The Mystery of Contestant Selection

This is where all of the games are discussed.

Moderators: alietr, trainman, econgator, dhkendall

User avatar
RandyG
Founder of the Royal House of JBoardie of the Month
Posts: 1919
Joined: Wed Jul 13, 2011 6:23 pm
Location: Marana, AZ
Contact:

Re: The Mystery of Contestant Selection

Post by RandyG »

Stanislaus Jacob wrote:I had been meaning to start a thread on this subject for a few days now but waited until I had a large block of free time to do it. In the meantime, Randy G. and Dr. J announced their webinar, which sounds like a wonderful idea. I wondered if that made this thread redundant, but I decided to post anyway. Also, although I did sign up for the webinar, my audition for this year has already come and gone, so my questions are somewhat different.
...
I guess my number one question (probably everyone's number one question) is: What exactly do they want in the personality interview? What sorts of things stand out, and is there a certain threshold of boringness under which you have no chance? Is it a good or a bad sign if they ignore your written personal anecdotes during the interview? How is it weighted compared to the test or the buzzer practice?
...
My other major thought is more unusual - why do they still take a break and grade the test onsite? It seems like a relic of the days when those who failed the test were actually dismissed on the spot. It makes me wonder if there is actually some seeding being done during the mock games. Do they put three 46s together to see which one has the best buzzer speed? Or would they pair a 46 with a 38 to see if the guy weaker on paper (literally) actually has the better reflexes?
I would certainly agree with everything that Spaceman Spiff, BADuBois and Robert K S said at both the specific and generalized levels. There are lots of little things that make up the process and TPTB's decision -- hence the ongoing discussions on the subject and why I thought that having a webinar devoted to it would be a good idea -- that can be summarized and generalized:

- Be yourself.... the best of yourself

- It's a one-shot, short interview for a rather specialized job. Take it seriously.

- Small improvements in both your strengths and your deficiencies when added up can really make a difference. There's a lot of luck involved throughout the process of trying to get on, and then hopefully, being on the show. Tilting the odds just slightly in your favor on those things you have some control over should be at the center of your strategy. I'm not an Oprah fan, but I really like this quote: "For me, luck is preparation meeting the moment of opportunity.'"

- They want people who are ready to step out onto the Jeopardy! stage, which means demonstrating far more than just a passing familiarity with the mechanics of the show (fluidity with the buzzer, speaking up, keeping things moving, not arbitrarily ringing in, etc.), the purpose of the show (it's fundamentally entertainment, so be as interesting and entertaining as you can be, while still being yourself. Once you get to the interview, the knowledge part is immaterial, even though that's an inherent component of what makes Jeopardy! Jeopardy!) and the look and feel of the show (dress very presentably, as you would on the show; be enthusiastic, but not "Let's Make a Deal" enthusiastic; show confidence, professionalism and politeness.)

- Don't wing it. There are lots of things you can think about, practice and plan for prior to the audition, many of which will benefit you in life, not just at a Jeopardy! audition. For example, scour your memory for interesting and different things about yourself, and don't be afraid to step into embarrassing, though not distasteful, moments. Volunteering embarrassing moments shows great confidence and has great entertainment value, two things they're looking for. If you conclude that you're just not particularly interesting or different, then make the effort to start doing interesting and different things.

- If it doesn't work out this year, there's next year. Evaluate what you did well and didn't do well, and what you learned from the process and can improve upon. I failed miserably twice before I did this evaluation and the next time I was actually well-prepared and knew that I absolutely nailed the audition. As I've come to learn later in life, failure shouldn't be avoided; it's a necessary component on the road to success.

So good fortune for the results of this year's audition, and if it isn't to be now, then keep trying.

Happy to have you signed up for the webinar -- 19 have signed up so far -- and note that if you'd like to have any specific questions addressed then please submit them in advance, either directly to me here or on the webinar page that was linked to in your confirmation email.

User avatar
RandyG
Founder of the Royal House of JBoardie of the Month
Posts: 1919
Joined: Wed Jul 13, 2011 6:23 pm
Location: Marana, AZ
Contact:

Re: The Mystery of Contestant Selection

Post by RandyG »

tyg wrote:Way back when, after pass #6 or so (now up to around 15; I've honestly lost track), I hung back after and asked if they could tell me if I was doing anything horribly wrong. While they didn't specify any behavior on my part, they did say I had pretty much the worst demographics in the sense that for every criteria they looked at, I was in the subgroup with the most passers (this was prior to the online tests). In particular, they said five professions blew the test curve more than others...and I qualified for three of them as someone whose job involved writing and teaching about computer topics. The other two were lawyer and librarian.
It was very smart to ask, even if they may not have addressed the question in a useful way from your perspective. (It can also help to ask what you did well.) There isn't much you can do about the demographics, but obviously people within those demographic groups do get on the show, the odds for any one individual just somewhat lower.

During one of my failed auditions -- years before the online test, so we had a pass a test on the spot -- one of the handful of participants that got to the interview told me that this was his 12th interview, and he was a young guy too, so he was trying out probably every year. I don't remember anything else about his interview, but I distinctly recall that he was wearing a very red sports jacket that made him look like a realtor. Not that I have anything against realtors, nor would I think TPTB do either, but it was clear to me then why he had not gotten on the show to that point.

tjconn728
Watches Jeopardy! Way Too Much
Posts: 630
Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2012 5:07 pm
Location: Hamden, CT

Re: The Mystery of Contestant Selection

Post by tjconn728 »

I auditioned in Philadelphia in 2012, and I remember that like myself, there were I think two or three other late 20's/early 30's white males who were recently engaged and worked for or with the Navy. I thought I spoke clearly and confidently, moved the mock game along, and made a positive impression because I asked Glen a question about something he said that elicited a chuckle from the room, although the subject of his comment or my question eludes me now. So I thought I was at least on top of the young white male recently-engaged Navy contractor demographic. Until I saw fellow demographic audition member Keith Whitener on the show. To be honest, I don't recall him doing anything that made him stand out more than anyone else, so the selection process is still a mystery to me.

Something that I fear works against me, however, is my voice. I know everyone hates their own voice when they actually hear it, but my friends liken mine to that of a robot because I'm very monotone, which I can't imagine would help me at all. But at least my chances at getting on J! are probably better than my chances of ever being chosen for Contestant's Row on the Price is Right.

User avatar
periwinkle
Jeopardy! Champion
Posts: 350
Joined: Sun Jul 03, 2011 2:45 pm

Re: The Mystery of Contestant Selection

Post by periwinkle »

At my audition, there was one woman who seemed to have almost everything the coordinators might be looking for - she was interesting, had an unusual job, was outgoing, fully engaged, and having fun. But then I heard her curse several times, casually, as part of regular conversation. She did it again while at the podium, both after getting something wrong, and as part of conversation.

No way was she getting on.

Things that may be fine in your daily life (depending on your job/home life/friends) or in your recreational life are NOT necessarily things that will work on TV.

jeopardyhopeful
Loyal Jeopardista
Posts: 150
Joined: Sun Feb 16, 2014 12:38 pm

Re: The Mystery of Contestant Selection

Post by jeopardyhopeful »

Recently I started my own little project of classifying the occupations of the contestants, mainly for my own curiosity. I started just recently, and have gone back to November of last year, using the J-archive. I hope to continue and go back much farther. I realized that, having looked at a couple of hundred contestants so far, that the occupations most represented so far are educators (including those involved in related fields), students (of all types, but primarily graduate students), attorneys, and writers (along with associated fields like journalism, editing, etc.). In the second tier I've seen occupations like scientists, engineers, and communication-related fields.

I've noticed so far that there are a lot of fields that are horribly underrepresented, specifically health-care (including doctors, nurses, aides, etc.) and accountants like myself. Maybe that's good news for me if I ever get to the audition stage.

User avatar
RandyG
Founder of the Royal House of JBoardie of the Month
Posts: 1919
Joined: Wed Jul 13, 2011 6:23 pm
Location: Marana, AZ
Contact:

Re: The Mystery of Contestant Selection

Post by RandyG »

tjconn728 wrote:I auditioned in Philadelphia in 2012, and I remember that like myself, there were I think two or three other late 20's/early 30's white males who were recently engaged and worked for or with the Navy. I thought I spoke clearly and confidently, moved the mock game along, and made a positive impression because I asked Glen a question about something he said that elicited a chuckle from the room, although the subject of his comment or my question eludes me now. So I thought I was at least on top of the young white male recently-engaged Navy contractor demographic. Until I saw fellow demographic audition member Keith Whitener on the show. To be honest, I don't recall him doing anything that made him stand out more than anyone else, so the selection process is still a mystery to me.

Something that I fear works against me, however, is my voice. I know everyone hates their own voice when they actually hear it, but my friends liken mine to that of a robot because I'm very monotone, which I can't imagine would help me at all. But at least my chances at getting on J! are probably better than my chances of ever being chosen for Contestant's Row on the Price is Right.
There may have been things going on that a casual observer would not have noticed. Perhaps he made eye contact in a way that bonded with the coordinators. But what it ultimately comes down to is that they have discretion, and sometimes there may be no particular reason why they choose one over another... just a coin toss among those that they feel would be very worthy contestants. They readily admit to a random process for selecting who gets an audition among the test-passers; only 10% of auditioners get on the show, so there could very well be a degree of randomness in that decision too.

Voice lessons, or at least try to raise your awareness of your voice when you speak and make conscious adjustments to be more dynamic. Even though most of us hate listening to ourselves, agreed, recording yourself, then listen, then repeat until you're satisfied puts you way above others who would never dare to do such a thing. I would suggest that a monotone definitely works against you.

User avatar
dhkendall
Pursuing the Dream
Posts: 8782
Joined: Fri Jul 01, 2011 11:49 am
Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba
Contact:

Re: The Mystery of Contestant Selection

Post by dhkendall »

Thanks for bringing up the voice thing, tjconn, now that you mention it, yeah, that's a huge concern for me. I know the "everyone hates the sound of their own voice" thing, but (and I know this may sound very clueless), I've heard recordings of my voice, and I really can't think it even sounds anywhere in the range of normal.

You can see for yourself, I have a YouTube of my standup comedy (back when I was doing it regularly, I haven't done it for almost 10 years now) here, if bad humour is something that you can tolerate, maybe have a listen to some of it and see if you would think if the person who is performing would be someone the CCs would pick. (Keep in mind that, like most comedians, that is mostly "me" up there - a slightly exaggerated version (with slightly exaggerated personal stories), so that would be what the CCs see if I get The Email (but of course without as much joke-cracking, since, while that is me, I was there to specifically tell jokes.))
"Jeopardy! is two parts luck and one part luck" - Me

"The way to win on Jeopardy is to be a rabidly curious, information-omnivorous person your entire life." - Ken Jennings

Follow my progress game by game since 2012

User avatar
Dr. J
Decade Battler and Mustache Maker
Posts: 566
Joined: Fri Sep 28, 2012 1:35 pm

Re: The Mystery of Contestant Selection

Post by Dr. J »

I would certainly consider your voice if it's particularly quiet or flat. Remember, your FIRST hurdle is passing the audition; worry about the show after you ace the audition! If you've never watched yourself perform or speak, you should. (Or have a trusted friend weigh in.). You're going to be a performer on a TV show, so you should think of it in those terms. Pretend for the day that you're playing the part of a successful, energetic J! Champion, even if that isn't really you.

User avatar
opusthepenguin
The Best Darn Penguin on the Whole JBoard
Posts: 8291
Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2011 2:33 pm
Location: Shawnee, KS
Contact:

Re: The Mystery of Contestant Selection

Post by opusthepenguin »

debramc wrote:And out of three auditions, I think the majority of them were ordinary enough people, but there were a few nutcases at each one.
I don't think I noticed any nutcases at my audition.

Oh. Crap.

User avatar
opusthepenguin
The Best Darn Penguin on the Whole JBoard
Posts: 8291
Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2011 2:33 pm
Location: Shawnee, KS
Contact:

Re: The Mystery of Contestant Selection

Post by opusthepenguin »

RandyG wrote:- If it doesn't work out this year, there's next year.
NO THERE ISN'T!!!!! There's only the year after that. So far, the only effect of my audition has been that I had to sit out this year's online test. WAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!

User avatar
RandyG
Founder of the Royal House of JBoardie of the Month
Posts: 1919
Joined: Wed Jul 13, 2011 6:23 pm
Location: Marana, AZ
Contact:

Re: The Mystery of Contestant Selection

Post by RandyG »

opusthepenguin wrote:
RandyG wrote:- If it doesn't work out this year, there's next year.
NO THERE ISN'T!!!!! There's only the year after that. So far, the only effect of my audition has been that I had to sit out this year's online test. WAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!
Well, OK... the next year that you're eligible. But if there's an 18 month window after the audition -- is that it? -- then the call may still come in during that window.

User avatar
ElendilPickle
ToC Enabler
Posts: 2651
Joined: Tue May 15, 2012 12:53 am

Re: The Mystery of Contestant Selection

Post by ElendilPickle »

Tigershark wrote:There was definitely one guy at the auditions who was the poster child for what not to do at an audition. The contestant coordinators asked that people not click their pens during other peoples' mock games, and this guy could not stop clicking his pen. Every time he answered a question, he had to qualify it with a cute comment like "Wow I got that one" or "I like that category." He also took forever to select a new category after answering a question. I don't care how many he got right on the written test, he will not be on the show.
When I auditioned, there was another woman who looked to be around my age. She was wearing a sundress of some sort with a cardigan over it, flip flops or some other kind of really casual sandal, and had her hair in pigtails.

Every time she answered a question, both before and during her mock game, she would make this loud, squeaky "eep!" I figured there was no way she would ever be on the show.

Much to my surprise, she was on a couple of months before me.

User avatar
alietr
Site Admin
Posts: 7462
Joined: Thu Jun 30, 2011 1:20 pm
Location: Bethesda, MD

Re: The Mystery of Contestant Selection

Post by alietr »

Another thing to remember is that they don't need you, specifically. They're going to end up with approximately 10 people in the pool for every one person they need. Your job is to seem like you're a better candidate to be on the show than those other 9 people.

User avatar
Robert K S
Jeopardy! Champion
Posts: 2328
Joined: Thu Jun 30, 2011 1:26 pm
Location: Cleveland, Ohio
Contact:

Re: The Mystery of Contestant Selection

Post by Robert K S »

ElendilPickle wrote:loud, squeaky "eep!"
Hiccups?

User avatar
Mark B
Four-Time Swimmer in the Jeopardy! Pool
Posts: 295
Joined: Sat Jul 02, 2011 9:41 pm

Re: The Mystery of Contestant Selection

Post by Mark B »

Robert K S wrote:
What do TPTB want? I think there are many things that are necessary but not sufficient. Trivia talent gets you in the door; presentability takes you to the next level. But these things aren't enough, because they're also trying to put together a puzzle of diversity, and I don't mean just in terms of race, gender, or age. They're also looking for geographical diversity (of hometown), diversity of occupations, and perhaps other types of diversity as well. And I think they try to work it out such that they can put together groups that are internally diverse in these ways even within the (roughly) ten new contestants invited to appear each taping day (or twenty each taping week). If they didn't actively try to map out diversity in these ways, and instead just took whoever appeared talented and presentable, we'd very likely see weeks where half the contestants were white middle-aged attorneys.

Presentability, as I see it, refers to all the things that lead them to believe it will be safe to put you on television as well as entertaining to do so. They're looking for people who give some care to their appearance in terms of grooming and attire; who seem like they'll be able to tolerate, psychologically, the pressures of high-stakes public performance under the lights and on camera without cracking up or storming off; who will be able to take lost clues and games with good sportsmanship, and who, conversely, will be able to show enjoyment at getting a Daily Double or Final Jeopardy! right; who will find pleasure in the occasional humor of the clues; who won't obnoxiously interrupt Alex or otherwise disrupt the game; who won't outrage viewers with inappropriate remarks or distracting mannerisms; who have a sufficient diversity of interests and/or life experiences to fill at least five contestant interviews; who will be able to smile when Johnny Gilbert introduces them.

I don't think it's much of a factor whether you've auditioned once before or a dozen times, although it might make for a good interview story. I don't think they say to themselves, "We didn't call him/her the last six times, why would we extend an invitation now?" Not getting called in previous years may be attributable just to not fitting within the diversity puzzle.
This is spot on.

I have noticed that the CC's are inconsistent in what they say to auditioners about what they're looking for. Sometimes they say that the in-person test is most important. Other times they say it's a combination of the two tests. Sometimes they say that doing better on the test is better. Other times they say all they care about is that you 'passed.' In all my auditions they've emphasized that they're looking for "TV personality" -- "be outgoing!!" they exhort, but then they often pass over people who are clearly extroverted (and bright) while putting much drier personalities on the air. The fact is that we can never be exactly sure what the CC's are looking for. I do not believe they want us to be. They have their own internal logic based on what they think will make the best television show. I've given up trying to figure out what that logic is.

One more thing: contestants who have been chosen do not know why they were chosen any more than those of us who have been passed over know why we have been passed over. You may think that the fact that you were quiet in your first audition and chattier in your second (or wore a brighter suit, or told a funnier anecdote) is what got you chosen the second time, but you may be wrong. Any explanation for why a contestant was picked for the show falls victim to the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.

Stanislaus Jacob
Watches Jeopardy! Way Too Much
Posts: 371
Joined: Wed Mar 12, 2014 10:52 pm

Re: The Mystery of Contestant Selection

Post by Stanislaus Jacob »

Tigershark wrote:There was definitely one guy at the auditions who was the poster child for what not to do at an audition. The contestant coordinators asked that people not click their pens during other peoples' mock games, and this guy could not stop clicking his pen. Every time he answered a question, he had to qualify it with a cute comment like "Wow I got that one" or "I like that category." He also took forever to select a new category after answering a question. I don't care how many he got right on the written test, he will not be on the show.
I kind of feel sorry for that guy. His pen-clicking was a self-inflicted wound, but his "cute comments" were likely an attempt to appear outgoing and personable and telegenic to the extent that he thought the contestant coordinators wanted. Obviously, however, he took it too far.

User avatar
Tigershark
Jeopardy! Champion
Posts: 448
Joined: Tue May 20, 2014 1:52 pm

Re: The Mystery of Contestant Selection

Post by Tigershark »

I kind of feel sorry for that guy. His pen-clicking was a self-inflicted wound, but his "cute comments" were likely an attempt to appear outgoing and personable and telegenic to the extent that he thought the contestant coordinators wanted. Obviously, however, he took it too far.
I didn't really feel sorry for him. I'm not even sure this guy had ever seen the show, the way he acted. It's probably a good idea to actually watch the show before you go to an in person audition. It sounds so simple and basic, but there probably are people out there who take the test who don't watch the show.

User avatar
NYCScribbler
Harbinger of the Outchange
Posts: 367
Joined: Tue Dec 11, 2012 7:44 pm

Re: The Mystery of Contestant Selection

Post by NYCScribbler »

periwinkle wrote:At my audition, there was one woman who seemed to have almost everything the coordinators might be looking for - she was interesting, had an unusual job, was outgoing, fully engaged, and having fun. But then I heard her curse several times, casually, as part of regular conversation. She did it again while at the podium, both after getting something wrong, and as part of conversation.

No way was she getting on.

Things that may be fine in your daily life (depending on your job/home life/friends) or in your recreational life are NOT necessarily things that will work on TV.
To be fair, I cuss like a sailor in my daily life, but also to be fair, I had the common sense not to cuss like a mf'ing sailor in the middle of a frelling audition to be on TV.
"Who said anything about a horse?!"

"Also, how the bleep did I forget Russia even exists?!"- TPH

User avatar
Spaceman Spiff
One-and-done J! Champ (and proud of it!)
Posts: 1008
Joined: Sat Jul 02, 2011 6:10 pm

Re: The Mystery of Contestant Selection

Post by Spaceman Spiff »

RandyG wrote:During one of my failed auditions -- years before the online test, so we had a pass a test on the spot -- one of the handful of participants that got to the interview told me that this was his 12th interview, and he was a young guy too, so he was trying out probably every year. I don't remember anything else about his interview, but I distinctly recall that he was wearing a very red sports jacket that made him look like a realtor. Not that I have anything against realtors, nor would I think TPTB do either, but it was clear to me then why he had not gotten on the show to that point.
The one time previously that I passed an audition (pre-online, pre-Maggie days; 1996, I think) in DC, where I was one of 14 (out of a room of about 200) to pass, there was one guy -- and no, he didn't have a realtor's jacket - who basically spent his "tell me about yourself time" with the auditioners saying that this was the 8th time he'd passed the test, and chastising them for not picking him previously because he was obviously a superior talent.

I wonder how many more auditions he passed before he either (a) realized his attitude didn't help his selection, or (b) gave up altogether. I know I don't recall seeing him on the show.

User avatar
Blue Lion
Watches Jeopardy! Way Too Much
Posts: 1480
Joined: Fri Jan 24, 2014 9:12 pm
Location: Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Re: The Mystery of Contestant Selection

Post by Blue Lion »

tyg wrote:While they didn't specify any behavior on my part, they did say I had pretty much the worst demographics in the sense that for every criteria they looked at, I was in the subgroup with the most passers (this was prior to the online tests). In particular, they said five professions blew the test curve more than others...and I qualified for three of them as someone whose job involved writing and teaching about computer topics. The other two were lawyer and librarian.
Now that's depressing. I'm not only a member of the bar and the author of a number of books, but have taught at the community college level. Worse yet, I'm in my early 60s and gray-haired. In other words, the producers' worst nightmare.

Post Reply