Joke job interview for a promo agency

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Nationwide, especially in a time when crisis haunts mostly every industry, TV survives on old cliché formulas, and the cuts in arts funding go deeper and deeper, many actors see themselves in the need of looking for a non-acting part-time job in order to keep going until the next paid acting gig.

They are generally cult and highly trained, with refined body language, charisma to speak in public, bubbly personality, great skills for improvisation, and have many other assets which would allow them to easily perform jobs such as waiting tables, handing out flyers or product samples, or hosting stands in trade shows. It should be a matter of knocking on a promotional staffing agency's door and joining theirs books. And that is why, even directory books as Contacts, by British leading actors' database website Spotlight, has a “non-acting jobs” section.

So that's what happens: an actor opens this book and applies to every agency from A to Z, in the hope of getting any flexible part-time work unrelated to their passion.

However, some promotional agencies (ehm, agency), whose managing personnel is probably made out of frustrated drop out actors, in order to seek attention and feel better about themselves, is deluded into thinking (or just thrives to make it look like) whoever applies to their “team” is desperate to join their books just because it's everyone's ultimate dream to hand out flyers for them, and has created the most outrageous and offensive “audition” to “select” people to be part of their staff.

I didn't know that. And that is why I walked into The Horse Hospital in Camden yesterday for what I thought would be a serious job interview.

Arriving there, I found a little less than one hundred people waiting. Don't be mistaken by these figures: this “audition” happens only once every six months or so, I found out, so what they try to make look like an eager crowd is actually the eventual CVs they received along half a year.

And then you realise their cute name to call their staff, “Idols”, is due to them really trying to reproduce… an X-FACTOR ENVIRONMENT. Yes. We are all sent to the main room where the “talent scout manager” (again, they call talent the people who hand out flyers) “greets us”: “I'm Gemma, and you're all competing against each other”. So much for team building, team work, or whatever other nice and ethical work environment that anyone desires in a company. She carries on: “Is anyone following us on Twitter? Grab your phones now, this is your opportunity. Whoever doesn't do it is already out.” We are also told to tweet something (obviously with a mention and a hash tag to their account) saying why we shouldn't get eliminated, and that tweets would be monitored throughout the morning. Then she shows a video explaining (something else that whoever attended their “job interview” didn't know in advance to have the choice of deciding if they would like to submit to this or not) that “not everyone will make it today”, followed by a PowerPoint slide showing a neck being cut by an ax, and a terror movie sound effect. Attendants start to exchange what-the-hell glances.

The first round consists of a little circus setup where candidates are the jester entertaining that group of “manager” girls. Like an X-factor-slash-Britain's Got Talent unnecessary procedure to “get to know a bit more about the candidates personality”. Seriously, because making knots out of candy with your tongue or doing the Kate Winslet ballet balance on your big toes Titanic style will certainly be vital in your sampling job, and is also a very good way of measuring a person's skills and personality. After this round, the first cut: out with all the ugly and older-looking people.

In the second round, we were set in groups and had to develop an ad for a fictional product with a random name they gave us, then stating why this product is different, how we would attract people to our stand, and other ideas they should be having, back in their office. Ideas that won't be asked to the people hired to hand out the flyers. But ideas they get for free from every person they may or may not hire and never get in touch with again. Again, a “coordinator” comes to us and says “remember, you are set up in a group, but you are COMPETING AGAINST EACH OTHER.” So this is not team work. Nice.

The presentations go fairly well. No one stands out, absolutely no one, for the good or for the bad. Every one of the remaining 60 or so people could perfectly do anything from that task. Then a quick individual interview, where after they seem impressed with your experience, they ask “how old are you?”, and after a quick “why is this important now?” look you give, they say “sorry, but I have to ask”. No, you don't have to ask. You don't get away with veiled ageism just because you don't publicly and officially write on your website “we won't be taking people over 23, or 25, or 30 or whatever, so if you're older, don't bother applying”. Also, you don't insist asking over 5 times if the candidate has a car or can drive in the UK, if this was not a pre-requisite from the moment they fill in your application form.

Everyone is reunited back again in the main room, where they go through the 2nd and last cut of the day: everyone's name is called to join their books, everyone but FIVE PEOPLE. Five good looking, charismatic, completely blended in people, just as capable, for sure, to hand out flyers, host a stand, or demonstrate how to use expresso machines in supermarkets.

Their website states “London which saw 200 people sign up to try and get on our book”. Again, there were less than 100. And we were not “trying to get on their books”, we were applying for a job, like we did the day before and will do the morning after, to any other of the hundreds of agencies out there, regardless of who the agency is. Because we are not dreaming to be part of their team, we just happen to need a paying job. They also say “We have the reputation of being the toughest agency to get in”. It's not really tough when you dismiss publicly the profile of people other agencies dismiss in the first headshot screening, and then take everyone but five people selected randomly to make an example out of them and feel important and desired in your petty self-absorption.

In any case, all this agency showcased yesterday was an utter lack of elegance, people skills, respect, demographics understanding (as again, pretentiousness about the reason why people look for jobs with you only denote hysteria and self-absorbed amateurism), and one of the most valued assets any company should have: team spirit.

Highly unrecommended for candidates and clients.

  • 7 years ago
  • 3,005
  • 3
Emma Grimwood
Emma Grimwood
Promo Staff

i know who you are talking about here and your post has made me lol a lot. I work for this agency quite a lot - i have no idea why i am not talented at all but i am a very good promo girl and i have worked in the industry for 7 years now 5 of hich full time. I never get these type of castings. i dont ever go to any of their castings or interviews any more. If its a job which requires just booking me on based on my cv pictures and history i will do it but i dont go to any job with them which involves these x factor style "interviews" It is really funny because the caliber of their staff is not that good in comparison to other agencies and this is because they employ people based on their "talent" why on earth you need to be able to play a flute through your eye to be employed to hand out flyers is beyond me.Thank god that this agencies recruitment process is rare in promo xxx

  • 7 years ago
  • 1
Janine Claxton
Janine Claxton
Promo Staff

I want to know who these cheeky gets are (agency) lol

  • 6 years ago
  • 2
Mark Smethurst
Mark Smethurst
Promo Staff

there are plenty of hints in there, including naming (you won't shame her) the staffing manager.

Anonymous - 10 years ago, they were the gold standard to work for, and I loved working for them. Standards slipped, and the client list got desperate.
Having been asked - on behalf of a gambling company client - to stand directly outside their competitors shops and physically intercept customers going in to the stores, and frogmarch them to out clients store - i'd had enough, and have not worked for them since.
Interestingly, they have a sister company who are BRILLIANT to work for...

  • 2 years ago
  • 3
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