When you consider what an emotional, competitive and crazy world recruitment is, and the characters it attracts, maybe it’s strange that there have not been more movies about the industry. I have seen all the “Wall Street-esq” movies and seriously, I have worked with and against crazier characters than most of theirs! Is Hollywood missing something here?
There are movies about recruitment, or at least about hiring and HR. Here are five of the best, with a few notes. Watch out for them and let’s see if the movie-makers really understand what goes on in the wonderful world of recruitment and HR.
A company takeover has employees scrambling to keep their jobs. An executive’s administrative assistant takes paternity leave, and he gets in a temp, who is too good to be true. The executive starts noticing that all the obstacles to his climb up the corporate ladder are disappearing, including the death of some of his rivals! When his regular admin returns to work, his temp, who has made it clear that she wishes to stay with him, begins her own accelerated climb up the ladder…
Headhunters is a 2011 Norwegian action thriller film based on the 2008 novel of the same name. I have seen the movie, and it’s certainly entertaining and gripping, if a little far-fetched at times. The film portrays a successful but insecure corporate recruiter who lives a double life as an art thief to fund his lavish lifestyle. (Maybe he just needed to be a better recruiter!) He finds out that one of his job prospects is in possession of a valuable painting and sets out to steal it. ‘Headhunters’ is the highest-grossing Norwegian film of all time, and was nominated for multiple awards, including four Amanda Awards, and a BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
Not to be confused with the Seth Rogen movie of the same name (2014), this Australian police drama from 1994 is not about HR, but it does show a very powerful interview dynamic, and it’s gripping all the way. Unemployed, poverty-stricken Eddie Rodney Fleming (Hugo Weaving), after losing his wife and home, is dragged from his apartment by police and subjected to a brutal interrogation. Eventually, it becomes terrifyingly apparent to Eddie that the police consider him a serial-murder suspect. The interrogators make audiotapes of their efforts to get Fleming to confess. However, they are unaware that they themselves are being investigated and are being videotaped by an internal affairs unit. Full of twists and you never know who to trust.
The Human Resources Manager was Israel’s submission to the Academy for Best Foreign Language film. It’s a wry, compassionate film about the human resources manager for a big bakery in Jerusalem. He finds out that a woman who is working for them was killed a fortnight ago in a terrorist bombing. In order to avoid a scandal in the press, the owner of the bakery orders him to accompany the body back to an unnamed Balkan country to her relatives. Not strictly about recruiting, this is nevertheless a powerful movie. The core of the film is not just the physical journey taken by the Human Resources Manager, but the emotional one.
This is not an HR movie at all, so I guess I cheated here. It’s actually set in a real estate agency, but it makes the cut because so many of the themes evident in hard-core, bucket-shop, transactional recruitment offices around the world are evident here, albeit exaggerated and in their most brutal form. Hard core sales, targets, all-or-nothing deals, unethical tactics, backstabbing colleagues, threats of being fired, a new boss sweeping clean, and desperate consultants relying on this months numbers to pay the rent.
Alec Baldwin appears as a sales motivator, introducing a sales contest where the losers will be fired. The agents work their same tired leads, until one hatches a scheme to burglarise the office, steal the leads, and sell them to a rival. (I have actually seen exactly that happen in recruitment in Sydney in the 90′s. I know it for a fact. I was offered the stolen client lists!). Featuring Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris and Kevin Spacey, Glengarry Glen Ross is a character study about a group of men whose time has passed. And sad to say, isn’t that the truth about some recruiters in 2014?
This post originally published on The Savage Truth