Tips for Shooting an Interview-Style Recruitment Video Using a Cell Phone

Potential volunteers are attracted to personal testimonials that tell the story of why you serve, lending credence to the old adage that: “Nothing breeds success like success itself.”

In the absence of having our full First Arriving video production crew at your disposal, and with a little help from our editing and marketing team, you can still be effective in getting your home-grown video messages out to your target audience.

Here are a few tips to help you look and sound your best when recording your personal recruitment message using a cell phone:

  • Today’s cellphones take great video, but vertical shots don’t work well on the web so be sure to hold or mount it horizontally (landscape mode). Use a tripod if possible or set the phone on something steady and flip the camera so you can see yourself. Make sure there’s sufficient light to cut out shadows or blur.
  • Be creative but choose your backdrop wisely. In front of or even sitting in or on apparatus often works well. Create some depth between you and your background when possible, whether it’s a gear rack,apparatus or other points around the fire station. Avoid distractions and excessive noise like strong winds, station radios, people walking or vehicles moving behind you.
  • Dress for success: Will you wear a uniform, fire department polo or t-shirt, or turnout gear? Helmet or hat on or off? The choice is yours, just make sure what you’re wearing represents your department appropriately.
  • Maintain eye contact with the camera at all times. Try not to look down or shift your eyes away, especially at the end of a phrase, sentence or story. Hold your stare for an extra second.
  • Stand firmly with your feet spread far enough apart for you to be comfortable. Avoid rocking on your heels. Put your hands wherever is natural for you: by your side, in your pockets, or in motion animating your story.
  • Don’t start with “So, …” Just start talking. Speak slowly, confidently and pause briefly between soundbites or main phrases where possible. Maintain your volume and finish strong, try not to trail off at the end. That helps our editing process tremendously.
  • Keep the message positive and be inclusive. Avoid using gender-biased terms (firefighter vs. fireman, guys, etc.) and technical jargon that non-emergency personnel may not understand. Lead with the opportunities and benefits of volunteering.
It’s not live TV! Taking selfie-video with your cell phone should be a lot less stressful than having a production crew
pointing a camera and microphone at you – so relax and have fun! Let your passion for volunteering show through.
Trust us, we’ll only use content that shows you and your agency in the best light.

Hit the Reset Button. Sometimes our lips aren’t always in sync with our brain and words and phrases don’t come out the way we wanted or intended. Take time to think about your response before you respond, or if you start to say something and you don’t like the way it comes out, just stop, take a deep breath, pause for a second and start over. You get as many do-overs as you need to tell us your story in the way that you want the audience to see and hear it.

What should I say? The purpose of the video you’re creating is to recruit more volunteers just like you. People join for different reasons, so tell your story of what attracted you to the volunteer fire service. Was it family tradition, were you or a family member on the receiving end of emergency services, did you witness an emergency that inspired your desire to serve the community, to learn new skills that may lead to a career in the field, or do you just love the adrenaline rush and the opportunity to help others in their time of need? Volunteering is personal. Give us your personal recruitment message and why you think someone else should join the volunteer fire service. Sometimes it helps to write it out first and rehearse what you’re going to say. Give it some thought. Tell your story to the camera.

Be sure to answer three or four of these questions:

  • “I volunteer because…”
  • “What keeps me volunteering is…”
  • “You should volunteer because…”
  • ”What makes our fire department so special is…”

Where should I be looking? It may seem awkward or uncomfortable but stare right into the cell phone camera. A good way to ease into the interview is by recording some IDs where you’ll be staring directly into the lens of the camera. (Think of being introduced as part of the starting line-up at a sporting event!) Say something like “Hi, I’m ___ with the ___ Volunteer Fire Department,” along with some tag lines we can use at the end of the video like “Come join me” or “Join the ___ Volunteer Fire Department today!” Give a strong message and hold your stare at the camera for an extra second after delivering your punchline. Another approach is to have someone else ask you the questions. That way it will just be a conversation between the two of you, so maintain eye contact with them whether they are behind the camera, in the shot with you, or off-camera.

A bit about B-Roll: Although not critical, if you have the opportunity to shoot what’s commonly called b-roll (background footage) of your apparatus rolling out lights-and-sirens, or a windshield view of it driving down the street, you donning your gear or checking equipment, or similar action shots – our editors can insert it between cuts or lay it under a voice-over of the interview to enhance the quality of your video.

Stick with us, kid. We’ll make you a star!
Relax, smile, have fun and let the excitement and enthusiasm you have for volunteering show through. Don’t try to sound like an infomercial product endorsement spokesperson or a nightly news anchor (lol). Be natural and let your passion shine.

The purpose of the video is to motivate others to join your ranks. Be the role model you would want to volunteer with. Be someone others want to connect with. You’ve got this!

Send It! We’ll send you instructions on emailing or uploading your cell phone video to our website. From there, our editors will cut and clip it to make you look and sound your best, and then we will add graphics and what we call “bumpers” on both ends of the video that tell the viewer how they can join you in volunteering. We’ll then send it back for you to use in your own social media and web-based recruitment efforts. Find out more at

[dt_default_button link=”url:%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2021%2F02%2FFirst-Arriving-Cell-Phone-Video-Interview-Tips-1-PAGE-202000918.pdf|target:_blank” button_alignment=”btn_center”]Download our Cell Phone Interview Tip Sheet[/dt_default_button]