Not too long ago a job interview was still a meeting between two people; one looking for a job the other looking for an employee. A friendly receptionist would offer you a glass of water where you sat waiting in the foyer trying to look intelligent reading Time magazine. Moments later she would show you into a room where someone way smarter than you would get up from their chair and start the interview with a solid “hi, how are you?” and a handshake. Things were civilised.
Well, things changed.
They interview on Skype these days making you talk into a screen like a babbling idiot wearing boxer shorts wiping sleep out your eyes. If you’re lucky, if you’re very lucky, they invite you over to their building and sit you down in an actual office with a prospective boss, his MacBook Pro and his iPhone 4.
As was the case on a sunny morning in Joburg recently when an interviewer welcomed me into his cocoon of creativity with all his electronic friends on full blast. There we were: a reasonably intelligent applicant, a twice-over proven genius, a smart phone and a dumb computer — chewing the fat discussing my school years and early work experience.
I was just getting into my varsity days when an email landed into the genius’s MacBook Pro like a supersonic plane touching down the way Steve Jobs intended. Moments later his iPhone kicked into motion sending vibrations throughout the boardroom table. Unbelievably he ignored all the gadgets vying for his attention and simply went on with the interview. I started explaining why I dropped out of varsity when another email touched down with a loud swoosh. The iPhone vibrated again shortly after.
It was like he was running a little airport over there.
Emails touched down, gathered their belongings and waited for the iPhone to transport them to the terminal where they were reunited with their loved ones. I started talking about early work experiences when emails suddenly started taking off from the MacBook Pro with a distinctly different swoosh. How he managed to send emails while we were talking was beyond me. I wasn’t even sure what we were talking about any more. He kept asking questions and I kept answering but all my attention was now fixed on the fully functional airport between us on the table. His black Moleskine became the terminal building, a glass of water the control tower and pens and pencils emergency airport staff. Flights came and went at regular intervals. The weather was a pleasant 26 degrees with a light south westerly pushing in from the air conditioner in the wall. I looked up and imagined emails circling the computer. A two-way radio sounded in my head.
“[email protected] requesting permission to land, over.”
“Permission granted, Bill. Land on runway four and taxi over to spam, thank you. Control to [email protected], is that an attachment you’re carrying?”
“Sure is control. Can you handle 50MB?”
“This is an Acsa-approved machine, Linda. Of course we can. Touch your fat ass down.”
At this point the interviewer plucked me back to reality when he stood up to end the interview. He said I had a lot of potential but unfortunately they were looking for someone with more experience.
And no doubt a longer attention span.