scribbles tagged ‘interview’

hairstyle as behavioural indicator

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013 | tags: , , , ,  |

You’re not quite as wild as your hairstyle suggests

Wendy bringing the Tea in Hawkins cafe June 1986My PhD supervisor observed 2 months into my PhD. I think he was a bit disappointed. I’d learnt that a key part of his interview process was to judge a person by their hairstyle.

I’d worn all green to my interview, with a large black belt and my back-brushed hair included streaks of green to match my outfit. I’d adapted gothic and rebranded it with a green theme. The green streaks in my hair were an accident, but a pleasant one.

I’d seen an advertisement in the Guardian for a PhD on “Information Technology and Human Memory”. It sounded intriguing. The PhD I was currently lined up to do was:

  • sponsored by IBM
  • more money than my friends in employment were making
  • deadly boring – compare key-stroke mathematical equations that describe human interaction with the computer and find or develop a better model
  • stupid – even in 1986 I knew that there are things that influence human behaviour with a computer which are much more significant than keystrokes

So I was looking for something better. I wrote to the Psychology department asking for more information and bleached some white streaks into my black and orange hair (pictured). Next day I received a phone call asking me to come for an interview. Perhaps I should tone-down my appearance for an interview. I bought a brown hair-dye and died it to what I thought would be normal. Brown hair die is made from green and red colours. The red colour is very sensitive to the pre-existing bleach on hair, it doesn’t ‘take’. The green dye has no problem taking. Instead of turning my bleached streaks to a suitably humble brown the dye turned them green. Ho Hum. Too late now, I’ll go to the interview as normal me rather than professional looking me.

What a fun interview. The interviewer opened by asking

Wendy, is the paperless office a realistic goal?

We chatted about this and agreed on reasons why it was not the right goal, but it could happen. Finally I asked,

So what exactly is this PhD on?

Oh, that’s up to you, anything as long as it involves psychological theories of human memory and IT


This was the PhD for me, freedom to follow what interested me and what I might come to believe in with an excellent thinker to work with and guide me.

An excellent thinker who liked whacky hairstyles.

hairstyle as behavioural indicator
4 votes rating 4.8

2 bits of fabulous banter »

speculation obscures evidence

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013 | tags: , , ,  |

After the interview I was invited to stay behind to talk to the interview panel. They asked me:

interviewer: we were curious about your references. One reference was 4 pages of detailed praise for your work. The other reference was one page which, while highlighting your strengths, seemed a bit odd. It made us suspicious about your referees motives. For example, were you sleeping with your first referee and then moved on to be sleeping with your second referee, that would explain the differences. We thought you should know about the differences

Gobsmacked silence as I take on board that I’ve been judged by presumptions, based on popular gender stereotypes, rather than the actual content in the references. A pair of good references couldn’t possibly be because I do good work, must be because of sexual relationships. Reference length differences couldn’t be attributed to differences in author’s writing styles .

wendy:  you should take the content of the references at face value, they are both genuine comments on my work and not my sex-life.

I was given 2nd refusal on the job, if the first (male) candidate rejected it. I decided not to accept it if offered.  Why would I want to work for an organisation where key people are more interested in speculating about my sex-life than actually seeing what’s in-front of their noses – my good work.

speculation obscures evidence
1 vote rating 5

3 bits of fabulous banter »

questions are telling

Saturday, May 4th, 2013 | tags: , , ,  |

interviewer: what will you do if a 40yr old male Engineer says to you, that’s a load of rubbish, I don’t need that

wendy: I’d get some good evidence to demonstrate the value to him

interviewer: what would you do if he says he doesn’t listen to women

wendy: (pauses, a bit gobsmacked) I’d stay focussed on the work and what it could do to help him do a better job

interviewer: imagine he just ignores you

wendy: I’d calmly walk to the rest-rooms, SCREAM, then calm down and find my manager to strategize how we can deal with this idiot


I was offered the job

I didn’t take it

questions are telling
5 votes rating 5

4 bits of fabulous banter »