I got the reply for the research interviewer job – I didn’t get the job.
This time I did have the nerve to ask why, and the reason took me by surprise. First of all, they do think I would be able do the job well. However:
There are some pretty rogue areas in the region I was meant to cover, and I am not native to the area. We just moved here in January. They worried that it may not be safe for me to drive around by myself and visit strangers after dark, not knowing what risk factors to look out for. My closest competitor for the job was, apparently, a local guy who has grown up here and knows all the local dos and don’ts. That’s what tipped the balance out of my favour this time.
The rejection is very disappointing, and the reason very unexpected.
In hindsight, they did ask a lot about safety
Now when I re-think the interview, I can see it coming.
I recall they asked how I like the area I live in and kept circling around that topic. I thought it was just ice-breaker small talk. I said that although I have been told there are some rogue streets with housing commissions, I haven’t personally seen any and live in a nice section of the neighbourhood myself.
They also asked how well I know the area, to which I replied ‘not very well yet’. I then talked about GPS, assuming what they asked was how good I would be at finding my way around (a weak point which I was anxious to play down). They asked how I would feel to visit unfamiliar streets in rogue neighbourhoods after dark, being all by myself, and I said ‘fine, I don’t have a problem with that’. They circled repeatedly around this type of questions, and I should have noticed the gravitational centre the questions evolved around, but I didn’t.
I said that I feel confident and safe, that I usually respond calmly to aggression, and that I am not afraid of darkness and strangers. I aimed to convey confidence and reassure them that I would not run away from the job in panic. I repeated that I don’t have a problem with the risks when the lady called to tell me they gave the job to someone else because they thought it would be too dangerous for me.
However, now I see it: the issue is not how I feel about the risks. The issue is how risky they think the job actually is for me. They evaluated it to be too risky relative to the local guy.
Is Wolf Creek in my neighbourhood? I don’t think so.
‘Not native to the area’. To be fair, I am not even native to this country. It does have significantly higher crime rates and socio-economic imbalance than my native country. And I did mention that I have grown up in a very safe country, and that that’s probably why I tend to feel safe. FAIL.
Women are vulnerable targets?
The whole ‘women* are vulnerable to predatory attacks’ theme seems culturally alien to me.
I imagine that the risk of falling victim to random predatory violence (‘stranger danger’) varies wildly depending on the situation and bad luck. I see the risk profile of each individual fluctuating along an invisible normal distribution curve subject to a multitude of external and personal risk factors such as:
- Local culture and rogue individuals
- Local terrain, time and place
- Lack of familiarity and experience
- Ability to estimate other’s intentions based on body language and situational cues
- Feminine appearance: body shape, movements, gait, make-up, perfume and clothing (especially high heeled shoes)
- Attitude and reaction to threats: confident vs fearful; fight vs flight response
- Random ‘bad luck’ – to be in the wrong place at the wrong time
I imagine my personal risk profile lingers somewhere in the ‘low risk’ end of the curve. While my local experience and ability to read people isn’t in top, I don’t have a particularly feminine appearance, gait or attitude, am physically surprisingly strong, and tend to react calmly to aggressive behaviour. I don’t tend to panic or get emotional when exposed to an external threat, and tend to get angry rather than scared when feeling threatened (fear -> anger).
I did Judo in the past and the core principle was patience; stay calm and wait for a window of opportunity. When the opponent makes his move, use his own force against him and bring him down, then get out of there. Adapt & switch.
All that said, my assumptions about my risk profile may be naive. It is really hard to know.
Rednecks, farmers and interviews
Last week, someone in a nearby town cut off his neighbour’s arm with a chain saw because the neighbour annoyed him with loud music. The neighbour, on the other hand, cut off the guy’s finger with a Samurai sword he happened to possess, either before or after the incident. Or something like that… the story is still messy at this stage, but certainly dramatic.
Our near neighbourhood is beautiful, peaceful and calm; inhabited by nice neighbours and just on the edge of the bush. However, I see plenty of rednecks every time I drive to town, and I don’t know much about them. Where do they live? Are they unstable?
A ‘fruit salad’ of cues add up to the combined impression of ‘rednecks’. They walk in small groups, tend to be either chubby or skinny with big tattoos, hoodies and baggy clothes, look drugged or tired, pale skin, sloppy gait, and they mostly have Holden cars and Staffy dogs (but so do many others around here). I don’t know where they come from; how they are; what their passions, interests and values are; what they live for; and if they pose a danger to me or anyone I care about.
I know that I stereotype people I don’t know anything about. One of the attractions of the interviewer job was the chance to get to understand certain Australian subcultures better. To see how people live around here, hear how family members talk to each others, experience how their homes look, smell, sound and feel; hear their stories.
I have done face to face interviews before. I interviewed more than 50 farmers in their homes for my bachelor thesis. What I got out of it (in addition to, and irrelevant to, the research questions) was qualitative insights into farmers’ opinions on a range of hot topics such as animal welfare and ecology, and unique stories about how it happens when a family decides to establish themselves as farmers and navigate through the challenges, hardships and fun sides of farm life over the course of 10 – 50 years of their lives or more. Fascinating.
*To be fair they didn’t say it had anything to do with me being a woman, just with not being a local.