Video? Photos? Text? How to Choose the Right Format for Your Employer Story

Deciding which types of content will best bring your story to life

February 11, 2016
This post is Part 4 of “Tell Candidates What They Really Want to Know: A step-by-step guide to storytelling for recruiting.” Introduction and other posts here.

If you’ve been following our last few posts, hopefully you’ve gathered the key components for a few targeted stories that are polished and ready to go public. Now comes the really creative part: deciding which types of content will best bring your story to life.

Videos, text, and photos are the basic units … but should you gather content from team members or work with professionals to create polished assets? And which format plays best on the platforms used by your target audience?

These are big questions. Professional storytellers have written literally hundreds of books on these subjects. So, although we can’t cover every base in a single blog post, we have outlined the pros and cons of core content types — plus examples — within the context of recruiting.


There seems to be a blog post a week urging us to “use more video!” And for good reason. Once a candidate taps “play,” a video provides the most information in the shortest amount of time. Videos tell your story, sure, but they also convey the intangibles of your company: the vibe of your workspace, the tone of communication among team members, how casually or formally people dress. For example, notice how much more you know about Zoomforth CEO Chris Murphy by watching his video intro, versus a photo or text.

Of course, no medium is perfect for every situation. For one thing, professional videos are relatively time-consuming and costly. Employee-generated videos can be made quickly for little money, but they take more work to keep on-message. If you’re excited to “use more video,” but not sure where to start, below is a simple framework for weighing your options, plus specific, recruiting-related examples.


Whether you put out a call for videos from employees or master your phone’s video mode yourself, tapping into employees’ unique perspectives can quickly convey the personality of your work culture. As a bonus, you might gain new insights into why employees enjoy their work, which you can use to further strengthen your employer story.

For employee-generated content, setting the right expectations and priorities, along with some lightweight training, will save you time in the editing process. Consider prompting your team to highlight aspects of diversity, or to share memorable office moments and recent successes related to their specific team.

For instance, T-Mobile used the rallying cry of “Un-leash your challenger spirit” to prompt content for its #BeMagenta campaign. The company’s careers page now includes tons of videos and photos shot by team members — using their cell phones, of course. Since launching the campaign, T-Mobile has seen a 40 percent increase in traffic to its careers site and nearly double the job applications compared to the previous year.

For shy or especially busy teams, it will work best for recruiters to take the lead on videos. Luckily, if you can hold your phone steady and speak clearly, you’re on your way to being an iPhone videographer.

Pro Tip:
Save yourself the need to learn video editing by recording everything in one take. Just be ready to record several versions before you’re happy with one. Check out Wistia or Lynda for other tips and tricks.

Short Team Member Testimonials
Brief video intros to team members can quickly add character to your about page, outreach emails, and event invites. For example, Deloitte recruiters have recorded video intros before attending campus recruiting events — which often makes them the only recognizable faces to students walking through the doors.

Team Member Profiles
These are longer videos (1–3 minutes) that provide an extra dose of authenticity by giving team members time to get beyond “why I love my job.” We like how Medallia’s video interviews offer role-specific perspectives and insights on work trajectories to help candidates picture themselves at the company.

Office Tour
This is a particularly good place for recruiters to start their video experiments. Horizon Media’s video tour of their NYC office, produced by the recruiting team, gets an extra dose of personality from quippy text overlays.


For professionally produced videos, your main decision is one of style: documentary or scripted. Documentary video (typically footage of your work environment and interviews with team members) is naturally authentic and believable, while scripted video (which could still use team members, but following a pre-written script) allows for more control and polish.

Pro Tip:
Certain demographics (software engineers, for example) have a bias against videos and actively avoid them. Widen the appeal of a video by including a transcript alongside, which also improves SEO.

This Pinterest video shines because of its straight answers to real questions. We also love the behind-the-scenes honesty of Airbnb’s “hack-air-thon” documentary.

Zendesk’s video is clever and funny, while still giving candidates a sense of what it’s like to work at the company.


While photos don’t tell viewers quite as much as videos, they make up for it by being flexible and versatile. We also like photos because, at least with a documentary approach, they can be gathered with minimal disruption to a busy office. If you have stakeholders who want more control, portraits or staged photos might be preferable.

While photos taken by team members are truly authentic and require less budget, quality will vary significantly and the time you’ll spend gathering and editing could outweigh the financial savings. It’s also worth noting that, in designers’ minds, it’s hard to make team-generated and professional photos play nice on the same page — the visual styles feel too different. In general, we recommend you avoid stock photography. At best, it makes your company seem impersonal; at worst, it makes candidates wonder what you’re hiding.

Pro Tip:
If you’re in the Bay Area, we love the “not-so-corporate headshots” by Portraits To The People. For documentary photos, we know some people. And if you must use stock photography, consider a few from the Lean In or WOCinTech collections.

Instacart’s careers page pops with lots of big photos, which were professionally shot (by us!) but still give candidates an honest look at office life.

We like how Lyft’s team members make a decidedly un-corporate face when you roll over their headshots. A simple effect that says a lot about the team’s personality.

Mavenlink aggregates employee social posts to illustrate its careers page.


Text is often the default format for employer stories, probably because most of us are already comfortable with writing (hello, email). But that doesn’t mean it’s not a powerful tool to engage candidates. As storytellers, there’s a specific reason we like text: it’s easy to edit. When working with lots of stakeholders, especially ones who want a high level of control, nothing is more flexible than text. That same flexibility also means a single piece of copy, once approved, can be sliced and diced to fit many other mediums, from an outreach email to a tweet.

Pro Tip:
If you or team members find it daunting to sit down and write something from scratch, a voice recorder might be your new best friend. Most smartphones will take voice memos, and for around $1 per minute, you can have them transcribed. (We like Rev, which also has a great recording app.) Next time your CEO is giving an inspiring talk or your hiring team reviews a candidate, grab your recorder. Then cherry-pick the key bits from the transcript and you’ve got the start to a strong story.Q

This interview with the Shift engineering team answers many questions candidates would ask in an interview.

Shift Is Tackling the Ultimate UX Challenge: The $750B Used Car Market

User feedback drives a technical team with real-world

Pull quotes
Flipboard created a design-forward career site that uses short quotes from team members to highlight the ethos of each department.

Social posts
Life Inside Dropbox on Facebook and @lifeatgoogle on Twitter show off social media storytelling, with a reliance on team-member-generated content.

Blog post
Keen’s Permission to Fail post is the epitome of authenticity.


What is a GIF, anyway? They’re basically short, looping videos without sound, compressed so the file is closer in size to a photo than a video. A few years ago they were niche; now they’re common — and popular — on most social platforms. From a storytelling standpoint, they contain the best of both photos and videos; they engage with movement (and usually humor) but don’t break the reading experience the way video does. And, in part because GIFs are so informal, they’re especially appreciated by younger audiences.

Customized Story Header
While most GIFs are clips from popular TV shows or movies, Buffer created their own GIF of their team jumping for joy to illustrate a blog post about their new Culture Scout.

App-specific Content

A common marketing concept is to “start where your audience is, not where you want them to be.” If you are targeting young tech-savvy talent, consider using platforms where they already engage, often on content-heavy social apps.

Short-form videos — Vine, Hyperlapse, Instagram Video
Check out Vogue’s 14-second Hyperlapse office tour on Instagram or HubSpot’s 6-second Vine on their new play area perk.

Live Video — Snapchat, Periscope, Meerkat
We love that HireVue sends new employees a welcome video through Snapchat as part of their onboarding process.

Work Examples

Companies often ask candidates for a portfolio of their work — turning the tables and providing a portfolio to candidates shows you are proud of your team’s work and are interested in the candidate’s opinion. Consider sharing anything cool your company or team is building: open source code for developers, campaign strategy for marketers, or decks for sales.

Technical Portfolio
Many companies have a GitHub repository, but Netflix’s GitHub landing page takes it to the next level.

Tech Talk
Eventbrite puts on frequent Tech Talks to share what the engineering team is learning, records them, and then posts the video and a text summary to the company’s engineering blog.

Don’t miss
Post 5 where we talk to real candidates about how to improve your employer story.

BTW, We use storytelling to help high-growth startups scale their teams. If you’d like to hear more, we’d love to talk!

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