Mention reality TV in conversation and you’ll likely elicit passionate responses about favorite singles on "The Bachelorette" or the next Mariah Carey from "The Voice." HR recruiting, on the other hand, is hardly the stuff of these showy, dramatic programs. Or is it?
Season three of "Top Recruiter," a reality show that features six corporate recruiters sequestered in a Miami-area mansion, premiered this month. The first two seasons drew more than 4.4 million online viewers. Sure, there are over-the-top acts, plunging necklines and more tension than you’ll find in most HR departments, but according to the show’s producer, the episodes offer a (somewhat) realistic view of the recruiting world. "I think that we’ve been very smart in creating a show that not only the industry would understand but that the general public will understand and be interested in watching," Executive Producer Chris LaVoie tells the Society for Human Resource Management.
"Top Recruiter" points out that an estimated $140 billion is spent on recruiting annually, and LaVoie says that the show’s scenarios offer valuable insights for modern executives. "There are golden nuggets in each episode," he says. "Little tips and reminders that recruiters can use to be better at their jobs."
A Thickening Plot
The show’s participants are seasoned executives with backgrounds that range from staffing startups to advising Starbucks in employer branding. All six contestants travel to Miami, where they live together and participate in a variety of talent acquisition challenges. Viewers vote for their favorites, and losers are sent home. Think "American Idol" for the workplace.
The host opens the show with a flare: "We choose our leaders in politics. We choose which companies we invest in. How about the people who make up the DNA of those companies?"
With Reality TV Comes Criticism
"Top Recruiter" has drawn its fair share of critics. "By showcasing these ’top recruiters’ as people who bicker, manipulate and objectify each other, the show’s producers have reinforced nearly every negative stereotype that many of us in the recruiting field have spent our careers fighting," Chris Hoyt, director, global talent engagement and marketing at PepsiCo, tells SHRM.
On the other hand, students in an HR management class at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia are watching the show as part of their curriculum and incorporating it into group projects, according to one Twitter user.
Meghan M. Biro, CEO of TalentCulture Consulting Group, recommends watching the show for tips — with a healthy dose of entertainment. "I think a lot of people — both recruiters and candidates — thought HR tech, in the form of job microsites, job boards, and HR technologies, would help rebuild the shaky bridge between employer brand, internal recruiter/external recruiter and the candidate experience," Biro writes on Forbes. Instead of relying more heavily on technology, companies need equally strong recruiting practices, Biro says.
Love or hate the show, it taps into a broad audience. While most of us probably won’t sing like Beyonce© or find our one true love through TV competitions, we can relate to the trials and tribulations of finding a job. Casting for season four is already underway.