Why 20-Somethings Won't Watch Your Recruiting Video

January 22, 2015

A colleague recently sent me a five-minute video produced by their client, a Fortune 1000 company, to specifically attract young talent (a/k/a Millennials), to their entry-level jobs. I only lasted about two minutes watching it. I’m a Gen Xer and it was clear the video wasn’t meant for me. However, it was also obvious, based on the production quality, that the company had invested a lot of money on making this video. Therefore, even though I didn’t like it, I decided to be fair and crowd source a reaction from a team of Millennials I work with.

Maybe the intended audience would think differently?

The Ultimate Test = Would You Share It With Your Peers?

When they were done, I asked the participants three questions:

1. Did you watch the entire five minute video?

2. Did you like it?

3. Would you share it on social media and tell your friends they were hiring?

Only 50 percent of them watched the entire thing. Those that dropped off didn’t like it and found the message condescending. Of those that watched the entire thing, they didn’t hate it, but said they spent the entire time trying to determine if the company was attempting to be funny...or was just really misguided. And then, the big question: how many would share it with the audience it was intended for? As you can imagine, the answer was a big, fat zero.

To make matters worse, several of the participants actually have friends who currently work for the employer that created this video. Their comment was, “Based on what our friends say about working there, this video doesn’t represent what they are really like to work for at all.” Ouch!

Video Is Something Millennial Talent Takes Very Seriously – Be Careful!

After this debacle, I reached out to Vasilios Alexiou and Jason Rivas, Co-founders of FirmPlay, a Boston-based start-up that does videos and visuals for employers.

They weren’t surprised to hear about the major corporation’s video bombing with Millennials. “One of the mistakes companies make is over-producing their videos. Our generation doesn’t buy the hype. When a video is too polished, it tells us they are trying too hard,” says Alexiou. This is why Rivas and Alexiou founded FirmPlay. While in business school together, they were surprised to see only major corporations had the bandwidth and budget to attend on-campus recruiting events with slick employment branding materials. Meanwhile, Alexiou and Rivas, along with their peers, were really looking for opportunities with more interesting, smaller start-ups where they felt they’d learn and contribute on a greater scale. “We decided to create a business that would give our generation an easier way to discover and evaluate non-mainstream employers,” says Rivas.

firmplay co-founders

Want Young Talent? Avoid These 4 Video Blunders

FirmPlay’s founders say while over-production is the #1 mistake companies make with their employment branding videos, there are a few others that will make Millennials run the other way from your company. They include:

  • Only showing leadership/executives in the company. Millennials believe in teamwork. When the only people you think worth showing are management, you make it clear the work environment is ‘command and control’ as opposed to collaborative.
  • Focusing too much on the product/service. The video shouldn’t double as a marketing or sales piece. Keep the content focused on the talent and what they can expect working there.
  • Using generalities and cliches (e.g. "we're a work hard, play hard culture"; "we reward hard work.” Millennials don’t buy the hype. Actions speak louder than words. They want proof, not rhetoric.

Twitter Got It Right

An example of an employment branding video that nailed it with Millennials was produced by Twitter. Alexiou says, “It’s a great example of a company's personality shining through on a very, very low budget (so low a budget that it's part of the joke). From that video alone, you can tell they a) have a good sense of humor, b) are scrappy in how they get stuff done, c) are fairly informal, and d) are willing to take risks.”

And here is the video itself:

Recruiting Videos Should Showcase Your “Workplace DNA”

FirmPlay uses an hour-long “Visioning Session” with clients where they ask a unique set of discovery questions to help a company properly evaluate and decode their Workplace DNA. [See example here.]

Once an employer’s Workplace DNA is identified, FirmPlay selects three to five key themes to create short videos featuring employees. “We’ve consistently found that the simple, short video format, showcasing the company’s Workplace DNA outperforms longer, higher-produced videos depicting the employer. The data proves our generation just wants the facts – and they want it to be delivered as honestly as possible.”

5-Part Checklist to Create the Right Video for Millennials

Based on what’s working for employers to date, here are five must-haves if you want Millennials to pay attention to (and trust!) your employment branding video.

1. Get beneath the surface. Millennials want details, and getting to the point. For example, if someone says, "The people here are great," push them to elaborate. Why do you say that? What makes them great? Examples are always helpful.

2. Show your space. Millennials love visuals. Show them where they'd be working. What does the office look like? What kind of desks do you have? Even the gym and kitchen are worth showing, if you have them. That’s the key - show, don't tell.

3. Flaunt your quirks. Millennials lose interest if they feel your content is too corporate or buttoned-up. That means the quirky, unique parts of your company culture can be real strengths. Love silly costume parties? Have a favorite bar where you gather once a week for drinks and shooting pool? Conduct stand-up meetings to keep them short? Whatever your quirks, let them out.

4. Speak to your audience. Millennials want to feel a personal connection. On TV, we see people speaking to someone just to the right or left of the camera, especially during an interview. While it may look professional, it doesn't do much for connecting with an individual watching the footage. When possible, look at the camera and imagine speaking face-to-face with a candidate. It'll feel more intimate to the viewer.

5. Keep it short. Millennials are used to smaller chunks of video content. Keep your videos short. For a traditional recruiting video that gives an overview of working at the company with some basic editing, try keeping it to 2 - 2.5 minutes max. For unedited video of one person answering a question or two, keep it to 30-60 seconds. You'll be happy to hear these shorter, unedited videos are just as - if not, more - appreciated by Millennials as the longer, edited videos.

Be Warned, Video Isn’t A ‘One-and-Done’ Effort

One thing FirmPlay does tell clients is that creating content visuals, like photos and videos, of your company is not a one-time effort. You need to keep on creating materials that promote the Employment Brand. More importantly, they need to be used and re-used on social media platforms, embedded in job descriptions, and any place else where the company is visible to Millennial talent, Alexiou explains, “Our generation doesn’t jump to apply the first time we see something interesting about a company. We’d rather follow them on social media and see how consistent they are with what they’re sharing. We are skeptical.” Which means, smart companies will live up to their Workplace DNA by proving it is part of their corporate culture through on-going content they distribute.


J.T. O’Donnell is a Top 20 LinkedIn Influencer and CEO of CAREEREALISM.com, a site that helps employers of all shapes and sizes tell accurate and compelling stories to recruit better candidates for their companies. You can learn more here >>

* image by Vivian Chen

content marketing for talent acquisition