The newest chapter in the drama about the face to face interviewer job is about ethnic barriers.
The current neighbourhood I work in comprise of apartment buildings, most with security intercom. Everybody in the streets look Asian, and apparently they are Asian at home too. Only one person I contacted spoke English at all. Most where not home.
In some cases someone was home, but I couldn’t even tell if they rejected me. There was a human sound over the intercom, but I had no clue what it meant or whether the person understood anything I said. Or even just what gender or age the person had. I presented the short intercom version of my script and said that I will come by again another day, and left a brochure about the survey in the mailbox.
In some cases I got to speak to someone face to face, but they did not understand what I said. I tried to explain a few key points about the survey and tried to find out if they had someone in the family who speaks English (I presume most have – how do they get by in an English speaking country otherwise). I said that I will come by again another day, and there was some polite nodding and more ‘no English, no English, sorry’. I hope to find an English-speaking son or daughter at home on one of those encounters who can translate.
Oops, there’s a law.
Also, I unintentionally broke the rules. I am not allowed to ask questions to anyone who is under 18 years old without the presence of an adult, but I accidentally interviewed a teenager (that only person I met who spoke English).
What happened was that I first spoke to a non-English speaking adult via the intercom, and then an English speaking teenager came out on the balcony. Awkwardly, I presented the survey to him up through the air while he looked down at me from the balcony. Eventually he agreed to come down so I could explain the survey better face to face.
This meant that when he finally came down and stood in front of me, there was no longer an adult present. A warning light should have popped up in my head because he didn’t look like he was over 18 years old, but it didn’t. I continued to explain the survey based on my memorised script, as I should, and routinely continued directly into the interview, which I shouldn’t. I should have asked about his age and then tried to get to interview one of the adults in his family with him as translator instead (realistic success? Nope… but that’s not relevant). So… bad.
The uncertainty factor
Right now I wonder if I was mad that I thought I could do this job. It is just a few hours per day and very flexible, but every assignment presents massive uncertainty. Although the visits are highly scripted, they are completely unpredictable. Success depends on the ability to improvise, be flexible and quickly ‘tune in’ to people with unknown personalities, situations, norms and cultures, and also on timing and luck and control of appearance.
I have already explained the circumstances of the current assignment and my mistake to my supervisor, who is understanding and supportive. However, I had a miserable response rate in my last assignment, and this one looks pretty hopeless too.
Anyway, I’ll need to order more job self confidence online to top up the reserves. Oh wait… that isn’t available and also, I’m as poor as dirt.