By Eileen AJ Connelly, AP Personal Finance Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — When Serene Buckley got her first video resume from a job applicant, she had just finished sifting through about 150 more traditional resumes.

"My first impression was that it was a bold move," said Buckley, a senior executive with MortarPR in San Francisco. "I think paired with a strong (written) resume, I would be interested to bring that person in."

Video resumes have been used for years, but their popularity is rising in a tight labor market as job seekers try to stand out. Videos can convey the message that an applicant is edgy, confident and creative. But they also have a possible downside: If badly produced, they can sabotage a job hunt.

Many recruiters see video resumes as an important tool if they're part of a package that presents the applicant well.

"They are an extraordinary tool to drive a search," said Don Straits, CEO of Corporate Warriors, an executive placement firm in Auburn, Calif.

But, he added, "the only way that video resumes are really effective is when they're used in context with supporting documents." That means combining a video with a strong written resume and information about a person's past performance.

"When video resumes are not used properly, they are worthless," Straits said. "And in fact, may do more harm than good."

Rob Moriarty wasn't used to getting in front of a camera when he made his first video resume in 2004, but the producers he worked with helped make the process easier. The video was well received during his job search, and now that he's looking again, he has a new one available.

"The hiring process is all about chemistry," said Moriarty, a sales executive from Walpole, Mass. "People want to hire somebody they're comfortable with. If they can get a look at that person before they meet him or her, they feel much more comfortable, and that goes a long way."

Moriarty is a video resume success story. At the other end of the spectrum is Aleksey Vayner. In 2006, the Yale University student became an unintentional Internet celebrity when he sent the investment bank UBS a video resume featuring him lifting weights, skiing, performing martial arts and ballroom dancing. The video found its way to YouTube and elsewhere online, generating plenty of ridicule but no job offers.

While that example is extreme, it does show several dangers of the medium. First, Vayner sent it to the wrong person, not someone who was in a position to hire him, and so it eventually ended up online. The lesson is to make sure you're targeting someone with the authority to make a hiring decision, either a would-be boss or someone in the human resources department.

The next issue is the impression the video created. "You want to distinguish yourself, but you don't want to look weird," said Rob Saam, a vice president at search firm Lee Hecht Harrison in Milwaukee.

Production quality is also important. A well-produced video can send the message that the applicant is both professional and on top of new technology, while something that looks like a home video can send the opposite message.

The camera can also magnify physical flaws and often makes its subjects appear wooden or uncomfortable.

"If you have a home video camera, videotape yourself," advised Patti Wood, a body language expert who does personal coaching and professional training and has worked with some clients on video resumes. "Look at yourself, and you make an assessment." She said every aspect of a personal presentation, from clothing and makeup to patterns of speech, can affect the impression you make on a prospective boss.

Applicants who are less attractive can face special challenges. "I think face to face, you can develop rapport enough to override some of that, but you're not going to have that kind of time in a video," Wood said.

Another pitfall is the amount of time it takes to view even a short video. Buckley noted that if the 150 resumes she sorted through had all been on video, she wouldn't have had time to watch them all.

It's also hard to screen videos to eliminate unqualified candidates. Large companies often use computer software as part of the initial screening process, which search documents for keywords that describe certain education, job functions and responsibilities. That's something that's more difficult to do with video.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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