Technology Redefines Applicant-Employer Communication



Job applicant video, audio introductions now more common

By Dinah Wisenberg Brin Jul 11, 2014
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When Zappos stopped posting open positions and urged prospective hires to sign up as company “insiders” on its proprietary social network instead, the online shoe store encouraged candidates to get noticed by submitting video cover letters.

Zappos applicants, in fact, have been uploading video cover letters for a few years now, and the idea of using video or audio cover letters to replace or supplement the traditional paper version appears to be gaining momentum elsewhere as well.

Video Cover Letters LLC, a two-year-old startup operating in Pittsburgh and Erie, Pa., offers to produce professional-quality video covers for job hunters, with services including scripts, shooting and editing. The company recommends that customers post the final product on YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, LinkedIn and their personal websites, and send a link to hiring managers.

“It’s a new way to communicate with hiring managers, show off your personality and separate yourself from the competition,” Video Cover Letters states on its website.

In Montreal, job posting board startup VoiceCover.com offers applicants the ability to record audio cover letters, in some cases answering a specific recruiting interview-type question supplied by the hiring company.

“It’s an interview that is done at their own comfort,” VoiceCover founder and President Aref Amiri said in an interview with SHRM Online. “They’re going to be sitting in their own chair, they are going to [say] what they want to say, and they can practice it as many times as they want.”

In a typical applicant tracking system, industrial engineer Amiri said, “a job seeker’s voice is not being heard.” While the Internet has made it easier for job seekers to apply for positions, resulting in more applicants for every job, “there’s a human touch missing” in the recruitment process—a problem he experienced while job searching himself two years ago.

VoiceCover offers employers the ability to distribute each posting to approximately 1,000 other job sites. Once applicants visiting those sites click to apply for a particular listing, they’ll be redirected to VoiceCover’s platform, where they’ll see a pop-up page with simple voice recording technology that will direct them in creating one-minute videos to explain their qualifications and answer a prescreening question that recruiters may pose. In addition, they can enter contact information and a resume.

“Three clicks and that’s it. You have a minute to express yourself,” Amiri said.

The technology is compatible with Chrome, Firefox and Safari browsers and should pose no obstacle for recruiters wanting to listen to the sound files, he said.

VoiceCover, which has three employees including Amiri, has contracted with Montreal employers thus far but is seeking investor support to expand its marketing efforts, Amiri said. Some 200 job seekers have posted profiles on VoiceCover, and about half of them tried audio cover letters for posted jobs, he said.

New Jersey-based talent acquisition software company iCIMS Inc. has also started offering a video-screening add-on service that allows recruiters to give prescreened applicants the option to make a video cover letter after their profiles have been sent to a hiring manager, according to Chief Marketing Officer Susan Vitale.

Applicants can describe why they’d be good for the organization and demonstrate their personalities and communications skills, said Vitale, who noted such technology “could certainly be useful” for specific jobs such as those in sales or customer service. Fewer than 10 percent of applicants who’ve been asked to supply a video have opted not to do so, she said. While some clients might view applicants who won’t make a video as not very interested in the job, opting not to do so won’t necessarily knock them from contention, she said.

The company has partnered with Vimeo on the technology, which doesn’t require anyone to download apps, said Vitale. Roughly 25 customers are actively using video screening through iCIMS since the business introduced the option early this year, according to the company.

An Aberdeen Group research report last year noted the growth of video interviewing in recruiting.

“No longer considered a passing trend, organizations are rapidly embracing video solutions to improve efficiency, reduce costs and standardize the recruitment process,” stated the report, noting that 32 percent of surveyed organizations were investing in video interviewing in 2013 compared with 21 percent in 2012.

Dinah Wisenberg Brin, a former Associated Press and Dow Jones Newswires reporter, is a freelance journalist based in Philadelphia.

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