Friday, January 27, 2012

12 questions you don't want to be asked on an interview

You're at the white board in a conference room or sitting at a nice restaurant at lunch and someone leans over the table and says:
  1. So tell me about your experience with angry bosses.
  2. Did you have experience working on the weekends in graduate school? Did you like it? 
  3. You're not one of those chemists that insists on proper PPE, are you? 
  4. You don't expect a W-2 at the end of the year, do you? 
  5. How would you feel about a part-time position in Bangalore? 
  6. Do you know how many other candidates there are for this position?
  7. Are you in chemistry for the money? I'm not. 
  8. Do you think NMR is important for structure elucidation? How good are you at using IR for functional group identification?
  9. Here's the complex natural product that my company is working on -- how would you synthesize it?
  10. Do you prefer to be paid in drachmas or lira? 
  11. You know, 70's vintage analytical equipment is quite good. Do you have any experience repairing old televisions? 
  12. We have weekly naked group meetings -- got a problem with that? 
Enjoy the weekend, folks. 


  1. I resent number 8, as I am a spectroscopist.

    1. So sorry to induce resentment.

    2. Spectroscopists are soooooo thin skinned, CJ....


  2. So sad! #11 is my graduate advisor's mantra. I was actually trained on a GC built in the early 1970s.

  3. My PhD advisor was sad when we replaced the 30-year-old GC.

  4. 13. We have a cap of $0.5/g for all chemicals. Can you start again using less expensive starting blocks?
    We don't want the waste issue of having metal catalysts in-house. Please revise your synthesis to avoid anything heavier than Scandium.

  5. I was asked if I had any issues with flying in small planes during an interview for a quality control management position for a company with labs in several pulp and paper mills. I thought the question was odd until they told me the position was open because the previous manager had died in a plane crash when traveling between sites in the company plane.

  6. At one interview, I was informed that sweeping the lab and taking out company trash were normal parts of the scientific job. At another, I was asked if I thought owning a watch (which I wasn't wearing) was important or not, and when I glanced over at the interviewer, noted his expensive suit and new Rolex. I didn't get that job, either.

    At another, they asked me to "think outside the box," and for "greatest personal strength and weakness." I think I may have actually laughed out loud...

    1. You could have said your weakness was corporate-speak.

    2. my standard interview reply is, one of my strengths is that I have no weaknesses. They can't argue with that

  7. One I actually got, and had to try very hard not to laugh/ be snide, "If we called your references, what would they say about you?"