7 Tips for avoiding video CV mistakes

16 Nov, 2015

Video CV
As a chef looking for work you’ve undoubtedly put together a CV that can be sent off to recruiters and used to apply for jobs posted online. This will focus on communicating a professional image of yourself and your career achievements to date. Increasingly though, jobseekers looking for hospitality roles need ways to stand out from the crowd and producing a video CV is becoming an increasingly popular way of doing so.

However, a few clicks will bring you hundreds of laughable examples of video CVs (not just from chefs) that demonstrate how easy it is to do more harm than good if you’re not prepared. So, before you decide to send or post a video, here are some invaluable steps you can take to avoid a lengthy list of less than flattering comments on YouTube!

1. Rehearse your material

A video CV should never consist of you reading your CV or having an improvised “conversation” with the camera.  The tone you establish can be more or less formal depending on your audience, but what you say about yourself should have the feel and length of an “Elevator Speech”, i.e. what you would say if you should happen to meet your prospective employer in the elevator going up to your interview. It should be written as if it were being spoken. Practice with a friend so that you sound casual, yet upbeat, conversational, yet engaging, informative, yet interesting.

You know how we all have pre-recorded speeches in our heads that we use to answer questions such as: “Where did you go to school?”  or “How did you two meet?” You don’t have to think about what you’re saying because you’ve said it so many times – it just falls off the tongue in an interesting, lively and engaging manner. This is what your delivery should feel and sound like, nine out of ten people need to practice this skill!

2. Entrance and exit

Never walk into or out of the shot. The sun rises and sets on you and your upbeat demeanor.  Video editing software makes it easy for you to magic away anything that detracts from your message.

3. Eye contact

Make sure you are looking at the camera lens, and not at your script, keyboard or screen. Practice speaking directly to the camera.  Looking off to the side or at your papers makes you look untrustworthy.  Also, if using a laptop or computer camera, avoid the temptation to look at yourself speaking in the little box on your screen. Doing so looks as if you’re more interested in yourself than in your audience.

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4. Set the stage

Since you are the focus of the video, make sure the camera is angled on a level with, or slightly above your face, and not looking up your nose! Most desks are too low to shoot at a decent angle, so you may have to prop your laptop on a few books in order to achieve the proper shooting height.  Even if this appears ungainly, the audience will never see it.  If you’re using a camera and tripod, make sure to take some test shots and view them before you commit to taping.

Use a neutral or professional looking background. A blank wall with a colour and tone that compliments (not matches) your skin should work well. You may do the recording with your home kitchen as the background, but let’s face it, an employer looking to hire a chef knows you spend lots of time in a kitchen, so this approach may not add any value to your video.

5. Lighting and sound

You don’t need to spend a fortune to look and sound good.  Explore different areas of your home or office that have good natural lighting.  If it needs to be augmented, a small lamp positioned just out of camera range can help to illuminate you better.  Take test shots to make sure you’re not being over or under-exposed. Experiment and see what looks best. In general, lighting sources should be at or slightly higher than your eye level.

Typically, the microphone on a camcorder or laptop camera is going to pick up lots of ambient sound or echo.  Invest in an inexpensive lapel microphone to overcome this if necessary.  Making a video CV is not like taking a selfie on an iPhone – remember, first impressions always count, and will last!

6. Look and sound professional

Dress appropriately  – this will vary depending on your audience and market.  Know your audience and err on the conservative side.  Remember that beyond clothing, the most attractive quality you project on camera is your confidence and real smile.

7. Content

A lesson from the theatre world: When an actor auditions for a role using a monologue, a casting panel can tell within 5 to 10 seconds whether they want to hire them or not. Your online viewer may well do the same, so think of your video CV as a teaser, a coming attraction that will make the viewer want to see your printed, proof-read CV to find out more.

Grab the viewer’s attention in your opening introduction and use your keywords.  Look interested and engaging!  Keep it short – under a minute if possible, but thirty seconds is even better.  Don’t try to sell them everything – just give them enough to want to learn more about you.

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