How Not to Nail a Skype Interview

Tek Tek Magic

Technology. What a word. A quick flick of a first syllable, so sharp and witty. “Tek” “Tek” “Tek”. Follow it up with a long roll of “o’s” that stretch out like an English lawn. Tek-nawww-lawww-gee. Truly, this is a word to make one feel clever, this catch-all for the thingamabobs we wave about, gaze lovingly at, swipe and tap without understanding whatsoever how it all works. I believe it was Arthur C Clarke that said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. Well, Mr. Clarke, here we are in an era of incomprehensible magic.

Of the many pieces of tek-tek-magic that engulf me, I have a particularly long-standing love affair with Skype. So much so that I should be one of the happy faces on their website, flaunting open-mouthed smiles and waving objects (or children) at the screen for the delight of high-def remote-living relatives. It shrinks miles to millimeters and genuinely makes me happy for the connections it permits.

Except sometimes.

Case in point the pleasure of undergoing a job interview on Skype. That, my friends, takes the joy of tek-tek-magic and turns it into something much darker, more malevolent, and with shockingly bad resolution.

To give you a little context, I had an interview lined up for a job I particularly want. I was thrilled to have made it past the initial cover letter, references, and accompanying materials phase and moved on to the face-to-face, impress them with your smarts and wit part. I did all my research, figured out what questions to ask, and knew precisely why I was the perfect candidate for the job.

The Skype part left me feeling a bit wobbly, though. For all the prep I had done for the actual interview, with Skype comes a whole other degree of prep that is less “qualified candidate” and more “qualifying set dressing”.

What about the backdrop? Show books. That will make me look well read. How about a picture of me and the wife? Surely that demonstrates my ability to commit. Is the one that shows her breastfeeding too revealing? Too risqué? Maybe include the Botero-inspired painting on the wall? Does that demonstrate sufficient culture on my part? And if my interviewers notice any of it will that mean they are bored with me? Would a plain background be better? Oh no!

How about my shirt? Do I wear the striped one? The polka dots? Which looks best on camera? Never mind standing in front of a mirror, I’m switching out clothing for the benefit of a murky iPad lens. And do I really need to wear trousers? Probably not, but what if I have to stand up?

Finally, I’ve committed to a backdrop (yes to the Botero, no to the breastfeeding photo), a shirt (surprisingly, polka dots), and yes I am wearing trousers. I’m ready, prepped, and have my notes in front of me on the laptop. My carefully adjusted iPad is propped up on a child’s chair atop the table so they don’t have to be looking up my nostrils. Damn, I forgot to trim my nose hair but they’re calling and it’s too late.

I accept the call.

I’m staring across what appears to be the longest conference table on earth (or just the result of another wide angle webcam lens). Somewhere in the distance, past the cherry-laminate table top, three figures loom not very largely on the horizon. In fact, the resolution is so bad that their faces are mere blurs. No chance to read any facial expressions. Is that a mouth? No wait, those are eyes. Horrors!

And the sound. Egads, the sound! Somehow I have to not only hear but comprehend the echo-ey reverberations of their no-doubt dulcet voices. Speaking across an airport hangar would sound more intimate.

The questioning begins, and what comes out of my mouth is best described as verbal diarrhea. I’m listening to myself talk and wondering how I’m suddenly so inarticulate. All my research, preparation, and carefully planned answers evaporate in a garbled explosion of words words words. Why am I using so many words? Will someone please shut me up!

My heart goes out to these people on the other end of the tek-tek-magic, spending their day in a room that at best smells like a Holiday Inn Express hallway, staring at pixilated blown out shots of motor-mouth candidates. And who knows what we sound like to them, a bunch of loud-mouthed, echo-ey braggarts, each eager to demonstrate their skill and probably all likewise spouting a bunch of drivel. At the very least I hope they had a good chuckle and thanked the heavens that I was the last interview of the day, and that their weekend had finally arrived, much deserved. Give these people a double shot of whatever they want and then one more for good measure. Boy have they earned it.

Relaying everything that evening to my wife I am suddenly articulate again, and the garbled slush of phonemes that poured from my vocal chords transforms back to something that doesn’t sound too idiotic. Maybe I do know what I’m talking about, and maybe I am indeed the right person for the job.

None of that matters, though, as I will most certainly be chalking this one up to a good experience, a funny story. And for all the connections that the tek-tek-magic creates, I thank email for letting me hide away from any contact with anyone when I receive that electronic missive from these kind people that starts with, “Thank you very much…” and ends with “…best of luck.”

The Morning After

Holiday Tin Cans

The morning after I wake up with a mild headache. My tongue is dry, and I desperately need a glass of water. The woman I share a bed with still slumbers, a dark patch of cold drool encircling the spot where her mouth touches the pillow. She murmurs and turns away.

I shy away from thoughts of yesterday. All the bad decisions I made.

The pressure to step up, make a move, prove my virility. The flowers bought in a hurry at the supermarket checkout. The sickly taste of chocolate unwillingly devoured, and the more sickening thought of all the chocolate now sitting on discount shelves at CVS. “Half off”, they proclaim. “2 for the price of 1”. “Buy one get one free”. No matter how you put it, the chocolate has no value left.

Around the country, nay the world, discarded bottles of bubbly release the last of their fizz to the revealing brightness of day. Heart-shaped boxes, ripped at the seams, stare up from the floor having served their brief, carnal-pleasure-inducing purpose. The faster they find their way to the land-fill the better off we’ll all be.

The bloody red smears of ribbon, wrapping paper, and fallen petals. How quickly can we hide the evidence of yesterday’s crimes and return to our perceived sense of normal? Can our weakness ever be forgotten? Forgiven?

The storefronts have already swapped out their advertising ploys and color schemes. The Internet ads threaten to heal us of a new bout of inadequacy. Love, it turns out, was just yesterday’s subterfuge.

Happy February 15 to you all!