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With TikTok Resumes, the Social Media App Is Betting on the Future of Video Resumes

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Jade Walters had a feeling the month of July would mark a "breakthrough" moment for her. The 21-year-old Howard University grad has been on the job hunt since January 2021, and though she landed a PR internship with Ulta for the summer, it didn't quash her stress of finding a full-time job.

Walters tells CNBC Make It she was losing steam until she heard about TikTok Resumes. Through the pilot program, which is running in July, employers advertise open roles on the video app and invite young job-seekers to create a video resume; users with standout clips will then be contacted to start a formal hiring process. 

Walters decided to give it a shot. In a few hours, she uploaded a minute-long clip with photos of her college experience and a voiceover detailing her accomplishments, including joining a business and professional sorority; serving as campus brand ambassador for Ethos, Tinder and Bumble; and interning with Penguin Random House and now Ulta.

Walters braced for trolls but was instead surprised by a flood of positive messages. TikTok users commended her persistence and boosted her profile to employers. Eventually the video, which has been viewed more than 13,000 times, made its way to recruiters, and Walters began to line up interviews.

It's the type of success story TikTok is counting on to see where they stand in the business of hiring. First came #CareerTok, where cynical workers and career coaches alike took to the social media app to post tips, tricks and rants about the world of work, with particular aim at Gen Z and young millennial professionals figuring out their place in the fray.

TikTok head of global marketing Nick Tran says the resumes platform was born out of user activity in this career-minded subculture. And people had gone viral and gotten hired from TikTok before, so why not try to formalize the process?

Finding young workers

Tran believes that in TikTok resumes, the app's young audience of digital natives, many of whom are entering the workforce for the first time, will be encouraged to show off their skills and creativity in a way that the written word simply can't.

"It's an opportunity to understand people's passions and what they're interested in," Tran says. "No amount of exclamation points in a resume will bring that to life compared to what you can see in a video."

Walters says creating her video was a lot more fun than tweaking a text resume to marathon-apply through job portals. "Applying to jobs is so daunting, so the fact that I had just one video and could apply to multiple jobs and submit my LinkedIn profile at the same time, that was amazing," she says. On video, "you can really get a closer look at the applicant as opposed to a piece of paper. It exposed my passion, creativity and drive."

She also thinks being an early adopter of the video platform helps her stand out. "Someone can easily say in a cover letter they're a fast learner, or a go-getter ready to hit the ground running, but in my video, I went a step above by showing it."

A new tool for the tight job market—and for publicity

A new recruiting tool can't come fast enough for employers scrambling to fill open roles amid recovering consumer demand, particularly in the leisure and hospitality industry.

Chipotle, for example, is advertising a number of food-service jobs on TikTok Resumes. "It's been crazy growth for us," says Marissa Andrada, Chipotle's chief diversity, inclusion and people officer, about the company's need to hire. She says it was a natural fit for Chipotle to tap its 1.6 million TikTok followers to recruit.

Andrada is enthusiastic about the efforts so far. "It brings the application and resume to life because we're hearing and seeing the dimension of our candidates," she says. She says she expects Chipotle's "highly engaged" fans to leverage the platform to express their creativity and their love of the brand.

For its pilot program, TikTok partnered with around 40 employers to advertise jobs ranging from ones where personality plays a big role (brand ambassadors, customer service representatives, content creators), to ones where the connection is less clear (warehouse operations workers, engineers, a chemist). Then, there are positions that are pretty clear marketing ploys, like the WWE's call for its next "superstar."

TikTok says users submitted 800 video resumes within the first 48 hours of launch and has since received "hundreds of submissions" to date.

For recruiters, creativity can come at the expense of efficiency

Across the board, both fans and critics are giving TikTok credit for introducing more creativity into the hiring process. But hiring experts remain skeptical about its efficiency. Career coach, WorkItDaily.com CEO and CNBC Make It contributor JT O'Donnell is active on TikTok with more than 1 million followers, but she's not sold on the video resume being the future of hiring.

In a TikTok video, she notes that the concept is "cool and novel," but ultimately admits "I wouldn't do it."

Resumes should be straightforward and show the applicant has the basic requirements of the job, O'Donnell tells CNBC Make It. That's best presented through text, she says: "Give me the numbers. Quantify your accomplishments so I can quickly, as a recruiter, go 'check, check, check,' this person has the five things needed to even be considered for the job."

"I'm already trained to skim 100 resumes and identify 20 within a first pass," she continues. "If I have to look at 100 three-minute videos, I can't do my job."

Instead, she'd rather see the video introduction replace the much maligned cover letter, where storytelling can make a difference.

O'Donnell also wants to see more options to send video messages privately.

Because videos must be public to be submitted to an employer, O'Donnell says this can create friction if a job seeker creates several resumes for competing brands professing their enthusiasm for each one. For example, a hiring manager at Facebook may not be thrilled to see you've created a similar video resume for a position at Google, she says.

Video's place in equitable hiring

For decades, leaders have debated technology's role in removing bias from the hiring process. TikTok as a platform has received its fair share of criticism from Black, Latino, Asian and other creators of color for deprioritizing their work in an ecosystem that critics say favors white users.

Tran says such issues are of the "utmost importance" to him and the company, reiterating his commitment to gathering feedback from users and employees to build a platform that is "fair, safe and equitable across all underrepresented groups."

Platform aside, there's no shortage of so-called "blind hiring" software that aims to neutralize a candidate's application by removing aspects that could indicate gender, race, age, class, ability and so on — effectively stripping any personal characteristics and leaving just the raw data. By centering a candidate's visual presentation, TikTok Resumes swings in the opposite direction.

As a recruiter, O'Donnell recognizes unconscious bias filters into the hiring process regardless of the tools or workflow, but it's a matter of training HR professionals to recognize and evaluate talent beyond those snap judgments. It's another reason why she believes video can be a good tool to hire, but not at the introductory resume phase.

Using a social platform curated using secretive algorithms could introduce new forms of bias, too. Users with larger followings or whose clips go viral are bound to rack up more likes, comments and shares — levels of engagement that a hiring manager can take note of.

Andrada of Chipotle says that those who meet the basic requirements for a role will be invited into a local restaurant for an interview, and that their hiring process is designed to remove bias while considering diversity, equity and inclusion principles.

"Our recruiters still need to assess the skills they're representing against a hiring tool we have. It's not unlike what we do in our restaurant interviews every day — we still look for those minimum requirements."

Bringing humanity to the hiring process

It's clear that while some recent developments in hiring more or less flatten the candidate profile to prioritize speed and efficiency, TikTok Resumes aims to bring a level of humanity to what can be a grueling and demoralizing hiring process for job-seekers.

For Walters, the recent grad, the platform helped her land interviews at a handful of "dream companies" that promise actual offers. But beyond that, getting real-time feedback from fellow TikTokers gave her a much-needed confidence boost during her months-long job search.

Tran sees this real-time feedback as a major benefit to the Resumes format. "Folks now are providing tips on how to do a video resume," he says. "I wouldn't be surprised to see that as more applicants go through the process, they could land jobs at higher rates simply because they're getting so much feedback from people interested in them," Tran adds.

As the pilot winds down through the end of July, Walters is eager to see how it could expand. Several weeks of interacting with TikTok Resumes has already proven more successful than months applying for work in a more traditional manner.

As for the future of social video resumes, Walters says, "I think it's a cool start in the right direction."

Check out: Recruiters are 'spending a lot of money' to find workers—how to get them to come to you

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