How Samantha Bee Got Such a Diverse Writing Staff
The latest entry into the late-night talk show ring is none other than Daily Show alum Samantha Bee and her new show, Full Frontal. She’s a remarkable newcomer for a few reasons. First, she’s a woman in a sea of dudes behind desks (a literal representation of this was recently published by Vanity Fair). Secondly, she’s created a writing staff that is atypical for comedy staffs — it’s 50 percent female and 30 percent nonwhite. So how did she manage that? The answers could surprise you.
(Photo Credit: Justin Hoch/Flickr)
Step 1: Create a Blind Application Process.
The way that Bee and her team got her remarkable staff was to actually stop looking at who exactly was applying to be a part of her remarkable staff. They created a blind application process that took everything that didn’t really matter out of the equation. That means that they didn’t look at the demographics — no names, genders, races, or even experience levels. They looked at aptitude for the work. What she ended up with, besides the remarkable gender and race breakdown, weren’t just non-traditional comedy writers. She hired one person whose previous job experience was the Maryland DMV, as well as one who was a former Letterman writer.
Why go blind? Entrepreneur Petar Vujosevic solved the diversity hiring problem by creating a website called GapJumpers.com that helped employers look at the work their potential hires can do, like building a website, that might actually match with what they’d be doing in their new 9-to-5. Imagine that!
Step 2: Make the Application Match the Work
The second thing Bee’s team did to capture the right person is to actually make the application match what they’d be doing on the show.
She remarked on the process, “When you’re looking for writers, you create a submission packet for them and you tell them an outline of what you want to receive back as their application … And sometimes they’re just like, ‘Write two headlines and a sketch, thanks so much.’ But Jo … really outlined what the format was — just the way that it looks is really particular to this comedy world. It’s a script style. And if it doesn’t look that way … it tells you a person is inexperienced. And you don’t look at the words the same way … It’s such a basic leveler to know how your script is supposed to look.”
Step 3: Mentor, Mentor, Mentor
Bee is also in the process of creating a mentor program to inspire more a more diverse, but trained, pool of great writers. She wants to find the “pockets of people who don’t formally have access to this world, who want to be in this world, who have no idea how to get there, and who demonstrate some skill in some capacity and a passion for it.”
She said, “We are going to learn a lot the first time we do it. It may be janky, we don’t know. Or it might be amazing, and you’ll find a diamond in the rough, and then you’ll find a job for that person … and then you start actually seeing the ratios change. That’s the goal.”
Again, the goal is to help people who are good at doing the work, doing the work.
Tell Us What You Think
Have you ever had a blind hiring process? What were the results? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.