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Can a CEO recruit you with a YouTube video job posting?

video job postingIn the October 9, 2018 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a CEO recruits with a personal video job posting. Is this going to work?

The “question” I received for this week’s edition was actually a solicitation that a CEO sent to a lot of people. Normally, I’d treat something like this as spam and just delete it. But I didn’t because it was very brief, to the point, and wasn’t selling anything. John Bracamontes, the CEO of digital marketing firm Acumen Studio, was asking for help finding a new employee.

Question

Hey Nick — We are looking for a Digital Strategist to join the team. I am asking if you know someone who may be a good fit for the role.

Ideally they live here in the St. Louis area, because this is a key role for us and [we] need someone who will be connected to our leadership team and help grow the agency. Linked here is the job posting. [On Indeed.com]

I also made a quick video on what we are looking for in the role as well.

You can send me a message, an intro or thoughts. Thanks for your help!

John Bracamontes
Acumen Studio

Nick’s Reply

This is an interesting twist on the video-interview model, whereby employers want you to make a video to apply for a job. (That’s a practice I’m vehemently opposed to. See HR Pornography: Interview videos.) More important to me, John was doing what I advocate to employers all the time: When you need to fill a job, don’t look for candidates. Look for sources of candidates.

In other words, take a step back and try to develop some new relationships with movers and shakers who might know the kinds of people you’re trying to find. One good source can be worth many good candidate referrals for years to come.

Video job posting

So I read the job description on Indeed, which is no longer active, but what I was really interested in was John’s video. This wasn’t HR hawking a job. This was a CEO taking the time to do it himself. I figured, no matter how good or bad this video is, I’m curious to see what a CEO has to say.

I didn’t expect anything fancy, or even very good — but I expected candor and information that would be more useful than a posted job description.

John didn’t disappoint me. His video is very casual, off the cuff and personal. The production quality is low — home made! — and his presentation needs work. (John: Lose the eyeglasses glare.) But this is the CEO of a small business who’s trying to make recruiting more personal. That by itself makes him stand out. The information he offers is more useful than the job description, and he’s candid if not polished. I don’t care about polished.

What I want to know is what Ask The Headhunter readers think – job seekers and employers alike. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

My advice to this CEO

First, here’s what I wrote back to John, since he asked for thoughts:

I got a kick out of your video – beats a posting on Indeed! A few things I’d suggest:

  1. You just invested in getting personal by doing a video. Follow through on that. Keep it personal! People are sick of recruiting automation. Link them to your own firm’s website to apply, or provide your e-mail address. Why are you making money for Indeed? Show people you’re following through on your direct, personal connection. If they go to Indeed, they feel like sheep!  (Pardon the mixed metaphor, but see Why cattle-call recruiting doesn’t work.)
  2. Most important, don’t just talk about job specs and skills. Explain how the job is important to your company’s success.
  3. Give details about how this job fits into the work flow, who the hire will work with and report to, and who is upstream and downstream from the new hire’s job.
  4. Talk about how the job fits into profitability. This is key. It gives motivated people the context they need to respond with their best ideas about what you really need to know: How they can help Acumen Studio be more successful.
  5. Explain the process if they apply. Who decides to bring them in for an interview? Who will they meet and talk with? Who decides whether they get an offer?
  6. More important, what do you want them to demonstrate in the interview?
  7. What’s the critical path and timeline for the hiring process? (Then commit to sticking to it!)
  8. Ask for personal referrals in the video. If a viewer isn’t a candidate, they might be a good source of referrals, just like the person you sent the e-mail solicitation to. Promise to personally follow up on all referrals, then do it.

I like that a CEO put himself out there personally. Now leverage that for all it’s worth, rather than fall back on the automation of Indeed! (See The Do-It-Yourself Interview (for managers).)

Finally, the readers’ comments on this article might give you more good ideas about how to find good candidates for this position: Job Interviews Are Illegal. What now?

I’ve got loads more comments, but I think it’s more important for John to hear from you — the Ask The Headhunter community.

Can a CEO recruit you with video?

John Bracamontes gave me permission to publish his e-mail and his video, and he told me that he’d incorporate our suggestions in future videos, then report on the results.

We don’t often hear from a CEO — even at a small business — about a job the company is trying to fill. (Imagine if Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos or Jamie Dimon were to talk to their professional communities like this, when Microsoft or Amazon or JPMorgan Chase needed to fill a key position.) John Bracamontes’ video job posting is far from perfect — but it’s a start.

What else should it be?

What needs improvement in the video? Be blunt, but please remember that John stuck his neck out to recruit personally. I didn’t publish his video to criticize him. (Ripping him for a backyard video isn’t the point here.) I’m sharing it because I think what he did was gutsy. I’m sharing it to start to a helpful discussion about how it might be done well — if at all. So, please offer your advice and comments.

Why this CEO’s video is important

Above any other reason, I think this CEO’s video — for all its flaws — is important because he has put his name and his face where an HR department normally appears. John Bracamontes has made himself personally accountable. Any candidate who shows up for a job interview or accepts an offer from Acumen Studio knows who he is. John is not hiding behind an HR department.

We all know the feeling of dealing with a cold, impersonal, aloof, isolated personnel jockey who can hide behind an HR bureaucracy. This CEO’s video is important because his mere involvement changes the entire recruiting experience. He says in the video:

“Reach out to me directly.”

Can the CEO of a big company do this, too? Absolutely — if they’ve got the guts and want their company to stand out to the top people in their industry that they really want to hire. (See Talent Crisis: Managers who don’t recruit.)

For the record, John did not ask me to advertise this or any other position on Ask The Headhunter. I’m not charging him any kind of fee for this. (Though I have to admit, this has given me an idea or two!)

What should be in this video?

What could make a recruiting video like this work?

If you’re a job seeker (especially if you’re a Digital Marketing Strategist), how should this CEO appeal to you in this video? What should he tell you? What should he ask you?

If you’re a hiring manager or a CEO (maybe both), what kind of video would you produce to recruit for a key position your company is trying to fill? Is it even smart for a CEO or hiring manager to do this?

Thanks to John Bracamontes for his permission to publish his video here, and thanks for your comments and suggestions!

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34 Comments
  1. “Can the CEO of a big company do this, too? Absolutely — if they’ve got the guts and want their company to stand out to the top people in their industry that they really want to hire.”

    I think it would be impractical, not to mention foolish, for a CEO of a large company to do this for all positions, at least personally, but I think having regional and local managers of the company do it would be great. (i.e. if Jeff Bezos did Amazon videos for a place in Seattle, a place in New York City, a place in rural Iowa, etc, the needs would be all different so trying to do all of them himself would be very foolish as it would be applying a one-size-fits-all method of hiring that we’ve come to hate with impersonal HR and automated recruiting.)

    Now, if the CEO did the main jobs perhaps at the HQ, the top jobs, and the lower level branch management did each location, it would be ideal.

    Problem is, nether Indeed, ZipRecruiter, or, indeed, most HR departments, would like this method of recruiting to catch on as they mostly wouldn’t be needed anymore and would be out of a job.

    Of course, I got to thinking, I’m not sure how this would work for non-direct hires. You see, if CmmpanyX hired Big Fancy Staffing Inc, then often the employee works for Big Fancy Staffing, then that adds another layer to the mix which complicates things.

    • @Mongoose: Points well-taken, but I didn’t suggest a CEO at a big company would do this for all positions. Just some. Top jobs in particular, but imagine the impact if Exxon CEO Darren Woods went online to recruit for an IT job or a marketing position, detailing the jobs and discussing their impacts on the company.

      I think it would be a mega PR coup, and it would attract top talent.

      CEOs pitch their companies all the time to investors and customers. Why aren’t their professional communities even more important??

      The idea would be to condition the market for such pitches by other managers. And, yah, it would absolutely crush Zip, Indeed and all the keyword database dumps that suck cash out of companies’ pockets. It would also reveal that HR checked out decades ago.

      It would change the entire employment market and the economy.

      How would it affect non-direct hires? Hopefully those CEOs would take a good, hard look at staffing companies and give them the heave-ho. Who wants employees who are not drawn into the deep fabric of a company? Staffing firms are leeches that suck value out of the economy and ruin careers. When are CEOs gonna realize that outsourcing their talent is like you hiring a stand-in to show up at your job every day so you can collect a paycheck?

      • Thanks for this posting, really appreciated your positive evaluation of this CEO’s creative efforts.
        Building on the concept this CEO’s video presented – Yes, it would not be practical, or even desirable for the CEO to do this for all positions, unless the business was extremely small.
        But do you see any potential for taking it further down the reporting chain? For example, middle managers doing similar videos for positions which would report directly to them? Win-win situation where interested candidates get a glimpse of a potential future boss.

        • @Trish: Absolutely! That’s where I think this would work best — hiring managers doing videos for jobs they want to fill. Perhaps the best thing is that it would dissuade the wrong people from applying while encouraging the best.

    • @Mongoose

      Really good points!
      I agree that a Big Company CEO couldn’t do this for every job.
      I could definitely see them doing this for executive level or director level hires that are key to the businesses growth or sustainability.
      But all jobs, no way.

  2. It’s absolutely essential to understand how this job fits into profitability – because there’s nothing worse than being hired in a position that the boss sees as a ‘nice to have’ – no matter how much you think it is essential – and then get let go because it’s been a tough week/month/quarter, and you look like an easy saving.

    Years of technical writing taught me that the only people who think that manuals are important are the customers – most bosses think they can do without them. One used to get their programmers to write them on days when the system was down. When, of course, they had to describe the system from memory!

    • @/Anne: When the board of directors meets, it asks a lot of questions, not least of which are, how profitable are we, and where’s our profit coming from?

      How many middle managers could walk into that board meeting and answer the question, how does your department contribute to profitability?

      If a manager can’t answer that question for the board, he or she is incapable of discussing it with their employees and job candidates.

      Where does that leave the company?

      As for manuals, I rue the day that printed manuals disappeared from the box. I lay that at Steve Jobs’ feet. His marketing coup was to convince the world that “this product just works — you don’t need to learn anything to use it.” Thus we have generations of people who have no idea how their technology works or how to fix it. Meanwhile, Apple and its ilk get to sell you a new iPhone every year because the only way to get more utility out of a product that has 100X more functionality than you ever use is to buy the next generation, because “it’s got more features.”

      (How’d we get onto the problem of no manuals?)

      • In my first “real” job out of college, I suddenly became the expert on a new piece of equipment we had installed on a production line. I’d get called over to get it working again when it acted up.

        All I did was read the manual. And if someone asked me something I didn’t know, I would literally go pick up the manual in front of them and look for it.

        • @Chris: Often the best candidate is the one who — though lacking specific experience — is the one who can pick up the manual, read it, and do the job. It’s called “learning.” :-)

        • @Chris,

          Fast forward to today and you’ll find more and more people won’t even read basic bullet point directions for anything anymore much less read several paragraphs.

          I remember “going to the source” (mechanic) as a former flight instructor inquiring how best to start a Piper Arrow without flooding it or starting a fire. Even a small fire in the engine bay could rack up hundreds if not well over a thousand dollars damage. The “directions” (airplane manual) did NOT have the useful advice the mechanic happily told me – all I did was ask, unlike the numerous other instructors.

          Funny thing is, one day with a student I started up the Arrow and got under way while several others were cranking away (burning up the starter) and making nervous radio calls to maintenance for help.

          This happens in careers of all genres – employees that are proud members of the “I don’t know…do it for me” crowd.

          Makes one wonder how these folks keep their jobs.

          “All I did was read the manual.” Great start Chris.

          In my case, going the extra mile involved asking someone who actually knows what their doing so I won’t cause them wasted time and/or single-handedly destroy company cash flow.

    • @Anne

      Love that feedback!
      We’re lean and growing so making sure the team members know how critical they are to the success and growth of the company is so important.
      You sometimes forget the different perspectives people have on a role in a company depending on where they are coming from.

  3. Props to him for getting out there and trying something different.

    One caution with headhunters, they will not poach from big clients. Which means if you rely on them, there is a group of people who will never be contacted about your company…even if they are interested in moving to a small business.

    Quantify recruiting cost/benefit for your business. Assign it a dollar amount.

    Calculate the cost of a vacant position, the cost of a bad hire, the revenue of a “good fit.” Run a risk analysis for hiring (so you know how much to spend on mitigating this risk).

    Once you quantify, you can write “recruiting”* in to everybody’s job description. Allow a certain amount of money to cover the cost of attending professional events (also lunch, coffee).

    *this does not have to be “hard sell”

    • @Greg: Great suggestions, especially about accounting for the cost of vacant positions. I’m not an accountant, but I’m told that modern accounting systems do not capture or describe that cost.

      And thanks for leaking the dirty little secret of the headhunting biz. For those who might not understand what Greg is referring to: A headhunter signs a no-poach agreement with a company client. It says he or she may not recruit from the client for X years. That means if your company retains the headhunter, you’ll never see candidates from the headhunter’s other client companies — which may be where your best candidates currently work.

      What to do about that? There’s no way to eliminate the problem, but you can mitigate it by avoiding big headhunting firms whose rosters of clients are massive, thereby locking you out of many good candidates. Smaller search firms mean you might get access to more good candidates.

    • Thanks @Greg!

      Really good points here.
      I’ve been in EO (Entrepreneurs Organization) for a year and one of the things we recently touched on was an LER (Labor Efficiency Ratio), which I honestly had never hear of but the quantification you list here melds perfectly with that for the good and bad hire scenarios.

  4. An excellent starting point for a recruiting video. No distracting background not a memorable video, but the content and style grabs me. I am paying attention to the content but please duct tape the selphy stick to the picnic table. I get seasick watching

    • Lol @Eddie!

      I think that same thing every time I do a personal selfie style video.
      My ADHD has me bouncing and moving all over the place!

      I’ve been thinking about getting a stabilizer like “Smove”.

      Thanks :)

  5. Hello Nick. I agree with your comments. If I were in that job stream I would need the profitability, the upstream/downstream perspective and the timeline the company has allocated to hiring but otherwise, this recruiting video/”individual video about me/my personal brand” seems to be taking over social platforms e.g. Linkedin.
    I would prefer the hiring manager to talk about the position in a short 30 sec “elevator pitch” attached to the job description.

  6. I’ve got one question….well, several. Maybe I missed it in all his talk about SEO and organic and whatnot.

    What does his company do? How long has it been around? Who are its customers? He doesn’t need to name names, but what types of companies engage his services?

    My advice would be to open the video with something like, “Hi. My name is John, and I’m CEO at Acumen Studio. We’re an *number of employee* sized company that does *thing* for *type of customer*, and we’re looking for an SEO expert to join our team.”

    • @Chris Super Helpful!

      Yes, I definitely mess up things like that because I’ll silo the context of the content and make assumptions that people already know. For example this was sent out to my LinkedIn connections, but it is extremely naive to think that all of my LI connections would immediately be able to name the company and what we do.

      I really need to make sure info like that is included every time.

      Thanks :)

  7. I Would love to see a recruiting video with Chainsaw Al Dunlap or Leona Helmsley

  8. John’s video is valuable, because in addition to giving the job requirements, he also gives a feel for the company culture. Candidates who have the right skill set might or might not feel comfortable in this culture, and they can factor that into their decision about whether this would be a good fit for them.

    • Thanks @Carol!

      Yes we are ultra hopeful to filter out those who would be bad cultural fits as early in the process as possible.
      I think we can all agree that is vitally important.

  9. Nick, Super report about small business CEO going video. Yeah.
    More ideas:
    1) Don’t stop CEO. Do more videos following Nick’s cogent recommendations. Nurture Know Like Trust by continuing to produce “homey” videos even when there are no openings.
    2) Give updates on past and current openings.
    3) Give updates on the progress of the company.
    4) Introduce others working there and what they are working on to exhibit it’s a great and exciting place to work. Know Like Trust.
    5) Share the kind of (not names) of customers they cater to,
    6) Policy with respect treatment of unsolicited resumes (interest).
    7) Invite Subscriptions to this CEO’s videos. Allow feedback like Nick does? Moderated?
    Thanks for asking.

  10. I’m not in John’s field and don’t have a clue about the technical jargon, but I think I saw a lot of repeated statements and a not so clear idea of what the position is supposed to achieve. I’m pretty sure the video, with more planning and one or possibly two rehearsals, could have been half as long and said just as much (or maybe more). There are probably two or three main / essential / critical functions that this job must achieve, but if they were mentioned I think they got buried in all the verbiage and could not be seen because they were not on a clearly-defined path. I think this is a great way to reach out, but it can’t be done off-the-cuff; at least two presentations should be tried out before going live: one to a group of technical experts, and one to a random group of people walking down the street. But the idea of reaching out like this is right on.

    • While I agree that I there was some repetition, the lack of polish and the off-the-cuff nature was what attracted my attention. This shows me a laid-back culture that would make me reach out if I were looking for work (and had the skill-set). Yes, I’d like more details about the specifics of the job, but I feel like I have a reasonable likelihood of getting some answers were I to contact John. If this video were too polished it would run the risk of feeling like corporate propaganda or just another commercial. I suppose it all comes down to who John is trying to attract to his business.

      • Yes, I agree. Spontaneous and personal is good, and trying to make the presentation as smooth and polished as a car advertisement on TV is going to defeat the whole purpose. Somewhere in the middle, I think, is where we want to be. And yes, you mention the key ingredient: knowing who the audience is, who John is trying to attract.

  11. John needs to sell high-acheivers that they should work for his company. What is its record of success? Who are its clients? What is the plan for continued growth? I.e., why should they come work for him, when changing jobs always include risk.

  12. Looking at the comments, I think the overarching themes are honest talk about the job and company, less minutia in the application process, and someone with the guts to try something new.

    A couple words of caution:

    Make sure the rest of the hiring process lives up to the hype in the video. Do not draw them in just to embitter them.

    Watch out for this becoming the next gimmick to fix the “talent shortage.” Recruiting is cultural at it’s core. There are no silver bullets.

    • @Greg: “Watch out for this becoming the next gimmick to fix the ‘talent shortage.’”

      I cringed as I thought the same thing, but as with anything, HOW a manager uses a tool to recruit will make all the difference. I think this approach can work if done right.

  13. A couple of things about this tick me off.
    Right off the bat, the reflection in his glasses is obnoxious.
    It’s a cellphone, not a video camera and holding it out at arms length, it’s wobbling all over the place, what a distraction.
    Four minutes, you lost me completely at one minute, and by two minutes I hit the stop button.
    Rambling repetition and the message was lost on me.
    How to improve it.
    Review it, and if the visual appearance sucks, do it again.
    If it has to be a cellphone recording, stick in a holder on a table in front of you.
    One minute, tops, use a script.
    Heck, website visitors hang around for 10 seconds, if you catch them, 45 seconds, but they go somewhere else when all you have is someone going blah, blah, blah for four minutes.
    USE A SCRIPT, learn it. Be concise and to the point, don’t repeat yourself over and over.

  14. I love it! A CEO who does his own recruiting? This is wonderful, instead of hiding behind key words and algorithms and telling candidates to deal with HR. This is a great first step. I agree that this isn’t possible in large companies, but then why not have hiring managers in individual departments do this instead of HR?

    The cons: while I don’t expect this to be perfectly polished, I do think the video could be improved. Write a script out beforehand so you’re not adlibbing it. This way, you won’t stammer, or repeat yourself, look off, or other things that distract your audience. I didn’t understand all of the tech jargon/geekspeak, but some of it sounded repetitive. And I’ll second Marilyn and Chris re providing a little more information about your clients, where you fit in within the company, why this job is crucial to your company, and who else you’d be working with (one or two upstream and downstream). If you practice in front of a mirror I think you will find that you can improve your presentation. If practicing your speech/pitch in front of the mirror doesn’t work for you, ask a trusted friend (one who will give constructive feedback) to be your audience. S/he will pick up on your speech patterns and any annoying tics (do you look away from the camera, wave your hands about needlessly, pace like a caged animal, not make eye contact, speak in a monotone, etc.–those kinds of things are good to know and you can work on eliminating them).

  15. I give this guy a lot of credit, he is going out looking for the best candidate. Looking for a job is difficult, this is a “real opportunity”. What it may lack in polish and detail it easily makes up by being more personalized! It is an invitation to discuss what is needed to close the deal.

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