Meet Job Candidate in Person?

Four people gathered around a table looking at six people on a Zoom like video. Perhaps they are talking over the job candidates they will hire.
Meet job candidate in person or by video?

Dear Ms. Smartphone: My coworker and I disagree over the next hire for our ten person tech firm. I would like to meet the job candidate in person even if it means flying them cross-country. My coworker says it is unnecessary to meet a job candidate in person since the position is going to be remote (off-site). I don’t see her point. This new position will be in marketing/sales and I like to know the people I am working with. Connor, San Francisco

Dear Connor: I can’t remotely begin to answer this (pun intended).  As we come out of the Covid lockdown, we all recognize that the office is not going to return to the old ways.  Yet, I do agree that I would like to meet a job candidate in person, particularly in an area as critical as sales and marketing. Whether you can convince your co-worker  is another thing.  Since your company probably does not have a human resources (HR) person, this decision will come down to the budget, plans for growth, and corporate investment in employees and their community.

There’s a related issue from the HR side. Before you and your coworker decide to hire someone who will work from afar, you should consider how you will onboard them. Do you need a face to face visit to bring the  newcomer  up to speed with your products and processes? How will they get comfortable with your company culture and know what the boundaries are? In the past employees learned this by “showing up.” If your new person does not feel committed to your organization, and does not come to share its values, they will leave. Frequent staff turnover will dilute the monetary advantages and time efficiencies of remote hires. 

People Trending:

If there’s one thing we learned during the Covid pandemic, it is how brittle and impassive it is to exclusively communicate over electronics channels. Six hours on zoom feels like ten hours of meeting time. We crave person-to-person interaction. It is hard to articulate this but I imagine it is at the base of your question.

But remote work is a growing trend.  A career site called Ladders says that about 25% of professional jobs will be remote by the end of 2022, compared to just 4% before the pandemic. You should contemplate these numbers with caution, since Ladders, while widely quoted, does not detail how their projections were gathered. Seat -of- the- pants or a recent probability sample of HR departments?

Corporate Cultures:

Back to the HR issues, it would be useful to probe with your coworker why the duties of the marketing/sales job are better served remotely.  Should this be a short term need then you could consider hiring a consulting team. If it’s a long term need and the sales/marketing person is going to be part of your “team”  then consider whether you all need to play on the same team at the same time. If you hire a junior employee at a distance,  it’s not clear whether you can mentor them.  With remote work, do we forfeit the opportunity  to start in the mailroom and work up the corporate ladder?

While not trying to recreate the  “The Office” TV series with Steve Carell and Jenna Fisher I personally believe it’s a good time, post-Covid,  to advocate for local arrangements. Perhaps like your food, you want to know where and how it’s sourced. A lesser consideration is that your new person might be situated in a different time zone. You will not find that work-home balance you  seek if they have to reach you on Zoom before or after your regular hours. 

The New Local:

The good news is that if you hire locally you may now have an expanded network of candidates. One of the most soul-crushing problems of going into the office, the commute, has been tamed by the pandemic. Traffic calming occurs when employees can work different schedules and come in only a few days a week, or travel at non-peak times.  There is a  wider net of local candidates to hire from when there is less excess travel time and parents can work from home part-time. Most employees can find other uses for the hours they spent commuting.

The notion that office-workers innovated over the water cooler is over-romanticized. Many offices were soulless places with workers wearing headsets, crammed into cubicles, and hunched over screen consoles. However, if workers are part of a community, and communities are what nourish us post-Covid, then the places we want to work should be integral to that picture. We spend nearly half of our day ‘there.’ Going forward, we can hope there is value added in holding a working  luncheon, organizing after-hours softball teams, and corporate groups that volunteer for civic improvements.

A Better Facebook for Family?

Facebook has a new feature that lets you personalize the feed for friends and family posts. This snapshot of their page shows the toggle to do this.
Alternate Feed – Is it A Better Facebook for Family?


Dear Ms. Smartphone: I come from a large extended family and want to keep current with things back home. So I use Facebook to see what is happening. But, I also want to cut back on the time I spend on social media so that I can do my studies. I don’t check Facebook very often these days. My family says I am missing out on wishing happy birthdays and keeping up with news from their country. Honestly, I need a better Facebook for family! Arit, Cambridge

Dear Arit: It’s easy to imagine that you will miss that cute new baby video or a reminder about the birthday. Take these numbers skeptically as Facebook changes the rules frequently but in oldschool 2012 Techcrunch said that FB posts reached just 12% percent of our friends, and in 2020, newschool, an ad agency says it is a microscopic .4%!

Whatever the actual rate Facebook says it now has a solution. They are returning to their roots and announced a sea-change this month. Now you will be able to customize your page so that you see more content from friends and family. Before you start cheering, note that when you open the platform it will default to the home tab with FB’s the“discovery engine.” You will need to reset the “Feeds” tab to see the posts from friends and families instead (see image).

See this, done this:

Facebook has done this wiggle before. Hopefully this new one will present you with the real content you seek. When the platform first began nearly 18 years ago, it was just about the people who followed you and those you followed back. In 2009 they instituted their first algorithm to prioritize content with ‘likes.’ Now, as a giant advertising platform a FB spokesperson boasts that the algorithm ” ...can take in more than 10,000 different signals to predict a user’s likelihood of engaging with a single post.”

Facebook has known for some time that users like you, seek first the news from family and friends, not the other stuff. They have tried this strategy before. In 2018 they ditched the reverse chronological feed to bring, in their words “posts that sparked conversations and meaningful interactions.” Now, four years later they are returning to a chronological feed, alongside the discovery engine (and other options).

Family and Friends Are Buried?:

I honestly don’t use Facebook, but since I do post on Instagram I learned that only about ten percent of followers there see your new post! Here are few factors that determine what we see in our feeds: there are interests, based on what content you care about; relationships, the people you interact with or tag, and those you follow, usage– how you browse, and of course, frequency, how often you use the app and when the post was last shared. Here’s the irony: if you used the app more frequently to view family and friends, the algorithm should ‘know’ your interests better, show you the relationships that matter, and hence improve your usage! We all know it doesn’t work that way.

Hopefully this new Facebook pivot with the ability to customize your feed will resolve this. Even though you log on infrequently you will be able to change the settings to find more content from friends and family, not from outsiders. Perhaps one of these days Facebook will offer us a subscription service, instead of tailoring their service to advertisers. IMHO, If they charge users and dispense with ads, we might have a more valuable service and a better Facebook for family (and friends).

Apps in War

A quote from Leon Trotsky, plus a tiny photo of him. The quote says, "You may not be interested in war but war is interested in you."
Old Quote- New Meaning: Apps in War

Dear Ms. Smartphone: My family lives in France and they are using apps to follow what’s happening with our relatives in Ukraine. I live here and am honestly not familiar with using apps in wartime. I have been trying to keep up with the invasion on news and Twitter but am I missing sites? I did give up using TikTok- it just seemed contrived at this time.  Mikhail, San Francisco

Dear Mikhail: It’s good you gave up on TikTok. Social media has wormed its way into apps on warfare and there have been concerns that the GPS on TikTok could compromise military operations. In fact, the Indian government banned it completely. I hope that going forward your family, both in Ukraine and in France will be safe yet able to get timely and reliable updates from each other.

Telegram:

Your question got me curious about other apps in war that might be used. Today’s it called “cyber warfare” and there were some interesting leads. 

The app you mention for following news about the war in Ukraine is called Telegram. NPR had a descriptive background story. Two Russian brothers, the Durovs, set it up in 2014 as a way to circumvent the Kremlin and let fellow Russians learn what was happening in their country. Today, Telegram operates from Dubai and has about 30 employees. It has become, quotes NPR, the preferred news source for Ukrainians and Russians who use smartphones to track what is happening. There are private channels (like Slack)  for communications with family members or friends, and public ones, for daily videos and updates.  Sadly, there are allegations that the site is not secure and is being used for propaganda purposes. So, if you choose to use Telegram, keep that caveat in mind.

Premise Data & MAPPING:

Assuming your relatives in Ukraine have a smartphone or know someone who does, they might have downloaded a Google app called Air Raid Alerts. It is a supplement to the country’s existing air raid alert system and accesses the same public channel. (Here in the U.S., a similar app is used to announce an impending tsunami or provide earthquake warnings.)

But, apps for war are also being used behind the scenes by Russian-Ukraine military operations. The Wall St. Journal cites a mobile app maker called Premise Data Corp. that had to shut down its operations there. It paid smartphone users to do remote observational tasks such as photography. Bluetooth and wireless sensors on their phones might have also been accessed  to map out cell networks and WiFi access points. The Kyiv government accused Premise of being a tool that Russian forces used to locate Ukrainian targets. So, quote “out of an abundance of caution they suspended operations.”  A few weeks later (3/1)  Google Maps began removing user-submitted locations because they were allegedly being used to target airstrikes. Again, Google officials state they removed the app for the same reasons, “out of an abundance of caution.”

Reface:

When you look at smartphones in war it is a recent development that soldiers and civilians alike can send images from day to day operations. Wired magazine says this began with the Iraqi war and dates it to 2016, the battle for Mosul.  This visual documentation has become a democratic way of conducting a war but is uncharted territory in terms of what it foments. Do these real-time images help civilians and soldiers process the horror of war and express their emotional angst or do they stir up factions and seed new schisms?

In Ukraine the app makers have not left this opportunity pass them by. Now, in an advanced country of cyber-coders, a well-acclaimed Ukrainian video game producer called Reface has gotten into the news business. Their popular software features let users swap out faces on video. They now compile daily video feeds of the war based on clips and images circulating on social media. They also add the face of Volodymyr Zelensky to the heroic moments. Say the founders of Reface: he is today’s Jack Sparrow, Hulk and Iron Man. 

Stay Well:

So, going back to your original question, I hope your family weathers this OK and you can find ways to stay in touch and support them. The media can help you find legitimate, reliable places to give donations and aid. But, in a recent post, I noted how hard it is to know where to get news these days. We are increasingly pulled into the war machinery. As the apocalyptic quote from Leon Trostkey quote states, “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.”  Through phones and social media, the citizen journalist or soldier shares stories (often personal) and photos (often altered). Inadvertently, these same phones share crowd sourced data, sensors, and the triangulation of location.