‘The Job’ is a cross between television’s ‘The Apprentice’ and ‘Survivor’, recording a very challenging job interview in which the stakes are a mystery.
The job market is difficult everywhere. There are a lot of people in the pool and no one wants to sink. This means applying to positions you might not have otherwise, or exploring offers that provide little in return. In The Job, a group of employment seekers are put through the wringer by a recruiter for what turns out to be a mediocre opportunity.
A group interview is immediately, and by nature, a contest. And with no knowledge about your competitors or the number of openings, it can be a tough one. The applicants are forced to partake in exercises, or more bluntly jump through hoops, at the recruiter's discretion. During confessional type interviews with the camera that are intercut throughout the film, the candidates discuss their feelings about the process and their strategy, if one exists.
Each of the applicants is intelligent, well-spoken and likely qualified for the job, but with different levels of experience. However, as the recruiter intermittently reminds everyone, the panel has not seen their résumé. In any case, it does mean their reflections on the day are insightful and worth listening to rather than just the standard complaints.
Though there was plenty about which to complain. No details about the job were revealed except that it was a sales position at an insurance company. The interviewers used various pressure tactics to try to intimidate or frazzle the applicants, including personal attacks and turning them against each other. It was 'survival of the fittest' in their eyes.
The first exercise is the most difficult as it presses candidates to “sell” their neighbour to the panel, highlighting their strengths and qualifications. This, of course, is the last thing anyone wants to do when competing for what is assumed to be a limited number of spots. Their reactions to the assignment vary from mildly amused to offended by the task. But not one of them refuses to participate.
Of course, that is the other side of this documentary. It’s a look at human behaviour and the ease by which people can be manipulated when someone has what they want, or more accurately need. On a lighter note, it will make any job seeker relieved not to have encountered such cutthroat recruiters – or maybe glad to know they’re not the only one who has had such an experience.
The Job screens as a part of Toronto’s Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival on May 6 at 1:15 p.m. at Cumberland Cinema.