Video Job Descriptions — a Not-to-be Missed Application Accelerator

quickstopIf you don’t know what a video job description is, it is a short video clip where the hiring manager and team members describe the exciting aspects of a particular job in order to convince top-quality but reluctant prospects to apply. A video job description is a supplement to, rather than a replacement for, the standard and often tedious 100 percent text narrative job description. You should consider adopting video job descriptions because they are about to become “the next big thing” in convincing prospects to apply.

Video job descriptions or VJDs are a 3-for-1 opportunity for measurably improving your recruiting results.

First of all, they are an opportunity because they provide the job seeker with an authentic human view of the job from the team’s perspective that makes it easy for the prospect to see, hear, and feel their excitement for the job and the passion it has for filling it with the right person. VJDs are also an opportunity because by using video in this new way, applicants will see that your firm is bold and that it is willing to use innovative approaches (even in recruiting) that include technology, video, and that use social media. And finally, video job descriptions provide you with an opportunity to re-examine the painfully dull 100 percent text job descriptions that most organizations currently use and to improve them so that they now provide a competitive advantage over the less-compelling job descriptions of the same job at competitor firms.

Current Job Descriptions Are Driving Away Active Job Seekers

I have been writing since 1999 about the disastrous results created by the standard 100 percent text job description. If the goals of these job/position descriptions are to inform and excite the prospect, it should be obvious that potential applicants aren’t finding much excitement in them. A recent study by TheLadders found that the average prospect spends only 50 seconds on a job posting description before moving on. They spend only 22 additional seconds reading the ones that cover a job that they have decided to apply for (meaning that they apply for jobs without knowing much about them). It should be obvious to hiring managers and recruiting leaders that if your top active prospects can’t find a combination of excitement and a good fit for themselves in a description within less than a minute, those individuals will not apply for that job at your firm.

Obviously if they are looking at job or position descriptions, your audience is primarily made up of active prospects. But in the rare case where the so-called “passives” (currently employed individuals who are not actively seeking a job), are for some reason viewing a job description, a dull description that is not noticeably more exciting or compelling than their current job will immediately cancel any interest that they had in shifting into job-search mode.

Job descriptions that don’t stand out and excite may be reducing the applications from a large percentage of both active and passive prospects (I estimate that as many as 25 percent are driven away) simply because your position descriptions don’t build on (or they may even counter) the excitement that the prospect originally had as a result of their viewing your website or your employer branding messages.

The Many Benefits Associated With Video Job Descriptions

Short videos are extremely popular with almost all generations. They can be found almost everywhere, including on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. One hundred percent text job descriptions or position announcements can also be found almost everywhere, but unfortunately they are seldom popular or effective. In fact because they are text-only in a world full of video, narrative job descriptions are quickly becoming a weak link in the recruiting chain. However, in direct contrast, a well-crafted video job description (or job posting description) can have many advantages and benefits. They include:

  • They present an authentic message — having the hiring manager and the team appear in the video simply makes any message appear more compelling and believable because they cover the perspectives of those who work with the person in this job every day. By cutting out corporate PR and lawyers out of the job description process, the resulting video message is almost always perceived as more genuine, believable, and “real.” In marketing, that is known as authentic.
  • You can project excitement — if a picture is worth 1,000 words, imagine the impact that a video with sound can make. The combination of video, sound, and using real employees makes it much easier for the prospect to see and feel the energy, excitement, and passion of the manager and the team. Text alone can probably never have the same impact as a compelling video, and well-designed ones have produced measurably improved applicant quality.
  • It’s possible to “meet the team” — we know from research by Gallup that two of the criteria that prospects use to assess a job are the quality of their manager and their coworkers. Well, the video job description can provide the prospect with an opportunity to briefly meet both the hiring manager and the team. And if the participants in the video are excited, that is generally enough to provide the individual with a high enough level of interest so that they want to find out more about the team during the interview process.
  • Many are willing to watch them — video job descriptions receive many views (one firm found that they average 1,000 views) in part because they are unique but also because they are short. Research shows that the shorter they are (with most lasting less than two minutes), the higher the likelihood that they will be clicked on and viewed. The popularity of short video clips like Vine further reinforce the value of brevity. Unfortunately, their short length also requires those making them to be extremely creative in getting a powerful message across quickly.
  • Mobile platform and social media placement expands their visibility — because  prospects carry their mobile phone with them constantly, making job description videos accessible on this platform makes it much more likely that they will be immediately viewed and immediately responded to with an application. Obviously it is also smart to allow individuals to completely apply for open jobs using only their mobile phone. It is equally important to place your video descriptions on all of the popular social media channels like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You should also encourage the hiring manager and their team as well as employees to use them as part of their messaging when they are trying to sell potential referrals.
  • Diversity can be displayed — because several different teammates can be visible in these videos, it is easy to demonstrate to outsiders the diversity of your team. Rather than the standard headquarters-created job descriptions, these videos can and should be localized so that they cover positive features of the job that “corporate” might not even be aware of.
  • They can view your facility — if your facility or work area is particularly exciting, video job descriptions provide you with the opportunity to visually show it off. If you have particularly advanced equipment, that can also be used as a background or as an integral part of the video.
  • They are fast and cheap to create –– in the past, most video job descriptions were made by professionals, which meant that they were more expensive and they took longer to finalize. But now that most mobile phones have the capability of producing extremely high-quality video, VJDs can be produced by the hiring manager in an hour with almost no out-of-pocket costs. The only significant time delay is if your organization chooses to have recruiting review or edit the videos before they are posted.

Recommended Actions for Implementing Video Interviews

If you’re willing to try video interviews out, here are some of my recommendations to consider.

  • Who should make the video? — you might think that hiring managers would be reluctant to do video interviews, but the opposite is often true because they are excited about having a new way to attract top performers. By the way, even though there are professionals who will make these videos for hiring managers, start off by having the managers make their own. Make it easier for them by providing samples of both good and bad ones and give them advice on how to do a quality video, but believe it or not, a little less-than-perfect video might actually add to its authenticity and credibility.
  • What topics should be covered? — never guess what prospects care about. Instead, survey a few of them (or ask new hires during onboarding) and ask them what they would like to learn about a job when viewing a video job description. Rank the items that are most important and place them early in the video. Generally prospects want to know something specific about the hiring manager/team leader and any unique excitement factors that would cause top performers to want to know more. Other factors that will “trigger” applications include interesting projects, learning, and growth opportunities, interesting challenges and the culture and the management style that they will operate under.
  • Who should be in the video? — Once again you should do some testing to see what works best to increase applications, but I recommend a video where both the hiring manager and several team members participate. If you have to select team members, remember to include those who show excitement and diversity.
  • How long should the videos be? — You should do some experimenting to find out the actual length where viewing drops off significantly, but remember that “Vines” on Twitter are only six seconds and Instagram videos are only 15 seconds. So generally I recommend that two minutes be the limit (most are 30, 60, or 90 seconds), unless your metrics show that prospects are willing to watch longer versions.
  • Where should you place the videos? — Obviously, you want to place video job descriptions wherever you traditionally put your 100 percent text job descriptions. Clearly they should appear on your corporate careers website. They may also be appropriate alongside your job postings (or with a link) on job boards, on your social media landing pages, and sent periodically to individuals who have joined your talent prospect community. You should also encourage your employees to include them when they are soliciting referrals through email, Facebook messaging, or twitter.
  • Should I still have 100 percent text job descriptions? — Yes. This is because a video job description does not replace written descriptions; it merely adds an option to view either one or both. But please don’t forget to get some marketing help in rewriting your standard job descriptions so they are not as dry as toast. And also remember to test the description’s “level of attractiveness” in a side-by-side comparison (simply place your text job description alongside several similar job descriptions from your competitors and see if yours is routinely selected as the most attractive job).
  • How do video job descriptions differ from employer branding videos? — employer branding videos are focused on the company and the factors that make it overall a good place to work. A video job description has a much narrower focus because it covers only one specific job and the aspects of that job that make it more attractive than similar jobs at other firms.
  • Additional suggestions — offer to help hiring managers prepare their first video job description in order to reduce any resistance. At some organizations, the hiring manager does the raw video and recruiting handles the final editing and posting. Use a script to ensure that all of the identified “excitement factors” are included within the time limit. The most common error is bad lighting, so you might recommend places in your facility where the lighting is excellent. Incidentally, an alternative approach to consider uses an “infographic” to make the words in a standard job description “come alive” in an easy to scan graphic format.

Providing Hard Evidence That Video Job Descriptions Improve Recruiting Results

Obviously there will be skeptics who don’t immediately see the value of video job descriptions. Start wearing down the resistance by providing outside evidence to demonstrate the impact that video job descriptions have on applicant quality, for example:

The quality of candidates increased dramatically since the video was launched. — S. Erskine, NZCF

You may also be able to build executive confidence by noting that many well-known firms including Deloitte, Accenture, NPR, and VMware have used video job descriptions going back as far as five years.

However if your executives demand a higher level of internal proof that VJDs produce higher-quality applicants, start with a sample group of potential applicants. Show each individual the standard narrative job description for a relevant job, and then a revised narrative “sales version” that was improved based on market research. Finally show each a video job description. Immediately after presenting each version, simply ask the prospects to rate their willingness (on a 0 to 100 scale) to take the next step and actually apply for a job. You will find that the video version ranks first and the “sales version” will rank second. Combining the two will produce even higher “willingness-to-apply” rating results. If you are really bold, conduct a split control group sample where you randomly select half of the job postings for a popular job and add a video job description to it. For the other half of the job postings, let them remain unchanged. Add a tag or a unique web link to the position opening so that you know which applications come from the standard description or the description with the added video.

The highest volume of applicants and also the highest quality of applicants will come from the group that includes the video position description.

One final way to prove the impact of video interviews is to simply ask all new hires during onboarding whether they saw and accessed a video. And for those that viewed them, did they have a significant impact on their decision to apply? After a year, see if the new hires who viewed the videos ended up with higher-than-average performance rankings or bonus percentages than those who didn’t view them.

Final Thoughts

There are many fads that come along in recruiting; generally, avoid them. But rather than being a fad, I view job description videos as a permanent addition to your recruiting toolkit. VJDs will only gain in usage as a result of the growing popularity of short videos combined with the almost universal usage of the mobile phone platform, where videos can be easily viewed 24/7. Although their use is not yet widespread, there is sufficient evidence to show that these video job descriptions can be a primary factor in getting reluctant prospects to take the next step and actually apply for the position. They are unique, cheap, and quick and they work, so what else could you ask for?

If you would like to see a sample video job description, click on this link.

About the Author

DJS campus headshot

Dr. John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions. He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website and on www.ERE.Net. He lives in Pacifica, California.

  • Kenneth Levinson

    Great article John. This is an important part of creating compelling recruitment content, which is what the Post Perfect Training Program is all about: Thanks for all you do.

  • Tina James

    These tips are awesome! Even if you cannot create a video job description, at least incorporate videos into your company’s careers page to display what it is like to work at your company in various roles. Great marketing and branding tool.

  • James Colino

    Great article John (as always). We experimented with VJD’s last year and can validate a lot of your points.

    For example, we had a 400% increase in candidate quality on one particular job versus the same job posted 2 other times within 2 years. Candidates were a better fit and felt more at ease because they already had a better sense of the job and the culture by watching the vids.

    We also experimented with video length from 8 minutes down to 2 minutes. We found that the most engaged candidates watched the video no matter how long it was.

    The real interesting insight was that candidates started and finished more videos that were shot from the perspective of their potential peer or the person currently in the role or similar role. So candidates care less about what the boss has to say and more about what their peers do! At least from our experiment…

    We see a lot of potential in this approach. Just need to figure out how to make it scalable.

  • Andy Kerney

    Completely concur with the comments above, great article, one that I definitely had to share. I love the way and it must be pure coincidence that the previous comments sequentially speak to the use of video; create great content, where you should think about using it and the real life examples of the excellent results using video can achieve.

    The use of video as a talent attraction tool is definitely going to grow. Companies have great stories to tell, engaging, informative and relevant content that’s important to give potential employees. Video is such a great vehicle to help a jobseeker decide if both the company and their job are right for them.

    James, hopefully you will see this comment because I believe at The Placement Gallery we have found an incredibly unique and cost-effective way to scale the use of video in attracting talent. One that is easily repeatable, time after time (a matter of hours) for each job requirement and I’d be delighted to show you and anyone else interested. Just email me at and we can arrange a quick demo. 15 minutes to see how we deliver video job descriptions.

    Thank you, Dr John Sullivan for your article and indulging me to promote (slightly) our video solution.

  • Rob Kelly

    Thank you for your thoughtful piece, Dr. John.

    For recruiters who need more data to make a business case for video job descriptions, Ongig has shared some data here on text-based job ads versus video job ads:

    It shows:

    55 seconds spent on a typical job ad
    2:54 spent on a video job ad
    5:23 spent on a video job ad (when the candidate played the video)

    Ongig is an Employer Branding SaaS that lets talent acquisition/recruiting folks put pictures or video, comments and more into every one of their jobs at scale.

    Check out some examples here:

    And it’s great to see some other shapers of this new world commenting here. I’ll check out all your sites.


    co-founder & ceo of Ongig: The Employer Branding SaaS

  • TechMagic

    Thanks for this article John! Once we decided to make a video job description instead of typical one and released this idea in 24 hours. It was just MVP, so it is very simple video. Enjoy it here: