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Video Resumes: Gimmick or Answer to Job Seekers’ Prayers?

July 14, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Morris Sultan knew the competition would be tough when he decided to look for a new job, so he tried something novel.

Instead of writing a resume, he made a video.

In a three-minute pitch sent out to a dozen prospective employers, Sultan detailed why he should be hired. One firm liked what they saw and brought Sultan in for an interview; he now oversees customs and merchandise orders for M&L Design, an accessory importing firm in New York.

″Communication is a big part of what I do, so I felt like I might have a better chance if they could get to know me. Usually, they just take your number and say, ‘We’ll call you.’ The tape helped me get noticed,″ Sultan said.

The new-wave resumes are ″a nice calling card to start out with″ that can give candidates an edge on the competition, said Albert Dabah, who runs Video Portfolios where Sultan made his tape.

But critics call video resumes a gimmick that fosters discrimination and gives stressed-out job seekers more to fret over.

″The rare person, maybe in advertising or something, can come across as a dynamo. Most people look like a jerk on videotape,″ said Kathryn Troutman, who owns The Resume Place in Washington, D.C., which still specializes in traditional paper resumes.

Most people don’t like the way they look in photographs, let alone on camera, she said.

″If someone tried to put me on a tape, I’d say, ‘Hey, I’m trying to look for a job here, not get myself depressed.’ There’s already enough trauma involved with looking for a job. This is just an extra aggravation,″ she said.

Since the tapes give prospective employers a way to view job seekers’ appearance, critics say they make age or race discrimination too easy and give employers a way to weed out people whose appearance they don’t find appealing.

But William Brown, who owns an Annapolis, Md., firm where job seekers pay $149 for a package that includes a video resume, said they don’t give employers any more of a chance to discriminate than personal interviews.

″We can’t control discrimination. If a person comes in, there’s nothing to prevent me from saying, ‘Hey, she’s a blonde. My ex-wife’s a blonde and I’m not hiring a blonde,’ ″ Brown said. He conceded the tapes save employers’ time by allowing them to ″laser through″ candidates.

″If someone can’t take 10 minutes for a haircut or time to tuck their shirt in, why would you want to waste your time on them?″ said Brown, who founded Network Employment & Resume Inc. five years ago.

Serouya Morey, the owner of M&L Design, said Sultan’s video resume was the first he’d ever seen.

″It struck me as a little innovative, and this job takes some creativity,″ Morey said. The tape gave him a chance to judge Sultan’s personality and make decisions ″you can’t get from reading a resume,″ Morey said.

″The bottom line is he probably got the job because of it,″ Morey said.

At Brown’s office, clients, already prepped on what to wear, sit in front of a picture of the Manhattan skyline. Brown, with his back to the camera, asks them questions that might come up in any job interview. Clients talk about their current job and what they’re looking for in their next post.

Tapes containing several five-minute interviews with people looking for the same type of jobs are then sent to a network of corporate clients Brown is developing. Brown declined to provide the names of his clients.

Steven Klein of Target Search, a Washington headhunting firm, called the tapes a ″gimmick people are using to make money.″ Job candidates lose out by trying to sell themselves on video rather than in person, he said.

″A lot of it is chemistry. It either clicks or it doesn’t. With a video, you never get a chance to go eyeball to eyeball,″ Klein said.

Peter Cushley, who handles video and advertising for Brown’s firm, writes off the competition’s criticism.

″If you’re selling super widgets, is a guy selling widgets going to tell you super widgets are better?″ Cushley said.

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