Why Being Likeable to an Agent Is More Important Than Acting Experience

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Photo Source: Spencer Alexander

Last week, I addressed the kind of questions you should and shouldn’t ask during a meeting with someone like me. This week, I’m going to pull back a bit so we can address the single best way to give a great performance during a rep meeting. (And no, it doesn’t involve an expensive present.)

When I sit down with a potential client, the process is a lot like a job interview. I’ve got their résumé in my hands, I’m assessing their qualifications, and I’m trying to figure out if I want to work with this person. So let’s assume I’ve met three actors this week. They’re the same age and gender, they’re equally attractive, and their level of experience is comparable. How do I make my decision?

Ask any employer to explain why they choose one applicant over another, and they’ll say it’s all about who has the best qualifications and personal skills. But listen to this: Research conducted by Chad A. Higgins from the University of Washington and Timothy Judge from the University of Florida suggests that answer is bullshit.

READ: Got a New Agent? Here’s How to Make a Good Impression

Higgins and Judge followed 100 former students as they tried to find their first job. After each interview, students completed a questionnaire about their behavior during the meeting. The research team also asked the interviewers to provide feedback on the candidate’s performance, how well they’d fit in with the company, whether they possessed the right skills, and, most important of all, whether they would be offered the job.

After analyzing the data, the research team shattered the myth about how interviewers choose new employees. Did the job depend on qualifications? Or experience? In fact, it was neither. It was just one important factor: Did the candidate appear to be pleasant?

The moment I finished reading that study, I knew they were absolutely right. Being liked can make all the difference in your career. Looking back at the thousands of rep meetings I’ve endured has allowed me to come up with a short list that will help you leave the right first impression. None of these suggestions guarantee success, but they will certainly increase your chances:

1. Talk about topics that have nothing to do with the entertainment industry. This allows you to come across as a well-rounded person, not just another actor who wants to get signed.

2. Make an effort to smile and maintain eye contact. This may sound simple, but a lot of inexperienced actors can’t do it. Why? Because they’re in their own head during the meeting.

3. Say positive things about the agency. And be specific. This shows that you did your homework and it also flatters the interviewer.

4. Ask as many questions as you answer. This allows you to create a connection. If you do it correctly, the meeting will start to feel more like a conversation than an interview, and that’s a good thing.

5. Don’t open with your greatest accomplishment. You’ll come across like a braggart and I’ll forget it by the time we’re done. The smart move is to drop the nugget at the end of our meeting, almost like an afterthought.

And I cannot stress this enough: If you want to succeed in the entertainment industry, you have to be likable. Pleasant people get signed and hired. Ass wipes get flushed.

Ready to get to work? Check out Backstage’s London audition listings!

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Secret Agent Man
Secret Agent Man is a Los Angeles–based talent agent and our resident tell-all columnist. Writing anonymously, he dishes out the candid and honest industry insight all actors need to hear.
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