How we pranked the Hiring Hub team on national television

It’s Easter Bank Holiday weekend and I get a text from our Lead Acquisition Manager, Michelle: “Hey, hope you’re enjoying the weather. Not sure what to do with this but a TV show have emailed me… they’ve asked: do you want to do a prank on the team next week?”

I put down my Lindt chocolate rabbit. Did I want to prank the team next week? Hell yes. I think I would like to do that: “tell me more Michelle…”

Fast forward to Tuesday morning and I’m on the phone to the Producer of a new show, At Home with Joel Dommett, which is due to air for the first time the following Sunday at 10pm on ITV2.

The premise was simple: they would hijack a business meeting over Zoom. All they needed was a business for whom Zoom calls during lockdown was the norm, that had a genuine meeting already scheduled the following day. Would Hiring Hub be interested in taking part?

Fortunately, we ticked the box. I had a session planned at 11am the following morning with representatives from our tech, product, and customer service team to discuss the soft launch of our new Premium Account for employers, which we’d decided to push out for free to users during lockdown.

Cue frantic organising of cover stories and figuring out how to record video calls on Zoom.

24-hours later and we’re all set. I spoke to the producer again and he explained the plan: “Just start the meeting as you normally would, Joel will call you and give you instructions in your ear. Do what he says and let’s see how your team react.”

Okay. Sure. What could possibly go wrong?

I was excited. The past month had been a challenge. Like it has for all businesses, Covid-19 had proven a real test of agility and resilience. I hoped this would offer some welcome relief to a team that had worked their socks off to keep the wheels on our recruitment agency marketplace.

My job during the first few weeks of the outbreak and lockdown was simple: keep the team safe, communicate to customers, try to stabilise the business in what would be our temporary “new normal”, and do my best to lift spirits.

Best case, I thought, this may boost the team’s morale. Worse case, I look an idiot. I can cope with the latter so when Joel called that morning and asked me to have a bottle of wine and electric razor to hand, I was ready.

What happened next was a blur. Joel and I jumped on a call 30-minutes before the meeting and confirmed our cover story. I’d told the team he was a student from Manchester university called Tom, who was doing some research into managing teams remotely; he’d be joining the call to observe us, but would have his microphone and video camera switched off so as not to distract us. They seemed to buy that. First hurdle overcome.

After discussing paint palettes (Joel was decorating that weekend and admired my living room’s hue*) we were ready. 11am came – I opened Zoom and started the meeting…

The video of our exploits is below, aired on ITV that Sunday. I have to confess, I absorbed nothing of the actual meeting. With Joel in my ear, laughing, it was hard to concentrate. Particularly in between him telling me to say “I’m a lover, not a fighter” every few seconds. It proved too much.


The team were superb and hardly missed a stride. Continuing with the meeting despite me doing my best to distract them and throw them off course. The meeting was edited into a four-minute clip, but the Zoom call lasted over 20 mins, which gives some insight into either: 1) their professionalism as a team; or 2) the fact they didn’t seem to care that I was having a nervous breakdown.

Fortunately, the show was well-received and both the protagonists and wider Hiring Hub team enjoyed what proved a rare, random, opportunistic prank. The decision to throw caution to the wind proved the right one and served its purpose – we laughed as a team. Something that worth far more to me than the embarrassment of being seen sat on a toilet on national television.

*For those that keep asking: it’s Fired Earth, Tempest! Link here

Originally published 21st April 2020