They might not work for every type of job, but a well-made video CV is an effective way to let your personality shine through and impress recruiters

With employers typically inundated with applications for every advertised role, it's important to make your CV stand out if you want to beat the competition. One way to get attention is to use video.

Despite the common perception that video CVs are only applicable to certain vocations - for example, customer-facing and creative roles in marketing, sales and the media - they can get you noticed by employers in any sector.

There's nothing more helpful than a video CV to showcase my enthusiasm and passion

What if I'm scared of doing a video CV?

The idea of getting in front of a camera and putting yourself in the public domain can be terrifying, admits University of Kent graduate Mark Leruste. Yet having overcome his doubts, he is now the host and founder of weekly podcast The Unconventionalists and a web TV show on YouTube.

Mark's remarkable story began while he was already employed in full-time 9am-5pm job - but as he explains on MarkLeruste.com, his real passion lay elsewhere. Before he could pursue an exciting entrepreneurial career he had to conquer public speaking, which he notes 'is often listed as a bigger fear than being buried alive'.

He had his own reservations about what would happen if he pressed 'publish' on YouTube, and there was also opposition from people who said making a video CV was a ridiculous idea.

What made him take the plunge was the foresight that a video CV could become a powerful way to showcase his experience, personality, interest and skillset. Mark advises others to push ahead too. 'Looking back now, it's easy for me to say that it was the best decision I made - as my video CV has reached almost 200,000 views on YouTube.

'But I just knew that I wouldn't stand out on a conventional CV, as I'm dyslexic and an energetic and creative kind of guy. I decided that the best way for potential employers to see whether I was a good fit would be to share who I was and to showcase my enthusiasm and passion for what I wanted to do. And there's nothing more helpful than a video CV to do that.'

What should the video include?

Mark suggests that you should not be daunted by the quality of other video CVs you find online. Remember that 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 and deliver value to their customers'.

Finally, he stresses the importance of daring to be you. 'I know it's tempting to copy another video CV and go the easy way, but you'll have more fun and stand out more if you just focus it on yourself.'

Another graduate who's found success through his video CV on YouTube (with an impressive 135,000 hits to date) is Nick Belling, who studied the Bachelor of Information Technology (Software Design and Development) at Charles Sturt University in Australia. He notes that video CVs work best when you have something you can show off and talk about.

Nick's field of study meant he was able to display some of his work through the video, making it visually interesting, which ultimately helped to secure him a graduate role.

While this approach worked for him, Nick understands that those applying for non-portfolio based jobs may need to think more creatively in order to sustain the audience. However, even if you work with numbers or in project-based roles such as sales or retail, you can still produce a great video CV. Any public speaking experience you have will certainly prove helpful.

Whatever your background and talents, you'll need to ensure the content demonstrates:

  • your ability - showing off your work
  • your personality
  • your sense of humour
  • that you're the best at what you do.

How do I get from script to screen?

While Nick's script was written within an hour and filming only took about two hours, getting the video production up to a standard ready to be shared with the wider world took him about four days in total. This was so that employers would value the finished product and he could still be proud of it years later.

'Don't sit in front of a webcam and churn something out in 10 minutes,' he advises. 'You need to prove that your work is of the highest quality, and your video is the first indicator of this.'

In terms of equipment, Nick recommends that you use a decent DSLR camera to create the video - or alternatively borrow one from someone you know. 'Using a low-quality camera is the equivalent of handing in your CV scribbled onto a napkin,' he adds.

For Nick, most of the effort in creating a video CV went into the editing process, doing the visual effects (VFX) and then refining it for audiences. After each viewing, he would go back and tighten it up further, tweaking shots and reordering them so that it flowed properly.

This level of perfectionism is not for everybody, he acknowledges, but if you don't think you have the necessary technical skills, learning isn't that difficult. In fact, what he had by the end of the first day was passable, though not close to what he considered an acceptable quality. 'Looking back, there's still a lot that I could do to improve it even further, but I had to eventually draw a line and just upload it, or I'd still be out of a job today.'

Nick's final piece of advice is fundamental: don't just film a single shot of you talking to camera. 'It doesn't matter how well dressed you are or how well you speak, you need to hook the viewer immediately, within the first 10 seconds, if you want them to stick around for the rest,' he says.

The use of a simple visual effect (such as pointing to text as it appeared on screen) helps to maintain viewers' attention.

Top 10 tips for creating a video CV

A video CV can complement your traditional CV and cover letter, but Hannah Greer, work-study scheme coordinator at the University of Kent's Careers and Employability Service, says they can also be used as an effective standalone tool, particularly if you're looking to work in the media.

She offers the following points for graduates to bear in mind when making their video CV:

  • Dress to impress - just as you would for an interview.
  • Write a plan, and memorise what you can - it's fine to have notes as a cue, like a newsreader, but don't read them straight from your notepad.
  • Introduce yourself - including your contact details at the end.
  • Think about the background in shot - ensure it's free from posters or other distractions.
  • Record the video in a quiet environment.
  • Showcase your work portfolio - through a slideshow, clips or a screenshot of your website.
  • Tell a story - make sure it has a beginning, middle and end.
  • Come up with three unique selling points (USPs) you want to get across to employers.
  • Watch it back, and edit out anything that doesn't put you across in the best possible way.
  • Utilise free online tools and hosting.

For additional guidance on creating a great video CV, you can watch the various Vimeo videos published by CVVid, an online platform that connects video CV jobseekers with potential employers.