Friday, March 27, 2015

Wow, Lufthansa has some intense tests

Apart from some rumored mechanism tests and synthesis problems, there doesn't seem to be a tradition of testing in pharmaceutical companies of its scientists. Not so for pilots!, according to Slate:
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a German newspaper, reported Thursday that Lufthansa’s selection procedures test “perceptual speed and orientation skills, sensory-motor coordination, ability to multitask in complex situations, relevant personality traits (such as motivation and teamwork), technical and physical knowledge, English language ability, computational and logical thinking, concentration and attention skills.” On top of all that, “a large part of the selection process tests the ability to handle stress,” the paper notes. “Tests must be passed in which one must listen to sequences of letters over headphones while simultaneously responding to light signals on a screen by pressing keys with the feet and hands. Anyone who gets hectic or pushes the wrong button too often fails.”
Man, I woulda failed - but seeing as how I drive cars, maybe I shouldn't be flying planes.

Readers, any crazy corporate tests you've taken? (The Myers-Briggs notwithstanding)

(Condolences to anyone who is affected by the horrific Germanwings crash.) 


  1. One company I worked for required me to derived the quadratic equation during the interview. Another required I perform one of their diagnostic assays at the interview.

    That said, most of the recent job interviews I've participated in have been looking more for fit within the group instead of technical competency.

  2. They weren't pharma companies, but a few people from my research group were given logic problems.

    "You're in a room with three light switches. In an adjacent room is a light bulb which is off and is connected to one of the three switches. How can you tell for sure which of the three switches is connected to the bulb by only looking at the bulb once?"

    That sort of thing.

    1. Mike, here's a question for you: is that riddle soluble in the age of fluorescent and, especially, LED light bulbs?

      My guess: no.

    2. I'm only familiar with the 3 switches and 3 bulbs version of this.

    3. Anon, Okay, with that problem: what if the bulbs are nice, efficient LED lightbulbs?

    4. I think you messed up the riddle. There are three light bulbs, otherwise you got me there.

    5. I had exactly the same thought regarding the CFL vs. incandescent bulbs when I heard that riddle. It was clearly thought up by people of a certain age. I heard it right around when the ban on manufacturing incandescent bulbs went into effect and that was my first question.

      Anon: if you flip just one switch and look, you might not pick the one that operates it and thus, not know which of the other two operates the bulb. The "correct" answer is to flip two switches, wait 5 minutes, then turn off one of the two switches you flipped, then go look. If the bulb is on, its the switch you left on. If the bulb is off, but hot, its the switch you flipped on, then off. If the bulb is off and cold, its the switch you didn't flip at all.

  3. Well, I just have to share my favor test story...

    My current boss (in an academic lab) gives a brief (and simple) quiz of ten questions to all prospective employee's. Simple questions, like calculate the molarity.....etc etc. I got 9/10 or 10/10. Recent co-worker got 10/10 as well.

    We had this grad student (MS or PhD I cant remember) come in for the interview. She was quite pretty. She took the quiz, and failed every question.

    My boss said: "You can tell she's smart! You can just see it in her face."

    He says that about every pretty MS or PhD, even if simple Chem quizzes may suggest otherwise. As every sociology study predicts.


    1. Sometimes you need to hire such people for the quality of work environment of everyone else.


    2. Not so much giggle and jiggle. She was pleasing to the eye, but remarkably the other lab where she came from loved her, and I believe it was because she smiled a lot and was sweet and optimistic. That can be powerful especially on old men married to unhappy wives that never smile (my boss).

      Never hurts to smile. Harder these days in the ridiculoulsy competitive environment we are in.

  4. Back when the Nevada Test Site was still in full operation, one of the courses I attended had quite a bit of training using breathing apparatus. They took a small group of us into an underground cavern (without flashlights) and then turned off the lights. The challenge was to find your way back to the exit.

    They sure found out who was claustrophobic (and probably several other types of -phobic) that afternoon. Being a volunteer fireman at the time, I got my team into order and led them out, no problem.

    Later, we played some softball (in full anti-contamination gear) in a field loaded with plutonium dust from a fizzle back in the 50's - 105 degrees in the shade. Some fun!

  5. I had an interview at what used to be "Schering-Plough"(now it is Merck, about a month before they acquired Organon Biosciences and went on a hiring freeze. They made me do full mechanisms for some of the stuff they were working on in the lab (one of which was a Swern Oxidation). I had an intense headache after that interview. At my current job, I had to take a full scale WRITTEN chemistry test with organic mechanisms, stereochemistry and organic nomenclature problems. These companies are crazy. A degree isn't enough nowadays I guess.

  6. I interviewed with a company that had me take a rather long and varied test after my on-site interview. In addition to the personality component (not the full Myers-Briggs, but still pretty long), it quizzed me on topics such as whether I knew the difference between a bull/bear market and whether I could identify the author of a famous literary passage. The final part was a series of number sets, and I was required to choose the one that was different. They were combinations such as 85789, 85789, 85798. It was a timed section and I did not complete it. I counted the number of questions afterwards and it boiled down to 2 seconds per question. They told me that I would not be told my results or the purpose of the test unless I was hired. I wasn't, and to this day wonder about it.