Not too long ago, there were a ton of technical, economic and access barriers anyone wanting to make a movie had to overcome to make even a short form student film; I remember, and Lord, this makes me sound old – editing actual celluloid film cels on a flatbed with a straight edge razor, which makes me still get a little pissed off every time I see some kid fire up iMovie.
That was the shit you had to do to make a movie, even the most mundane ones, like my pseudo-artsy film school projects that weren’t worth the paper they were printed on (literally). It was also what you had to do to make any sort of corporate video or internal training tool, too. And it was a ginormous pain in the ass.
Trust me; I actually spent a summer off producing tax training films for H&R Block. It was about as exciting as it sounds. The thing was, it was actually pretty cool making what used to be called “industrial films.”
Tasked with making one half hour introductory video and two fifteen minute supplements – and trying somehow to weave some sort of narrative into a crappy contractor training film – seems, in retrospect, like a pretty simple, straightforward and relatively inexpensive sort of project.
It was anything but, down to the union grips (which means they don’t move shit, but you’re not allowed to), securing permits for shooting locations, waivers for whomever happened to be at that location at the time, and this crazy ass former TV talk show director, Rodger, who I think took acid sometime in the 70s and never came back, which would explain both the ridiculous Frank Zappa soul patch thing he had going on and his odd insistence on running these second rate corporate shoots like he was David O. Selznick on shrooms. Dude, it’s a tax office in a dead mall, no one cares about mis-en-scene or method acting.
This was what you had to deal with back before all this became digital. The Rodgers of the world (now finding a new calling as “social media gurus,” it seems), and the PAs, and the crazy casting ladies and the back and forth on clearances and E&O insurance with hired gun lawyers with nothing to do but sit there and make sure that you only used the part of the Dave Koz song you paid for.
This was what it took to make a film – in my case, twelve weeks, 38 full time production crew members and 6 guys working post, plus whatever warehouse crew in Hangzhou was responsible for pressing the thousands of VHS tapes then distributed out to each and every H&R Block tax office on the planet – which, oddly, is a lot.
That was business as usual, and it was a full on business – we take for granted today how easy it is to take out our phones, shoot some footage and instantly upload it in no time for nothing, but back in those pre-YouTube days, amateur video was mostly limited to grainy handheld shots of people eating shit while Bob Saget did a falsetto voiceover.
The turn of the century was a weird time; back then, being able to produce, package and distribute really any sort of video product required a tremendous amount of time and cash, which is why for my summer project my asinine training films (the highlight of which is when Marcy, a single mom, learned about the earned income tax credit and saved her house from foreclosure) were budgeted – get this – at $120,000.
That’s right. One hundred and twenty thousand dollars for one hour of proprietary employee onboarding collateral – and I came in under budget because even the Teamsters working transport on the shoot couldn’t do that much coke in overages. They sure tried, though.
Say what you will about organized labor, but they sure like doing as little as possible while being as messed up on some substance as possible, and I respect that immensely.
At least unlike Rodger, they were under no pretension that we were creating art in any way. Our goal on set: take a really boring subject matter and try to turn it into content that’s at least engaging and tolerable. It’s a lesson I learned well, I like to think. That, and when you’re making any sort of company or industrial film, you can’t take anything, most of all yourselves, too seriously.
We laughed and laughed when we screened it for the CMO and COO, who sincerely reacted as if I were the next Orson Welles and that the reveal about reverse mortgages at the end of the second module was the greatest statement of morality this side of Sophie’s Choice. They were honestly happy with what was delivered, which in my mind, was 100k worth of wasted marketing spend, but the client was happy (another lesson I’ve learned well).
In retrospect, I think their reaction, as well as the other commercial productions I worked on in some capacity, is that film was some sort of magical medium that, since few people knew how to do it, was more or less alchemy to the people willing to spend money just to see their branding on some shitty interstitial.
You Oughta Be In the Pictures.
I wish I could still get away with doing that shit for a living, but times have changed, and in the “social” revolution, the most revolutionary democratization in terms of content has nothing to do with shared networks, online communities or a self-publishing and do it yourself distribution platform for publishing your own writing in front of a worldwide audience (literally).
All of these are pretty significant advances, sociologically and technologically speaking, but the evolution of film and video content has been more profound than any other evolution of an existing medium, in my mind, since Gutenberg figured out how to print more Bibles.
Consider that in 2005, which was the year YouTube first launched, the average cost for a corporate training film was around 3 grand per finished minute of film. Today, a two minute, professionally produced company video runs anywhere between $200-$700 according to a study from production house Hinge, and the average production time has gone down from 6.7 hours of shooting for every finished minute of film to only 22 minutes for digital projects.
That same year, when Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory reboot was the top box office draw in the world (weird, right?), the MPAA estimates that 229.1 million people around the world saw a theatrical film.
Compare this to the fact that the top performing YouTube video of the year, Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again,” has already generated almost 1.1 billion views since its release in April.
That’s equivalent to 1/6 of the world’s population watching Wiz about six months, staggering numbers when you consider that less people have seen every movie in the Star Wars franchise since it was launched in 1977 (estimated by Gallup to be around half a billion peeps, impressive but paltry by comparison to a fairly disposable tribute song for Paul Walker, of all people.
Last point of comparison: the total production budget of 2005 box office champ Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was 150 million dollars; Wiz’s production clocked in at an estimated $85,000.
Steven Bochco, the man we have to thank for both Miami Vice AND LA Law (what up, Susan Day?), said a quote that still sticks out in my mind:
“Film provides the only way to marry the power of an idea to the power of images.”
Not only is that true, but that’s basically the core business case behind incorporating video into employer brand initiatives. There is no more powerful medium than film; it’s immersive, creates shared experiences and has a similar impact on our perceived well being and hard wired emotions as doing controlled substances like cocaine or meth, at least according to the patterns of dopamine and serotonin release scientists have seen as the result of both. So, basically, film is addictive, as anyone who has ever Netflixed and Chilled or wasted an entire day at the office watching random shit on YouTube will tell you.
So, if we want to connect with candidates on an emotional level, or we want to win their hearts as well as their minds, then it’s obvious that film has a better track record than any other medium in creating memorable, immersive and indelible impressions; far more so than blogging (sucks, I know), or podcasts, or even, believe it or not, those omnipresent, obnoxious infographics that have replaced reading for so many of us.
Simply: if you are spending money or effort on recruitment marketing, forget “mobile” or “social” first.
Start by making kick butt videos, which are not only going to improve your SEO, show up in the world’s second most widely used search engine (that’d be YouTube) and be embeddable in everything from JDs to career sites, but are also probably the easiest, most direct way to define your company culture, brand and humanizing an employer through spotlighting real employees doing their real jobs, which takes care of the principal costs of most commercial film projects today .
When you’re shooting on digital cameras, editing on iMovie, uploading everything to YouTube and have free talent and shooting locations, video will become not only your most effective brand builder in terms of sheer audience reach, but likely the cheapest, quickest and top performing candidate engagement driver of any of the manifold options currently in our talent toolbox.
As more employers start investing in sourcing analytics and big data solutions to track, optimize and control spend, the impact and efficacy of video should only become more and more obvious, particularly when coupled with consumer media consumption trends.
In aggregate, video already has a hell of a business case – and the numbers to prove that it’s worth the effort for employers (unlike, say, social media or “talent networks”). Consider the fact that according to research from HR consultants TalentSquare found that job postings received an average of 12% more views simply by adding video to an existing JD; even more surprising is that those postings with video yielded 34% more qualified applicants than those without video.
Think about that: adding a one minute video that’s more or less free and idiot proof could increase your candidate yield by more than one third. If any point solution had that kind of impact on results, I promise employers would be lining up around the block to buy said miracle product. The thing I don’t get is why so many recruiters just don’t buy video when it’s so clearly not just what’s going to matter next in talent acquisition, but what already matters right now.
Studies show job descriptions have drastically different application and conversion rates depending on a number of variables like word choice, job title, listed qualifications, where they were posted and when, and a bunch of other company and req specific inputs; when you’re using text only, quality matters, and the lack thereof is one of the biggest inhibitors of direct sourcing and candidate conversion success. This means job postings have to be really good, and really compelling, to stand out. Not so with video; they don’t even have to be good (or watchable) to produce these outcomes, since these results are consistent across positions, verticals, industries and career levels.
In other words, video dramatically and consistently increases both impressions and conversions irrespective of the actual quality of that video. Hell, it could be Howard the Duck and it would still outperform a text only Citizen Kane as far as recruiting analytics are concerned. And that’s pretty much all we should be concerned about in recruiting and talent acquisition today. Numbers talk, shit walks.
And if you’re not investing in video, you’re walking into some pretty deep shit in terms of long term organizational impact; according to a recent Aberdeen survey, fully 65% of “best in class” talent acquisition organizations are actively investing in video tools and solutions for recruiting and hiring.
Feature Presentation: 4 Ways To Make Better Hires Through Better Video.
I don’t love analyst research, but that’s a pretty strong correlation between recruiting success and video spend, no matter how you slice and dice the data. And it’s not just job descriptions that can benefit from video; in fact, video can be effectively leveraged (with similarly effective results) throughout every phase of the hiring process, from sourcing to selection to onboarding and beyond.
If you’re not already thinking about video, or haven’t started to deeply integrate video content as a core component of your recruiting process and core competency of your recruiting organization, don’t sweat it. Here are 4 things every recruiter should think about when it comes to talent acquisition and video content.
1. Coming Attractions.
Much like trailers for future films, an important first step in creating video content is to provide just enough of a taste of what to expect from a company and job, kind of like a company culture highlight reel, while leaving candidates wanting to see more. We see a trailer and make a decision on whether or not to invest the two hours it takes to see the whole feature largely based on this pastiche of clips without context. We may not know why, but there’s a reason test audiences rankings for trailers are historically the most accurate predictor of a film’s relative box office potential: it’s because if you can hook someone in quickly, emotionally and viscerally, you can sell any product. Jobs are no exception.
One of the most obvious and most effective ways to incorporate video in recruiting is to produce your own “coming attractions” sizzle reel to preview and provide candidates with a realistic sneak peek at job positions in specific and the employer in general. One good example is one of the earlier, and most successful, video based recruiting campaigns run by health insurance provider Humana.
Let’s face it. The production values suck. The music is cheezy. The scripting is awkward. And yet, somehow, it still does a pretty good job of showing candidates what real employees are really working on and hearing about these opportunities not from a job description, but in these workers’ own words. It briefly touches on aspirational stuff like company mission (which is pretty compelling when it’s literally saving lives), provides some snapshots of the corporate culture and outlines the benefits and perks of working at Humana in a package that’s all under two minutes. The video, as all recruiting videos should, ends with a specific call to action that also includes specific instructions for job seekers on how to apply and what to expect.
I’m not saying that the production design, sound, cinematography or even post production are any more than serviceable, but serviceable works – and this is a good example of a generic video that’s inexpensive and unpolished, but still accomplishes its objective of providing a job search preview and company information to candidates.
You don’t have to make the next Oscar winner to make video work. Just make video, and start with the small stuff. Humana nearly doubled its applicants by using this video throughout their recruiting and career collateral. If you can think of another way to see twice as many applicants simply by using technology every employee already has to create content that costs a couple hundred bucks and a day or two of shooting, tops, please let me know.
2. Get Ready For Your Close Up.
Obviously, video can humanize your recruiting process by showcasing employees in action, but the real opportunity for using employees as video talent comes from the fact that video allows you to capture and create a repository of institutional knowledge that can come in handy during any sort of change management, restructuring or turnover scenario.
Getting people to talk on camera about where they work, how they work and what their job is really about is great knowledge for candidates, but it’s also a great way to make sure your own team and internal stakeholders have that sort of insight into existing employee roles, responsibilities and how these align with the bigger business picture.
Similarly, putting employees in videos and effectively deputizing them as the “face of the franchise” is a great way to feature and recognize top performers, and ensure they’re being appreciated and recognized, which, in turn, not only helps recruit new top talent, but with retaining them, too.
Of course, one employer who is notorious for turnover is Google, whose average 1.1 year tenure is among the worst of any public company; despite their reputation for grueling hours, and nearly mythic work-life imbalance (including the recent stories of employees opting to sleep in the parking lot for expediency), Google remains the top “dream employer” and career destination for candidates across levels and markets, and does so perennially, despite a reputation as being, well, kind of a crappy place to work.
One explanation for this, of course, is consumer brand (hell, they even made a major Hollywood film starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson that was more or less an employer branding video), but the other is that since Google is known for developing talent in house, with a sort of Silicon Valley minor league system that’s focused largely on getting fresh blood in the door and developing them, preferring potential over direct experience.
This makes them very dependant on college hiring to sustain this bottom heavy talent organization, and this specific video featuring five college students showing what the first week as a Google Intern really looks like is a great example of speaking to a specific demographic with a very targeted message and doing so not by jamming down a bunch of corporate propaganda or HR talking points, but instead, by telling a story and creating instant affinity by focusing on new hires and onboarding, which are the most immediate concerns of most every candidate considering careers at your company.
Google is a company that is known to focus on the distant future, but by positioning their recruiting videos on the short term, it’s much more accessible, relatable and way less scary to potential candidates (and informational for successful new hires, too) than the only thing worse than the fear of not getting a job you really want – the fear that comes with not knowing what happens next when that job does happen. This is one phenomena I’m pretty sure most potential Google interns are pretty familiar with.
3. Since You’re Already On There…
You’d think that would, you know, be pretty good proof that sinking money into company pages and paid display ads and premium profile branding are kind of a waste of time, considering everyone would rather just connect with your employees instead of following your company and opting into automated job postings, company press releases and bad B2B blog content about how badass your company is.
But since they have to monetize that stuff, instead, LinkedIn figured out how to monetize a solution rather than help solve the actual product problem.
This has led the geniuses in Mountain View to continue their amazing track record of innovation with yet another amazing tool, this one known as LinkedIn Elevate.
Per the geniuses in their product marketing group:
“With LinkedIn Elevate, your employees get a steady stream of quality content to share across LinkedIn and Twitter – and help influence all of the customers, prospects, potential hires, and industry influencers in their networks … LinkedIn Elevate is a paid product that helps enterprise companies empower their employees to become social professionals.”
Pretty simple, right? I mean, your employees are already on LinkedIn. You use LinkedIn; in fact you spend most of your time and money on it. It’s obviously doing such a kick ass job at generating you candidates with its suite of systems and solutions that obviously the only thing it really needs is employees automating the same shit job feeds as recruiters to their own connections (but hey, Twitter. That’s kind of cool, if you still think # is a “pound sign” like most SPHRs). Direct search, InMails, Publisher, Company Pages and Groups somehow aren’t enough to get LinkedIn members to apply for your brand; company content sent through employees via an automated feed controlled by HR, however, is the silver bullet. Even though the latter is free and the former…don’t ask.
What does this have to do with video, you ask? Simple: it’s the only LinkedIn product that offers a native video sharing solution that’s widely available to date, which means that since you don’t seem to be dissuaded to just kill your account, suddenly you have a compelling case use for video instead. Because LinkedIn is pushing it now, it must be the future of recruiting.
If you’re too dumb to understand the blatantly obvious business case for video recruiting, then you probably love you some LinkedIn, so if their condoning video is what it takes, well then, I’ll trade a necessary evil for the greater good any day.
PS: Facebook has a much more robust, intuitive and flexible video solution that can be deployed the same way, but for free and with an easier integration and more data integrity. But hey. LinkedIn. Video. Winning.
4. Ace Your Screen Test.
In their recent report, Aberdeen reported that the most common case uses for video in recruiting – and the most success most early adopters are seeing – actually comes out of using video as part of the screening and selection process rather than at the front end of the funnel. Aberdeen reports the primary benefits employers report from video screening include reduced costs, the ability to align HR strategy with business objectives and to provide a counterfoil for automation by providing some level of front end personalization, even if that is in the form of a standard screen with the same old questions as everybody else.
Additionally, an OfficeTeam survey showed 63% of employers currently use video technology for interviewing, whether through a dedicated point solution like Take The Interview or HireVue or a free tool like Skype or Facetime.
Of these, 53% rely on video interviewing “very often” or “daily.” So the good news is, the majority of employers are already using video, meaning that finally, this trend has moved from recruiting margins to mainstream. Of course, there’s still a long way to go.
As Elton Mayo’s Hawthorne Experiments once proved, letting workers (and by extension, candidates) provide feedback and feel like they have a voice is a bigger driver of satisfaction and engagement than any other variable at the workplace.
So even if you don’t hire a candidate, giving them the chance to talk about themselves and why they’re a fit – something most companies don’t yet offer – actually fulfills that psychological need of recognition and almost unilaterally leads to candidates rating their experience with an employer more highly than those that simply use text based applications and resumes, even if, like those traditional tools, they widely never hear back at all. What matters for most people’s candidate experience isn’t that they heard from an employer, it’s the belief that an employer, for once, heard them.
Here’s hoping that if you’re in recruiting or hiring, the audience is actually listening when it comes to recruiting and video.