The greatest recruitment movies of all time!

The greatest recruitment movies of all time!

When you consider what an emotional, competitive and crazy world recruitment is, and the characters it attracts, maybe it’s strange that there have not been more movies about the industry. I have seen all the “Wall Street-esq” movies and seriously, I have worked with and against crazier characters than most of theirs! Is Hollywood missing something here?

There are movies about recruitment, or at least about hiring and HR. Here are five of the best, with a few notes. Watch out for them and let’s see if the movie-makers really understand what goes on in the wonderful world of recruitment and HR.

‘The Temp’

A company takeover has employees scrambling to keep their jobs. An executive’s administrative assistant takes paternity leave, and he gets in a temp, who is too good to be true. The executive starts noticing that all the obstacles to his climb up the corporate ladder are disappearing, including the death of some of his rivals! When his regular admin returns to work, his temp, who has made it clear that she wishes to stay with him, begins her own accelerated climb up the ladder…


Headhunters is a 2011 Norwegian action thriller film based on the 2008 novel of the same name. I have seen the movie, and it’s certainly entertaining and gripping, if a little far-fetched at times. The film portrays a successful but insecure corporate recruiter who lives a double life as an art thief to fund his lavish lifestyle. (Maybe he just needed to be a better recruiter!) He finds out that one of his job prospects is in possession of a valuable painting and sets out to steal it. ‘Headhunters’ is the highest-grossing Norwegian film of all time, and was nominated for multiple awards, including four Amanda Awards, and a BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

‘The Interview’

Not to be confused with the Seth Rogen movie of the same name (2014), this Australian police drama from 1994 is not about HR, but it does show a very powerful interview dynamic, and it’s gripping all the way. Unemployed, poverty-stricken Eddie Rodney Fleming (Hugo Weaving), after losing his wife and home, is dragged from his apartment by police and subjected to a brutal interrogation. Eventually, it becomes terrifyingly apparent to Eddie that the police consider him a serial-murder suspect. The interrogators make audiotapes of their efforts to get Fleming to confess. However, they are unaware that they themselves are being investigated and are being videotaped by an internal affairs unit. Full of twists and you never know who to trust.

‘The Human Resources Manager’

The Human Resources Manager was Israel’s submission to the Academy for Best Foreign Language film. It’s a wry, compassionate film about the human resources manager for a big bakery in Jerusalem. He finds out that a woman who is working for them was killed a fortnight ago in a terrorist bombing. In order to avoid a scandal in the press, the owner of the bakery orders him to accompany the body back to an unnamed Balkan country to her relatives. Not strictly about recruiting, this is nevertheless a powerful movie. The core of the film is not just the physical journey taken by the Human Resources Manager, but the emotional one.

‘Glengarry Glen Ross’

This is not an HR movie at all, so I guess I cheated here. It’s actually set in a real estate agency, but it makes the cut because so many of the themes evident in hard-core, bucket-shop, transactional recruitment offices around the world are evident here, albeit exaggerated and in their most brutal form. Hard core sales, targets, all-or-nothing deals, unethical tactics, backstabbing colleagues, threats of being fired, a new boss sweeping clean, and desperate consultants relying on this months numbers to pay the rent.

Alec Baldwin appears as a sales motivator, introducing a sales contest where the losers will be fired. The agents work their same tired leads, until one hatches a scheme to burglarise the office, steal the leads, and sell them to a rival. (I have actually seen exactly that happen in recruitment in Sydney in the 90’s. I know it for a fact. I was offered the stolen client lists!). Featuring Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris and Kevin Spacey, Glengarry Glen Ross is a character study about a group of men whose time has passed. And sad to say, isn’t that the truth about some recruiters in 2014?


I have decided to make this blog ‘dynamic’ by listing the suggestions made in the comments and on Twitter. So add your suggested movie below, and get it listed here..

  • ‘Moneyball’.
  • ‘The pursuit of happiness’.
  • ‘Jerry McGuire’.
  • ‘Boiler Room’. (The recruitment scene….)
  • ‘Wall Street’. (the original)
  • ‘Face to face’.
  • ‘Pursued’. A classic tale of a ruthless headhunter, 2004 Christian Slater, 2004)
  • ‘Friends with Benefits’
  • ‘Up in the air’ (massive downsizing)
  • ‘American Beauty’. (‘Lester’ in a wonderful recruitment scene)
  • ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’
  • ‘The Company Men’ with Ben Affleck
  • ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ (One big interview)
  • ‘Office Space’
  • ‘The Devil’s Advocate’. (Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino)
  • ‘The Method’. Spanish movie about group-interviewing
  • Working Girl

Check these movies out if you have the chance, and share your suggestions for this list in the comments below.


UK readers, please join me in London on September 10th. Two masterclass presentations. One for recruiters, one for Owners/Managers


About Greg Savage

Over a career spanning thirty years, Greg Savage has established himself as a global recruitment leader. Greg is a regular keynote speaker at staffing and recruitment conferences around the world.

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29 Responses to The greatest recruitment movies of all time!

  1. Scott Duncan August 12, 2014 at 7:59 am #

    C’mon Greg, Moneyball – not only a great movie, but a very compelling book. Talks to the criticality of getting the candidate specification right, as well as taking a holistic view of the skills, competencies and experiences required to build a high performance team.

    • Anne August 12, 2014 at 11:30 pm #

      What about “The Transformer”? The assassin with 2 guns. Have a meeting with him every Monday morning and give him the list for the week.
      On this list are the clients and applicants who messed you around the previous week, as well as the odd opposition recruitment company.

      Keep your sense of humour at all times!

  2. Matthew August 12, 2014 at 10:14 am #

    Moneyball’s a great one. A colleague and I did a list a while back, maybe not orientated to specifically recruitment films, but films that provide a motivational boost to a recruiter. We came up with The Pursuit of Happyness, Jerry McGuire and Wall Street (the original, not the abysmal sequel). All about the success in doing ‘the right work’.

  3. Hugh August 12, 2014 at 11:46 am #

    Face to Face is worth of a mention – especially when it comes to assessing people and finding out they are all not what they seem. A very very good Australian Movie

    • Satyajit Rajkumar August 22, 2014 at 12:39 pm #

      @Hugh watched the movie last week. The Probing method was outstanding, Jack Manning controlled the whole process, could be a great “Recruiter”

  4. Clarke August 12, 2014 at 12:08 pm #

    Surely the obvious one is “Jerry Maguire” …”show me the money” 🙂

    • andy November 25, 2015 at 2:47 pm #

      Haha yes i watched the movie, funny how jerry got kicked out from his job and make his own company with only 1 client and it goes to the top

  5. James August 12, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

    2004 Christian Slater film ‘Pursued’ is a classic tale of a ruthless headhunter….look it up great film

  6. Rosemaree August 12, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

    Whilst a love story, Friends with Benefits is another one to add to the list. Storyline is based around a Recruitment headhunter who tracks down, researches and successfully places a candidate into a job they would not have originally considered. From a HR perspective I would also add Up in the Air with George Clooney. We can never forget the importance of personal contact when people are going through the emotional turmoil of redundancy.

  7. ross clennett August 12, 2014 at 12:32 pm #

    Great topic to blog about, Greg.

    I agree that ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ has to be in the list. i absolutely agree with Scott and Matthew that Moneyball is a must for the list (the book was far more about recruitment than the movie was) as the whole theme is about recruiting against key selection criteria that evidence proves matters most for results, not against subjective experience, wisdom, or instinct.

    I have to mention Kevin Spacey’s middle-aged loser character, Lester, being interviewed for an entry level fast food job in American Beauty as a wonderful recruitment scene (I’m looking for a job with the least amount of responsibility’) that still cracks me up no matter how many times I’ve seen it.

  8. Alexis Siermans August 12, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

    Who has time ot watch movies? Too much time spent in hotel rooms and on flights ?!
    Food for thought as usual though- thanks Greg

    • Greg Savage August 12, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

      Turns out they have movies in hotel rooms and on flights…. 🙂

  9. Freyja August 12, 2014 at 3:00 pm #

    How many of us haven’t ever thought about writing a book, a series of skits or some such thing about some of the antics and challenges and yes, successes we have in this industry. Somehow the humour, the grit, the tension and the “star” moments would get lost in the telling.

    Some of the most hilarious happy hours I’ve spent have been listening and sharing the kind of work bloopers – the kind where we really earn these notches on our belts – with a group of peers. I think some of it you’d have to be in “the business” to both believe it and laugh your fool head off as you say – yeah – I can match that and raise you one! Gotta love it – there is no business like our business!

  10. Vanessa Barrett August 12, 2014 at 6:11 pm #

    I always fancied it as more like “The bounty hunter”. Many movies of the name illustrating the same thing. Hunting the “prey” so to speak. I sometimes think about how much easier it would be with a shotgun in hand though. People can be extremely fickle.

  11. Satyajit Rajkumar August 12, 2014 at 6:16 pm #

    How about “The Wolf of Wall Street”?

  12. Emlyn John August 12, 2014 at 6:28 pm #

    For a little bit of comedy value, there are two very funny interview scenes from the films ‘Ted’ and ‘Step Brothers’ that stick in my mind.

    I like one of the comments that has been made on the Ted clip ‘so that’s how you land better jobs in a troubling economy these days.’

    Step Brothers –

    Ted –

  13. steven pang August 12, 2014 at 6:49 pm #

    Pre-2009, I would say any action drama movies.

    Post-2009, any Stephen King movies!
    Recruitment industry is now categorized in the horror genre, no? hahaha…

  14. Linda August 12, 2014 at 10:19 pm #

    The Company Men with Ben Affleck. It’s a drama, but still a really good one. Not so much from the recruiter perspective, but instead highlighting the struggles people go through when they are job searching. I think it’s important for EVERY recruiter to see this movie, to try to understand what some people are going through. When these recruiters are hitting contests and winning trips to Cancun, they need to know it’s off the backs of some of these people. Maybe the recruiters will look at candidates with a little more compassion after watching this movie.
    Yes, I am a recruiter.

  15. Catherine August 12, 2014 at 11:42 pm #

    Agree with Linda on The Company Men and echo her sentiments. The outplacement scenes do provide some comic relief.

  16. Tom Palmer August 13, 2014 at 1:29 am #

    What about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Doesn’t seem obvious at first, but isn’t the whole film essentially one big job interview for Willy Wonka’s replacement?

  17. Philip Divilly August 13, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

    Great fun blog Greg.

    Some movies there that I definitely want to watch again.

    One movie that I always reminds me of my early days in the recruitment industry is “Office Space”. The guys would always quote the boss character – Bill Lumbergh. The film itself is about Restructure and Downsizing. Great dry comedy
    Thanks for sharing.

  18. Jon August 14, 2014 at 2:09 am #

    “Fight Club” for the doorstep assessment centre and an informative scene on how to negotiate with your boss…

  19. Sarah Keen August 15, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

    Office Space. “What would you say you do here?” Classic.

  20. Haryo August 15, 2014 at 10:20 pm #

    Great list, Greg. However, my favorite would be The Devil’s Advocate… Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino. You learned a lot about recruitment when Al Pacino’s character tried to convince Keanu Reeves’ character to join his law firm in New York. You definitely can’t go wrong if you tried to mimic Al Pacino on that movie 😀

  21. Florenta August 21, 2014 at 12:13 am #

    What about The Method? It’s a Spanish movie about group-interviewing and I highly recommend it!

  22. Rahul Taneja September 2, 2014 at 11:23 am #

    I think you could consider movies like Oceans 11, Armegeddon, Expendable series, Reservoir Dogs and many others to the list. Best, why not look at reality shows like, Apprentice, American Idol, Amazing Race too.

    There are many other movies that I am not recalling names of, which resonate with Gregs wonderful blog

  23. Mathew September 23, 2014 at 1:44 am #

    Some very good movies in your list. Jerry Maguire should define how we treat our candidates. Hope you enjoy the parallels I draw

  24. Corey Lewis October 9, 2014 at 2:56 am #

    Love the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory reference…never looked at it that way. Brilliant Greg!

  25. Muneeba October 29, 2016 at 6:02 pm #

    the intern
    devil wears prada

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