How to Make a Stand Out Video for Jobs and Fellowships

Jun 27, 2023

Young hispanic woman recording a video using her mobile phone for her fellowship applications.

By Dawn Angelicca Barcelona

Have you ever read through a job or fellowship application and seen that it included a video component? You might be wondering why an admissions committee or hiring team asks for you to send a video in as part of your application materials. Sometimes admissions committees use videos as a way to assess skills such as communication that would not otherwise be demonstrated by your resume. They may also want to see how your personality can shine in a way that a limited-word essay would not allow you to. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic also upended in-person interviews, so recording a video for a selection committee to review can also be helpful for them to “meet” you ahead of hiring. 

Given that we spend time online watching videos, and engaging with online content such as blogs, learning platforms, and social media accounts, we can all probably think of a few examples of videos that stood out to us. Sometimes you might be concerned that essays can’t give selection committees a full understanding of who you are, how you communicate, and what would differentiate you from other candidates. That’s the beauty of a video: you can animate your story in person.

At the core of a video essay or submission is a story: the selection committee wants to know who you are, and what experiences make you unique. Some other reasons a video could work in your favor: this will help you demonstrate your communication skills, enthusiasm, and alignment with the opportunity, and also your attention to detail, since setting up a video. Selection committees also want to know if you’re able to align with their mission and expectations as a communicator. This also helps show that you are detail-oriented if you properly complete the exercise.

Preparing for an interview? Read 3 Key Steps to Prepare for Interviews for Fellowship, Job and Graduate School.

Preparing For Your Recording

To get things started, first, read the directions carefully on what to include in your video and any related specifications and make note of them:

  • What is the video prompt? Here are some examples selection committees might ask candidates to do:
    • An “elevator pitch” where you talk about the qualifications you have for a role
    • Answer specific questions they provide that are related to the job or fellowship
    • Give a presentation on a topic of your choice
    • Make a pitch for a project you’re seeking funding to support 
  • What is the time limit for the video?
  • What format would they like the video in? 
  • How will you submit the video? Will you upload a video to their application portal, or upload it to a site like YouTube or Vimeo and send them the link?

Tips for Recording

  • Before recording, write out an outline of what you plan to say.
  • Practice answering the questions as if you were doing a live interview. Avoid reading from your notes word-for-word.
  • Ask a friend, colleague, or advisor to give you feedback on your answers. 
  • Make sure you can find a quiet place to record, where you won’t be interrupted by others.
  • Use headphones or earbuds to minimize any background noise. 
  • Have the camera be at eye level if possible to simulate eye contact. You can stack your laptop on books or use a tripod to support your phone.

Make sure to build in time for re-recording and editing the video if needed. Watch the video recording or ask someone else to watch it to make sure the audio sounds clear and that you’ve answered all of the questions you needed to. 

After you’re done with your video, shake off the nerves and send your application off! 

If you enjoyed this article, you may also want to read Recruiter Tips: How to Write An Effective One-Page Resume.

Dawn Barcelona in burgundy jacket smiling for headshot Dawn Angelicca Barcelona (she/her) is a Filipina-American recruiter and writer based in San Francisco. She was a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in South Korea from 2014-2016, where she taught English to elementary school students and worked on the Fulbright Korea Infusion Literary Magazine. Dawn has served on the Board of Directors of the Northern California Fulbright Association since 2019. She’s a winner of the San Francisco Foundation/Nomadic Press Literary Award (2022) and Epiphany Journal’s 2023 Fresh Voices Fellow

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