Category Archives: Social Media

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.”

Don’t Google Anything!

Baby Flapping Arms

I’m a bit of a factoid geek, and nary a day goes by when I don’t look something up. Is Suriname in Africa? Why is my face so flaky? What are the actual lyrics to Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”?

I know I’m not alone in reaching for the phone when a question comes to mind. After all, we live in an era where we all have access to all information all of the time. So why not access it, thereby proving that we are smarter, more informed, and have a broader range of knowledge than ever before.

Case in point:

When my daughter was 5-months-old, her right arm started flapping up and down, banging against herself, or me, or anything in its way. As with all things new I was instantly intrigued. What did this new ability signify? What connection in her brain had been made? What milestone had she reached?

So I reached for the phone and Googled it.

As I typed, Google’s suggestions flicked across the screen like an airport flight information board.

  • Ba – Back to the Future
  • Bab – Babybjorn potty chair
  • Baby f – Baby food
  • Baby fl – Baby flat head
  • Baby fla – Baby flapping arms

That’s it, “Baby flapping arms”. Seeing this suggestion pop up I immediately thought, great, it’s very common. Happens to everyone. So I clicked “enter” and my heart sank.

Autism: 9 Red Flags Every Parent Should Know

And that was just the first result. Further down the page I had the CDC Signs & Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder Warning Signs Checklist, and a YouTube video called “Flapping Possible Autism”.

I spent a couple of dark days desperately coming to terms with my daughter’s inevitable condition, even apologizing to my wife (who remained unaware of my Google search) for all the ways in which I couldn’t protect our daughter from life’s hardship. It was rough, and I scoured the web for solutions to my problem, combing through parenting blogs and baby forums for answers to questions I didn’t know I had.

The answer I was looking for, though, came when I changed my Google search terms.

“Baby Banging Arms”

That one, apparently, is perfectly normal, and a good sign that your child is developing on track. What a relief.

Now 7 months old, my daughter has started doing this unbelievably cute thing with her right hand. She holds it out, and turns it so that her palm faces her as if she is admiring some piece of art, or contemplating the divine.

So I reached for the phone and Googled it:

I know. I shouldn’t have. Big mistake. What was I thinking? Had I learned nothing? But I Googled it. I did. So sue me.

First up:

Autism: autism concerns in a 7-month old son, autism, autistic

Hmm.

I can’t help but marvel at how Google mirrors my inner paranoia and anxiety. Google spits back results that perfectly reflect my emotional landscape, and I am awe-struck before this powerful, all-knowing, god-like being.

Early humans looked up at the stars and pondered the meaning of the life. They drew up maps of the heavens, interpreting the movement of the stars and planets as a means of making sense of the chaos of life. In contemplating the ether they found a truth that justified their existence.

We know as little about Google’s search algorithms as the star-gazers of yesteryear did about the celestial bodies. Yet we too look to an unknown to seek answers and justification for our behavior. We ask the Google-God to show us the way, and the Google-God obliges.

But perhaps we should be more careful in our requests. Perhaps we should consider more carefully the words we input into the white void of the Google search bar.

Words define how we experience life. Consider the difference between the word “loneliness” and “solitude”. One conjures up a blue void, a sense of disconnect, and a heavy heart. The other, however, imbues us with an emboldening force.

Without knowledge of both words (and no doubt many others) how can we fully appreciate all the many facets of being alone? Language provides a richness of experience that Google cannot. And yet we have entrusted Google to interpret our words as it sees fit.

My absent-minded use of the word “flapping” over “banging” took me down an emotional rabbit-hole. I set out to find a certain truth (that my daughter was developing normally) and was forsaken by the Google-God. I trusted the Google-God to guide me but found that I had to lead the Google-God where I wanted to go. I had to adjust my own search terms to find the answer I was looking for, the validation I needed.

So next time you are looking for answers, pause before you type, and consider the words you are about to use.

Because truth is just how you phrase your Google search.