Would You Hire Meryl Streep?

Would you hire Meryl Streep?

She’s 62, you know. And sure, she’s been nominated for 17 Academy Awards, but prior to winning this year for her brilliant portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady” she had a pretty questionable track record. Only two awards out of 16 opportunities. That’s barely better than a 10% success rate. And did I mention that she’s 62? She has been making movies since 1977. Half the time she doesn’t even get nominated!

She once went five years without a nomination back in the 1990s. It has been two years since her last movie came out. I think she might be losing her edge. Unemployed for two years … do you really want to take a chance on her? Maybe the times are passing her by? Maybe she can’t keep up with younger actresses? What if she can’t adapt to all the new technologies? What if she’s uncomfortable working with directors who are younger than she is? That could be a problem. And you know she was unemployed before she got this part. Can’t we find a currently employed actress for our next film?

Sound ridiculous? Of course it does. Any producer or director would give up a reservation at Chateau Marmont to work with the woman who is arguably the finest screen actress of the past 50 years and the acknowledged successor to the brilliant Bette Davis and Katherine Hepburn. Yet we hear these same arguments every day in conversations with recruiters and hiring managers. All the myths that exist about people who are unemployed — particularly those who are on the other side of age 50.

“He’s been unemployed too long.”

“Technology has passed her by.”

“He won’t be comfortable working for a younger manager.”

“He’s too old, too set in his ways.”

“She’s only taking this job ’til something better comes along. She won’t be loyal.”

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These are nothing more than excuses to ignore the talent that’s out there, knocking on your door, waiting, sometimes begging for a chance to get back in the game. Sure it may seem easier, safer to go with a currently employed candidate. If you can get one. If you can convince them to listen when you call, if you can afford to pry them away from their current job.

Everyone would like to work with an established star, but if you ask Ms. Streep about what makes her successful she will often point to the ensemble and the supporting cast working with her. The person she singled out for thanks during her acceptance speech was her makeup artist and “other partner” Roy Helland with whom she has collaborated for almost 40 years. How many of you have heard of this talented artist? He’s almost 70. Would you consider hiring him? Here’s a hint: if you want a shot at working with Meryl Streep, a good way to start would be by hiring him because she won’t do a film without him. Of course his price just went up as he won the Oscar for best makeup.

To be successful you need the right combination of people. Every recruiter with a cell phone knows that. Start by figuring out what success means for each project or position. Drill down to determine what the successful candidate needs to be able to accomplish, and what skills are required to achieve those results. And then find that person, regardless of if they are employed, unemployed, 25 or 55.

And if you can get a Meryl Streep, great. But don’t overlook the Roy Hellands, and all the other talent out there that you may not have heard of. A recruiter’s job is to find the right person for the job.

Even if she’s 62.

Ronald M. Katz, SPHR is the president of Penguin Human Resource Consulting, LLC and a speaker at the 2012 ERE Expo in San Diego. Penguin HR helps organizations to achieve their business goals by showing them how to manage and motivate staff so that they give their best efforts to the enterprise. Ron has delivered training to human resource staff and line managers of a wide variety of industries. He provides consulting in interviewing skills, performance management, diversity, and sexual harassment. He is an accomplished public speaker and has spoken nationally on human resources issues.


18 Comments on “Would You Hire Meryl Streep?

  1. Bravo! Some of the best people in my call center are retirees–from professionals to former servers at restaurants–they have a lot to offer. Recruiters are not psychics (assuming someone can’t work with a younger manager). When you get to retirement age, you have lots of experience working with managers who are younger than you–and sometimes younger than your own children!

  2. Hmmm…okay…as a recruiter…and a virtual one at that, I get really tired of seeing “maximum” experience levels of 15 years on manager-level positions. Getting a little tired of the “only send me employed folks” line as well.

    On the other side, the folks who have been out a while…HEY–DO SOMETHING TO KEEP YOUR SKILL LEVELS UP!!! Volunteer in your field, instance.

    And before anyone challenges me on this…I am working full time, I work virtually, my one-up and HER one-up are probably younger than my twins (and I could care less) and I am not only on the far side of 50, I am on the far side of 60…and have no desire to stop working..

    And Meryl can keep on truckin’ far as I am concerned…

  3. Exceedingly well done! Love it. Thanks.

    When did she graduate Vassar? 1971. Yikes!

    How many recruiters don’t present candidates with college graduation dates after 1990 (or later)?

    Thank god that resumes allow TPRs to ferret those geezers out, so hiring managers don’t have to worry about age discrimination.


  4. @ Everybody: It doesn’t matter who we as recruiters think should be brought on- our hiring managers have a strong preference for young, employed, perky, and CHEAP….

    Happy Friday, Young ‘uns!


  5. Love it Ronald – very timely. I know from experience that age has nothing to do with ability (okay,maybe when I’m 90 I’ll slow down a bit). In fact, some of the older workers are the best learners and also have a lot of experience and wisdom to share.

  6. I would have a hard time working with hiring managers who aren’t out to get the most qualified person available in the assigned pay range. Fortunately, I work in a culture that puts so much emphasis on results (performance, productivity), that hiring managers are willing to hold a position open until we find the right fit.

  7. Ronald,
    Great post! My biggest frustration is that hiring managers don’t take the time to really determine what it takes to be successful in the position. It is a lot easier just to post a generic job description, and look for candidates who meet a fairly restrictive profile.

    Good recruiters appreciate that it is not the credentials (or age) of the candidates that matters, it is what the candidates have accomplished, and what they will deliver, in the new position. The main challenge, of course, is to get the hiring managers to see this point.

  8. Bravo! Well said! What an excellent analogy! There are so many reasons we turn away potential clients as do employers. On paper these people raise little red flags. But the same can be true about the opposite end of the age spectrum. So does that mean that the ideal employable population is between 30 and 50? If so, we have cut out a ridiculous amount of qualified talent. Downgrading many of these red flags or eliminating them completely gives us access to a pool of potential candidates that bring experience and lessons learned the hard way, as well as potentially inexperienced but highly passionate attitudes to the table. Many of them may be the “behind the scenes” people who have made our star performers who they are, yet never stood in the spotlight.

    We must take the time to look at candidates with an open mind. Often we will find a diamond that wasn’t in the rough, but was simply tucked away behind the center stone.
    Ken C. Schmitt

  9. @ Patti: I’m glad to hear somebody cares about getting results-oriented people. However, getting back to the movie star analogy: that might mean creating a movie for Megan Fox as opposed to Meryl Streep.

    @ Glenn: Well said.

    @ Ken: “the ideal employable population is between 30 and 50”
    For many hiring managers, it’s between 25 and 35.
    “We must take the time to look at candidates with an open mind.” What does an “open mind” have to do with recruiting?

    Happy Friday, Folks!

    Keith “Have Your People Call My People” Halperin

  10. The wisdom of this article should be obvious but, of course, to too many recruiters it’s not. It’s key, as noted, to “determine what the successful candidate needs to be able to accomplish” and to be done well this requires more – a great deal more – than a recruiter’s best guess or a hiring manager’s experience. It requires serious, professional job profiling. Know what predicts performance for a job. Getting the right person then becomes a great deal easier.

  11. @ Maureen: Thanks, “Mighty Mo”! 🙂
    @ Paul; While it may take a great deal of work to determine precisely how well a person can perform a given job prior to doing it (and in some cases this isn’t feasible), it shouldn’t take a great deal of work to determine IF the candidate can perform the job. An exception to this would be in some consultative types of positions, where it’s difficult to describe precisely what the person does.


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