Have a Casting Call, not an Interview

When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.

Wayne Dyer

Fred Kleisner has an enviable job. As CEO of premier boutique hotelier, Morgans Hotel Group, Fred’s job is to run some of the coolest, hippest hotel properties in the world. From the Delano in South Beach to The Clift in San Fran to the Hudson in New York City, Morgans has become known as the kind of place celebrities, rock stars, and wannabes, wanna spend their time. Their signature experiences are the lobby and entrance spaces, as well as their clubs and night life environments. The place, the property, the ambiance are all of course incredibly important, but Fred understands that at the heart of Morgans is the people who make the place cool and fun.

When I went to interview Fred Kleisner at his Hudson property near Central Park, New York – and no, sadly I didn’t get to stay there… – I was greeted by a couple stylish, cool women in the lobby who chatted me up about where I came from, the city, the weather. It was not at all evident initially that they worked there. There’s no uniform, no name tags, no clear evidence that people work there, except for the fact that they are incredibly thoughtful and helpful. For example, Jessica greeted and escorted us to our filming location with Fred and remained constantly helpful throughout our visit.

During the interview I asked Fred what kinds of characteristics and personalities they look for when hiring. He said they aren’t interested in hiring tall, thin models, but are much more interested in someone’s whole personality and strengths. Morgans’ more recent interview sessions, which he calls a “casting call,” were hosted in a theatre. After the more standard Q&A, candidates were invited to get up on stage and share anything they wanted, with an emphasis on something that expressed who they were at heart. Fred said candidates sang, told stories, danced, recited poetry, talked about their travels, and more. This exercise told the candidates they were entering a safe, welcoming environment where they were expected to bring their unique identity to work, while also allowing the interviewers to glimpse the more personal and honest side of potential hires before they find out six months into the job.

If we want initiative, passion, and creativity, take a tip from Fred Kleisner and Morgans Hotels – don’t just have an interview, have a casting call.