For my entire life, there’s been a topic that people talk to me about: my height. That’s right, I’m tall. Without shoes on, I’m five feet ten inches, but with the right shoes, I’m quickly over six feet tall. Whether I’m at work or at the grocery store, people love to cover this topic.
Once, my height even became the centerpiece of a job interview. The hiring manager seemed shocked, repeatedly saying that he had no idea I was so tall, and how could no one have told him. As you can imagine, it was a strange job interview.
But, it didn’t stop there. This company had recently built a new, beautiful campus. Five people interviewed me in addition to the hiring manager. They were incredibly impressive, with Ivy League degrees. Each person told me about an amazing basketball court that was part of the new campus. I thought, “This group of people really likes basketball!” It didn’t occur to me until later that they all assumed I played basketball and would want to see the court.
However, something has happened since March of 2020. No one has said a word about my height in job interviews or at work. This is because all of my meetings are now held via Zoom.
It’s interesting how differently things appear through a camera. I no longer know how tall or how short someone is. I know longer can see much about their physical build. I can’t see details like their shoes or their nail polish. I can’t as easily guess someone’s age.
Many of the visual cues that we use to read another person’s background are hidden. Clues like shoes can be an indicator of social class. It can let others know if the person grew up with money or is struggling to make their own way. And, sometimes, even when you are qualified to do a job, a company may not hire you if you don’t seem to fit in. You may not look the part.
The same goes for location. When we work in person, we’re more aware of whether or not someone lives in the hip part of town or the rich part of town or the undesirable part of town. When you’re working remotely, your teammates are very likely in different cities. They rarely have any idea what the neighborhood you live in looks like.
It’s also more likely that people with different cultural backgrounds, and political and religious views will work together today. Why? Because teams are now made up of people from different areas. And, people from different areas are more likely to have diverse viewpoints.
In a certain way, Zoom is leveling playing field. It takes away many of the pieces of irrelevant information that people often use to sort one another into buckets. In a way, it allows your work to speak for itself more now than ever before.