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How to get a job where you can make Difference 

Inside Video Difference’s famously selective hiring process.

Your standard student/artist job—server, barista, retail—is rarely in short supply in a town like Halifax, but Video Difference has always been one of the most coveted, and one of the hardest to land.

Owner Tom Michael put together a three-part process: A standard job application describing work experience, education and the like; a slightly altered Stanton Survey, a more in-depth integrity test; and at least one in-person interview. "We liked to put all three together and not put a lot of strength in any of them. With objective information, although it's hard and fast, it's not everything," Michael says. "That subjective part of it—you could have a bad day, we could have a bad day, but when you go back and look at the objective data, and the subjective data, that's when you get a really good feeling about the person."

Just because everyone wanted to work at Video Difference doesn't mean they were suited to the team. "We started closing down in the nighttime to shorten the store hours when we didn't have enough staff, rather than hire the wrong person," says Michael, who says the store never had to solicit for staff. "We went one time three months closing the back shift down, because we were understaffed."

"I never went to Blockbuster, you actually felt like you extra-hated them because they were so close," says Andrea Dorfman. (Blockbuster was on the same block as Video Difference until 2011.) "It was a place for people to work who were allowed to shine in that environment, whereas Blockbuster felt like any teenager. It could've been McDonald's to them."

"He clearly hired people that were into movies and that made the business feel more like a neighbourhood arts centre," says Jay Dahl. "It was authentic."

Movie taste counted for less than you'd guess, though most employees were former customers themselves. "Your likes and dislikes are important, but more to the point was what the customer liked," says Michael. "The first question we'd have when they said, 'I'm looking for a movie' was 'What have you seen recently that you've enjoyed?' If they say 'I saw Ghostbusters II and it was a hoot,' OK, let's go down to comedy, I know exactly what you're looking for. If you say 'I'm looking for something funny,' I'm not going to start showing you Best in Show, 'cause that may not be your cup of tea."


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