Job Interviews in the Digital Age

I’m back on the job hunt.

My main motivation? Gettin’ paid, of course! As all you artists out there know, having a day job is pretty important. Especially when a couple of tiny humans depend on you for security and sustenance.

I wrote here about how I landed a gig at an ad agency and freelance work in one feast-y month last year. The agency work dwindled to famine rather soon, but I still have a steady freelance gig: blogging about Tennessee culture and millenial and retiree concerns for a local realtor. (If you’re interested, go here to check it out.)

This time around, I’m not pursuing extra freelance gigs. Instead, I’m searching out a full-time, guaranteed-pay-check situation. We just can’t afford to muddle around with a “maybe I’ll get paid this week, maybe not” lifestyle.

So, all this discussion leads me to an interesting phenomenon: a method of preliminary interview that uses technology to both add an extra step to the job-hunt process, and eliminates the hassle of too much human contact between employers and the masses. If you, too, are job searching, you know what I’m talking about. The phone/video interview.

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My test run selfie. Anyone else think your face looks crooked when you see it anywhere other than the mirror?

On the one hand, this extra (or only, in many cases) interview step seems to set up another barrier, a hurdle to jump before you even get to set foot inside the fortress of employment. But, honestly, the more I’ve experienced these digital get-to-know-yas, the more I see their value. If they’re conducted the right way, it’s easier to discern whether the candidate is really right for the job, and whether the job is really right for them. It’s like a conversation before the date with the guy you met online.

I’m in that in-between generation, where I still know how to have a good conversation—with eye contact!—sharing the same airspace as another person. So, far from being freaked out at the thought of shaking new hands and making small talk, I enjoy the interactions for what they are. So I was a bit annoyed when I first realized I wouldn’t be having that experience much at all during this time around job hunting. I accept it though; an inevitable part of the world-wide communication that brings us all simultaneously closer together and pushes us further apart.

I do have a couple of tips, for you folks doing your own rounds of phone and video interviews. Read on, readers!

  1. Get dressed. Get your game face on. Most people recommend full professional dress, and I would, too, but if you’re a level up in this whole job hunt game, I’d say you can take the idea a step further: wear something that makes you feel confident and powerful. For me, that was a pair of shark’s tooth earrings my sister-in-law made. Fierce!

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    What? I got this. Just lounging on a stump, all tiger-y. Nothing fiercer.
  2. For video interviews, find somewhere in your home (yes, your home! No noisy restaurants where you might feel self-conscious or lose your answers amid calls for double-frothed-something-lattes!) that looks good behind you. For example, we’re renovating an old farmhouse, so I discovered the stained and cracked ceiling hovering above my head at my desk made me look seedy. So I set up a whole new phone interview command center in the living room. The light was better there, anyway.
  3. Test run. Ask yourself questions and answer them. Do you get stuck? Are your answers lame? Practice!
  4. For video interviews, test run how you look. Take selfies in your chosen location. What will the interviewer see when they come online? If you can, recruit a friend to help you practice the video conversation.

 

Just like for any interview, it’s good form to send a thank-you email within 24 to 48 hours after. Even if you’re talking to a modern, fashionable company, observe the old-fashioned niceties. Nobody ever got passed over for being polite!

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The Agony of Pronouns

I realized, today, that I take exception to a modern use of pronoun: the gender-neutral “they” and “them.”

I was reading Roses & Rot by Kat Howard, which is a pretty good read for those of us who dig fantasy. One of the complicating elements of the plot is the classic theme of not being able to discuss Faerie to the outside world. The characters fall into cleverly employing pronouns to get around the restriction. (Don’t worry; I haven’t given the story away.)

My issue with pronouns isn’t rooted in anything Kat Howard wrote; instead, I was shot back to my first encounter with a person using “them” instead of designating “her.” My nephew, a young teenager, was playing with my daughter, a very female three-year-old. In explaining part of their game to me, he said “they” wanted to put the dolls to sleep, so he helped “them” do so. I was disconcerted with his narrative at first, thinking, “Who the hell else was in the room? Or, is he speaking of himself and my daughter in third person, royalty-style?” On the heels of this, I realized he was employing the now politically correct “neutral pronoun” strategy, to not inadvertently insult myself or my three-year-old by assigning a gender “they” don’t choose.

As a writer, I’m turned off by this. “They” has a meaning, and it’s a good one: multiple people, or, yes, someone without a specified gender. But always, always, it’s important to be specific about my story, to tell you just who it’s about, because skimming along on the surface of a thing, telling you that a vague “they” is doing “something,” is the best way to make you feel like what you’re reading is the literary equivalent of tepid, gray, sugarless oatmeal.

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Who is “they,” anyway?

It’s a classic line. “They” are the invisible standard-holder, the legion that makes judgements and hold invisible, sinister strings of influence. “They” are who every hero worth his or her mettle wants to escape.

My daughter is a she. My son is he. I am she, my husband is he. Please, for the love of all that is human and identifiable and humanly connectable, don’t screw up our pronouns into unidentifiable gray mush. Mess with gender roles! God, yes! My female daughter shoots pretend guns at her brother, jumps tall obstacles, digs in dirt and then runs inside to put on her plastic crown and tattered mermaid costume! None of those things are inherently he or she activities. My son, the world’s most prolific builder of Lego vehicles, destroyer of all things delicate, gleeful enjoyer of tree climbing and general horsing around, puts plastic babies to sleep with his sister, and wears the occasional fluffy tutu.

Whatever you think about Caitlyn Jenner, however you may feel about how that person is a hero or an abomination, Bruce did not go through all that surgery, therapy and general effort to transform into “they.” He wanted to be she.

I don’t know why it’s a trend to despise categorization into gender roles. I think there are some people, especially young people, who are unsure of who they are, who don’t know whether it makes more sense for them to be he or she. And that’s difficult. But “they?” They is another way to render a human being less specific, more vague. Less human.