August 11, 2021

The TikTok Revolution in Talent Search: What the Social Media Giant’s Video Resumes Mean for the Future of Recruiting

Last month, the social media behemoth TikTok — best known for viral dance routines and offbeat videos — made a bold move: It went professional. With the announcement of TikTok Resumes, the video platform declared it doesn’t want to just dominate users’ free time — it wants to play a part in their job searches, too.

TikTok isn’t the first company to try bringing video resumes to a wider audience, and it remains to be seen whether the social media platform will extend its resume feature beyond the initial month-long pilot program. But by taking a closer look at TikTok Resumes — and the response so far — recruiters and talent acquisition leaders might get a better idea of where hiring is headed next.

Video Is the New In-Person

A TikTok resume is, essentially, a short video a user makes to tout their professional skills and experience. Users then submit those videos to job ads posted on TikTok’s new job-search portal.

In a sense, the TikTok Resumes program isn’t all that different from the traditional application process — nor is it, on the surface, anything all that new. Recruiters have been thinking about the rise of video resumes since virtually the moment high-quality cameras became standard issue with every laptop and smartphone.

While earlier experiments in video resumes have been a mixed bag, TikTok’s take on the genre does come at a particularly fortuitous time. The rise of hybrid and remote work models over the course of the pandemic has made all of us much more comfortable in front of a camera — even if many of us still prefer real-world meetings to Zoom calls.

Moreover, remote work will persist beyond the pandemic — maybe not at current levels, but certainly at higher rates than in the pre-2020 period. In a 2020 survey, 82 percent of hiring managers reported they would continue hiring virtually even after the pandemic ends. It seems from these figures that today’s workers and employers are more primed to accept video — and video resumes — as part of their professional lives than ever before.

And TikTok is targeting an up-and-coming contingent of Gen. Z workers, whose predilection for visually-based social media platforms like TikTok, Snapchat, and YouTube suggests a generation that actively enjoys being on camera. Gen. Z-ers may take to video resumes as more than just neat curiosities — they might really embrace the format in a way their millennial predecessors did not.

TikTok is betting that the time is right for video resumes to finally go mainstream — but on its own, TikTok Resumes might be missing a key ingredient it needs to make the video resume revolution stick.

Who Has Time for All That?

Scroll through the job ads posted by TikTok’s brand partners like Chipotle, NASCAR, and the WWE, and you’ll see that most fall into one (or more) of three camps: entry-level positions, customer-facing roles, and media/creative roles. All of these job types are well suited for video resumes.

For example, candidates for entry-level roles typically lack particularly distinct career histories, so a video gives them a chance to sell themselves in a way they couldn’t on a paper resume. Likewise, personality matters in customer-facing roles; video resumes can provide employers with an early glimpse into this crucial characteristic as they carry out screening. Finally, video resumes let candidates for media/creative roles show off their relevant skills in a more direct manner.

It’s no wonder, then, that TikTok users — more than half of whom are under 30 — took to the resume pilot program with enthusiasm. Stories abound of people landing interviews through the platform and finding encouragement from other users who saw their videos.

But hiring managers and recruiters might be a little less excited about the latest surge of video resumes.

The TikTok Resumes program is poised to capitalize on the ubiquity of video today, but it also comes at a time when many employers are trying to reduce barriers to entry for talent. A global talent shortage has made it hard enough for employers to find talent as it is, and many are trying to funnel more people into the hiring process by removing traditional obstacles like degree requirements. This is especially true for those same customer-facing roles that TikTok Resumes target: Retail and customer service talent is some of the hardest to find these days.

As a result, many recruiters and hiring managers are wary of video resumes, worried that candidates will be turned off by the addition of a new step in the process.

Even if there were no talent shortages, some talent acquisition pros would still look askance at video resumes. Recruiters spend about seven seconds looking at a resume — not because they’re cold-hearted, but because they have a lot of resumes to get through. Recruiters have taught themselves how to quickly find the info they need and make fast decisions about which candidates are worth getting to know on a deeper level. But video resumes aren’t exactly skimmable, which can muck up the delicate dance of the hiring process.

As hiring expert JT O’Donnell told CNBC, “I’m already trained to skim 100 resumes and identify 20 within a first pass. If I have to look at 100 three-minute videos, I can’t do my job.”

Video Resumes Are Here to Stay

Recruiters and candidates alike would be justified in considering video resumes nothing more than a flash-in-the-pan trend. But there’s a reason the industry has been talking about video resumes for roughly a decade now. There’s a reason people keep coming back to this concept, iterating on and improving it over the years.

That’s because video truly offers something the hiring process needs, especially in the era of remote work: a simple way to screen candidates for personality and culture fit — and a way to give more candidates, especially entry-level ones, a fair shot.

The real reason video resumes haven’t gone fully mainstream yet is simply that, so far, implementation has been difficult. But we may have finally reached the tipping point.

TikTok has shown us how we can get candidates to embrace video resumes rather than dread them: make the experience more social. People already love making TikToks in their free time; TikTok just transferred that same process to the video resume realm. The future of video resumes is likely to continue in this direction, trading the corporate platforms of the past for a more creative, convenient, and casual spin that gets candidates to opt in of their own accord.

But what about making video resumes efficient enough that recruiters and hiring managers can adopt them without adding hours to the hiring process? It’s true that recruiters don’t have time to review 100 video resumes for every open role — but these days, they don’t have to.

Resume-parsing software has helped recruiters automate much of the initial resume-screening process for years now. What recruiters need is a more sophisticated screening tool that pairs well with video resumes — and those tools already exist. AI-powered candidate sourcing and matching tools go far beyond the keyword-based searches of traditional recruitment software. Instead, these tools holistically vet candidate profiles against open jobs, delivering curated talent pools containing only those applicants who meet the right criteria. From there, recruiters can watch video resumes to further vet these pre-matched candidates for personality and culture fit. Hiring teams don’t have to worry about wasting time on videos from candidates who can’t do the job.

This combination of a more social experience and automated talent curation will drive the future of the video resume. In fact, it’s likely to drive the future of hiring as a whole. We know that virtual recruiting is here to stay, and video plays a significant role in that process. We shouldn’t be surprised to see video resumes become the norm in the near future.

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Matthew Kosinski is the managing editor of Recruiter.com.