Selling Yourself! (Televised Job Interview)

By: Kim Jones


Watched recruitment’s equivalent of Pop Idol last night - “Selling Yourself"(Tuesdays, Channel Five). It was appalling. The basic scenario is that five contestants for a hotly contested job are put through their paces by two recruitment “professionals” and a client representative until finally one is chosen – “The Apprentice Lite”, if you like.

Last night, the remaining five (out of 400) hopefuls were trying to get an Account Executive position with a well known ad agency in Manchester with the last hurdle being a day spent being grilled by a male behavioural expert, Ron, and a female recruitment consultant, Sam. The introductory voice over was a sign of things to come when it droned on like the worst possible recruitment advert – “The client is looking for someone energetic, passionate, enthusiastic, team player, with an eye for detail, fast track to the top” (You know the sort of thing).

But it got horribly worse.

The first phase was a one minute presentation by each candidate. These were all painful to watch but the recruitment experts soon showed their mettle. Sam asked one candidate what aspect of her personality she would change. The candidate replied that “Sometimes I am too bossy”. I was dead impressed with Sam’s feedback to the client - “I think sometimes she is too bossy”. Mind you, her “I don’t feel I got to know the real person” (it was a one minute presentation, for heaven’s sake!) also made me want to hurl a huge and well deserved fee in Sam’s direction. While all this was going on, the expert in body language demonstrated his expertise by not only noticing that one interviewee had put his hands in his pockets but quickly deducing that this might indicate indifference. Personally I found the body language of the poor candidate who spent his minute with his arms waving maniacally round in front of him like a demented Joe Cocker more interesting (my theory is that he was nervous. What do you think?)

One candidate was rejected at this stage, apparently because of a personality clash with Sam, who was already coming across like Simon(e) Cowell with a bad hangover, before we all moved on to stage two. If someone could tell me what a group exercise involving trying to get a bucket full of coloured balls out of a rope circle, without the bucket touching the rope, tells you about who will make a good advertising account executive, I’d like to know. Actually I wouldn’t because, in the interests of time, I’ll go along with the show’s fantasy that this was a test of team spirit and leadership (strewth). The Joe Cocker clone did well, Ms. Bossy honked orders all through (despite Sam still harping on in the background about her being bossy), while one candidate, an ex recruitment consultant, stood around having no impact on the absurd proceedings at all. Sam zeroed in on her non participation in the leadership test and, in no time at all, concluded that this meant she might lack leadership skills - pausing only to deride Ms Bossy for trying to lead, which, to Sam, meant she wasn’t a team player!

Stage three was a two minute presentation where each candidate had to come up with a name and marketing plan for a new type of condom. “Jonathan”, “Freedom”, “Safeguard” and “Alpha” weren’t bad efforts, although Sam came up trumps again by asking one person the faintly ludicrous “I wasn’t excited by your presentation. Why is that?” If the candidate had replied “As my brain is wedged inside my own cranium, not yours, I’ve no idea why you weren’t excited” I’d have hired her on the spot.

Two candidates were rejected at this stage with one bitterly – but quite rightly I felt – reacting to some comment from Sam (again!) about her lack of knowledge about working in advertising by pointing out that Sam didn’t work in advertising either, which was the outstanding moment of the programme for me.

The final was Ms. Bossy .v. Millie, the ex recruitment consultant, and consisted of an hour’s grilling for each. By this stage of the programme I was starting to fantasise about the after life, but after the Bossy one opined that she was “20 out of 10 bound to win”, I was rooting for Millie all the way.

The tension mounted as Ms B. went into the room. Down to the last two of 400, after leaping the three hurdles in the programme, here at last was the chance for the recruitment consultants to demonstrate, on prime time TV, the insight, the intelligence, the sheer professionalism that justifies their existence (and fees) with some penetrating questions that would lay the true face of the candidates bare for all to see.

“Why should we give you the job?” was a bit of a let down really.

“Convince me why you should get the job”, as a follow up, didn’t help much either.

After about five minutes of this fascinating stuff, it was Millie’s turn to face the music. After dealing with a couple of questions which proved conclusively that we were in the presence of true professionals - “How much do you want the job?”, “What makes you better than the other candidates?” - the time came to home in on her real weakness. Our hero and heroine had convinced themselves that Millie’s weakness was a lack of toughness (probably as a result of clues cleverly garnered from an “Are you tough”, “Not really” exchange earlier in the process) and now decided to get to the heart of this key issue.

“Do you think you are tough enough? Give an example of when you’ve been tough? Why was that tough? What do you say when people say you aren’t tough enough?” were the subtle questions. Luckily Millie, quickly seeing through this cunningly disguised interrogation, realised they were worried about her toughness, allayed their fears and got the job.

As a programme it was mildly interesting. As an advert for recruitment consultants, it was dreadful with no value added apparent at any stage of the process. I appreciate that editing will have had a big impact and that Sam couldn’t be as awful as she, in particular, seemed but for anyone involved at any stage in recruitment or HR it was vaguely depressing. So, in future, I’ll watch “The Apprentice” and the frizzy haired lady who screams in delight at everything and bursts into tears at just about everything else.

In real life, she’s an HR Manager.

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In 1995, with Maria Manzo, he set up the UK office of BSA Advertising - a USA - owned agency - which he ran until deciding to set up Giraffe Advertising. Recruitment Advertising Agency & Website Design Company London UK

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