What talent contests can teach you about getting a job

Talent auditions are not very different from any other job interview. Here are five useful lessons from the SingTel Casting Call 2011 that can be applied to any job application.

Singtel Casting Call 2011, originally uploaded by phatfreemiguel.

Talent contests! From American Idol to The Voice, anyone who works in the media industry should be familiar with the format by now. Recently I had the privilege of being a judge at the SingTel Casting Call 2011, an open audition for the host of an upcoming made-for-Youtube weekly technology & lifestyle programme. We reviewed over 300 online submissions collected through SingTel’s Facebook page, culled the list down to 15 finalists and then had them appear in person before a panel of judges. The winner was announced last Friday. (You can watch “Episode 0” of the programme here.)

With interview process and the deliberations between judges that followed, I couldn’t help but think about the similarities between a talent competition and the typical employment application / job interview situation. I realized the rules applied by judges in a talent competition (whether singing, dancing, modeling or, in this case, hosting a show) are the same as when an employer reviews candidates for a role in their company. Whether you’re going for a job at a new company or looking to shift roles internally, here are five useful “audition” tips to remember:

1. Know the judges / interviewers.

Google is your friend. Before heading to the audition, find out who is going to sit in the judging panel and see what a Google search turns up about them. Find out where they have worked, what they do, what their interests and passions are. This will allow you to either bring up a topic that you know is close to the heart of the judges OR avoid topics that might offend. During the SingTel Casting Call, candidates who talked about the environment drew the interest of judge Nadya Hutagalung, renowned environmentalist and Earth Hour ambassador. But this can also cut both ways! If you over-extend yourself on a topic that the judges are experts in, you can also easily be caught out and may be penalized for it.

2. Check your own online footprint.

Google is your enemy. You have to assume that judges will research who you are before the audition. So if there are any skeletons in your closet – ugly comments you wish you didn’t make, criminal records, that photo of you in a Nazi SS uniform, etc – make sure you are prepared with answers in case the judges bring them up. You can’t erase the past but you can prepare for the inevitable grilling. Alternatively, if your search result reveals a lot of good things about your career, this is your moment to call attention to those highlights.


3. Be memorable.

In a typical audition, casting directors or judges may have to go through dozens of candidates. (Hundreds in some cases.) Your job is to stand out in the crowd. Pick the traits that you think will be of value to the judges and make sure you embody them perfectly. Make sure you are remembered for the right things, though. You want to be remembered as “the pretty standup comedian” or “the taekwondo black belt who can sing” NOT “the one with bad breath”. Whatever it is, there is nothing worse than not being remembered at all. The worst case would be for you bump into one of the judges in a party later and they can’t even remember having met you.

4. Focus on what you bring to the table.

To paraphrase John F Kennedy, ask not what the show can do for you but what you can do for the show. Now is not the time to focus on how the show is going to improve your career or serve as your stepping stone to greater things. It’s not about you. Instead, talk about how your presence will benefit the show. Emphasize how much more successful the show will be if you were in it because of the unique cocktail of talents you bring to the table.

5. Show how much you want the job.

Enthusiasm counts for a lot. Often a good attitude and a willingness to learn can overcome gaps in experience or event talent. Look at how much time and effort went into the entry by Joanne-Marie Sim (who went on to win the SingTel Casting Call competition). On top of her great performance and charming personality, this video told all the judges: “Here’s a girl who will work hard for this show!”

TGIS (brought to you by SingTel) premieres on 7 December. Look for it on SingTel’s Youtube channel.

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