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'The Job' Didn't Get the Job Done

February 20, 2013

When was the last time someone applauded an answer during a job interview you attended, regardless of which side of the table you sat on? Have you ever seen job finalists holding hands while waiting with bated breath to see which person would get the offer? Have you ever allowed other companies to sit in on a job interview and potentially snatch away your top applicant?

Did you answer "no" to all of the above?

Me, too. That is, until I watched the second episode of CBS' reality series The Job. No, it wasn't the first reality show that took viewers into the job-search process— Donald Trump's The Apprentice has been doing it since 2004—but it did offer odd twists. I use past tense because the series has been pulled from the schedule after two episodes, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Still, the show offered some interesting concepts; I just think it failed because of the execution.

On the episode, there are five candidates who are in the running to become an entry-level editorial assistant at Cosmopolitan magazine. (Six episodes were shot in all and each featured a different company.) In the beginning, the candidates are asked to find some fashionable people on the street to photograph and then write some copy about the photo. It was a made-for-TV experience that most job candidates wouldn't get. The other "test" segments were a little more fitting for an editorial assistant candidate, although the presentation was a bit contrived. In one part, the Cosmo editors had the candidates try to spot an error in a mock front cover of the magazine, and, before the final "interview," they had to answer Cosmo/pop culture trivia questions.

Then there was the twist.

Besides Cosmo, there were three other companies lurking in the background—literally—that had the opportunity to make an offer to one of the candidates before the main company does. In the episode, a Web company called Archetype Me did make an offer, but for what we don't know. The candidate had a commercial break to mull it over and take it or leave it. Interestingly, the three "outside" companies didn't even get to talk to the candidates. My guess is there were interviews conducted off-camera, but if they legitimately made an offer without talking to the candidates, that would take some serious recruiting skills—guts?—since we all know the onboarding experience isn't cheap and mistakes are costly.

But here's where the show failed. They never told you what the offer was from Cosmo or Archetype Me, so we don't even know if they are similar positions. You never found out how much the job pays, what the benefits are, what the culture is. These are typical questions you'd learn during the interviewing process, so leaving out those details derails viewer engagement. What makes some of these reality shows fun is that you're able to play along with the contestants and say, "What the heck were you thinking?" There wasn't enough information to do that here.

I'm certain privacy was a major concern for the producers, which it should be, but it also makes for a disjointed experience for everyone involved. After all, how in the world could you be able to make an informed decision based on the information presented in an hourlong show? There must have been more to it, right? Well, maybe not.

As a recent USA Today story tells us, some companies aren't even interested in résumés anymore. They are relying on "Twitterviews" to bring in the best candidates. Get this job in 140 characters or less? Sounds more like an old ad for Domino's Pizza in the 30-minutes-or-less days than a way to find a worker for the next 30 years or even 30 days.

I was really interested to see how they would pull this show off, and the answer came pretty quickly: They couldn't.

Personally, I'm no fuddy-duddy when it comes to the interview process. I like new ideas and I like innovation, but if the goal is to bring in the best candidates, you might need more than a Tweet or one-hour TV show to make the best selection.

This "Job," while interesting in concept, just didn't get the job done.

James Tehrani is Workforce's copy desk chief. To comment, email editors@workforce.com. Follow Tehrani on Twitter at @workforcejames.