Video applications, online CVs and digital portfolios have become increasingly popular in recent years, with technology continuing to change the way we look for and apply for jobs. As such, video cover letters are becoming a more common requirement for job hunters, particularly those applying for graduate positions. And even if they’re not asked for outright, filming one is often a great way to bolster your application anyway.
The good news is these can help you to stand out from other candidates and give you a chance to show off your personality and passion in a way that a word document doesn't.
The problem is, going in front of a camera can feel nerve-wracking and you don’t want this to cost you your dream role.
If you’re about to make a video application, follow the list of do’s and don’ts below to help you feel at ease behind the camera and land yourself a graduate role in no time.
1. Do: Check your tech
Before you begin, you need to make sure you’ve got a clear, working camera and that the sound works well.
These days, smartphones are usually good enough to provide a high-quality picture but be aware that lighting can make all the difference.
If you don’t own any lighting equipment (let’s face it, most of us don’t), setting yourself up in front of a window in natural daylight is your best bet.
2. Don’t: Make one generic video
As with any cover letter you submit, a generic application isn't going to cut it. Make sure you tailor your video for every different role you apply to.
This means reading through the job description before you press record, in order to see what skills, experience and personal attributes the employer is looking for.
The content of your video should then be based on your findings — your aim should be to showcase your suitability for the specific graduate job throughout.
Yes, this means you’ll need to film a new video for each job you apply for — but it’ll seriously increase your chances of impressing employers and landing an interview.
3. Don’t: Copy someone else
Your video needs to be unique, original content that sells your skills. You might want to watch examples of other applications to inspire you, but just be sure you don't copy them outright. It’ll be obvious if you’re reading from a plagiarized script and your personality won’t be able to shine through.
4. Do: Know what you're going to say
You don't want to be on film reading from a bit of paper, but preparation is still key to a good video cover letter. Make a note of the key points you want to cover and practice speaking them out loud a few times before you press record.
The more your practice, the more relaxed you will be — so don’t be scared to spend an hour or so prepping. If you find you keep slipping up halfway through, it’s okay to break the video into two chunks and edit them together later.
5. Don’t: Be too informal
It’s easier to be aware of your language when you're writing it down. You should aim for a friendly and professional tone. It’s okay to be conversational, but you need to strike the right balance.
Too much slang is a no-go. Try to speak calmly, slowly and clearly — even if you need to make several takes to get there. It’s a great way to show off your communication and presentation skills!
6. Do: Think about the basics
Remember that the recruiter can see you, so you need to think about the basics like your location and your outfit.
While recruiters won’t expect you to have a full studio set-up, it’s best to showcase your professionalism by choosing a simple background which is easy on the eye. A light coloured wall would be perfect. It’s also important to choose somewhere quiet to film where you won’t be disturbed.
In terms of your outfit, smart casual is usually best, but try to get a feel for the specific company you’re applying for. For example, a modern marketing agency might appreciate a funky shirt and your nose piercing, but a more parred back, corporate outfit would be better for a finance job.
7. Don’t: Go overboard with the editing
You might want to add some text, music or make a few cuts to your video once you're done. But unless you’re applying for a very creative role, don't go overboard and create something gimmicky or OTT — it might put some recruiters off.
8. Don’t: Submit a long video
Finally, as with a written cover letter, this needs to be short and sweet. Recruiters are busy and a 10-minute long video is a waste of their time. Additionally, a long video might take too long to load — in which case, it might be ditched altogether.
The sweet spot is around 1-2 minutes long. This is just enough time to give them snappy overview as to why you’re interested in the job, and how your skills and experience and complement it.
Are you ready to film your graduate video cover letter?
Getting in front of the camera might feel uncomfortable at first. But taking the time to get your video cover letter right could seriously boost your chances of job hunt success!
Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV – he is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian and FastCompany.
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