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What Older Workers Need to Know About Video Résumés

Videos can help you connect with employers but may also lead to bias

spinner image A woman getting ready to make a video
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If you’re updating your résumé, it also might be time to consider making a video version.

Actually, a so-called video résumé is more like a cover letter. In a short digital video, you introduce yourself and make a quick pitch on the skills and experience you can offer an employer.

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While most hiring managers won’t expect to you to send a video, employers in information technology or creative fields like advertising might ask to see one. Other businesses might soon join in. Last year, the viral-video giant TikTok partnered with companies such as Chipotle, Shopify, Target and others to test a TikTok Resumes pilot program. Users were asked to record a short clip about who they are and why employers should hire them and post the video with the hashtag #TikTokResumes. Employers could then search the hashtag to find candidates who might fit current job openings.

Here’s one example of what a TikTok résumé looks like:

Of course, many TikTok users are from Generation Z, which suggests a dilemma video résumés might pose for older adults. Job seekers 50 and older are advised to remove anything that might reveal their age from their résumé and application materials to avoid discrimination. If hiring managers can see you up front, they likely can approximate your age based on your appearance. And research shows that age discrimination often begins at first sight.

“One concern about video résumés is that they could exacerbate age discrimination and bias,” says Susan Weinstock, AARP’s vice president of financial resilience programming. “Video résumés can make it very easy for an employer to determine the age of an applicant. If they can see via video résumés that an applicant is — or appears to be — age 40 or older, they could decide to unlawfully reject that applicant.”

That means if you’re an older adult, you should put extra thought into whether a video résumé is a good way to introduce yourself to employers. A video résumé could still be a fine showcase for your talents if, for example, you have experience giving successful sales pitches or other presentations.

If you do choose to create a video résumé, the following advice can help you produce one that makes you stand out from other applicants.

Write your script and keep it short.

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Remember, your video should work like a traditional cover letter, introducing who you are along with a few details about your skills.

Don’t worry about specifics, such as job titles and dates. Your traditional résumé — which you still must submit — will cover those. Instead, think of what you might say to someone you’ve just met to tell them what you do for a living and why you’re good at it. A video résumé also can be a good place to put a personal spin on details that might be overlooked or considered negatives on a conventional one. For instance, if you took time off to provide caregiving for a loved one or you are a veteran switching to civilian work, a confident statement in your video might be more compelling than the same information presented in writing.

Practice your general pitch out loud on your family and friends, and use their feedback to sharpen it. You want your video to be as personable as possible, so your colleagues can help you figure out which parts don’t sound quite natural.

You don’t need to memorize your script, but you should be familiar enough with it that you can recite your points without having to read directly from it. Don’t worry: Experts recommend that a finished video résumé should be only 30 to 90 seconds in length, so perfecting your pitch shouldn’t be too difficult.

Get ready to record your video.

Once you know what you want to say, think about how you want your video résumé to look. The simplest format is to make your pitch directly to the camera, all in one take. But even that approach requires some planning. For example, make sure you are dressed appropriately, as you would be for a job interview.

You’ll also have to put some thought into your setting. Filming in your current employer’s workplace is a no-no, of course. If you choose your home office or someplace else in your residence, make sure the background is clean and not distracting. Also consider whether there are suitable spaces in your neighborhood where you might be permitted to film. For example, public libraries, community centers and even some businesses often are glad to help job seekers, if you make your request in advance.

The next big decision is what technology to use to record your video. You may already have the necessary tools. In many cases, the camera on your smartphone will capture better picture and sound quality than your laptop computer, but it does take some experience to get the most out of either of these. If you’re not sure you have the necessary skill, reach out to your social and professional networks to find someone who might be willing to help. Just like your traditional résumé and cover letter, your video résumé should be as polished as possible.

If you have video editing know-how or someone to help you, you can further sharpen your résumé by adding brief footage of yourself giving presentations in meetings or conferences, receiving awards or otherwise showing off your skills.

Where and when to use your video.

Once you’re happy with the final version of your video résumé, the first place you might put it is on your LinkedIn profile. That will make the video easily accessible to employers from the contact information on your traditional résumé. It might also help you get noticed by recruiters who use the site to find potential applicants. Setting up a LinkedIn profile is free.

Of course, you also can send the video directly to employers as either an email attachment to the hiring manager or through the company’s online application form where requested.

Need a couple of examples to help you get started? Here are two illustrations of what a finished video résumé might look like.

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