I write this with frustration because I put an ad out for an assistant position. Someone remind me that I need to rely on referrals for this sort of work and not an online ad. Anyhow, this is advice and venting all at once.
Tonight a last minute job appeared on my desk. I need an assistant for something on Tuesday and my regular people that I use are booked. So I have to rely on new people and let them learn about my personality. THAT personality means I focus 100% on my job and I do not want to spend time teaching them how to assist. I want someone with common sense, someone that thinks ahead and is pro-active. I want them to think: “What can go wrong right now and how can I prevent it?” or “What will we need next?” and get it before I ask for it. We are not mind-readers, and I do not expect that. I do ask for common sense. This process takes a while with any photographer and assistant relationship and I understand that learning curve but I want someone that is open to that school of thought. Until that happens, the blossoming of a professional relationship, I need people who can follow basic directions.
I have used several online job portals to find crew. I value character and personality almost more than talent and skill. I feel that with loads of talent and lacking character, one is useless and vice versa. A person talented at their craft is undesirable to work with, with no personality. I guess other photographers might argue my positioning but to me, I love my job and I love the people that I work with. I feel without good people, you cannot have a good experience, thus no good pictures. So you can imagine a blind ad online should pull every personality and talent imaginable. I am open to anyone, but I am not open to those that cannot follow directions.
In the past I have put in the ad, “Please tell me about yourself, give me something personal and what makes you stand out”. Typically an ad will generate about 200+ inquiries. On average, about 120 of them will copy and paste a general letter. Needless to say, every single one of them are deleted on the spot no matter what their experience. They are out! When people copy and paste a cover letter, to me that means they do not care about the job or even care to follow directions. They want the money and want to move on. I want someone that I can work with over and over and build a relationship with.
Then there is the next batch, that I have yet to determine if they are worse or not? They don’t write about themselves, they don’t send a resume, they just ask “What does the job pay” or “My rate is ______, if you want to pay that I am can work”. NO! NO NO NO!!!! Why in the world would I want to pay THAT kind of a person? Why would they feel I would want to pay them more out of my budget, if they don’t have the personality to ask in a better way. I told you, I was in a revved up mood today but this is all true stuff! Just follow the directions so that I know you can follow directions on set. If an applicant cannot follow a simple instruction, I don’t know how they can work on set when 15 mouths are working at once, and stress is high?
If they answer a question/request with a question, I don’t know how they can work with me. Perhaps other photographers can read this and think, “What an asshole that Walid is” but I just want someone to get me, to listen, to follow directions and have the ability to think ahead on the job.
Tonight’s ad just asked for someone to “…write me a tiny bit about yourself and your experience with assisting on set” and this is what I got: “what does the job pay?” Well the rate was posted online. I also got several emails that looked something like this:
“Mike xxxx . (626) 555-1212”
That’s it!? They gave me their name and their phone number. Are you kidding me? No! At least give me a sentence please, not just your name and your phone number.
Anyways, the bright side is that out of the many people there are great options. I got great letters who wrote why they love photography, their great experience, why they want to work this job, and they want to work this job and do a GOOD job! I don’t expect ALL those elements, but some are required.
The moral of this post is that we are on watch at all times. Sometimes our initial email is more important than our first day on the job. I want to stress that your personality and manners and character are key! I can train someone to light the way I want them, I can teach someone to work with me on set the way I am accustomed to and I can adapt to work well with you and your style IF you are one with good personality. I can work with you IF your approach is respectful and I can increase your pay or try to (budget permitting) IF you ask nicely and state you case professionally. To some degree many photographers are like me, though some could care less how you live your life. Just do a good job and move along. I am not like that. I guess to a fault, I invest more in people so I end up with knots in my stomach. There is a job for everyone, all we have to do is keep searching for the perfect match and keep the ones that work with you close.
By the way, I found my perfect assistant and if this person works well I hope to keep them on as a regular!