This will be an interview season for the ages

The interview season has again arrived.  The circle of life repeats, the wheel of time rolls on as the new residents who were interviewees last year meet the next group of interviewees, and our senior residents again themselves become interviewees in their quest for jobs and fellowships.  However, something is different this time.  The presence of a life-changing global pandemic second only in impact to the zombie apocalypse yet to come has altered the landscape of the classic interview.

In an interview, the interviewee has but 30 minutes to show what a wonderful and ideal person they would be for the role.  They elaborate on their good qualities, make jokes, tell stories.  However, the first impression remains a factor in the interviewers’ perceptions.  Appearances count.  Classically, the interviewee travels to the place of employ and makes their arguments through communication-verbal and nonverbal.  The only piece of themselves they carry with them is their wardrobe.  How do they want to portray themselves?  Black suit, white shirt, black tie, to show they mean business?  Or would that be too dull?  Wear the flats which are comfortable for a hospital tour to show practicality, or the bright red heels that say they are here to make a splash? This year, with virtual interviews, the same continues to hold true, save there will be no walking, and pants are optional.  However, there are two brand new factors that change the field entirely: background and environment.

With a virtual interview on a computer screen, interviewees have a backdrop that takes up just as much screen space as themselves.  How many will realize the tool they have at their disposal?  Will they leave a blank wall, for lack of interest or in trying to avoid distraction?  Will they decorate, knowing a pleasing background will make them appear more pleasing?  Or, will they turn that space into an interview topic of conversation they can meaningfully plant ahead of time? Bruce Banner, an aspiring student, is planning on decorating his home with lots of plants, to show how green he is.  Robert Langdon, another, is placing impressionistic art on the wall behind his interview space, to subliminally hint at how cultured he is.  Jacques Clouseau will casually place a violin on the shelf behind his space, to give impressions of other talents beyond medicine, even though he admits to having had no formal training on the instrument.

Which leads us to the environment.  Some students, such as aspiring administrator Dolores Umbridge, are planning on leaving the space open to allow her cats to “accidentally” pounce on the computer to provide comic relief during the interview.  Molly Weasley will allow her children to wander in on her, so she can discuss them and showcase them on camera.  Indeed, the question is begged, how much mimicry of an office interview is appropriate, or even necessary?  If Bob Parr wants to carry the computer around and showcase parts of his house during the interview, should he?  If King Jareth discusses his contact juggling hobby, and happens to have a ball at hand, why not give a small performance?

Yes folks, this will be an interview season for the ages!  Now excuse me while I go fine-tune my animatronic raptor, Blue, for my interviews.

Steven Rose is a resident.

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