Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Working from home: The future of business is remote

She went for an in-person job interview. Suddenly, she wished it had been on Zoom

A bewilderingly hilarious job interview faux-pas shows why returning to the office won't be easy.

Middle aged male recruiter listening to young female job applicant.

Yes, I love Bridgerton. You don't?

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Everyone's talking about returning to normal.

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Which definitely has its humorous side.

So many people have now been stuck to their homes and their screens that the world out there seems like nothing more than an augmented reality game.

Working from home is the future, many believe. As if it doesn't have its limitations.

Here's the story, then, of a woman who was asked to go to a job interview in the Netherlands. In person. This, in itself, seems like a non-normal event.

Still, as TipsyTraveler told her tale on Reddit, she was nervous as her interviewer, the CEO of the company, approached.

"He (50ish/M) walked down the stairs towards me, in his nice suit, but stopped halfway down," she said. "I figured the interview would take place upstairs, so I got up to meet him. And as I was walking up the stairs towards him, he put his arm up.. and his elbow out."

Even after almost a year of COVID-19, I'm not sure everyone would recognize this gesture. Tipsy, in her nervousness, clearly wasn't sure.

"I suppose it could have only meant two things," she explained. "It could have meant (A) 'Please take my arm, milady, so I can escort you to the room as if we're strolling down the promenade together', or (B) 'Please give me an elbow bump, since we can't shake hands', which is really not an uncommon gesture at all in the Netherlands."

You know where this is going, but please let me take you by the arm and lead you there anyway.

Tipsy revealed: "I went with option A and I eagerly locked arms with this strange man that I'd never met before in my life, as if saying 'Yes, good sir, let's go for that stroll.'"

It was one of those moments that's really worth, well, telling everyone on Reddit about.

"And then we just stood there! Arm in arm, halfway up the stairs, sheepishly staring at each other. I wanted the earth to swallow me whole. I just didn't know what to do next and I don't think he'd fully understood what'd happened, so neither of us moved."

I tell this story not (merely) because it's beautifully human, even if some suspect it may have been embellished or even invented.

For many, working life has undergone something of a change, a reverse even.

The likes of Zoom and Microsoft Teams have become more normal than real-life business interaction. We've learned new rules of communication. We can mute, which can be so much harder to do in real life. We've learned how to wave through a screen, while a handshake seems like it's so bizarrely Mad Men.

We've forgotten what a pat on the back, a high-five, or any other physical gesture at work might be like.

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Going back to normal -- or what we used to know as normal -- isn't going to be easy.

Even if we start to go back to offices, there will still likely be COVID-related rules. Social distancing and elbow bumps will be normal. The spontaneous, non-masked human interaction will still seem like a dangerous feat.

We'll be hovering in some sort of limbo between behaviors we used to know and those we've learned during the pandemic.

Just as tech companies are doing more to make working from home feel like being at the office -- there's some fascinating work being done by companies such as Teamflow -- so being at the office will still have some elements of working from home.

Will we actually go to offices, yet still have meetings on Zoom? Yes, even with those in the same building. Perhaps the meeting rooms will be too small for some socially-distanced meetings, so Zoom and Teams will still be the answer.

You, though, will be wondering what happened with Tipsy. It seems that, after the interviewer explained he wasn't at one with the Bridgerton crowd but merely offering a modern form of safe greeting, the interview went well.

At the time of writing, she's been invited back for a second interview. How could she not after such a memorable introduction?

I wonder if she'll wear a jacket with elbow pads.