Video Cover Letters: A New Way to Recruit Talent

We all know that a lot of people are applying for jobs these days. Heck, Southwest Airlines received over 90,000 resumes in 2009. Whether yo
January 20, 2011

We all know that a lot of people are applying for jobs these days. Heck, Southwest Airlines received over 90,000 resumes in 2009. Whether you are receiving 100 resumes or 10 times that, you want the best talent you can find. And that’s going to mean sifting through that stack of resumes and then finding time to meet face-to-face with the best candidates.

Face-to-face interviews reveal a lot more than a simple paper resume. A resume shows a list of skills (many of which are artificially bloated), but being able to get face time with someone gives you a good sense of their professionalism, energy and even their thinking (as well as any strange quirks or habits).

Cutting to the Chase

In an ideal world, you would interview everyone face to face. But obviously that is impossible (especially if you are a company like Southwest Airlines). You need to funnel it down. And here’s an effective trick for doing just that: video cover letters.

A video cover letter will give you an opportunity much like meeting in person for a couple of minutes (long enough to gain a good first impression). You will be able to see how the person conducts themselves, whether they can articulate and answer the questions you pose, and whether they project a professional image. Yes, you can get all that from a one-to-two-minute video!

Setting it Up

Requiring a video cover letter is much easier than you may think. Here is how to go about having people submit one:


1.  In your advertisement or job listing, provide a link to a dedicated page on your website that specifies the job parameters. 


2.  Make it clear that the applicants need to respond with a video cover letter. Let them know what you want to see – such as having them state their name, the job they are applying for, and an overview of their qualifications – and then have them answer two or three questions that you have specifically listed.

3.  Be sure to ask questions that will allow them to answer quickly. Ideally, you will want to keep the videos to no more than two minutes total. (You can even state this as a requirement in your initial ad). If the videos are too long, you can spend all day watching them.

4.  Put a video of yourself on the page that contains the request for the video cover letter. After all, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Plus, this will give them a sense of who they are submitting their video to.

5.  Provide an ‘out.’ Although most people have access to cameras, there are still some people who do not. Let people know that, if they absolutely cannot submit the video, they will need to send a traditional cover letter. But ask that they state in the cover letter that they could not make the video, and still require that they respond to the questions you posed. That way, you can weed out the people who are truly applying for your opportunity, versus people who are just sending out blanket responses. 

Residual Benefits

This process can save you a lot of time. Heck, you may turn some of those two-minute videos off at the 30-second mark – a luxury that you don’t have in a live interview. But there are other benefits, such as the fact that the videos may be posted to YouTube, or wherever applicants submit them, and others may see those videos and want to know more about all the hype it generates about your company.

That means more (potentially very talented) people becoming interested in your job opening. And that is a good thing!

Mike Michalowicz is the Author of the business cult-classic, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur and is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal. Michalowicz has built three multi-million dollar companies, is a frequent expert guest on MSNBC, CNBC, ABC and other television networks, and is a nationally renowned speaker. His website is and his book is available at and all major book stores.