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April 8, 2013
Recruiting’s Secret Weapon? Video.
On the websites of law firms, Fortune 500 companies, and technology giants, video content is exploding as businesses realize its power as a recruiting tool. The problem is, recruiting films are often uninspired and poorly produced.
Companies face tremendous competition for top talent. To attract recruits, businesses must communicate the culture and personality of their organization and capture the passion of their employees in only a few minutes. That’s where, if used correctly, video excels; it helps people connect on an emotional level rather than on an intellectual or logical one. Video has the potential to be more than just a hiring tool; it can become an integral part of a company’s brand image.
At the Carbone Smolan Agency, a design and branding firm based in New York City, we recently worked with the prestigious law firm Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCoy on their new recruiting video. Milbank recognized that video could help them tell their story on their website, but in order to do so, the video needed to be exciting and well-produced to really connect with recruits and help the firm stand out from the competition.
Uncovering the Essence
Every organization has a unique culture or DNA, and it is the filmmaker’s job to uncover and share that story. Extensive interviews with employees, ranging from partners to secretaries, are essential to identifying what is unique about a company and developing a strategy that will connect with potential recruits.
For the Millbank video, we uncovered five key message points to highlight. For instance, they like to say that associates “get paid to go to Harvard,” a reference to a continuing-education partnership where new recruits attend weeklong seminars at Harvard University. Uncovering key differentiators like this and finding the essence of the company is essential to everything that follows. 
Example: A video that speaks to the core of the Milbank culture
The Cast
Once the key messages are identified, the right people who can accurately tell the company’s story must be selected. A common mistake is featuring high-level executives who are politically positioned to represent the firm rather than employees who can speak naturally and passionately on-screen. The best way to find these cast members is to turn the key messaging points into interview questions and to determine which employees have strong personal stories that support those messages.
It’s important to tape all casting interviews to gauge who looks the most natural and relaxed on film. The goal is to ultimately find “leads” and “supporting cast members.” After solidifying the storyline based on what casting choices have to say, the “stars” are filmed again for the video. These final interviews should be viewed as conversations rather than performances, an approach that makes people feel more comfortable in front of a camera and allows their true personalities to shine. Genuinely emotional content not only makes for better filmmaking; it’s also what ultimately inspires others to want to join and have their own stories to share.
What these cast members have to convey is a palpable sense of what it would be like to work with them — that “they’re just like me” and that “this is exciting work they get to do.” When done well, as in Intel’s software engineer recruiting video, the video should evoke a typical day at work, a day that just happens to hit on all the unique, differentiating points of the company while putting it in the best possible light.
Example: Intel’s Software Engineer Recruiting Video
The Art Part
The video’s director and production team should be selected for their ability to blend all the key ingredients together in a captivating way and bring the video to life. The goal is to work with the production team on development elements, including story structure; environments; color approach; pacing and editing; perspective and camera angles; and music. These techniques should elevate the filmmaking and capture the energy needed to engage today’s recruits while connecting back to the key messages.
From a stylistic standpoint, Milbank’s “young at heart” culture is communicated through the variety of types of shots and the video’s quick rhythm. The filmmakers from Homestead Films were selected for their ability to communicate culture through video, drawing out the emotional part of the story and capturing the dynamic beautifully on film.
Just the Beginning
Videos are most effective when they are short and pack a powerful punch. A recruiting video is about much more than hiring new employees. It’s the story of what’s truly unique about a company and its culture, and through its narration, communicates why people should care about the organization. Keeping in mind a few key elements to help show, rather than tell, what the environment and camaraderie is like — such as being clear about messaging, finding the people who can best tell the company’s story, and editing for speed and emotion — will result in a video that will make people inside the company just as excited as its potential hires.

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Paul Pierson, partner and design director at branding and design firm Carbone Smolan Agency, uses design as platform to tell stories, engage audiences, and simplify the most complex messages. He has built stunning physical and digital solutions for clients such as Morgan Stanley, W Hotels and Canon U.S.A. GDUSA magazine named him a "Person to Watch," and he was recently selected as a fellow for the USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program on how to produce innovative journalism. 
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