and, for many people, stress) when 90% of the videos people create won’t even be viewed. (Or if that’s not the case — if they’re actually going to watch them all — then they have a bad hiring process, because for a non-video-based role there’s no reason not to do an initial cut based solely on resumes and cover letters, and so they’re valuing the wrong things.)

Moreover, the questions this particular company wants you to answer are … daft. “Where are you from and where do you live now?” Why do they care enough to make this part of their original screening?

I’d read this as a company that probably doesn’t hire well (and is seduced by hiring gimmicks rather than focusing on what matters) and/or puts unusual emphasis on things like pep and perkiness. Those things don’t have to be deal-breakers, but take it as information about the employer that you can factor into your overall thinking.

{ 78 comments… read them below }

  1. Thomas

    Decision Maker 1: “I hate sifting through applications, but we need a new employee. How can we reduce the applicant pool as much as humanly possible?”

    Decision Maker 2: “Hey, I’ve got an idea…”

  2. the gold digger

    I’m pretty sure the search firm that is looking for my company’s new CEO is being paid by the hour – I saw yesterday that they had already interviewed over 100 people and had 100 to go.

    1. the gold digger

      Exact words: “The search firm told us that they are in the active screening stage and have spoken with 100 prospects, with more than 100 to go. ”

      So maybe screening interviewing, but still? Speaking to 200 people? Maybe they should have asked for video.

        1. Ruffingit

          Being in the active screening stage though may just mean speaking by phone or email. I would be surprised to have that many CEO candidates too, but then I don’t know much about hiring for those types of jobs. I highly doubt “active screening stage” includes actually interviewing 100+ people as opposed to screening them on the phone or through email or whatever. If they are actually doing sit-down interviews with that many people, then something is really wrong.

          1. Jamie

            I’m with Stephanie – I have a hard time imagining even getting 200 applicants for that position, regardless of qualifications. Much, much fewer making it to the phone screen.

  3. Ashley

    As a side note, you can make a video on YouTube accessible only by direct link, so you have to send the link to anyone you want to watch it. There is still some risk that someone could discover it, but it’s highly unlikely, as it won’t show up in any searches. I did this when I bought a new house and wanted to show my disabled sister what it looked like since she wouldn’t ever be able to see it in person due to the stairs. It’s never been viewed by anyone other than me and her, and I had it up for about a month or two before I remembered to delete it. Just an option if you really do want to apply for this job!

    1. O

      Also only came on here to say that, because I’ve had to do a video before for a fellowship application, just turned a powerpoint into a video

    2. OP

      Thank you! I had forgotten about that option. That still leaves the concern that the hiring manager could send the link to someone I didn’t want it to get back to, but the same applies to a cover letter, so I suppose there’s really no difference.

  4. AdAgencyChick

    Man, if and only if I REALLY wanted this job, I’d apply and, if interviewed, the first question out of my mouth would be, “How did you guys arrive at the idea to have everyone submit a video?”

    And then I’d listen very, VERY carefully to the answer.

  5. Windchime

    My first thought when I see something like this is that they want to screen out people who don’t fit a specific demographic. Yeah, I’m suspicious like that.

    1. KarenT

      It crossed my mind as well. At minimum there could be some subconscious discrimination, but realistically that would just happen at the interview stage as well.

    2. Lily in NYC

      That’s exactly what I thought. Or similarly, they want to hire an attractive person without saying it directly.

    3. OP

      I definitely think this is a realistic suspicion. It’s a company that largely depends on continuously attracting the new, hot thing to work with them, so the person in this position will need to be able to draw a certain personality type in and convince them to a form a relationship with the organization. I think there’s definitely an image-consciousness component.

  6. Cath@VWXYNot?

    Geez – this sounds more like a reality TV audition tape than a job application! Maybe in the interview you’ll have to run an obstacle course and then vote another applicant off the island.

    1. OP

      Ha! I would be KILLER at that, actually. I’m super-competitive and only the issue of post-production storyline creation probably turning me into a villain has kept me off reality TV so far… I’ve had offers! :P

    2. Jen in RO

      Maybe they’ll send you on a race around the world! The candidate that makes it to the finish line first gets the job and a hug from Phil.

      1. Jamie

        Seriously there needs to be an AAM team on The Race. That would be the hook. They could do a whole season of pairs who met on various internet forums but not in person until the start of the Race.

        I’ll recap it just for a vicarious hug from Phil.

        1. Beebs

          Oh, I’m in! It’s my secret dream to be on TAR. Even if I got Philiminated early on, which I probably would.

        2. Jen in RO

          I would suck at TAR. I get really bitchy and whiny if I don’t get my sleep, and I do *not* want to be the bitchy whiny girl of the season. (I hate what’s-her-face, Marie? I hope she chokes on her Express Pass.)

  7. KarenT

    This sounds like a well-intended hiring practice gone horribly awry.
    I bet they decided to do a YouTube video because they want to evaluate your video skills and it’s a quick way to do so. It’s also a way to test people’s enthusiasm and such for the role.
    But doing it at the application stage is completely and utterly obnoxious. It’s work for someone to do this, and it should really be done after first interviews or even just with finalists as part of the selection process.
    And as for the privacy concerns (which I would absolutely share) I think you can send a direct link that hides the video from searches. I’d probably ask if I could just submit the video clip to the hiring manager.

    And sadly, I have some marketing/social media colleagues that I know would think this ridiculous scheme is a FANTASTIC idea.

  8. OP

    Thanks for the comments, everyone — I want to reply to a couple of you individually also after I type this!

    This is a senior-level job with a “cool” company that is probably pretty image-focused, so while I can see both sides here in that they really do probably only want to interview people who present themselves extremely well on video and in public speaking situations, I also wonder if they are looking for a particular image (read: demographic) and will be screening out people they don’t think will appeal to their client base.

    I love the idea of addressing this immediately in an interview question and listening carefully to their answer. The job is still posted and I’m still tempted to try reaching out about a more private way to share a video with them than a YouTube link, but Alison’s comments about taking this as information about their culture definitely hit home. It could just be one too cool for school recruiter trying something new, or it could be an indication of an overall issue.

  9. Elise

    I would guess this is an entry level position and they think they can train people on the non-presentation side. They probably don’t think most of their applicants have relevant work experience and they don’t care. This is less exclusionary to those without anything on their resume. “Tell me about yourself” might have been better than the ones they listed, but then applicants may have had no idea what to say.

    I still think it’s a silly idea to do it this way, but I think they meant.

    1. Elise

      I just saw you posted that it was senior level. Necermind about my thought that they were trying to open it up to more people. Now it sounds like this is just dumb hiring.

  10. Anonymously

    When I ran a very, very competitive summer internship program we had a 60 second video competent. We found in previous years that we got over 400 applicants for 10 slots. The video competent (which interns had to do a lot of quick video builds for clients) really helped “self select” the group into students who were actually interested in the role. Some of the positions were in Production and Creative as well, so this helped show that aspect. The video we mentioned we were looking for content not quality, and we really got a range. Future production interns got more scrutiny on the video, and the others didn’t so much. The question was about relating the company’s mission with their career goals and why they wanted to intern for us instead of the “big guys”. It was a smaller company but over the years found that we would hire about 50% of our intern class for entry level jobs. It became a great proving ground for students to display their interest. It also got around a lot of the “referrals”- if a referral didn’t want to work there enough to do the robust process- it eliminated the “just sending the resume” mentality.
    Each video was viewed by a committee of 8, and we had around 80 applications total for 2 offices. It was awesome and helped us get our best class of interns yet.
    So in some cases, I think it can be helpful. Feel free to tell me I’m wrong and I terrorized interns. :)

    1. ExceptionToTheRule

      I think this would be the appropriate use of a video component. If the job/internship requires them to do video production, then you’d want a demo reel of some sort to evaluate their skill level.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I agree you’d want to see it at some point, but I wouldn’t ask them to create something new for you at the application stage — too much investment of time when 90% of the candidates won’t be moving forward anyway. I’d say to ask for an existing video clip or wait until a later stage of the process.

        1. FD

          From what I’ve read (and from what you’ve said), most hiring managers only spend about 30sec – 1min on the initial scan of the interview. Surely even a short video resume would have to be 3-4 min. Why would one want to (at minimum) triple the time the initial screening will take?

  11. voluptuousfire

    I’ve started seeing that occasionally in my job hunt. Back in 2011 I found a “virtual staffing agency” which basically uses this method. They have contract recruiters (staffing people who use this as a side gig) watch the videos and they pass the worthy candidates onto the employer. I was going to go for a position with it and didn’t have a web cam at the time and they had spaces set up where you could record a video. I ended up passing on it because it seemed like such a stressful way of conducting an interview. I also felt it was a really cold way of conducting what is a very personal process.

    Supposedly this is the “next big thing” but I only really see this catching on with uppity, “cool” tech startups that create job titles with ninja, rock star and pirate in the title. I wonder if their CEO is the Big Kahuna or Grand Poobah. :P

    1. OP

      Sadly, the recruiting contact has an email address at the company’s domain, so I don’t think it’s an agency! Maybe just one enthusiastic person doing the new hot thing… or someone they hired from an agency?

    2. Jamie

      I love when ads want ninjas or rockstars – and I’ve seen both…or brag in the ad about their pool table and fun culture. It saved me many a cover letter back when I was looking.

      My job is hard enough without having to be Stevie Nicks while I’m at it.

      Although if I could be Stevie Nicks I totally would be – just saying.

      1. Jen in RO

        A while back I interviewed for a senior technical writer job. I ended up declining and, when they reposted the job, the title was grand master technical writer. Ew, who would want that stupid title? There were other red flags during the interview process too, but this showed me that I was right to decline.
        (An ex coworker also interviewed there and she told me that I was right to be wary: they wanted to pay off the books. Yeah , no thanks.)

        1. FD

          Would you have had to wear a cape and cowl? Would your reports have had to report to you as “Master,” and speak in a hushed voice when entering your inner sanctum? Because that would have been kind of amazing…

          1. Jen in RO

            Sadly, I don’t think so. And there were/are no reports planned for the position… no minion opportunities.

      2. Yup

        My knee jerk snark is that if they actually use those words, then I’m going to require the corresponding perks. If I am to be your rock star: I will work between the hours of 3 pm and midnight, I will wear whatever I please (even if it doesn’t involve pants), and someone will need to sort my M&Ms by color. Failure to meet my conditions will result in total trashing of the office space, including throwing the furniture out the window.

        1. voluptuousfire

          +1. The whole M&M thing was written into Van Halen’s contract to see if the venues were paying attention when it came to things like lighting and stage set up. If they walked in the dressing room and didn’t see the bowl of M&M’s without the brown ones, it could show that the venue didn’t pay attention to safety issues. Van Halen’s method of quality control, you could say.

      3. Mike C.

        I’m so tired of hearing about “rockstars”, “ninjas” or now “sherpas”.

        Guess what folks, maybe when you job is to guide crazy people up the highest mountain in the world and risk serious death for several months out of the year, you can call yourself a “sherpa”.

        It’s nothing more than stupid marketing business majors say to each other to convince themselves they’re actually doing something productive.

        1. voluptuousfire

          Also because who wouldn’t love to be a ninja, rock star or pirate? (I think I made pirate up, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I read it somewhere in a start up’s job ad. If anything, I’d rather be a Viking. Tons of mead.)

      4. Kelly L.

        Can I dress like Stevie at work? There might be the small matter of my scarves getting stuck in the printer, but I think I could cope.

    3. Manda

      Supposedly this is the “next big thing” but I only really see this catching on with uppity, “cool” tech startups that create job titles with ninja, rock star and pirate in the title. I wonder if their CEO is the Big Kahuna or Grand Poobah. :P

      The best variation I’ve seen on this was an ad looking for “The ‘Wayne Gretzky’ of Pharmacy Techs.” *snicker*

      1. Felicia

        I’ve never seen one with pirate in the title, that would be awesome! Though Wayne Gretzky is cool:) Ive see a few with ninja or superstar in the title, but i particularly like the one that said being a rock star was one of the requirements

  12. VictoriaHR

    I’d read this as a company that’s totally clueless when it comes to racial/ethnic discrimination, and they’re trying to weed out people who aren’t American and/or who are a race that they don’t like.

    1. Jen in RO

      But couldn’t they do this in a face to face interview too? If they want to discriminate, a lack of video won’t stop them…

    2. Joey

      Victoria,
      This makes no sense unless you’re doing interviews without ever seeing your candidates faces and/or names.

      1. AB

        I think it actually does make sense — it can help assure you that only people matching the desired demographics / aesthetics requirements would be included in the pool of candidates to be interviewed.

        Otherwise, you could choose 10 people to interview, and only realize during the interviews that you ended up with zero candidates who have the appearance you want.

        (I’m saying that while being horrified that this could be crossing the mind of anyone recruiting for a job. But it does make sense, if your intention is to have a pool of candidates to interview who look a certain way, instead of a pool of truly qualified / smart / accomplished people who may not fit the desired appearance.)

        1. Kerr

          +1. “Man, how disappointing! Now we have to go back and interview 10 more until we find hot/cool/young/bubbly candidates!”

          I’m also seeing a number of job listings (on Craigslist) requesting photos, “to help us keep track of applicants”. Right. Because I’m going to send photos of me in response to an ad that doesn’t even list the company’s name.

          1. AB

            Man, how disappointing! Now we have to go back and interview 10 more until we find hot/cool/young/bubbly candidates!”

            Precisely, Kerr! If it is your intent to hire hot/cool/young/bubbly candidates, video will definitely make your process more efficient by pre-screening for what you can’t / won’t list in the job requirements. Awful, but probably a common reason behind requests for videos/photos.

            These Craiglist requests from anonymous companies are even more ludicrous. I hope their efforts fail, and recruiters have no choice but go back to normal applications that focus on the person’s accomplishments.

  13. the gold digger

    Years ago, B.AAM., I made a video to send to a huge ad agency as my job application. My friend’s teenage daughter interviewed me and asked questions like, “If you were a pizza, what kind of toppings would there be on you?” and “If you were a tree, what kind would you be and why?”

    I mailed it to them – a videocassette – but shockingly, never heard back. I thought it showed creativity and initiative, but again, this was several years B.AAM.

  14. Ruffingit

    Gah. This is so, so stupid. I have seen ads asking for video resumes too and I just skip them. It’s too much work for not enough return this early in the hiring process.

  15. Ali

    I am looking to break into the sports business, and I see some postings recommend that you submit video pitches if you are applying for a ticket sales job. It’s not required, but recommended. Fortunately, not every job opening asks for this. I hate being on video, but I did this once because the team I was applying at seemed like an awesome place to work. Unfortunately, I don’t have a natural ability for being on camera. I did not make it to an interview.

  16. Lola

    I once had to submit a video for a job I applied for. They were looking for someone with the ability to teach (it was an academic library position) and wanted you to submit a video of your teaching style. I was so reluctant to do it and hemmed and hawed and finally made the video the night before it was due. In the end, I got the job. I later found out that they had spent months and tons of money flying in candidates who looked good on paper but could not teach to save their lives (*insert librarian stereotype here*) For what it’s worth, I’m a WOC. It never dawned on me that anything discriminatory was at play but that’s not something I typically worry about in this industry.

      1. Lola

        This was back in 2004 so I don’t even remember if people were regularly using Skype then. My point was that they figured why even bother interviewing someone who couldn’t teach? At least with a video they didn’t have to plan a specific time to meet with me and could pass the video along to all on the hiring committee to watch at their leisure. I was also a local candidate.

  17. AVP

    I do work in video production, and this is my worst nightmare. Not to have to make a video, but to have to WATCH so many badly made projects! Paper resumes ftw, now and always.

  18. Manda

    I have to wonder if they’d use this to snoop around people’s YouTube accounts. I hate the idea of having to make a video to apply as it is, but YouTube? I don’t use my real name on YouTube and I get tired of being asked to every time I log in. But screen name or not, would they poke around and see what videos I may have posted? Would they try to see what videos I’ve liked and left comments on? Would they see who my friends on YouTube are and snoop their pages? Maybe they’d even report me for copyright infringement. (These are hypothetical situations, BTW, not necessarily reflective of my actual YouTube activity.) What I do on YouTube is nobody’s business.

  19. Rana

    All I can think, when I see stuff like this, is how time-consuming dealing with the applications would be. I can read a four-page transcript of a video in a couple of minutes, tops, but that same video could work out to be five-ten minutes, depending on spacing and timing, etc.

    Who has that much time? Even if the work demands comfort in front of a camera, save that for the interview, and do a screen test!

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