Would You Hire Meryl Streep?

Mar 2, 2012
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

Would you hire Meryl Streep?

She’s 62, you know. And sure, she’s been nominated for 17 Academy Awards, but prior to winning this year for her brilliant portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady” she had a pretty questionable track record. Only two awards out of 16 opportunities. That’s barely better than a 10% success rate. And did I mention that she’s 62? She has been making movies since 1977. Half the time she doesn’t even get nominated!

She once went five years without a nomination back in the 1990s. It has been two years since her last movie came out. I think she might be losing her edge. Unemployed for two years … do you really want to take a chance on her? Maybe the times are passing her by? Maybe she can’t keep up with younger actresses? What if she can’t adapt to all the new technologies? What if she’s uncomfortable working with directors who are younger than she is? That could be a problem. And you know she was unemployed before she got this part. Can’t we find a currently employed actress for our next film?

Sound ridiculous? Of course it does. Any producer or director would give up a reservation at Chateau Marmont to work with the woman who is arguably the finest screen actress of the past 50 years and the acknowledged successor to the brilliant Bette Davis and Katherine Hepburn. Yet we hear these same arguments every day in conversations with recruiters and hiring managers. All the myths that exist about people who are unemployed — particularly those who are on the other side of age 50.

“He’s been unemployed too long.”

“Technology has passed her by.”

“He won’t be comfortable working for a younger manager.”

“He’s too old, too set in his ways.”

“She’s only taking this job ’til something better comes along. She won’t be loyal.”

These are nothing more than excuses to ignore the talent that’s out there, knocking on your door, waiting, sometimes begging for a chance to get back in the game. Sure it may seem easier, safer to go with a currently employed candidate. If you can get one. If you can convince them to listen when you call, if you can afford to pry them away from their current job.

Everyone would like to work with an established star, but if you ask Ms. Streep about what makes her successful she will often point to the ensemble and the supporting cast working with her. The person she singled out for thanks during her acceptance speech was her makeup artist and “other partner” Roy Helland with whom she has collaborated for almost 40 years. How many of you have heard of this talented artist? He’s almost 70. Would you consider hiring him? Here’s a hint: if you want a shot at working with Meryl Streep, a good way to start would be by hiring him because she won’t do a film without him. Of course his price just went up as he won the Oscar for best makeup.

To be successful you need the right combination of people. Every recruiter with a cell phone knows that. Start by figuring out what success means for each project or position. Drill down to determine what the successful candidate needs to be able to accomplish, and what skills are required to achieve those results. And then find that person, regardless of if they are employed, unemployed, 25 or 55.

And if you can get a Meryl Streep, great. But don’t overlook the Roy Hellands, and all the other talent out there that you may not have heard of. A recruiter’s job is to find the right person for the job.

Even if she’s 62.

This article is part of a series called Opinion.
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