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Review: CNBC’s The Job Interview

The owner and publicist of Chicago's Love Cork Screw interview a candidate for a brand ambassador job on CNBC's The Job Interview.

One of my favorite series so far this year was NBC’s First Dates, a Channel 4 series adapted for American television. It was playful and charming as it cut between several actual first dates, all of which took place at the same generic restaurant, filmed by robotic cameras that eavesdropped on conversations and moments.

The Job Interview is almost exactly the same series, from its UK origins to the playful music and its editing, except its half-hour episodes observe two small business owners interviewing candidates for a real job at their company.

In other words: it’s weird. Imagine Marcus Lemonis’ The Profit filmed and edited like Big Brother, and you’ll have a sense of how discordant that is.

The tone doesn’t match the subject matter.

Each episode has a different employer, and the office is a real office turned into a set that all the employers use, so all the episodes could be filmed in the same place, probably back to back.

The fact that it’s essentially a fake office adds to the weirdness—especially when candidates enter the elevator on the eighth floor, get off on the 7th for the interview, and then enter the elevator again on the eighth floor to leave. (Maybe the television production’s post-job interview interviews were on the eighth floor? Maybe the television production doesn’t have the same attention to detail that the employers want from their candidates?)

Few of the choices really land. First Dates had Drew Barrymore’s wry observations, but The Job Interview has a narrator who seems to have been directed to use a summer blockbuster trailer voice: “This ordinary office is a gateway to another world,” he says at the start of the episodes.

The editing can be alternately cruel (repeatedly showing a candidate’s strategy for being less anxious even as he says he’s not nervous) and pointlessly silly (cutting away from the interview to show a receptionist blowing her nose).

The editing is also not very helpful, as candidates just sort of evaporate until there are two left: two who sit and wait for a phone call to see whether they’ve been hired or not.

Interviewing candidates on television

Why would these employers agree to interview candidates on camera? The ads for their companies—I mean, the biographical packages—that introduce the business may have something to do with it.

There’s only one reason why I can see the prospective employees would say yes to having this moment filmed, and opening themselves up to judgment and mocking from the world: they need a job.

The Job Interview isn’t self-aware enough to care about the consequences of itself as a television show, and dances away from any moment where things threaten to get serious and real.

For me, the most interesting people to watch were not candidates—who are all too easy to judge and mock for the way they crack or thrive under pressure, which the editing constantly points out—but the employers themselves.

How they approach the interviews varies from episode to episode. Some ask questions that seem like came from a 11 Great Questions to Ask in a Job Interview listicle that a PA printed out for them. Most of them test their applicants right there in the interview room, asking them to do math (for a job at an accounting firm) or serve wine (for a job as a brand ambassador at a wine label).

All of the interviews I’ve watched highlight how weird the job application process is, and how much is riding on one or two conversations in a formal and stilted setting. Alas, The Job Interview isn’t interested in exploring those things. It’d rather just have fun with people’s lives.