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.

Dog Monitor on Phone?

A tale of the data dog…tail wagging data.

A dog holding a picture of himself on a phone screen. Cute! From petmagazine. Would a dog monitor on phone be useful?
A Dog Monitor on Phone?

Dear Ms. Smartphone: During the pandemic I was able to work from home and I got the love of my life, a four-footed stray called Bella. She is half Shepherd and half Retriever. Now I have to go back to the City and can’t take her with me.  I miss her and wonder what she does all day. So I installed a web-cam and now I am thinking of adding a next step, a dog monitor on my phone. It attaches to her collar and sends. Then I will know if she is keeping active during the day, not just when I drop in with the camera. My mother who lives a few blocks away thinks that this is crazy. Cade, Napa

Dear Cade: I surely appreciate that your generation is finding new and creative opportunities for tech.  Yet I don’t see the need for either the camera or the dog monitor on phone. For thousands of years  pets have survived without digital tools, and it’s not clear that they are going to survive better with them!

The web cam seems harmless for Bella but I wonder what it is doing for you. When you are at work and you check  back home you are dividing your attention. Phone distraction is subtle. This well cited , but now pop-science study says that an interruption may set you back  twenty plus minutes before you can fully return to your original task. Furthermore, looking at Bella remotely could be emotionally unsettling.  You may feel a loss since you cannot continue the quality time you spent together during the pandemic.

Bella’s P.O.V:

Now consider it from Bella’s perspective. She has no idea that she is being watched on a web cam so it does not improve her situation at all. And, while the tracking device will report how much she exercised, ate, and drank, you can do some of that measurement when you get home from work. Did she empty the bowl? Record this on your own. There is also, I suppose, a tech element to consider. An electronic device fitted to her collar might feel strange to her and the little colored buttons may start blinking for a battery recharge. They could be bothersome.

These dog monitoring devices are fairly new. One I found online said that, “it collects and shares over 150 samples of your pet’s movement every second.” The app promises to tell whether the pet’s behavior is changing after it establishes a baseline. I am not sure how that data will improve the quality of life for either you or Bella. On the back end of this app, I would check out the privacy statement. Since they will be collecting mounds of data, do they sell Bella’s vitals to an outside company or compile a salable list of high tech pet owners?

Seek In-Person First:

If you seek wellness care, say  Bella is doing excessive licking or scratching it’s best if you try to get some face to face information here, not just online. You might find help at a local pet store (usually very informed) or at the dog park with other owners. And, you might want to look into pet insurance for those emergency, last-minute trips to the vet. Ultimately, that might be a better long-term investment than the tracking device. 

Your question is really one about technology. It reminds me that In the 1990’s the Japanese invented a “virtual” pet called Tamaguchi. It was popular with tweens everywhere. The pet owner received ongoing messages throughout the day (via email?) that reminded them to feed their pet, take it out for “exercise”and clean up the poop. Today virtual pets are far more sophisticated.

Artificial Intelligence has tried to capture the companionship of household pets for lonely people or those with memory-loss issues, often seniors. Virtual dogs (and cats) are placed in nursing homes for residents who need emotional connections. Since you lucky enough to have the real thing, but might be short on time, consider some alternatives. Leave the pet with your Mom during the day, drop her off at pet daycare, or simply accept that Bella will be OK. There’s no doubt that some version of this product, say to measure your own wellness and activity, is high on the list for the quantified culture.

Digital Drivers License on Phone

Two examples of what a digital driver's license on phone looks like and the specific data is might query for.
Digital Driver’s License on Phone

Dear Ms. Smartphone: When I was at the Sky Harbor airport (in Phoenix)  last week I saw something that surprised me. The person ahead of me in the security line showed his driver’s license through his phone. He did not have to fumble for his wallet, pull out the card, and put it away after TSA saw it, like the rest of us. Is a digital drivers license going to happen here in California?  My license comes up for renewal soon, can I request this? Austin, San Francisco

Dear Austin:  Glad you are so observant! Arizona became the first state earlier this year to get TSA approval for a digital license stored in the Apple Wallet. At least eight other states now have digital licenses but they cannot be used in airports yet. That said, Arizona still requires that you show a physical license to enter a bar, verify with the police, or get a document notarized! 

It doesn’t sound like the digital license in California will roll out too soon. Perhaps the state hopes to learn from Arizona, and is waiting for additional federal-level  protocol and standards, called the ISO. To answer your question about signing up, about 135,000 people, or 0.5% of the state’s licensed drivers will be recruited for a trial. It will presumably be open for non-drivers too, as the  California  REAL ID  will use the same protocol.

REAL ID:

The Real ID Act in 2005 is the driving force behind this change to digital licenses. This law, passed after September 11th,  required a more secure form of personal identification.  Advanced cryptography is said to ensure that the license is valid.  Then, the ability to query the license makes this digital version distinct from the physical ones we carry today. TSA queries all of the information contained on the license (see image). But a merchant, say needing to verify your age to buy liquor or cigarettes, could only query your name and date-of-birth. Boundaries for the query would protect other information on the license like your home address, whether you are an organ donor, and thankfully, your weight! A query is initiated with an aptly named “identify reader.” 

Proponents of the new digital license argue that it will do a better job of protecting privacy, ….presumably fewer outsiders need to see your weight (or home address).  But you will have to trust that the “identify reader” only has access to the data it needs. Even today we might transmit more than we need too. The barcode on our licenses is sending information we cannot verify.

A different security breach could occur in the future  if the owner of a phone is requested to hand over their physical device, say to open the digital app. Then his/her phone contents and contacts might be unlawfully searched. The data for the digital license will be stored locally on the phone, not in the cloud or a motor vehicles (DMV) data base.

Uploading:

The roll out for the Real ID was postponed because of Covid, but Covid also gave it a boost because so many types of digital record keeping were piloted.   The public uploaded vaccination records to their phones and there were many versions of a “Covid Passsport.” Some connected to central data bases, others stored information only on the phone, and some relied on an uploaded jpeg of the vaccination card.

Several digital license programs rolled out during the pandemic and most states are making plans for it in the future. In Arizona, a state with 5.3 million licensed drivers, just 60,000 have put any mobile ID into an Apple wallet since March. About 320,000 downloaded an earlier app version, but we don’t know how many actually ended up using it too. Most apps that are downloaded are never opened or activated. 

Other Digital Opportunities:

If you are not able to sign up for the pilot in California, here’s a different digital opportunity you might consider. You could become an early adopter of a complementary product, the digital license plate. A company called Reviver collaborates with the California DMV to issue a digital R-license plate. The plate on the vehicle has the standard combination of letters and numbers but  in the border of the frame you are able to digitize a personal message or announcement.  You can change it on your whim. It would be a useful feature if your car got stolen. Then you could remotely send a message to the license plate frame that reads  “This Car is Stolen!”  This personal messaging has a monthly charge and does not come cheap. You might also incur an installation charge.

With your interest in mind,  remember that all of these digital innovations bring a two- way street. The new license will make it easy to change your address (or the reporting of your height and weight !) It will also be equally easy, should the occasion arise, for the DMV to suspend or revoke your license.