REDBAND: Licensed To Fail: A precautionary tale for the aspiring AV Tech by Ward Hails

Licensed To Fail: A precautionary tale for the aspiring AV Tech by Ward Hails

All too often I come across young, aspiring A/V technicians who are simply unable to land that first gig, or first job, despite submitting applications for countless postings. They may be perfectly suited to the job requirements and possess the requisite education, but increasingly it seems that this is not enough.

After applying for positions in a variety of industry sectors (television, live events, music studios, post houses), I lost count of how many applications went unanswered. I resigned myself to seek employment opportunities outside of the Audiovisual Industry, and although I landed a “job,” I was not happy. The environment was caustic, and I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied with my professional life until I was using my skills to their fullest extent.
Finally, a company (which will remain nameless) wanted me to interview for a technical position, and I was thrilled. I felt that the difficult part was over. I had finally been noticed, and I genuinely believed that I would be considered for my ability and my potential contribution. Not so.

I arrived at the interview and proceeded to fill out all of the redundant paperwork. I waited patiently for half an hour, and was finally greeted by a senior technician. We took a quick walk down the hall, and the interview began. Initially, everything ran smoothly, and I felt that the interview was very positive. I let them know that I was eager to learn, and willing to work the long hours they both insisted the position would require. No problems. And then I was asked what I thought was a throwaway question.

“Do you own a vehicle?” one of the interviewers asked. I thought little of it at that moment, and I answered honestly.

“No. I have a valid G-class license, and I have lots of driving experience, but I don’t own a car.”

The interview came to a grinding halt, and the two men paused for a moment. They seemed to share a genuine mix of disappointment and confusion, as though they had expected an entirely different answer. After a few cursory questions about Microsoft Powerpoint, they thanked me and the interview ended abruptly.

Needless to say, I did not receive an offer.

Understandably, the manner in which the interview concluded left me with a pretty dim view of the company. Owning a car has nothing to do with one’s ability to function as an excellent A/V technician, and if they felt that this was a legitimate concern I was pretty sure I didn’t want the job, anyway. This wasn’t pizza delivery.

I’m constantly encountering younger A/V technicians looking for advice on how to “get a foot in the door.” We routinely tell them to focus their resume on the skills required for a specific posting. We tell them to upgrade their training. We tell them to develop a demo reel. We give them common sense answers, because we seem to think that hiring decisions are made on the candidate’s merit. As I learned, that is not always the case.

To be fair, this is an extreme example. It’s not even the worst interview I’ve had. Any organization that would even consider someone’s automotive assets ahead of their technical capabilities is only harming itself. What sort of training and development would a company like that would offer?

I recently worked an event where the “unnamed” company held the contract for the selected venue. The A/V techs looked like they would rather be anywhere else, and one of them even proceeded to watch a movie on his laptop – instead of monitoring the mic levels going to tape, or watching the levels going to the front-of-house PA. As the client’s A/V rep overseeing this, I was less than pleased.

I suppose the technicians’ unprofessional behaviour shouldn’t have come as a surprise; when you ask idiotic interview questions that have nothing to do with a candidate’s ability, there is a chance you’ll hire the wrong person. If you do somehow hire a promising young technician, but you’re unwilling or incapable of developing your employees, they’ll lose interest. I believe that successful organizations leverage strong training and development programs to both drive employee loyalty, and improve business results. Those same training programs can also help mitigate risks associated with hiring candidates that have loads of potential, but not as much experience.

The lesson for A/V employers is simple: even if you hire the right people, you need to ensure that they have opportunities to develop their skills, and to further their own professional abilities. And if you’re a recent grad, or you’re looking to break into the A/V industry, don’t be discouraged by a bad interview, or missing out on an opportunity. Even companies can fail at interviewing, just like the rest of us.

Ward Hails is a multimedia technician at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, in Toronto, Ontario. His role involves A/V system design, implementation and maintenance – in addition to videography, photography, post-production and motion graphics. Previously, he has worked in Marketing, IT, and Application Support, and has a strong background in music theory and the recording arts. You can check out his Linkedin profile HERE.

Comments

  1. What Ward failed to point out was sometimes (majority) you have to travel to different Hotel gigs within a area examples Los Angeles: Long Beach, Glendale, Burbank, North Hollywood. Dallas Metroplex Ft Worth, Irving, Downtown Dallas, Richardson…. you can’t rely on a bus especially when its a time sensitive gig to set up or strike.

  2. Interesting tale, but as one who has been on both sides of the interview I think you have identified the right problem, but the wrong symptom. When I was in a hiring role I always asked about transportation, and in fact daily access to an automobile was a requirement for consideration – if you can’t get to the job you can’t do the job, and where I live public transportation is not an option.

    So I don’t think the question was a bad question, it was just asked at the wrong time. If car ownership (actually, ownership is probably not a good requirement, but I’ll give the benefit of the doubt) is a requirement it should be stated as such up front, BEFORE the interview.

    Interviewing for technical positions is not a simple task! (Probably could shorten that by one word, but I’ve only ever hired technical folks.) There are probably a couple dozen good ways to conduct the interview, and probably 100 time more bad ways!

    To make matters worse, some of the absolute worst interviewers I’ve ever been subjected to were highly competent technical folks.

Leave a Reply to Bill Thompson Cancel reply

*