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Thursday, May 20, 2004

The interview merry-go-round 

In the last six months, including the one I'm embarking on later today, I've interviewed for eight positions in four different cities on both sides of the border. Some were in-person, some were by phone; some I faced only one person, some involved a group; sometimes the panel was all together in one room, other times I saw each person in sequence. While I wouldn't presume to say that I have the actual interviewing portion down to a fine art or some kind of template-with-variations, I'm far more blase about that part of the process than I was a year ago. The same questions get asked, and I'm allowed to ramble about my qualities, credentials, so on and so forth. It's all a blur.

Thing is, the fun only starts when people stop talking, and I move on to the supplemental portion of the interviewing process. Frankly, some of the tasks I've been asked to do range from amusing to vaguely relevant to downright puzzling. I'm sorry, but how is transcribing a Microsoft Word document in its entirety, complete with different fonts, bullet points, tables and graphs, supposed to demonstrate that I can work in a forensic DNA lab?* So, I thought I'd offer up some of the tasks I've been asked to do in the name of determining my suitability for a desired job, then open the floor to you all--either in the backblogs or by dropping me a line.

Aside from the aforementioned transcription, the oddest series of tasks were classified as "manual dexterity tests", specifically designed to quantify my ability to carry out laboratory exercises that make use of fine motor skills. Frankly, I think they were designed with the specific intent to confuse the candidate.

Task one: a pencil and a sheet of paper with a series of boxes sit on the table before me. I am asked to draw two vertical lines on top of one horizontal line in each box, repeating the task for as many boxes until time runs out. I get a practice run, then they time me for 60 seconds. Conclusion: I manage 87 boxes in that time, but I have no idea if this is good or not--since they aren't telling me anything.

Task two: A double sided grid full of holes. The first one holds a series of pegs, all colored yellow (this is important for later.) The second grid is empty. I must move a peg from grid one to the exact position on grid two. If I miss, I can't correct and must move on to the next peg. Again this is timed. I get three tries, 15 seconds each. I think I improve each time, but frankly, I'm too busy hearing the rhythm in my head and responding to it. Similar premise to Task Three, except that I must turn the pegs upside down, so that the yellow color becomes red, and keep it in the same hole it was in before. Flip flop, flip flop. It's all very entertaining, but suddenly, a newly reissued old favorite book pops into my mind as having new relevance.

There were more tasks, but writing about them would not only cure my insomnia, it would probably cure all of yours, too. But suffice it to say that it got even more arcane, and the one saving grace was that the two examiners were very nice guys. Whom I felt extremely sorry for, because they still had another five or six candidates to go that day and several dozen more overall.

And I'm still wondering how doing all these things is supposed to prove I'll be an ideal forensic biologist....

*Actually, when I thought about it sometime later, I did figure out how it would be relevant, but that would mean that the task is completely ingenious, and somehow, I doubt it.

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