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Auditions: A Brutally Painful Answer to Corporate America’s Hiring Problem
Ouch. That Hurt. More Please.
Compared to a corporate interview, I believe an actor’s audition is more painful, more pressure, and more emotionally intense. And I’m beginning to miss them.
In my mid-20s, I lived among actors and studied them in their native habitat of Los Angeles. To deepen my research, I became one of them.
I enrolled in acting classes, drafted an actor’s resume, printed headshots, and auditioned for small parts. I discovered that auditions are much like job interviews, only ten times worse.
And the moment they passed me up for the part, I knew giving up was not an option. Like Oliver Twist, I pleaded, “please sir, can I have some more?”, but in lieu of room-temperature gruel, I begged for closed-fists slaps across my hopes and dreams.
Auditions were especially tough because as an actor, my competition always sat in the same room. It was like waiting in an emergency room: I dreaded the moment they called my name, but secretly hoped everyone else was in far worse shape.
And sometimes I had to wait for two-hours to pitch myself for 5-minutes, or less. And most low-budget projects required the presence of the producers, director, and writer. So in many a small windowless room, I auditioned in front of my bosses.
Often after performing my piece, someone would make a suggestion (known as a direction, not a critique). It was then my responsibility to modify my piece and perform it again, making impromptu creative tweaks.
Together, these factors made auditions extreme, high-pressure situations – but compared to the corporate interview process, they were far more effective.
An audition was fast, direct, and bullshit-free. Casting moved quickly so there was little room for maybes and we’ll-get-back-to-yous. Furthermore, the people judging me had no reason to feign enthusiasm; if I wanted an “application status update,” I studied the faces in front of me.
In corporate America, the default is to withhold information. The people who interview us rarely have the authority to extend a job offer. All most do is make recommendations to their hiring manager, so they play their cards close to their chest.
And their recommendations are based on personality and skill-assessments, both of which they observe under contrived circumstances. Hiring managers rely on those recommendations, but harbor objectives that may override them.
And since the people who interview us often lack that context, they avoid misleading us by refusing to express themselves in earnest.
These tactics leave applicants in limbo wondering where they stand in comparison to others, and whether the work environment suits their temperament.
In an audition, actors actually work – they have to show their colleagues what they are capable of and how well they collaborate with the actual people on the team.
As a consequence, in 5-minutes an audition answers questions that the corporate interview process fails to answer in 5-weeks. The audition succeeds at this because it is kind, not nice, and corporate America still has a thing or two to learn about kindness.