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Millennial Minded

What's the one skill casting directors have that entrepreneurs need when hiring?

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If you haven't had the distinct pleasure of being corralled into a small room with your competition and asked to perform on the spot in order to be judged, allow me to enlighten you::

Auditions are rather discouraging.

Not only are you expected to learn and memorize dance choreography within 20 minutes and immediately execute it to the best of your abilities for a panel of directors, but you’re also then asked to repeat the process by learning a song you’ve most likely never rehearsed before, either.

Welcome to my weekends.

Lately, however, I’ve figured the more auditions, the better — if for nothing more than to just become more comfortable with the practice.

At my latest, as I watched the first group of women dance before me, I noticed how confident and skilled they all seemed. For the life of me, I couldn’t tell what separated them from one another in terms of talent.

Which made me wonder if the casting directors could.

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Then, I suddenly remembered: Directors already know what they’re looking for — and in their selections, choose those whom they believe can be taught.

It’s both an uplifting and sobering thought. On one hand, it means that, despite my lack of dance training, I might still look and sound right for an available part. On the other, it may mean I’m not right for any part at all.

That realization can also be an incredibly useful hiring tool — especially for millennials.

Think about it this way: You’ve created your own successful startup, and after staffing it with your friends from high school, your roommates from college and your siblings, you’re left with a single available slot.

You know what position your employee will be and the job requirements he or she will need to fulfill.

And you know you want someone that will work well within your company’s culture.

But, now, so many people want to work at your company that you’re refusing to look at anyone with less than X amount of years’ experience or a large skills gap, simply to narrow it down.

That could be a big mistake — one a seasoned casting director isn’t willing to make.

Otherwise, no one else would ever get “discovered.”

The skill that most casting directors have — and all entrepreneurs should develop — is the ability to accurately identify performers with the strong ability to learn.

In fact, there’s even a performative interview technique employers can use to find such a person.

(Though it will take courage on both ends to utilize).

“Ask the interviewee to get into 'character,' and address a real-life interpersonal challenge that is likely to happen on the job,” Rebecca Fishman Lipsey, columnist for The Huffington Post, writes.

“For example, have them try to retain a partner who wants to dissolve their contract. Get into character yourself and actually act out the scenario for at least two minutes. This will give you a lens into their skills in action, and it will also show you how willing they are to 'roll with it.'”

That’s what we “theater people” would call an audition.

However, something else may happen — which is known as the moment when one is either cast or looked over.

“After the role play is over, ask them how it went. Watch the way they give themselves feedback. Then, you must give them feedback yourself, and some concrete steps for doing the role play differently the second time,” Lipsey said.

“Then, do the role play again. That enables you to see how they respond to feedback, and it sets you up to watch them learn in real time. It also sets up an organizational culture of feedback and learning right from the get-go."

Yes, you may scare away a few interviewees, but, honestly, this is one of the most refreshing and efficient interview techniques I’ve ever learned of — would you want to hire someone who wasn’t willing to give it a shot?

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Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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