Zen and the Zoom calls

“I always find beauty in things that are odd and imperfect – they are much more interesting.” Marc Jacobs.


In my narrative, based on my experiences, the subtle emotion of an interview was fear. Fear of failure, fear of judgment, and fear of losing.


Maybe because I am an old-timer and those were the days when jobs were rare and jobs were in the megacities. The interview was a 'mega event' for us with a long journey from village to city and we used to prepare a lot for the interview.


An interview means, formals, talking only good things about us, hiding the vulnerabilities, talking only about achievements and successes.

My entire batch (classmates) were 'go-getters' and 'high achievers' since we had copied the resume of our batch topper.


For village kids like us (who can not speak fluent English), the interview was always a tense and more bitter experience. I rarely found an empathetic interviewer.


How the pandemic changed everything. Now jobs are more plentiful and the supply of good candidates is less. Video calls have allowed the applicants to take the interview calls from anywhere and at any time.

The pandemic changed the way we work.

Zoom calls, Google Meets, and Team Meetings have become part and parcel of our lives. For client meetings, interviews, and webinars, we all use one or the other tools for video meetings.

Now, this has become a new norm, and we are accustomed to this remote style of work. I have been interviewing a lot many candidates over Zoom calls or Google meet and it has been an awesome experience for the last two years.

I strongly feel the entire essence of the interview process has been changed.

I wonder how things have changed and my notion and narrative of an interview has no place in today's world. Fifteen years back, an interview meant dressing in formals and talking only about positive things.

The jobs were very rare and going for an interview was a journey. I am not joking; it was literally a journey from village to city and then to a megacity. (In our case it was Bangalore).

For village kids like us, the subtle emotion of an interview was 'fear', the fear of failure, and the fear of judgment. Very rarely, I found an empathetic interviewer who eased my tension, and in my memory, the interviewers were like villains in the Hindi Movie with an angry face and heavy accents.

Pandemic changed everything, the interview process, and even the essence of the interview. No journey to megacities and no overnight travel.

The video call gives a sort of context to the applicant and the background and sounds can convey a lot of information about the candidature.

It is not only about the candidature, but it is also about the city, the rain outside, the fog; it is about the traffic sounds. Sometimes it is about chirping birds, and it's about an entirely remote village in a country we never visited.

It is about the candidate and his or her life surrounding.

I can say that the real you can peep into your video call.

The interview experiences over video calls are such a humane experience and many times I felt Zen and Zoom are the same. Because both will show us the human side of life.

Following are glimpses of Zen experiences, I had during Zoom calls.

The 'Python girls'


Last year, we interviewed a couple of freshers from an engineering college situated in a hilly region of coastal Karnataka. There were many girls hailing from rural areas; many of them took the interviews by standing outside their houses, or sometimes by sitting on the hilltops. Because that is where they get internet connectivity and they could not go to internet cafes since there was a lockdown. It was such a nice backdrop with greenery and birds chirping around.

On a lighter note, the girls were explaining Python programming language, and I was worried about the real Python emerging out of the forest.

I appreciate the enthusiasm and energy of the candidates who try their best to show their skills despite having so many challenges like the internet.

Chicken and for chicken hearts.


It was an amazing experience for us when a candidate was giving an interview and the hen (he said it was a hen) in his house wanted to participate in the interview process. When we started interacting, the hen started introducing itself. We had to wait for a long time to listen to the bird since it interrupted the interview with its cluck. Even though the candidate was embarrassed by the behavior of his chicken, it eased that formality between us, and we both laughed a lot.

We have oftentimes seen pet dogs running around candidates to show their skills and solidarity.

Peacemakers


We were interviewing a lady candidate and she was answering the questions on Java and Springboot. In between the hell broke down and we could hear the kids fighting and shouting. She asked for an excuse from us and ran out. Within a few minutes, she stopped world war and came back to the interview. We were really amazed by her capabilities to switch roles from an amazing mother to an amazing techie with ease.

I respect mothers who manage so many things like kids, family, and office on the kitchen table.

The lip sync-ers

If a person is sitting in a shady dark room, then it's time to look at the lips. No... no. We do not look at the beauty of the lips. We carefully check who is talking, whether it is the candidate or his friend. It is so funny to see the drama artists (candidates) who try to sync their lips with audio and someone else will answer all the questions instead of the candidate. These are the people who try to deceive you during the interview.

These are the people who forced us to ask every candidate to switch on the video.

The silent supporters


When I was a kid, I never had my own room in my house. The same is the case with a few of the candidates and they start the video call with in-laws, grandmothers, and often toddlers in the background. We can experience silent support from all the family members for a very important event called an interview. No TV sound, no phone calls, and a hush, hush voice behind the scene. Sometimes toddlers dare to cry in the middle of the interview and we can consider that as an ice breaker.

I never got an opportunity to give an interview in the presence of my grandma or my mother.



Rice Cooker and the interviewer


Ha, ha. This is about me. During the initial days of the pandemic, I used to try to avoid the whistles of the rice cooker in my home during the interviews. I could literally see the smiles on the faces of the candidates when the cooker whistled in my home. Now, it is like an alarm to me. If I talk from the time of the first whistle to the fourth whistle, then I am talking too much, and it's time to stop and allow the candidate to talk.

Sitting at home and navigating the noise of the mixer, rice cooker, and various other background noises and continuing the interviews is a skill.😅

“I always find beauty in things that are odd and imperfect – they are much more interesting.” Marc Jacobs
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