Create a great video CV

Jemma Smith, Editor
April, 2021

If you get it right a video CV can display your personality and demonstrate your creativity, passion and drive. It could also make you stand out in the competitive application process. Learn more about what to include, how to film and the pros and cons of this approach

While they're not suitable for every job, video CVs are increasingly popular. With employers typically inundated with applications for every advertised role, it's important to make your CV stand out. One way that career-savvy graduates are doing this is by submitting their CV in video format.

Despite the common perception that video CVs are only applicable to certain vocations, they can get you noticed by recruiters in any sector.

Introducing the video CV

A video CV is a short recording used by a candidate to apply for a job. Instead of replacing traditional CVs, a video CV is used to supplement a written application.

They can either be uploaded to a video hosting site, such as YouTube, or sent as a video file directly to employers via email.

The purpose of a CV in this format is to highlight a candidate's skills and experience while giving employers an insight into their personality.

In 2018 Mounia Essaadani was finalising her Masters thesis in publishing studies. She opted for a video CV when applying to an internship programme at Penguin Random House. 'I sent it on a USB stick in an orange envelope (Penguin's brand colour) and designed my CV like one of their traditional orange book covers.' While her application was unsuccessful Mounia believes the video opened other doors. 'The video was a good display of my skills as a content creator and storyteller and it lead me to other opportunities in content creation roles.'

Video CVs are usually between one and three minutes long. It's important to grab a recruiter's attention while keeping the running time of the video to a minimum.

When to use one

The idea of getting in front of a camera and putting yourself in the public domain can be scary, but in some industries a video CV can really set you apart.

Video CVs are most commonly used to apply for creative and customer-facing roles in sectors such as advertising, creative arts, marketing, media, PR and sales.

However, recorded CVs don't have to be restricted to particular jobs or industries. They can also be particularly useful when applying for digital, journalism, fashion or IT related roles.

That being said for more traditional jobs, such as those in law, accounting, engineering, medicine and construction a video CV may not always be appropriate.

When deciding whether to use a video CV take into consideration the job you're applying for and the company you hope to join. Do some research into the culture of the organisation to help you decide whether it's suitable.

'You need to ask yourself if a video CV will be a goof fit,' say the careers team at the University of Westminster. 'If an employer has a standardised application process involving an application form, or they specifically ask for a written CV, don't try to substitute this with a video.'

Pros and cons

It's also a good idea to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of this method of application before making the decision.

Video CVs have a number of advantages. For example, they can help you:

  • Stand out from the crowd - While video CVs are on the rise they are by no means common. Using this method of application you'll immediately stand out as someone prepared to go the extra mile.
  • Showcase your creativity - Instead of following a traditional CV template you'll do your own thing. An important quality in creative roles.
  • Display your personality - It's hard to accurately convey your personality in a written CV or cover letter. Video enables you to make a memorable impact.
  • Demonstrate particular skills - By creating a video you can physically demonstrate skills such as public speaking, communication and IT/digital ability. You can also show off portfolio work.

However, they also have their share of disadvantages. They could:

  • Make you stand out for the wrong reasons - Video CVs aren't for everyone. They will make some candidates shine, while highlighting the flaws of others. If you're shy or awkward in front of a camera or don't have the required editing skills it's best to give this type of CV a miss.
  • Lead you to sell yourself short - Time constraints make it difficult for you to include all the information you might wish to.
  • Take up precious time - Video CVs are time consuming to film and edit. Some recruiters believe that this time would be better spent perfecting your paper application.
  • Irritate employers - They spend as little as eight seconds looking at each paper CV so the hassle of having to spend two to three minutes watching a video could lead your application straight to the no pile.

Prepare to film

If you decide to give it a go there are a number of things to consider before you start filming. First off, don't be daunted by the quality of other video CVs you find online. The aim isn't to be the next Steven Spielberg, but rather to give a glimpse into who you are and how you can help organisations grow.

To begin with, write down what you'd like to say. Don't attempt to film the video without a script - this can lead to you forgetting important points or waffling to fill the time. It's fine to ad lib a little but try not to lose track of what you want to say. Learning your script beforehand also prevents you from having to read from an autocue or notes.

Plan the location of your video to ensure that you have a quiet, well-lit space to film in. You'll also need to consider the backdrop of your recording. It should be clear and free from clutter. If you're using a specific set or props make sure that everything that appears in your video is appropriate and professional.

Appearance also matters. Plan your outfit in advance, making sure to dress as you would for an interview. This could mean a suit and tie or business casual - take your cue from the type of organisation that you're applying to.

'When I prepare a video, I always imagine a film in my head of how I would like the video to look,' explains Mounia who now works as a marketing manager and content creator. 'The intro needs to be catchy so I always think of how I can make something original. Then I start writing a short script. When I have the text I start to draw a storyboard of the different scenes and angles I plan to shoot. After all the planning I start recording. I recorded my own video CV with a tripod and my camera. I added the voice over and some light music in the background during the editing phase.'

The Westminster careers team stresses the importance of planning in advance. 'Speak to your LinkedIn network, mentors or potential employers and do your research as to whether it's likely to be appropriate for the role you want. Rehearse and rehearse again. Get feedback from others. Leave yourself enough time to re-record and edit the video until you are happy with the finished version.'

What to include

It's so important to be genuine so don't be tempted to copy another video CV you see on YouTube.

Structure the video so that it has a beginning, middle and end. Start by introducing yourself, explaining why you've created the video and why you're the right person for the job.

Talk about your unique selling points and any relevant skills and experience, showing examples of your work and demonstrating your skills through the use of slideshows, clips or on-screen graphics.

At the end of your video summarise what you have told the employer and reiterate why you're right for the role. Thank them for watching the video and include your contact details. Link to online platforms that could strengthen your application, such as a website or social media account.

The careers team at Westminster give the following advice 'Think about the content in the same way that you would think about a more traditional CV - what is the employer likely to be interested in? Before ending the video make sure the employer knows how to contact you to find out more.'

The format of the video could be a project showcase, mock interview (where you answer relevant questions to camera) or a narrated timeline of your experience and achievements. The choice is yours.

'If you want to create a video CV think storytelling first,' advises Mounia. 'Our attention span is shorter than ever, so you really have to think about how you can maintain your audience. Don't just stand in front of a camera talking for three minutes, try to include different scenes. Let your creativity shine and most of all, have fun.'

Technical aspects

As well as practical considerations such as location and script, you'll also need to consider technical aspects such as filming equipment, the editing process and how you'll make the video accessible to recruiters.

You'll need a computer, internet access and a camera as a minimum. You may also need a tripod, lighting and editing software such as Final Cut Pro, Microsoft Movie Maker or Apple iMovie.

If you have a smart phone with a high quality camera you could use this, but if you want it to look professional it's best to use a decent DSLR camera. You'll also need to make sure that the audio quality is good - employers will switch off if they can't make out what you're saying.

When filming, make the video dynamic by using different shots and camera angles. Do as many takes as possible to give you something to work with during the editing process, arguably one of the most important steps to creating a great video CV.

It's at this stage that you can tighten up your video, reordering and tweaking shots, cutting bits that didn't work and adding visual and sound effects (such as pointing to text as it appears on screen or background music). The scenes that make the final cut should be those that portray you in the best possible light.

If video editing isn't your thing ask a friend or put the word out online for someone who might be able to help.

Once you have a finished video you need to decide how you'll make this accessible to recruiters. Uploading the video to the internet provides easy access for employers. This way you can also link and promote your video CV on your social media channels.

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