Lights, Camera, Interview

Interviewing for a job has always been an exercise in performance art.  You put on your suit, go to the employer’s office and do everything possible to show you’re the best person for the position.  As in the early days of TV, it’s all done in front of a live audience, so you have one chance to get it right. 

Technology has affected this part of the job search just as it has every other piece.  The other day I had an interview over Skype.  I tried hard to arrange an in-person conversation, knowing that it’s easier to establish rapport when everyone’s sitting in the same place.  But this employer chose the remote option, presumably to ensure a level playing field for applicants regardless of location. 

I’d used Skype a few times before to talk to relatives overseas.  The connection often was iffy, with my cousin mouthing words several seconds before I could hear them.   I wasn’t looking forward to adding this technical difficulty to the challenges of every job interview:  answering questions clearly and succinctly; displaying just the right level of enthusiasm; asking intelligent questions. 

 Fortunately, I’d recently acquired a new tablet computer, with a high-quality camera and excellent sound.  I wouldn’t have to deal with awkward pauses between the moment the interviewer closed her mouth and the time I heard the end of the question. 

 That left the costume and set design.  What to wear was easy:  suit jacket, business-like jewelry, subtle makeup.  Only from the waist up, though.  Blue jeans and slippers ruled below, off camera.  The background and lighting were fairly straightforward as well.  Indirect light, no harsh glare or shadows; neutral background, no messy desk or stacks of papers.  The map on the wall was perfect, showing an interest in the world without making any particular political, occupational or artistic statement. 

 The only task left to do was perform.  This part turned out to be essentially the same as it’s always been.  The interviewers wanted to know what I’d bring to the job; I tried to show them what an asset I’d be, as to both skills and personality.   I asked questions designed to demonstrate that I’d done my homework but wanted their take on the organization and its work — in other words, seeking important information that can only come from a person.  Same old, same old. 

 Despite the hundreds of miles between us, I felt I connected with them on a human level, which I’ve always felt is incredibly important.  How can you work with people if you can’t communicate in some fundamental way?  And I got the laugh — oddly enough, thanks to social media.  One of the interviewers joked that she and her colleagues were “fashion forward” — a statement belied by the t-shirts and jeans they sported.  I responded that I’d known they were fashionistas when I learned of the ugly sweater competition featured at their holiday party last year.  They simultaneously laughed and were stunned:  how did I know about that?  “The pictures are on your Facebook page,” I replied. 

 Perseverance, preparation and a dash of high-tech and social media.  I don’t know if that’s a winning formula but it’s clearly a necessary tool.  R u redy?

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