She's got Flare
Are video resumes a true measure of an intern's talent?
When she was in the eighth grade, Stephanie Trendocher’s closet doors were plastered with cutout images of fashion trends from magazines like Teen, Elle Girl and Cosmo Girl.
Flare didn’t discover her by sifting through stacks of resumes looking for experienced candidates. Instead, the magazine set up a contest where applicants were to upload a 90-second video of why they would be suitable for a position with Flare.com.
Trendocher says the video resume helped display her personality and talents more than a piece of paper ever could. But is the video resume, contest or not, a valid tool in a magazine’s search for interns?
Blair McMurchy, placement director for the School of Media Studies at Humber College, says video resumes do provide more information to the employer, but people may then be disqualified by how they look.
“They see how you speak, they see how you look, and how you act. It’s more information but it’s a double-edged sword,” he says while acknowledging that something as simple as a noticeable tattoo could cost you the job.
Flare.com editor Zdenka Turecek says video applications force hopefuls to think outside the box, and they make the most of an editor’s time.
“It knocks off the first impression,” explains Turecek. Otherwise “you would have to get an actual interview in, so it might be a time-saver. Essentially, we decided on her without even interviewing her. Rather than someone submitting a resume and calling ten people to interview them, we watched a video. It definitely takes less time to do that.”
Turecek says Flare.com received roughly 20 videos, and thousands of comments on them helped in the decision process. She says Trendocher was selected because it was obvious she was stylish, she had relevant experience, and her video was creative.
But not everyone sees the correlation between coming across well on camera and being a talented member of a magazine team.
“I just don’t get how it has any relevance at all to the magazine industry,” argues James Keast. “It’s a separate thing. That’s the whole idea. The point of print is writing. Whether or not someone is good on camera, the skillset required for working at a magazine is radically different from the skillset required to either host or put together or build a video piece.”
Keast, editor-in-chief of Exclaim, doesn’t look like the typical music buff. He has no visible tattoos, doesn’t wear the T-shirt of some obscure band, and he roams the office in his socks. He has performed a range of duties and has a seemingly good relationship with his staff, which may be a result of where his own career began.
After graduating from Queen’s University when he was 24, the Belleville native went through a scrupulous application process to become an intern for Toronto Life.
He didn’t have to make a video, but did have to write a 500-word essay about the latest issue, write another essay detailing why he would be successful there, and pitch three story ideas for each section. He landed the position, but would’ve been skeptical had creating a video been a part of the process.
“It feels a little bit like the MuchMusic VJ Search,” he explains. “It’s like, ‘Let’s put an idiot 20-year-old in front of a bunch of screaming teenagers and see if they can keep up’. It’s really a popularity contest. What’s it teaching me? It’s teaching me that the person is good on camera. If I worked at MuchMusic, I would absolutely be running VJ searches every six months, because that’s what they do. They’re looking for personality. Working at a magazine is not about personality.”
Trendocher believes the contest gave her a great opportunity to show Flare she’s capable of manipulating video, as well as representing the publication.
“It’s hard when you’re just looking at a resume because everyone will have the same qualifications. They’ve already been an intern, or they were the editor-in-chief of their school paper,” she says. “The video resume was a really interesting idea because that allows you to vocalize and really show who you are.”
As she sits by the window of a downtown Toronto Starbucks, Trendocher fiddles with her hands, but stops to take a long sip of her iced tea and discuss the effect another influential fashion magazine has had on the industry.
“I think it’s a trend,” declares Trendocher. “If you look at something like Teen Vogue, they definitely have done something like that. The Hills with Lauren Conrad, they’re always on camera at their internships, and it’s kind of appealing to have that kind of contest.” She says employers would want to know whether a person is good on camera.
Exclaim and Flare may differ on what qualities they find most desirable in potential interns, and whether or not personality dictates success is still debatable.
Suzan Park, a graduate of Humber College’s journalism program who interned at Flare from January 2008 to the end of April 2008, agrees that Flare likely played on the success of The Hills when they decided to go with the contest. She says Flare.com works very hard on maintaining its website. “It is so well constructed,” Park says, noting that by showing the glamourous side of interning at Flare and allowing readers to facilitate choosing the intern can generate interest in the website.
She did make it clear that the individuals interning at Flare are smart, bright, ambitious and motivated. Park says she applied through more standard means by submitting a resume and showing up for two interviews, a fairly straightforward approach considering the alternative.
However, Park says if she had to apply for her internship with a video resume, she wouldn’t have subjected herself to the process. She says she would fear her skills wouldn’t be reviewed and the decision to choose her would come down to how she looks.
“Looks do matter,” says Park. “Let’s just be clear about that. The way you look and the way you present yourself absolutely 100 per cent matters.”