(Note: there might be shades of social dynamics in that the recruiter interviewing me was an anthropology major with interest in evolutionary aspects and human origins, but still he seemed open to working with me.)

I had an initial face-to-face "Let's get you into our system!" interview with a recruiter this afternoon, with an eye to UX positions. I explained that I was interested in cultural anthropology and culture in and outside the classroom, including ethnographic interviewing.

As initially discussed, relevant skills included technology competencies like wireframing tools. I quoted a posting of mine, "Once anthropologists found difference by crossing the Pacific and finding aboriginal people untainted by modern technology. Now anthropologists find difference by crossing the street." I communicated that picking up on what's going on culturally struck me as the core competency in ethnographic interviewing / user testing, and I asked if, like a technical phone screen (in IT technical skills can be assessed either via online test or technical phone interview), I could have a corporate culture fit phone interview, but those tended to be brief and less important.

I clarified that I was not specifically asking about corporate culture, but an interview to see if I grokked culture as such to be competent to pick up culturally what goes on in a user test. Then the recruiter said I was talking about a UX architect role, apparently not considering that picking up on what's going on culturally in a situation is an advantage in even the most grunt-like UX testing jobs.

He also spoke about UX in terms of design; I might comment that "UX design" is a standard thing to ask for, but it at least has a significant non-anthropological component and competency in anthropology and ethnography does not automatically include competency in product design, even if it's useful in revising an MVP.

How I'm reading the interview is that there were a lot of clarifications for a recruiter with an undergraduate anthropology degree, I annoyed the recruiter, perhaps as an outsider without proper credentials claiming insider status, or as arrogantly enough assuming that "anthropology" = "cultural anthropology" where his biological anthropology, which I stated was on the edge of my competence, is just as legitimate a branch of anthropology. Or maybe it is neither, but I would expect most recruiters who are trying to fill UX roles would recognize ethongraphic interviewing as connected both to anthropology on one side, and user testing as a result.

So three basic questions:

1: What was going on socially? (And has the recruiter politely checked out?)

2: How do you respond in a case that I don't really suspect was happening here, where the recruiter's understanding of UX work is that you do wireframes or card sorts, and not that you particularly apply anthropological skill to the delta between how the developers understand a system and how it is experienced by users?

3: What are my options and next steps from here?

  • 2
    Do you realize you use some sort of the word 'Anthropology' 13 times in this post? I can see how someone would be annoyed since this is in the context of a UX interview. – dfundako Jan 21 '17 at 0:52
  • Choose one question and ask it in a more direct way. "What was going on socially?" is too vague, for example. – Brandin Jan 21 '17 at 9:43

The recruiter has positions they are trying to fill. They are looking for ways you might fit one of them. It sounds like he isn't agreeing with your suggestion of how you might fit. I'd suggest trying another recruiter, another approach, another potential cross-section application of your skills, or some combination of these; you haven't made the basic selling argument this time.

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What you described makes little sense from an Anthropological perspective, in fact crossing the street looking for differences is Sociology, but moot point.

What was going on socially is that you were taking things off on a tangent and probably doing yourself no good.

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