Monday, July 27, 2009

A picture can discriminate while a video pitch can illuminate.

In the bestselling novel, “Sway”, the authors detail how illogical our decisions often are. More often than not, our decisions are made through the filter of our preconceived positions on fairness, commitment to the issue at hand, value attribution, and first impressions to name a few.

One of the most enlightening parts of the book is when the authors speak of a controlled study performed with fifty-one women that had signed up for a study on communication. The women were instructed that they would each receive a phone call from a randomly selected man. When they did get the calls, they spoke about the typical things two strangers would engage in - the weather and their college majors, etc.

What they did not know was that the men on the other line had all been given a bio on them and a picture. While the bios were accurate, the pictures were not. The pictures were not pictures of the women in the study but instead other pictures, half of them being very pretty women and the other half more ordinary in appearance.

Before making the calls, the men would be given the bios and the pictures with an “Impression Formation Questionnaire.” The results of the survey were not hard to predict. Each man that held a picture of a very attractive woman expected to interact with sociable, poised, and humorous women while the ones that held the other pictures expected to interact with unsociable, awkward, and socially inept women. Once the men had formed such biases, it was hard for them to see the women otherwise and brought that judgment into the phone conversations.

The women on the other line meanwhile were just simply engaged in chitchat, having no idea the men had these pictures or pre conceived attributions.

The fun began when the researchers played the recordings of the women’s side of the conversations to another independent group that had no pictures to look at. Hands down, this group placed the same traits to the women that the men had. They did this because of what the authors call the “chameleon effect”. The men’s conversational tone based on their pre-conceived bias actually set the stage for the women’s responses. In other words, because the men that had the “pretty” pictures felt that the women on the other line were engaging and humorous to begin with, their tone and conversational style elicited that response from those women. In the same way the women who were thought to be less engaging upfront, responded in a less engaging way.

Now let’s talk about how this relates to career development and more specifically how a picture on a resume, on LinkedIn, or Facebook, can discriminate while a while executed video pitch can illuminate.

First off, since a picture is a static image, a “freeze frame” if you will, it only captures a moment. So even if you are photogenic, it is not truly capturing your personality. We are all familiar with the instance of seeing a picture of a very attractive person, and falling into the same trap that the men in the study did. We assume that they are very engaging and sociable and then we meet them we can be surprised to discover they are not.
A video however, when executed with a professional videographer, someone that has experience in bringing a person’s personality to life on camera, can truly be a game changer when used in career advancement.

When an executive from a company receives a resume from a job seeker and then checks out the LinkedIn profile or Facebook, they could make a judgment that is inaccurate. With a well executed video pitch, the hiring authority sees the person come to life. The “plain looking” person all of a sudden is very attractive because their personality truly shines through.
Many corporate recruiters advise students on campuses to NOT include a picture on a resume.

That is actually good advice as most of us do not look like runway models. Unless we take our pictures off Facebook or LinkedIn however, we are still likely to be judged by that picture as corporate recruiters can check our FB and LI pages.

The best solution to this conundrum is to build a compelling video pitch. Not a do-it-yourself model, but one where you have coaching on the script, the delivery, and one that is professionally filmed. These can be overlaid on your LinkedIn page or sent in an email to the person you want to engage with along with your resume. Now you are making the best first impression. Now you have a tool that will illuminate.