January 24th, 2004

senior project

pocket knives

It's well known in my organization that there is one section leader who's favorite question to ask job candidates is "Do you carry a pocket knife?" His justification for why this is such a great question is that he wants to hire technical people, and technical people are always digging into and fixing things, and the most convenient way to make sure you can do this is to carry a pocket knife.

At my job interview he did not ask me this question. He asked if I had any of my own test equipment, which I did, and that was that. When hired, I was told, "You must have passed Bill's pocket knife question!" and people were very surprised when I told him he didn't ask me this. I assumed it was because my interview was less than a year after 9-11, when pocketknives were not welcome in a lot of places, so the question had lost its relavance.

Bill later told me that he took a college course on hiring and the professor told him that the pocket knife question was very sexist. Women don't carry pocket knives, she told him, partly because they usually have less pocket space than men and partly because pocket knives are just a masculine thing to own. He didn't say this was why he didn't ask me the question, but I suspect it might be related.

I carry one in my purse, so even though I didn't have one on me during the interview I still would have passed the question by saying that there was one out in the car (I don't take my purse into interviews). This makes me wonder if the professor was really looking out for women's interests or just doesn't understand the nature of technical people. Which leads me to this question... Do you carry a pocket knife?

I'm making different questions for sets of people... if you're currently in or pursuing a career in a technical field (technical repair, design or research, computers, engineering, etc) answer one of the technical field questions. Only answer one question... the n/a options are there in case you accidently click a yes or no to one that doesn't apply to you.

Poll #238040 Do you usually carry a pocket knife?

Women in technical fields:

yes
18(40.0%)
no
9(20.0%)
n/a
18(40.0%)

Women in non-technical fields:

yes
30(46.2%)
no
23(35.4%)
n/a
12(18.5%)

Men in technical fields:

yes
13(27.1%)
no
13(27.1%)
n/a
22(45.8%)

Men in non-technical fields:

yes
4(13.3%)
no
4(13.3%)
n/a
22(73.3%)
planet

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