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Hiring Underqualified but Enthusiastic technicians


Napoleon

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I am a callow youth but I am aware of my inexperience and don't think I can rule the technical world just yet. However, I was wondering how some of the more experienced among you feel about hiring people for lower-level jobs who are not technically qualified (i.e. haven't done a SM/Tech degree and don't have much experience in large professional venues, though do in AmDram/small/student productions) but are mature, enthusiastic and good at getting on with whatever is required - whether it be sweeping the stage or coiling cables.

 

1. Are there some jobs or venues for which you would never hire someone inexperienced or does it depend on the person/level of the role?

2. What would you look for on a paper application to demonstrate that they would be a good hire?

3. What would you look for in an interview?

4. How do you feel about people ringing you up/emailing you out of the blue when they don't have high-level professional skills to offer? Are you pleased they want to get involved or do you just wish they'd go away and get some experience somewhere else?

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The company I work for employs a lot of raw technicians - some with no experience, some who have mixed the odd pub band and some who have done a few courses. We are an Australian Registered Training Organisation though, so we do actually spend time training them up... But even when we were not doing trainee intakes we often employed casual technicians with no experience - because they could a) Do the jobs no one else wanted, like putting up drape and b) didn't have any bad habits that need to be unlearned.

 

When interviewing any untrained applicant though, the FIRST thing that we look for is whether the person will be a worth while investment. If we think that in 6 months time they are going to go looking for greener pastures then maybe they are not the people we want to employ. Pasion is a big part of that. But if you are looking to apply to a company like ours (we specialise in corporate events) and we ask what career path you want to follow and you say you want to work Rock n Roll or Theatre so you want some experience before applying to be deck crew or a roadie, then again, maybe we need to reconsider. Basically you need to prove that the time we are going to invest into you, making you a good technician is going to be worth it.

 

We don't really care too much about technical experience. We do however care about customer service skills (not just "Hi, nice weather" checkout experience at the supermarket but actual dealing with customers). We care about initiative, you need to be the sort of person who if you had a couple of hours in the middle of the day you don't need to be asked to clean the store room. We care about passion. Now no one that I know has a passion for corporate events - even if all you do is gala dinners and fashion shows they are hard to actually be passionate about. But passion for doing the best you can for the client ... A passion for doing a job properly. You can be taught how to plug in a BNC cable, how to run mic lines, how to correctly tie a back cloth onto a bar, how to line up projectors etc. but you cannot teach attention to detail.

 

The paper application - if you are unskilled or have a few skills, the actual resume portion is merely supporting documentation - what will win you a face-to-face interview is your cover letter - the cover letter needs to no only say what you can currently do but what you want to do and what you have the potential to be.

 

I would not call up to be honest. I get a few phone calls a month and you know what I usually say after 30 seconds of rambling? Send me through your resume. Also, don't expect a call back right away. My first job in the industry came 4 months after I sent in an application. I had completely forgotten about it - they had received it, filed it away and when they were looking to put on more staff, looked through all the resumes on file and then called me back asking if I was still interested. I have not had to send of a resume since (the exception was when I decided I wanted to work cruise ships for a while) I have been either approached with a job or promoted internally ever since.

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I suspect people don't actually care very much about paper qualifications, but are looking for ability, experience, adaptability and willingness to work. Some people of modest age have tons of experience test some degree holders have no experience at all? Sadly, I suspect that having a prescription that requires a degree nowadays is simply a filter to reduce the applicant count, rather than a useful guide to ability. In my working life I've taken on unqualified people who have been excellent - and of course, vice versa. It's more a case of matching the job to the person. In the last few years I've taken people on for one show, and invited back those who did ok. The ones who needed constant guidance or cleared off every now and then for a cigarette were not asked back.
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I've found in my (very limited) experience of subcontracting people that a significant amount of people with a degree in some technical subject (and particularly from one or two specific institutions) seem to think that they're God's gift to the entertainment industry, are insufferable to work with due to their 'I know better' attitude, and fail to recognise the (sometimes dangerous) gaps in their knowledge. I'm sure everyone is not like that, but unfortunately in my experience the majority I have talked to or worked with have been, with just a few good exceptions. I once had a recent graduate ask me for a 16A gender bender, who really didn't see the problem with it until I spent about five minutes explaining the good reasons behind why they don't exist. That scared me.

 

If I was in a position to be recruiting someone for some relatively unskilled work, I'd much rather take someone who was inexperienced but enthusiastic, over someone with paper qualifications in the area who may start to get ahead of themselves or think the work beneath them.

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The experience you (should) get on the course means a LOT more than the piece of paper that you will get at the end! Most (perhaps all) interviewers would like a realistic logbook of work done. A log showing a fair number of "pushed cases and made tea" is much better than an impossible list of invented achievements.

 

Now a degree AND a progressive log (from pushed cases to assisted with support act) will mean more, but if you really don't have the experience then don't blag it.

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If we need someone who can hit the ground running, then I will look to hire someone with the relevant experience. However, if we see a forward need for an extra set of hands and will have the time to train them up then, yes, I would definitely take someone on with no prior experience/knowledge so long as they come across as having the correct work attitude.

 

Like other have said, I really don't place any value in the current batch of qualifications available. In terms of CV's/letters, they don't tell me anything that important but do allow me to shortlist potential candidates. As such, make sure these read easily, are to the point and have something unique about them to make it stand out. The interview is the main bit where we can try to get into the candidate's head. Its not an exact science but people who come across strongly and honestly without being cocky are often considered well.

 

Steve

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In terms of qualifications, the only qualifiations that really mean something in this industry are work-based ones that affect how you can work. If you start in local crew (a good place to start), a forklift ticket, IPAF ticket and car driving license makes you much better qualified than somebody with a technical theatre degree, because your qualifications can be directly utilised by the employing company.

 

The best thing to do is start in local crew where experience is not really an issue to new starters, you learn on the job and you'll get the opportunity to give a hand to all the departments and see what it is that you enjoy. With a couple of years of that under your belt, you'll have learnt a lot and can start to look into taking courses or work-based quals, and looking to specialise in one field.

 

E-mailing specialist companies at this stage is probably a step too far, go in at the local crew / casual crew end of the spectrum and work upwards, the biggest mistake that 'qualified' (academically) people make is to try and bypass the 'lower ranks' and go straight in at the top. This just tends to annoy people and the gaps in their knowledge becomes apparent very quickly.

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Thank you to everyone who has replied so far. If I could just reform and reiterate one of my original questions as one I don't feel has been answered:

 

How do you show willingness to work and a good attitude on paper? What is it in a CV and cover letter that makes you think someone is worth inviting for an interview as opposed to just putting straight in the rejects pile (/bin)?

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I am Underqualified as there no easy route to get trained. But I started off doing Local crew pull outs starting off with pulling out cablies.

 

Then ended up working for a hire firm but I have never been to a class room but have looked after my own venue and also done installs and have done a outdoor weekender on my own with no back up.

 

Not everyone is great at class room learning and there also people that can do class room learning but not got a dam cue on the job. Great someone knows about what colour gones in what slot but have have they loaded a truck? in most roles it better with hands on training not a classroom. How I feel is So long as the person your hiring knows what safe and what not to do and is willing to learn and work as a team and knows there limited go for the people that are Underqualified but willing to start at bottom like tipping trucks.

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How do you show willingness to work and a good attitude on paper?

 

By listing what you have done, simples. As mentioned above, "pushed boxes, made tea" is a good start but if you are keen you will be seeking every opportunity to gain experience by working on a variety of events in a variety of capacities.

 

This industry isn't one where wishes are sufficient as it is often much more of a life than a living. If you are thinking of theatre be aware that opportunities are few and getting fewer so the competition is immense. It would be cool if you filled in a little more of your profile as we have no idea of your age or what your likes and dislikes or even your ambitions might be.

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Her profile does say some things which leads me to one question... @ OP - if this is an area you are looking at career-wise, why are you studying Religion and Theology (whatever the fuff that is) at University? At the modern cost of £9000 tuition, added to the fact that you're not earning, are you sure it's the best possible use of your time and funds? You could take a whole lot of work-based courses for the same money, and do a whole lot of work with the same time input. And you'd be earning.

 

Just wondered that's all. I know you've probably been told at school that having a degree is absolutely essential and without it you are guaranteed to live in a bin, but this is simply untrue and I genuinely think that if this is what you want to do as a career, you might want to consider binning the Religion and Theology and doing something a bit more career related, whether that be a degree in something along these lines, or whether it be just cracking on with it at work.

 

I just don't see a degree by that title being of any asset to you within this business.

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I can't really say, but if its any help the post you started this thread with seems to do the trick.

 

:D

 

 

 

 

 

Brainwave-Generator, I'll admit I bridled a bit at your post, but to try to comment on what you have written and not what I believe you have implied...

 

Why are you studying Religion and Theology (whatever the fuff that is) at University?...are you sure it's the best possible use of your time and funds?...you might want to consider binning the Religion and Theology

 

First, Theology and Religious Studies involves many different disciplines, from ancient languages through textual study to anthropology. I have specialised in the New Testament which involves historical and dogmatic criticism of the canon of the New Testament as we have it today. My dissertation is on the Fall of Man.

 

Second, my profile hasn't been updated for some time. I am just about to graduate from the aforementioned degree - my finals are in two months. So there's no reason for me to "bin it" now.

 

Third, it may be my time but it's not my funds. My family have paid for everything, tuition fees and all, so I have no student loan. When I was doing my A Levels, I told my parents I wanted to do the LAMDA SM and Tech course (after doing their SM Summer School). They said if I did that, they wouldn't pay for any it, but if I did a "proper" degree at a "proper" university, they'd pay for the lot. When faced with a choice like that, I though I might as well do a "proper" degree somewhere with an excellently equipped and very busy theatre (the ADC Theatre in Cambridge) and do as much as possible while I was there. When I came out, I would be three years older but I'd have a bit more experience and if I still wanted to do an SM/Tech course I'd be in the same place as I was when I started, so no skin off my nose. I know no one in the theatre will care that I can discuss the validity of Bultmann's existentialist reading of the Gospel of John, but I haven't been wasting my time here in terms of theatre. So far I've done fourteen shows and am doing another one next term. I've tried out every different aspect of theatre to see what I really want to do. I've done a short course in pattern cutting and built up a costume portfolio, which is what I really want to get into doing. And yet, after three years of Theology and a variety of theatrical and non-theatrical work experience, I STILL want to work in theatre.

 

Point taken that it won't help me, and that my profile is very sparse so you weren't to know a lot of my background, but I believe that I have made the best choices for me so far. Now I am trying to make another good choice and would like a little help, as I know that university or AmDram experience is often looked down on as not being "real" experience (although I do have some in professional theatres too). Also, the very fact that I have done a "proper" degree might make people think that I am too academic and not willing to do the menial jobs, whereas the truth is very different. My original question was asked precisely because I worry that people might look at my educational record and think that I'm probably not serious, or don't know how to work hard, or will think that I'm better than them.

 

I know you didn't mean to assume or to offend, and I will go and update my profile now. :)

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FWIW my opinion of theatre based degrees is so low that Theological study at the level you have completed is far more interesting. BA Cantab still means a bit more to me than any drama school qualification, well done on seeing it through. Perhaps now your folks will be more supportive in your own choices.

 

As Seano writes, we do appreciate the honesty and open nature of your first post and so will putative employers. Fill in some details for them such as your willingness to do anything but do stress your wardrobe skills. Sit down with an A4 blank sheet and list all the jobs and all the work they entailed and then extrapolate the skills you either learned or practised while doing them. It will amaze you when you list them starting with H&S awareness, manual handling, team working, leadership etc etc.

Good luck.

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I worked in sound broadcasting as an operator and trainer for thirty years. I have no technical paper qualifications (bar an A level in physics) but was employed because I was considered to be the "right sort" and capable of being trained. I used to be involved in the recruitment process for technical staff (as a trainer) and the most important consideration was the person, not their qualifications. Interest, motivation, teamwork, interpersonal skills and trainability were all more useful - many of the recruits had no technical background in sound ops at all. The difficult bit is getting your feet through the door - make sure your CV concentrates on your theatre work, not your degree!
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