Why is corporate America looking for rock stars?

I’ve noticed an alarming trend in the want ads lately. It seems “rock star” is the adjective du jour when describing the employees that companies want to hire. Even Hell, Inc. is looking for “rock stars” now that they got rid of all of us mid-tempo balladeers.

It’s an interesting choice of words, and maybe only a nerdy copywriter would think so. When I think rock star I think moody, substance-user/abuser, works odd hours, doesn’t practice good hygiene or moral judgment. I fit that bill. But when I got into an interview I try to hide that. I don’t mention it on my resume. Especially because the substance I choose to abuse is Dawson’s Creek.

These aren’t exactly the traits that most corporate HR borgs look for in an employee. So exactly what is “rock star” supposed to mean in this context? I can’t figure it out.

Anyway, this all reminds me of a book I just finished called Rock On: An Office Power Ballad by Dan Kennedy. This is a memoir of Kennedy’s 18 or so months working at a marketing/creative wonk at Atlantic Records.

Rock and Roll. Owww! Right? Wrong. What I loved the most about Kennedy’s book is that like most everyone on the planet he thought working for a record label would be the bomb digs, but as he finds out (and us too, as we read), it’s exactly like working in the marketing department of every other company on the planet. From the inane meetings, to the marketing speak, to the absolutely idiotic corporate hierarchy, everything is the same. Seriously.

If I did a find and replace on this book, and swapped out record for software. I could slap my name on the cover and call it mine — because the experience is so true and universal.

I am surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. It was awesome. Not only I could identify immediately with Kennedy’s situation (including the inevitable layoff), but the book is riddled with Replacements’ references. Clearly, this book was meant for me.

The surprise comes because I still have a bad taste in my mouth from reading Joshua Ferris’ super-shitty Then We Came to the End. Both books deal with the same subject matter, marketing/creative people in career peril. But where Ferris’ book is all group-think, first person plural bullshit, Kennedy’s book is a hilarious, personal take on not just the record industry (in its waning years) but corporate America.

And I cannot emphasize enough how fucking funny Rock On is. I laughed out loud so many times that I started marking passages so I could go back and read them again.

On Ice-T:
What if the lights come on and Ice-T sees me standing here crying? He will kill me. Have you heard this guy’s songs? Jesus, he probably actually has a song about killing guys that look like they’re about to cry over their own commercial.

On trying to get Web/IT people to do anything:
Angry New Media Chick: Impossible! Back-end architecture! Cookies and lasers! Server-side technology!
LM will join in too: Yeah! What she said! Plus, I mean, I would have to see if what you’re asking for is even feasible!

The book is so funny that I want everyone to read it right now, so we can go back and forth and riff on our favorite parts. It is easily my favorite memoir since Love is a Mix Tape, and you all remember how much I loved that one, right?

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  1. bakiwop 22.Feb.08 at 11:16 am

    corporate america doesn’t know what the heck it is looking for – they have initial phone interviews, first interviews and second interviews. they have iq tests, personality tests, logic tests and drug tests. they have background checks, credit checks and reference checks. they spend months hiring for one position and when a week or two would suffice.

    not that i am bitter or anything. or generalizing in any way shape or form.

    check here for more on the silliness of comapnies

  2. Jodi 22.Feb.08 at 1:17 pm

    I’ve actually read that piece before.

    I kind of hope I can get an interview at a place looking for rock stars so I can ask them what in the hell they want.

    In the rockstar ad I read today, they said they wanted witty, rocking, and a BA because it is a professional position.


  3. bakiwop 22.Feb.08 at 2:34 pm

    asking them that would be a hilarious job interview moment. ranking up there with introducing yourself to your firer (fire-er?).

    you rock

  4. Jodi 22.Feb.08 at 2:36 pm

    I’m a rockstar. So at least I’m qualified.

  5. FFJ 22.Feb.08 at 9:38 pm

    as a previous HR borg, i feel a strong urge to defend myself and some asinine business practices here. once an HR borg finds a resume ( after going through every single one received) that doesn’t have spelling errors, or obvious falsities, we pick up the phone to see if a.) you’re still interested, and b.) aren’t wasting our time. i’ve done hundreds of phone interviews and honestly most people don’t make it past that. since nine times out of ten something like “I don’t have a car” for a delivery position, or “I took a Stats class in college” for a CPA position comes out.

    and first interviews only lead to second interviews if the candidate doesn’t show up smelling like rum and marb lights, clearly wearing what they wore the previous night. that shit only flies when you’re salaried, or an IT wiz. and all those other checks happen because chances are the sort of cute payroll guy with the one wonky eye isn’t going to steal $20K off the books right? i mean, look at him, he’s probably still a virgin! and he’s from South Dakota! huh, riiiight!

    as for language in job ads. i’m pretty sure one of the reasons i got “laid off” was because i made such a huge stink about the sales guys wanting to put the phase “alpha-male tendencies” into an ad and on Monster and HotJobs and whatever else was around in the late 90’s. sadly, i was the only one in HR who didn’t want to go through the hiring process for anyone responding to an ad that said “alpha-male tendencies”. no lie, the two blonde bimbos higher up in the department had no problem with it.

    as tedious as the process is for one person to look for, and apply for, and interview for, and be right for a job, us borgs in HR are looking at one resume too many that has “Sandwich Artist” on it from the nine days you worked at Subway.

  6. Craig Nadel 17.Mar.08 at 4:44 pm


    Five years ago I created Corporate Rock Stars. Rock Band Team Building. Felt that all the chili cookoff, scavenger hunt, ropes course lame-o people had their moment in the team building sun. Created a concept that matched peoples lives. People (your employees) go to rock concerts in real life. I wonder if they ever go on scavenger hunts in their off time?


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