Sunday, March 27, 2016

You know I can see you, right?

Hello?  You know I can see you, right?  There.  On your computer.  Yes.  That’s me.  The interviewee?

With the influx of video interviews, comes the invariable video interviewing outtakes.  Well, at least what I wish were outtakes, as for this job searcher, I find the total lack of regard for what is going on in all of these video interviews ranges from making me laugh, to wondering what this interviewer was thinking . . .or wasn’t he?  Let’s take a look at some recent scenarios that should have been outtakes but unfortunately for me, were not.

Outtake #1- Be careful what is in the background.  I get that everyone is busy but an interviewer the other day, did my Skype interview in a bedroom . . . .complete with an unmade bed in the background.  Hotel room? Working from home?  I have no idea, but as this guy said, he was “running late”.  Right.  So late that he couldn’t find another room to do the interview from?

Outtake #2- Multitasking.  While I totally understand that everyone is busier than ever these days, it is an interview.  A young man who was interviewing me the other day was actually running a razor over his face while we talked.  Must be a “running late” syndrome going on.  See outtake #1.

Outtake #3- Weird objects hanging on the walls.  Unless you are interviewing for a taxidermy company, dead animal heads hanging on the wall behind you could be a turn off for some perspective employees.  Maybe a phone interview would be better.

Outtake #4- Ancillary people in the shot.  I get that people doing the interviews are at work.  But when teams of people are stopping by to say hi, or just wondering what you are doing, it might be time to get a conference room.  Just a suggestion.

Outtake #5- Lighting.  Video conferences rely on lighting.  If your room is so dark that I really can’t see you, what’s the point of a video conference? Therefore once again, a phone call could work better, see outtake #3.

For those of us interviewees, let me offer some suggestions so that the interviewer isn’t shaking his head on the other side as well. 

Light is important.  Natural light is best but feel free to augment it with a ceiling light that will add shine to your hair and a glint in your eye.  And also think to add a table lamp to erase shadows on your face. 

White paper on the table in front of you will also help to reflect up.  And finally, like those pics we all think we look the best in, raise the computer camera up so that you are not staring down into it.  Nothing looks worse than a face hanging down.  Have several different shirts or tops and try them on to see how each of them look on camera and with the various light.  Trust me.  It matters.

I’m lucky for I spent most of my career watching commercials be lit, lit again and re lit for just the right view of the product. 

Today we are the product.  Don’t we deserve the same treatment?

Hello?  You know I can SEE you, right?  Are you wearing a swimsuit?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

I was interviewed by an Avatar . . . .

As one who hadn't looked for a new job since gas was about a buck a gallon and postage to actually mail a letter was only 22 cents (mailing a letter alone should tell you how long it's been)  I realized that many things had changed but some not for the better in the job hunting process.

Take for example the role technology plays in the job search today. 

 Just when I thought I had seen it all . . .  I was interviewed by an Avatar.  Yep. An Avatar.   Her name was “Ann”, she wore a paisley scarf, and this is her story.  Mine too, I guess but I am sure the view from her perspective was far funnier than from mine.

Take a deep breath, job hunters, as this gets a little painful.  The experience went something like this:

I sit down at my computer at the scheduled interview time, thinking I am doing another Skype interview which have become so popular.  I log into the appropriate site and wait.  My computer screen opens and a cartoon woman, an Avatar, if you will, is sitting at a desk with her arms folded.  "Hello, Carol", she said in a soft voice.  "I'm Ann and I'll be doing your interview today.  Let's begin by saying your name"

"Carol Koepke", said I, thinking this was going to be interesting.

 "Oh c'mon.” she says.  “You can do better than that.  I can barely hear you".

"CAROL KOEPKE!"  I scream at my screen. 

 "Thank you", says she.  "Now let's begin."

At this point the first question comes up on the screen and the second I open my mouth to answer it, the camera on my computer comes on and they record my response.  The second I stop talking?  Zwoop.  The screen goes black and I'm back talking to "Ann". 

Now "Ann" is sitting on the edge of her desk.  Legs crossed, arms folded, looking like she is going to have a casual discussion with me.  "Thank you for that", says she and the next question comes up on the screen.

I answer and once again the screen goes back to “Ann”.
This time “Ann” must clearly be thinking she has other things to do than talk to me, for she is standing, and is pinching off dead leaves on a potted plant in her office.  She offers up some encouragement and then the next question pops up on the screen.

At this point I have decided I have had enough of this entire process, so I begin to interact with "Ann", albeit a one sided conversation.  I compliment her on her paisley scarf, her perfectly coiffed hair, her practical work shoes (not too high of a heel) and ask where her kids go to school.  All the while answering the interview questions and all the while knowing I was being recorded.  Unfortunately, “Ann” did not respond to my questioning but then again, I really didn't expect her to.

After my final answer, the screen goes dark and I sign off.  And within 30 minutes my phone rings and it's a live HR professional laughing and saying that my interview was the funniest one they had seen and they needed to get me in for a "real interview".

 A real interview, thought I?  What the heck was what I had just done, and if it wasn't real, why waste my time?  But as I found on this transitional journey, oftentimes, my time wasn't really valued.  And what I really found interesting is when did companies forget that interviews go both ways, with both sides wondering if the "fit" is right?

 So, in the end, that job turned out not to be a good fit for me. I know I need to be in an organization that values it’s people.  And an Avatar doing an interview?  Doesn’t leave you feeling that way.

Who ever created this software (and the companies that pre screen with it) get a failing grade in my book.  We're talking about people.  We're talking about people’s livelihoods, incomes that support families and make it possible for things in life.

While I love technology as it makes my life easier every day, I think technology in the job search needs to benefit both sides.  And in this instance, it was a abject failure in this job hunter's opinion.

But know that I wish “Ann” well in all of her future endeavors.  And be sure to tell her hi! if you meet up with her during your job search.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Smart Women

Are women getting smarter?  Or are men just starting to appreciate what they bring to the table more?  I ask this as the last couple of men I've been out with, their observation of me is that "you are so smart".  One went so far to say that I was the "smartest woman that he knew".

I pondered this for a moment as while I am highly educated, can carry on a conversation about a wide range of topics, have many life experiences (ah, the joy of being older) and consider myself smart, I am hardly a Rhodes Scholar.  So what is this new phenomenon?

Are my fellow women hiding their smartness thinking it will not be appreciated?

I started to talk to my women friends about this, and it seems like there may be a issue on both sides; men who choose poorly and go for fluff versus substance . . .and women who put their substance on the shelf for their man so that they are more of what he wants.

Women, it's time to embrace our smartness if you are not already doing so. Get involved, be engaged, stay current. Any guy who doesn't want you to be smart is a fool and not worthy of your smartness. And why would you want that guy anyway??

I have a smart woman friend who dates a wide range of men.  The interesting thing is that she sort of "morphs" into what ever that next man wants her to be.  Sometimes when we go out, I can barely find the woman that I know in her.  She is passive when I know she's not.  Interested in things that I know she hates and even laughs at things that I know she doesn't think is funny.  And my biggest challenge?  She acts dumb on things that I know she knows about, just to appear interesting to her man!

When I brought this to her attention, she denied it vehemently but I have seen it happen again and again.  Why can't she just be herself?  And what is so wrong about being smart?

Young girls have had this issue with trying to impress boys for years.   Many "girls only" schools use this phenomenon of girls acting less smart around boys to support why girls get better grades in single sex institutions as well.

It's a crazy dance that we do to have people in our lives.  But being smart should not be an option.  And it should be appreciated by whoever you are with.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Ultimatum

I lost a friend today. He didn't die, move away, nor did I have a fight with him. No, he was presented with an ultimatum from his girlfriend that it was she or me. Crazy, eh? What is the matter with women that they are so insecure that they feel threatened by anyone who comes into contact with "their guy"? And what the heck is wrong with the guy that he gives in to this pressure and walks away from a long term friendship with a woman he has known for years?

I will never know for I am not a jealous person. But as a woman with plenty of men friends, this scenario has played out over and over again over the years. So many times that I can almost always predict the end of my friendships with men . . .as the women they meet will often make them choose, me or them. And in some situations the men stand tall and don't deal with the manipulation, and in other cases they fold and say goodbye to me.

The word ultimatum rolls off the tongue like a nice word. But it's not. It's ugly. It means a demand coupled with a threat. And the second definition is extortion. If you really love your partner, do you think threats, demands and extortion sound like the kind of relationship you want to be in?

To you jealous women out there, take a step back and love yourselves. Your guy is already with you. He is with you for a reason and I highly doubt it is the jealous, possessive side of you that he loves, for that side is dark and nasty. But how can you be so insecure that you think someone your guy knew long before you came into the picture could be a threat? If this person and your guy were going to be together, don't you think they already would have? And if they had and found it didn't work, what makes you think that they would go back?? It's not even a logical argument . . then again this isn't about logic, is it? It's about emotions.

As for those emotions, even if you get what you want with the ultimatum this time, what happens the next time and the time after that? Who wants to be in a relationship where everything is negotiated, where everything comes with a catch? Certainly not me. And maybe that is why I have so many men friends for I get them far better than my female counterparts, for the games that women play often make me want to run from my gender in shame.

Emotions can be great. They fill our bodies with endorphins and make us happy and sad. They tangle up in our heads until some days we can't even figure out what is up or down. And having someone in your life requires compromise and love.

But love doesn't come with ultimatums. It doesn't come with strings, rules, or manipulation. For love to be true, it needs to come with trust and respect. And if you have those, there is no need for anything else.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Treasure Hunter and the Neurosurgeon

This is a story of the Treasure Hunter and the Neurosurgeon.

I have a theory that people want to believe. It's why the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus work when we are young, and lottery tickets are our way out when we are not. And the stories that people spin are the things that make us laugh and sometimes make us cry. Lucky for me, this story has a little of both.

So while many people, on a night out, upgrade their professions or life interests to be more interesting to others, a couple of friends of mine decided to build a new story line for themselves, eliminating the mundane and banal elements from their lives, and elevating their backgrounds to that of a neurosurgeon and the other, an adventurer who hunts treasure. And their stories interconnected, so it went, that the neurosurgeon funded the treasure hunter's adventures which gave them reason to be together.

Could they pull it off, they wondered? After all- they were headed to an island in the Pacific where they knew no one and where the locals were not quick to engage with visitors. But would people believe them? And if they did, how would it affect the interactions with the people that they met?

I watched the interplay of men and women with these two as they spun their yarns in countless bars and restaurants. The women's eyes would light up when "Doc" would talk about his steady hands or tell some "brain surgery" joke, you know the ones- where the husband asks the brain surgeon to do a little "tweak" while in his wife's head so that the wife would be the perfect "Stepford wife"? These women clearly thought that there might be a future payoff with this guy.

Or the Treasure Hunter who had done enough research on "big dives" so he could talk about "diamonds and rubies as big as baseballs" and list some of the dives he had been on. This guy was so good at his tale, I actually began to believe that he had done all that he claimed. One man was so caught up in the tale, that he said he even recognized the storyteller from a piece on the Discovery Channel, which had us all rolling on the floor!

But the sobering moment for all of us came when one night, a man came up and asked the "Doc" for some medical advice about his girlfriend. Seems she was having numbness in her chest and arm and wanted the "Doc" to give a diagnosis. There was a long pause and then we realized that this little "parlor game" was not so funny. People's lives could be in danger. Thank heaven that the "Doc" was quick on his feet and said he was on vacation but that this guy should get his girlfriend to the hospital for tests as soon as possible.

A few days later, I reflected on the trust that people inherently have for each other. These people wanted my friends to be who they said there were. After all- what could be more exciting than a Treasure Hunter finding bounty at the bottom of the sea or a man who has saved countless lives?

I was a bit surprised that people were so trusting- so willing to believe the tales spun, but why wouldn't they believe? For me it was a lesson. For once I got over the angst of the phoniness, it gave me pause to remember that people are usually good. We come into contact so often through the news media and other programming that showcase human kind for less than it can be, that I had forgotten what human kind CAN be.

So like any good story, the tale of the Treasure Hunter and the Neurosurgeon has a moral. And it goes something like this . . . .Believe in people, and they will believe in you.

I, for one, hope my friends leave their alter egos at home on our next foray out, for I love them both for who they really are. But if they don't, at least I know that there are always lessons to be learned. And hopefully, those lessons won't come with too high a price.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Seat 28B

I had to travel like a layman the other day. I had forgotten the smells, the sounds and the people who actually sit in the back of the planes that I travel on each week. For I am one of the "lucky ones". I have status with a certain airline . . . . .and with that status comes an aisle seat in the front of the plane with more leg room, flight attendants who actually recognize me on frequently traveled routes and the ability to get on the plane early so there is always room for my bag. And the other thing? Most of the people who sit in the front of the plane are "just like me", business people who have a place that they have to be and who use air travel like a bus to get to their next meeting.

Not so much is the case in the back of the plane. Lest I sound like a "travel snob", I want to preface this that years ago when I first started traveling- I was always in the back. But it has been ages since I had a trip like this one and I realized that the segregation that exists in the world is also on a plane . . .it may not be a neighborhood or have a designation, but there are definitely boundaries that should not be crossed.

Nestled between a pilot who was deadheading to LA, and a man who must have taken in a large amount of liquids before boarding the plan, I just knew that for the next four hours, I would have a glimpse of the "real world" as my friend calls it.

As I sat for the duration of the flight with my knees pressed up against the seat in front of me, watching the countless people file by to the bathroom, putting bags that were far too large for the overhead bin over my head, being bumped and jostled when all I wanted to do was sleep, I was reminded that all of these people had somewhere to go, someone to see. So why were they so darn irritating? The people in the front of the plane have the same needs, yet it just seemed so much more obnoxious in the back , like there was less air to breathe and so much less room.

Was it a personal bias that I held? A knowledge that those in the front of the plane knew how to travel and wouldn't try to bring all their worldly possessions on the plane? A resentment that my normal carrier had re booked me on an airline that would get me to my destination but that the experience would suffer? Or had I just become that "travel snob" that my friend purports me to be?

I shifted slightly in my seat to push the sleeping pilot off of my shoulder and pondered this for a moment. And in that instant, the clarity of the situation came to me. For those of us who have to travel for their jobs, a little preferential treatment is not wrong. After all, it is the full priced, refundable ticketed, business traveler who keeps many of these airlines in the air. And if they give us a few perks along the way, so be it, as we all know there is nothing glamorous about traveling for work today.

I poked the sleeping pilot to wake him up as the man in the window seat needed to get up for the third time during this trip. And as his eyes focused on me, I saw the same irritation, the same resentment in his eyes that I felt. And then in a flash it was gone. For he knew, just as I did, that the "back of the plane" while never an enviable position, carries people who deserve the same consideration as those in the front, no matter how much their "travel savvy" was lacking.

It was a long trip. But one that made me appreciate what I have just that much more.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fool me once . . . . . .

A woman I had once helped to get a job, came up to me in a bar the other night, throwing her arms around me like a long lost friend.

Not out of the ordinary, right? As I pulled myself away from her, I wondered how I was going to handle the situation. This woman had put me in a vulnerable position by betraying my trust and stealing from the company that I helped to get her employment with, and in doing so raised credibility questions about me. And while 4 years had passed, I was no less angry with her than I had been at the time of the incident.

I am all for helping people if I can. I had met this woman through a mutual friend, and since she was just getting out of school, she needed an entry level position in marketing. She was smart, ambitious and and seemed like the kind of person any organization would be happy to have on their team. Through my network, I was able to get her placed in a entry level position with full benefits and endless possibilities. And that's when the trouble began.

I got a call from my contact with allegations that this woman was charging personal items to her company credit card. A fast way to end employment with any company. I asked if she had been warned (after all- this was her first position, maybe she just didn't know what the protocol was, I naively thought) and she had. So I thought the matter was over. This was not a stupid woman. Surely she would stop.

And then the next month, the same thing happened. My friend didn't want to fire her without letting me know, so I got a call I never thought I'd get. A person I had recommended for a position was dishonest in her business practices. And then I got an even more unexpected call- from the woman I had placed telling me all it was a big misunderstanding and asking if I could help her get another job. Really? She wanted my help again? I couldn't decide if she was stupid or just plain ballsy. But I didn't return her countless calls and emails to find out. I subscribe to the old adage of "Fool me once . . . ."

Misunderstanding or not- to lose your job over stealing from a company is pure stupidity. And not only did it affect her job- it could have indirectly affected mine as well, as I was the person who recommended her for the position. I was disappointed that I had been so duped, angry that she thought she could once again come to me for help, and for a brief moment mad at myself for sticking my neck out to help someone.

In that moment, I was reminded why so many people don't help others as "no good deed goes unpunished" or so the saying goes; why people scurry by with their heads down, when folks in need ask for something; why just doing what you have to do is better than doing what you should do. There's no risk involved in any of those scenarios.

But as I extracted myself from this woman the other night, I was reminded once again about how it feels to help others. And while standing in front of me was an example of why not to help people, dozens of images of people I have helped and who have prospered through the years ran through my mind like an old silent film.

I stood up and left the bar. But not without a backward glance at this woman who reminded me that there are takers and givers out there in the world. I'm just happy to be on the giving side.