Entries in interview process (1)



Today was a first for me. I conducted my first Skype interview. I've been recruiting for an interaction designer for House Party (the company I've been leading the IxD effort what now seems like eons!) and I've interviewed a few candidates face to face already.

One applicant emailed me while traveling in Australia and requested an interview via Skype. I had to think about it for a bit before agreeing. I thought about what it might have been like decades earlier when the telephone was just becoming popular, but the analog face-to-face method of interviewing and doing pretty much everything was the status quo.

(I am now envisioning a black and white scene in which I am sitting at a desk sans computer, but with a gigantic telephone off to the corner with a thick cord running out of it into the wall.)

An intern enters my office with a memo reading "Interested in position, requesting a phone-based interview. Please confirm."

"Hmm." I think as I light a cigarette indoors because back in the past, I am (was) permitted to—no better yet—encouraged to.

"This just might work." I mutter to myself bemusedly.

So I write note on the memo: "Request accepted. Please call {number ext.} at 8:00 am EST," and put it in my outbox, which is later picked up by the intern (go-fer) and routed to its destination.

(exit daydream sequence, return to present moment.)

So there I was, conducting an interview with a total stranger on the other side of the planet, almost face to face (though with video chat, I end up watching myself in the little thumbnail because it's one of the rare moments in life when you can truly observe yourself without looking yourself in the eyes.) Now, in face-to-face interviews, both parties do their best to be composed, the candidate usually trying his or her best to mask their nervousness. One can be confident that she is in almost total control of their body and the non-verbal signals being sent to the other party. Video chat interviews are a different animal altogether. Quite similar to a well structured web site. Your content and your presentation are no longer married to eachother. For a website, this is a good thing. For a human being interviewing for a job, this could be bad.

During the course of the skype interview with the candidate, there were moments during which the screen froze, and what I saw was this person whom I had not know until that moment, stuck inbetween facial expressions and I found it very amusing. Then it occurred to me that she was probably seeing me in a similar state. This would never happen during a live face-to-face interview. You just would never freeze in the middle of a sentence with your mouth gaping open and your eyes closed. But, we humans adapt to technology, and like banner ads, we learn to ignore the glitches and focus on the content that this other person is conveying. And it works. It really works. If anything, it really breaks the ice. Both parties entering into an agreement that what is about to transpire is going to be a bit funny at times, possiblly embarrasing, but it's ok. It's all about the content anyway.