Los Angeles long has been a center for a certain kind of cheap labor: out-of-work actors. So a Carson computer company is looking for a few good thespians.
As Omni Computer Products Inc. looked to staff its 350-person telemarketing center, company executives were faced with a quandary: Given the area’s tight labor market, how could they find people who would not only be good at selling their inkjet cartridges and other computer supplies, but would be willing to work as telemarketers?
“We were looking for fresh possibilities, and someone just tossed out the idea of actors,” said Les Pollak, Omni’s director of recruiting. “At first we were doubtful, but the more we thought about it, the more we liked it. Actors emote well and are adaptable, and they represent a large group in Los Angeles.”
So Omni, which is known in high-tech circles for its history of hiring people out of drug rehabilitation centers and welfare-to-work programs, created a program designed to accommodate struggling actors.
Employees are allowed to take as much time off as necessary for auditions, provided they later make up the hours. They are paid a base salary plus commission, get full benefits after six months and a 401(k) plan after a year attractive assets to actors who are struggling to make it in an uncertain career.
The company has taken out ads in the theater trade magazine Backstage West and the LA Weekly. Actress Misty Odett responded to one such ad, and discovered an office environment rapidly filling with fellow thespians.
“I’ve had jobs in the past where I didn’t have flexibility for auditions, and I came to realize that in the end, this type of arrangement benefits both (the employer and employee),” said Odett, who goes to about two auditions a week. “Everyone is happy, and I have the opportunity to pursue my craft while paying my bills. So far, so good.”
Already, the company has hired about 60 actors, and gets roughly 15 inquiries into the program per week.
“The fact that Omni offers flexible hours so actors can make money while pursuing their artistic goals is a major selling point, and will land them many new employees,” said RoseMary Polenski, division manager of Montebello-based Headway Corporate Staffing Services, which has about 100 unemployed actors coming through its doors every month. “Omni also benefits, since most actors have really strong voices and are good with scripts. In a way, they’re naturals for telemarketing.”
Polenski added that out-of-work actors traditionally have been considered undesirable in the temp world. Most companies prefer to hire temporary workers who are open to the idea of ultimately becoming full-time employees.
Most actors have other long-term goals. That hurdle doesn’t faze the Omni executives, especially because churn is already a common problem for telemarketing positions.
“We know that when their ship comes in, they’re out,” Pollak said.