7 Steps to a Stellar Video Application
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Last year, I applied for the job I now have (and love!): the Account Management role at ZeroCater. The position seemed like a perfect fit, and I couldn't send in my resume quickly enough.
However, part of the application process included submitting a video, which was a very first in my job search adventures. It was surprisingly difficult to figure out how to make an entertaining 3-minute video of me talking—it was awkward, and I didn't really want to do it. But I forged ahead, spent a weekend making the video, sent in my application, and ended up landing the job.
Now, seven months later, I’m involved in the interviewing and hiring process at ZeroCater HQ, which includes watching applicant videos. From this side of things, I certainly see their value and understand their rise in popularity. We receive hundreds of resumes every month, and a video allows us to get a more dynamic sense of someone than the written word allows. It's difficult to get a feel for someone’s personality and creativity from a stack of resumes and cover letters—which are meant to be standardized—whereas videos bring our applicants off the page and give a more holistic picture of why they're great.
If you find yourself faced with the task of making an application video, fear not! The wonderful part about a video application is the level of control it enables. If a take doesn't go well, you can erase it. If you make a joke and immediately realize that it was severely less funny than you'd hoped, you can take it back! It's an interview minus the mishaps and subsequent facepalms, and the chance to make an awesome first impression with the added ability to take as much time as necessary to get it right.
On that note, here are a few tips to help you make a 5-star application video.
1. Plan Before You Film
Think about how you'd like to respond to the given prompt, and consider what video format works best for you. Are you comfortable talking to the camera on your computer or phone, or would it be easier to have a friend “interview” you? Or, how about a slideshow with a voiceover, using Story Wheel? All of these things are options, so be creative and choose something that feels natural to you.
2. Don’t Recite Your Resume
Instead of listing past roles and responsibilities, take the opportunity to share an experience or quality about yourself that has particular relevance to the position but that might not shine through on your resume. For example, one of our applicants listed “bike trip leader” in the “Special Skills” section at the bottom of her resume. Her video focused on this part of her background and, through photos and stories, showed us that she’s an energetic leader who’s able to build community over a shared experience. It was exactly what we were looking for—and she works here now.
3. Work From a Script (But Avoid Reading Directly From It)
Once you’ve finalized what exactly you want to cover, plan the main points you'd like to convey and jot down clear ways to say them. Writing your ideas ahead of time encourages intention and clarity—and helps eliminate run-on sentences and excessive “ums” and “likes.”
4. Make Sure Your Video is Clear and Audible
We want to see you and hear what you have to say! Reduce background noise, choose a well-lit setting, and avoid having the camera pointing up your nose. These things sound obvious, but believe me, they go a long way.
5. Shoot Several Takes if Necessary
The beauty of an application video is that you don't have to settle on a bad take. If the neighbor's dog is barking incessantly in the background or you get off track, do it again. In my case, I couldn't figure out how to sign off in a way that seemed natural. Was I supposed to say “bye?” Just stop talking? After a few takes, I found a smile and wave that didn't make me look insane.
6. Watch Your Own Video
Have you ever read through an email you've just written to discover spelling errors, run-on sentences, or a few overused adjectives? I know I have. You should watch your video for the same reason: catching those silly mistakes. Consider having a friend check it out too—a fresh set of eyes can help notice mistakes or idiosyncrasies that you may have overlooked.
7. Edit What You Make
Programs like iMovie, Final Cut Pro, and Movie Maker are intuitive and easy to use, and there are plenty of free video editing programs to try. You don't have to be a seasoned editor to make small changes that go a long way. If you can't figure something out, there are a myriad of YouTube tutorials to show you how.
I can't speak for all employers, but as far as our team is concerned, we aren't looking for the most well-written monologue or the highest production quality in our applicants' videos. We're looking for personality, creativity, intelligence, and effort. A video is an extra opportunity to show a company why you really would be an excellent addition to their team, so have fun and take advantage of it.