Why It’s Such an Ordeal to Find Quality Video Crew and What We’re Doing About It
When you find crew that you like, you tend to try to work with them as much as possible. Partly because you learn to trust your crew to operate autonomously, partly because it is useful to have people that understand your creative intentions, and partly because it can be an absolute nightmare to find someone else you want to work with. The difficulty of finding new crew that fits well into the ensemble isn’t something we have to live with, though. We dissect the problems with creative recruitment and how we’ve been finding solutions:
Extensive Filtering Process
A couple of online job listings may be able to net hundreds of applicants in a matter of days, but that doesn’t really make finding the right candidate any easier. The selection process that takes the multitude of applicants down to a few top candidates requires an enormous time commitment for any position, but is even more demanding for creative positions, which require a thorough evaluation of portfolio work to give candidates a fair shake and hiring managers a real chance to uncover top talent. Recruiters may be able to take an average of 6 seconds per resume, but that isn’t possible for video candidates, when reviewing hundreds of reels along with those resumes. As a producer, creative director, or someone else in a hiring position, it’s massively difficult to find the time for this exhaustive filtering process.
Even if a few job listings might get you hundreds of applicants, those applying can include anyone with a keyboard and a resume (and the resume isn’t always a given). Job listings are easy, but you get a poor ‘signal to noise’ ratio- different estimates put the number of applicants to online listings that don’t meet the required specifications at 50-75% and even the qualified candidates are those most aggressively searching for work so may not represent the best crew available.
Thorough sourcing often requires ingratiating in the community, a process that can take some time. And even if you weren’t concerned about your personal opportunity cost, there is likely a deadline for finding your new crew member that will sail by while you are frequenting user groups and film festivals.
No Empirical Data
In the end, even if you make the time to do an exhaustive selection process and a thorough sourcing, you end up with a candidate you have limited information about. You can probably make an educated estimate of their talent based on their reel, and might be able to make certain guesses at their working habits based on their experience, but you don’t really know someone until you work with them. How strong is their work ethic? How do they fit into a team? Do they have an ego? Are they just super annoying? These things are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to discover during an interview process when everyone is on their best behavior, or through references, which are the very definition of selection-bias.
Do It Again, Sam
If this were a one time thing, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, but this grueling process repeats every time you need a new crew member. It happens surprisingly often, especially if you’re working with freelance crew, who have limited availability. This is especially detrimental because it will likely keep you working with crew you’re not entirely happy with just because it’s easier than going through the whole ordeal of searching for new talent. The better solution is to improve the process rather than avoiding it.
There is help in place for recruitment, but while it’s effective for most rank and file positions, it does not offer a terrific solution for creative jobs.
If you work at a medium to enterprise sized organization, you can often pass off the initial recruitment duties to an internal HR department. They can do the sourcing and filtering for you, freeing up your time significantly, and provide a few candidates they select for you to pick from. But there are some major problems with this- most notably, your HR department does not have any industry experience and can not be expected to evaluate creative work or even really resumes with any kind of precision. Asking someone with no experience in the industry to identify top candidates is like asking a dog to judge a science fair. They’ll try their best and they may even get it right, but it will be a total accident if they do. Additionally, HR recruiters are still lacking empirical data about candidates and nearly always do a fairly shallow sourcing.
Nothing would make staffing agencies happier than to put their huge markup, often 100%, on a candidates rates. But while a staffing agency may have some empirical data and may have done a more thorough sourcing, you’re still putting your crucial filtering process in the hands of recruiters with no industry experience. Additionally, although a staffing agency’s high margin often drives rates down, they offer no incentives for candidates to work with them. Among freelancers, they tend to have a terrible reputation and high quality talent often avoids them. So although you’ll pay a premium for the staffing service, you quite frequently will end up with mediocre talent.
These are the solutions we have found to recruitment problems while building Black Chip Collective, an organization that takes a unique approach to staffing video positions. We’re what we call a ‘freelance-collective’, and we use industry experience and an expert vetted network of talent to match top quality crew with clients at no additional cost. Some of our solutions are freelancer focused, because that is our main function, but others can be adapted to your needs if you’re hiring a full time employee.
We’ve spent a lot of time and energy researching and putting together a real solution for creative recruiting woes. So if this sounds a bit self congratulatory, we hope you’ll forgive us.
Peer Reviewed Staffing
It was obvious to us that you can’t really evaluate video candidates without industry experience. But more than that, the people who were best able to identify top candidates in a field were those who had performed the job themselves. Producers might not understand what it means to be an audio operator, editors might not know what goes in to being a grip, and so on. So we require that the people staffing any given position have direct, personal experience with that position, something we termed Peer Reviewed Staffing and which became a cornerstone of Black Chip Collective.
While the primary function of Peer Reviewed Staffing is to best identify high quality candidates, it also offers certain other advantages. Industry experience allows us to fully understand and anticipate client needs. Additionally, it provides access to better, deeper sourcing by using industry contacts and referrals, as well as a familiarity with the community to direct us to areas from which we are most likely to find high quality talent.
$0. It’s a free service. It may seem radical, but it works.
As you may be able to guess, the way we achieve this is by taking our margin, much more modest than most staffing agencies, from the freelancer side. Yet even with this caveat, we’re able to maintain an extremely high enrollment rate of freelancers because of our focus on solving freelancer problems.
We maintain a pre-vetted network of highly skilled freelancers. This not only allows us to tend to client requests quickly, while still having deep, thorough sourcing, but it also allows us to maintain a record of client feedback. Feedback provides a significant level of empirical data on freelancers for whom we are then able to vouch. It allows us to offer less of a traditional staffing situation and more of a referral from someone you trust.
Find and identifying the best crew doesn’t mean beans if you can’t get them to work with you. Our effort to solve freelancer problems has yielded terrific results and enticed many highly skilled crew members. Primarily, we seek to help freelancers avoid the feast or famine cycle. Even established freelancers experience phases where they don’t have enough work and others where they have too much. We provide work when they’re dry and allow them to refer jobs for a referral fee when they’re too swamped, helping them even out their work cycle. Furthermore, we handle the minutia of freelancing- contracts, pitches, negotiations- all of the time consuming things freelancers need to do but can’t bill for and aren’t necessarily experts at navigating.
Finally, and probably most importantly, our freelancers are treated like partners, not commodities. We protect our freelancers from inequitable treatment, we make a commitment to them to staff solely based on merit rather than nepotism or personal favors, and have a policy of complete honesty and transparency with them.
Is this the best recruitment can get? Maybe not! We’re still growing and adapting as we tackle new challenges. But so far our solution is head and shoulders above the alternatives- Check out Black Chip Collective and tell us what else we can do to improve the recruitment process even further!