How a video cover letter can help screen for customer-facing roles

Recruiters know all too well that paper cover letters for customer-facing roles can come in the hundreds, even thousands. Reading through each one can be daunting, take time and is hardly the most enjoyable task.

The concept of a video cover letter is becoming the key to screening high volume roles in regards to customer-facing roles. We’ve spoken with industry professionals who have shared their own experiences and findings since using the upcoming screening feature of video cover letters.

Reducing time to hire

A video cover letter gives candidates the chance to show themselves and is useful when it comes to customer-facing roles. Recruitment Manager Steph, who we spoke to on LinkedIn, shared how “more than 50% [of candidates] would submit” video cover letters for this particular role. It also assists recruiters who receive a large volume of candidates.

This is supported by UniLodge’s Recruitment Officer, Sam Smith. She commented on how video cover letters, rather than paper cover letters, have become a “good approach” when dealing with an exceedingly high volume of applicants.

“We’ve got a few roles that we have made it mandatory as we know we’re going to get in excess of 500 applicants. And probably about 450 of them are not suitable. So we’ve done it as a strategy so that the people that are applying are genuinely applying,” she said.

Of course with an ATS in place, it can help make your recruitment process more efficient and effective. With video cover letters becoming an important part of the recruitment process, it could become a highly effective method for shortlisting and placing candidates in customer-facing roles.
When it comes to making the transition from paper to video, ultimately the ball’s in your court, but consider the process and final outcome before taking your shot.

Video vs. paper

If you’re new to the process of what a video cover letter looks like, here’s a short example of that. This video was uploaded almost 10 years ago, and video cover letters have come a long way since then. Changes since then include the length, creative style, structure and more.

Video content is easier to process and remember than standard text. What video has over text, is it stimulates and catches our attention through auditory and visual elements. It not only engages us, but it leaves a positive lasting impression – if done correctly.

According to Justin Ashman, Talent Acquisition Specialist at Leadbolt, recruiters should make video cover letters mandatory for customer-facing positions. “It gives you a deeper insight into your applicants,” he said. You want to see for yourself before the possible interview stage if this candidate can keep eye contact and speak directly to the camera. Are they actually equipped and experienced to deal with customers?

Even though video cover letters are starting to become more common, candidates can still feel slightly uneasy about recording themselves on camera. This may deter them from applying, especially if it’s for a role that doesn’t require the candidate to be on camera, such as an engineer.

Finding a process that works

Deciding on whether to make video cover letters mandatory depends on the market and your recruitment strategy and process, but consider the benefits of using video cover letters.
Justin has noticed a change in his recruitment process since using video cover letters.

“It certainly speeds up the process as the initial review process flows better. I can share the video cover letter with the Hiring Manager to review the profile and this increases the chances of an interview. It gives a Hiring Manager a better insight into the applicant’s personality and experience.”

Sam concurs. “People that we wouldn’t have selected based on their paper cover letters, have made it through the next round. We got a chance to see how they presented themselves, their attention to detail and even just reading our instructions. The communication style and culture fit have given us a different level of understanding for candidates, rather than just looking at their cover letter on paper,” she said.

Aside from the promising success of video cover letters, candidates can still struggle to participate or feel comfortable submitting a video.
“The market hasn’t quite caught up to the technology, ” explained Justin. “Not all companies have adopted the practice. Not everyone has had the chance to interact with video cover letters, and when they do for the first time, it can be a bit daunting,” he said.

He noted that candidates applying for certain roles were more hesitant. “Some applicants are unsure or not comfortable about taking part in a video cover letter. I found this to be very common when hiring for engineering roles, where we had little to no applicants using this.”

Steph noted that “less than 25% who lack knowledge in technology or confidence,” would submit video cover letters. She believes “you must be smart performing introductions to the right audience.”

Despite the small number of candidates submitting video cover letters, Sam noted, “recently we’ve had some great ones,” which encouraged UniLodge to take a second look at candidates. They recently placed a candidate who was successful because of their video cover letter. At first, this placement’s written cover letter didn’t look impressive, but once they saw her video she was put through. “She equally impressed the Hiring Manager, she was hired and is still in the role,” Sam added.

The quality of a candidate’s video cover letter

Whether you’re new or have years of experience under your belt, you’ve met or will meet every candidate imaginable. Perhaps you’ve come across some interesting characters along the way or some that just blew you away and made you think, “is this person real?” Either way, with video cover letters you will meet high quality and low-quality applicants.

Here’s one example Sam recently faced. “I once had a guy with no shirt on, and a bottle of vodka in the background. It might have been very entertaining but it was one we didn’t expect,” she said.
Of course, you will receive a mixture of video cover letters just like you do with paper cover letters.

Here’s an example of a creative rap video cover letter. It was even reported that the candidate got the job! Bear in mind that your industry may not prefer or approve this style. Cue music.

Sam had the pleasure of watching creative videos where candidates included “music, spinning intros and product placement. There were some really creative entries and they were submitted for roles where we didn’t need a video cover letter.”

Despite only seeing a small number of video cover letters, Justin noticed candidates “calmly explained their experience, sometimes in more detail then what a written cover letter would allow.”
Sam adds to this point on the topic of quality of hire. She found that video cover letters and paper cover letters go hand in hand.

“If they are impressing us in a video cover letter and they’ve got the experience, then that would increase their chances of making it through to the next round. It’s too early to tell. If they didn’t submit their video and still looked good on paper, I would likely [put] them up for the role,” she said.

Apart from the quality of hire and allowing candidates to showcase their skills and talent, video cover letters has also reduced time to hire according to Steph. It has also “reduced time wasters and ensured we could see a fit to the role, instantaneously. If you know your client, you know what will fit straight away,” she said.

The bigger picture

It’s important not to single out candidates who struggle with video cover letters, especially when it comes to techy roles that don’t require high-quality presentation skills. “I’m making sure we use information wisely. We don’t want to discount someone because they haven’t performed well in a video cover letter,” said Sam.

A customer-facing role, meanwhile, is “fairly standard to expect people to have good communication skills, good presentation, time management and a good ability to present themselves,” she added. To keep unconscious bias in check, Sam believes in training managers and ensuring that everyone understands what they do with the information that they receive. “It’s about making sure that there is no bias in our processes,” she explained.

The overall effect that video cover letters can bring can be explained through Justin’s experience when making a placement. “Those candidates that submitted video cover letters and were hired have definitely had an impact on the business and in their role,” he said. Considering that “people are still getting used to video cover letters, we’re still testing it out,” Sam commented. UniLodge is primarily focusing on the quality of the cover letter with skills and experience. This applies regardless of whether they’ve submitted a video cover letter.

“This is not something that we would discount candidates for. But we do rank them higher if they have done a video cover letter,” Sam said. “We’re not shortlisting based on those that have submitted one – we’re looking for skills and experience,” she added.

What could you take from this and what’s the best approach when introducing video cover letters into your recruitment process?

Lights, camera, action

You may wish to consider these 8 tips from our industry professionals on video cover letters.

Sam Smith – UniLodge:

  • Approach video cover letters with an open mind, but make sure that it’s appropriate for the kind of role that you are recruiting for. You want to make sure that you’re getting as many people into your funnel as possible.
  • There’s a lot happening out there in terms of video cover letters, and we’re not the only ones using them. It is becoming more and more common– if we have this conversation five years from now it would be pretty standard to have video cover letters.

Steph – Recruitment Manager:

  • Consider [the candidate’s] tools, their level of competency with technology, and how this part of the process could positively or negatively be affected by using video cover letters.
  • If time is of the essence and you’re using a video cover letter to screen a role where people have less access to technology, it may cause your time to hire to increase! Like all recruitment aids and tools, use them wisely and effectively – one size does not fit all.
  • Candidates enjoy it as it gives them the time to promote themselves, but also helps them step outside their comfort zone.
  • Video cover letters are a tool that is aiding better recruitment.

Justin Ashman – Leadbolt:

  • Don’t be disheartened if you see a slight drop in applicants because [candidates are disheartened by the process]; it will eliminate those less-suitable applicants.
  • Be selective about what roles you use the videos for – with JobAdder you have the choice to make the video cover letter mandatory or not.

JobAdder video cover letters

Thinking of enabling video cover letters in your recruitment process? With videos being uploaded and viewed every second, successful video platforms such as YouTube, Snapchat, Facetime, Skype, Zoom, Instagram stories and more, have pioneered the way for this medium.

It’s quite clear – video is everywhere and is transforming not only the way we communicate but how we recruit. Video has become routine and has also started to take hold in the job application process. Why? Because you’re hiring a real person. It’s still considered common for recruiters to ask for a written cover letter as it does summarise and allows recruiters to assess a candidate’s experience on paper. But when it comes to soft skills, such as communication and character it can become a lot harder to gauge via a paper cover letter, even for experienced recruiters and hiring managers.

Different video cover letter platforms offer you various options on how candidates can submit their cover letter. With JobAdder, our video cover letter functionality allows candidates to submit a 60-second video on their mobile, tablet or desktop device. Recruitment professionals can then watch candidates’ video submissions straight from the job application quick view. A video cover letter could mean the difference between spending precious hours of your day organising and conducting phone screens and face-to-face interviews, to progressing or rejecting candidates in under a minute!

Are you using video cover letters? Let us know on our social channels why you love them.

Bianca Compagnoni

Bianca Compagnoni

Communications graduate Bianca Compagnoni is the newly appointed Content Writer at JobAdder, writing all things recruitment. She greets her teammates every day with a snort and has just started her journey on becoming a writer and recruitment software connoisseur. When she's not writing content for JobAdder, Bianca is listening to South American music, eating food whenever she can, dreaming of her next travel adventure and playing with her poodle.

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