Trent Willis wants to work as a lobbyist on K Street. He grabbed recruiters' attention by creating a mock campaign-attack ad.
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Remember him? Aleksey Vayner sent an investment banking firm a video resume touting his seemingly superhuman skills -- as a student, weight lifter, martial-arts expert, dancer, skier and tennis player. He quickly became a laughing stock online and on TV.
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Some job candidates hoping to stand out from the competition are posting video resumes online to boost their chances of being spotted — and hired. Several companies are even trying to develop businesses around this budding phenomenon. But federal employment officials say companies should handle video resumes with care.
Video resumes have been around for years. But with the growth of broadband connections and the proliferation of easy-to-use video-making applications, more people are posting video resumes on the Internet.
Some are just producing conventional, personal introductions. Others take a more creative approach.
It's One Way to Grab Attention
Take Trent Willis for example. A young political consultant in Alabama, Willis wants to work on K Street — Washington's lobbyist row. To grab attention, he turned his video resume into a parody of a campaign attack ad.
"Do you really know Trent Willis?" the ad asks in mock-ominous tones. "Trent Willis attended the University of Alabama, where he studied public relations and where he legally drank."
Willis says he had to do something different to get noticed.
"I'm not an Ivy League student," he says. "My resume would have looked like any other sheet of paper. And that was exactly the problem I had to counteract."
Willis e-mailed his materials to various firms and included a link to his video resume on YouTube. He says the response has been positive: "I've got interviews set up all through the month of January."
One thing that caught the eye of potential employers was Willis' sense of humor. The mock ad says Willis is "willing to relocate and his salary would always be negotiable. And now Trent Willis wants your money. Trent Willis: Wrong for unemployment."
"That made me laugh," says Colburn Aker, who runs a public-relations firm on K Street. "I guess I get about one or two resumes a day from people looking for jobs. When his came in, what amazed me was not just that he did that, but that he did it in a way that his creative ability came through. And I thought that was most extraordinary, because mostly you get very serious people submitting their resume, and they don't do a very good job of it."
Aker says his company doesn't have any openings now, "but if he were here, he'd be a serious contender for any position I'd have."
Maybe NOT Such a Good Idea…
Of course, pitching yourself on video can backfire. Ask Aleksey Vayner. The Yale student sent a video resume to an investment banking firm, showing off his athletic prowess and spouting self-improvement slogans. He called the video "Impossible is Nothing."
Vayner didn't come off very well.
"When people tell you you can't achieve something, cross them out of your life. Ignore the losers," Vayner says in the video. Someone posted it online, and Vayner became a target of mass ridicule.
Some job hunters know they risk mockery, but say it's worth it. Take Gerald Shields. He's a tech-support engineer in Norfolk, and he's dying to move. His video-resume pitch asks: "You're wondering: Why would I stoop to this desperate act of self-humiliation? Why would I put myself in such illustrious company as people who lip-sync to popular songs?"
His answer: "It's simple: I hate the state of Virginia. I wish to escape from this place and spend the rest of my days praying that I'll never come back here. But, anyway, here's my resume."
New Pitfalls for Employers
Some entrepreneurs think video resumes have potential. One startup, RecruiTV, is trying to build an online space where candidates and firms can share videos.
But companies should be cautious, says Peggy Mastroianni, an associate legal counsel at the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. Video can reveal information — race, religion, disabilities — that shouldn't figure into who gets an interview and who doesn't.
Mastroianni says firms will have to train screeners to ignore appearances and focus strictly on qualifications.
"Employers have got to be more careful," Mastroianni says. "The fact that they have seen a video resume requires that they think harder about the decisions they're making than they would if they had a paper resume."
It's too early to say whether video resumes will take off. So far, there don't seem to be many out there. Together, YouTube and RecruiTV, the new video-sharing startup, have fewer than 200.
But RecruiTV hopes to change that soon. Early next year, it will head to college campuses and try to convince students that video resumes are the next big thing.