25 October 2011

Lunch Break

This morning Schrodinger (the cat) brought a squirrel in the house. He brings animals in from time to time, though I always cuss at him and squirt him with the water bottle when I catch him doing it. Which I usually don't. At least one morning a week I wake up and find a dead mole in the herbarium (the rental company calls it a "dining room," but as I have no dining table and eat on the porch or standing at the counter I don't use it for that; it's where I keep my seedlings and tender plants and seeds I'm trying to sprout), and earlier this week there was bird a loving left for me on the edge of the couch. The brand new clean couch.

I can't get too upset at him for this. First of all I rarely actually catch him bringing an animal in, and you can't discipline an animal after the fact. But I know he's doing his part for the household, and after all, he is a once and future barn cat; I don't want him not hunting at all.

But it would be nice if he would at least kill things before he brings them in the house (he comes and goes through a window in the herbarium). About a month ago I came home from work and there was this odd sound coming from the laundry room, which I eventually determined was a baby squirrel, hiding in the utility closet. He was okay; tail was a bit mussed and bloody but Schrodinger had clearly brought the squirrel in as a toy and hadn't actually hurt it much. But the thing was little and terrified. I put on an old flight suit and gloves and collected the squirrel, put him in a box with water and food, and let him calm down, then deposited him in a pine tree outside about two hours later.

But this morning takes the cake so far. This morning as I was making breakfast--in fact, just as I was finishing up and looking forward to eating--Schrodinger bounds through the window with a live and squealing squirrel in his mouth. I cussed at him and squirted him with the water bottle, which was the wrong thing to do. He drops the squirrel and ducks back out the window, but does the squirrel follow? No. Squirrel goes nuts. Runs in circles around the room, through the kitchen, into and around the living room, then back into the herbarium where he takes up residence behind the bakers rack.

And then the cat comes back in.

You've seen Christmas Vacation. You know what happens when Snots the dog gets scent of the squirrel. This is what it felt like in my house this morning. I opened all the doors in the vain hope the squirrel would run outside, but no. Eventually he hid behind the entertainment center, so I jabbed an old tv antenna down there to flush him out. Didn't work. So I pulled it away from the wall far enough for Schrodinger to get back there, which he did. The squirrel disappeared. I didn't ever actually see it leave from behind the television. It could have gone outside but if it did, it gave the slip to both me and the cat. It's not under any of the furniture or in the dvd rack, and I had the bedroom and bathroom doors closed. So I assume it's gone.

I had a massage scheduled for this morning. This was a good morning for it. Now I'm having lunch, and I assume the squirrel is gone. But I have a lot of cleaning up to do this afternoon...

18 October 2011

BMW Interview Process: Physical

Okay, so, we're on to step four in the process of getting hired on at the BMW plant in Greer (Spartanburg County).

Step four is the physical. Assuming you make in through the first three steps and get your conditional offer of employment, this physical represents the condition. Now, I don't know exactly what they're looking for. I am neither a doctor nor an HR person at BMW. But here's what the physical consisted of.

First, a ten-page booklet of questions for you to fill out the night before the physical. Not hard questions, mostly "have you ever been treated for X." When you arrive at the clinic (there are two, one in Spartanburg and one in Pelham village (which needs to incorporate already so it doesn't just get absorbed by Greer)), you'll have four or five more pages of things to fill out. You should arrive early, although I managed to scrape in just one minute before my appointment time and didn't get tossed out.

A nurse or technician will call your name. First thing she'll do is take your blood pressure and pulse (with an electronic monitor, which I maintain are vastly less accurate than the old-fashioned kind), weight, and height. Then you'll go through a series of little exams in whatever order the stations are free. You'll have an eye exam (I was evidently the fastest eye exam any of the techs had ever done), a hearing exam (I passed and I have lousy hearing, so you should be fine), and a breath test. This is a weird test; you blow into a tube as hard as you can. I have no idea what the purpose of this test was. Per the description of the exam I failed; however the doc later said I did fine.

You'll also have your samples taken for drug testing, urine and hair both (not mixed together). Finally you'll go to a little exam room and have an EKG. Last time I had one of these (ten years ago) it took 15 or 20 minutes. This one took about one minute, maybe less.

Then you get to stay in the exam room and change into a hospital gown and await the doctor. The doctor will come in and ask you a few generic questions, test reflexes, check for a hernia, that sort of thing, standard exam stuff. Then he'll go through your medical history that you wrote out on all those pages and ask any questions that seem significant. I have a history of lower back problems and depression. I was very concerned about the history of depression, for which I've actually been hospitalized (it was voluntary, at least). But I'm used to flight physicals. He didn't ask one question about that and didn't seem to think it would make any difference at all (I asked).

About the back, he had lots of questions. So you get an idea of what BMW is mainly concerned about. The only medical records I have relating to it (apart from some chiropractic adjustments) are from the Air Force; doc said, well, I don't know how long it will take you to get military medical records... to which I was able to respond that I had a copy of all my records. This made things much easier; he said BMW would want to look over the records pertaining to my back, and if I could just make copies and bring them by that would speed things up a great deal.

The book of paperwork I'd brought home last night mentioned getting all your medical records and having to sign papers to allow them to be shared with BMW. I'm touchy about that (the hospitalization), but doc said just get the ones related to the back problems and that was all they'd really be interested in. This is a tremendous time-saver for you; if you can get access to your own medical records before the physical so much the better; if not, it appears you may not need to get them unless you have back or joint problems (repetititive stress injuries, too). That said, if you do have a history of such problems and you can get copies of those records yourself before you start the interview process you'll probably save yourself a bunch of time.

The doctor will sign a note to the effect that he sees no medical reason you can't perform the job. But that is not the final word; BMW has the final word, whether that's through an HR officer or an in-housel doctor I don't know.

If the doctor signs that note and you're cleared to proceed, you'll do a fitness test. This is an odd test. It consists of a couple of static strength exercises--grip strength, forearm strength, push and pull--followed by lifting a 25-lb weight four or five times. Then you get to play a sort of electronic Wack-A-Mole game, where you have to use hand-held wands to touch buttons that display a red or green light. Seems really easy, but the four tests are tougher than you think: the first is just on a board in front of you, and is simple. The second is somewhat over your head, at an angle, and you have to play this Wack-A-Mole game for about three or four minutes. The wands aren't heavy but having your hands up over your head for that long is tiresome. The third is the worst--you have to play on two separate boards, the lower one of which is at the floor. You can't bend at the knees to reach that board, so you're constantly bending up and down at the hips, and this one lasts even longer than the previous one. The fourth one is easy if you're 5'9" or below, because it's a board at a generic "waist height." I could reach all the buttons without actually bending at all. If you were any taller than me you'd have to bend to reach the bottom row and that would be a much tougher test.

Finally you'll do a step test: step up and down on a stool continuously (at I must admit a rather slow pace) for five minutes. Throughout all the tests you'll have your heartrate checked.

I found the fit test unusual but not difficult. Even if you're in lousy shape (and I am at the moment) it's not going to be real tough, and doesn't require any sort of herculean strength.

So. At the end of it all, do I know whether I passed? No. The folks in the clinic don't make the decisions, as I said. The doctor's assessment is probably of significant importance in BMW's decision-making but clearly it is not the whole story. No matter how bad you do on any part of it, they're not going to chuck you out; you will complete the physical. I got the impression that if there were any red flags they'd send your info off to BMW before putting you through the fit test, but that was just an impression. The tech who ran the fit test said she didn't have any idea what BMW was looking for in terms of a minimum standard on those tests.

My advice, just relax and have fun with it.

Now, I've been told repeatedly that this is the longest part of the process: the wait, after the physical. Drug testing can be done locally now (though not in the office) so the wait on those results should be two or three days, max. If they decide to request medical records and they have to get them from your doctor's office it could take weeks. How long it takes BMW to look over your records and make a decision is anybody's guess. Like the Supreme Court it seems they take their decisions on their own time and in their own way. So now we wait. And tomorrow it's back to work at my regular job.

Guava Buttermilk Biscuits?

To the person who landed at this blog after doing a google search for "Guava Buttermilk Biscuits:" did you find a recipe? Were they any good? Will you share the recipe with me?

17 October 2011

BMW Interview III

Okay, so, time for the update on BMW's interview process for production associate jobs in Greer (or Greenville or Spartanburg) through MAU.

This morning I went in for the second assessment. Show time was 7:15, although I know some folks from our group Friday ended up in a later sitting. The individual who conducted this assessment was very ex-military--and perfect for the job. He is a very nice guy--but he's also scary serious through the entire process. He cracked a smile about 10:45, three hours and change into the assessment, and then only because he was talking to the remaining people who'd passed the assessment. So don't be frightened of him; just echo his personality and take it all as seriously as he does. BMW is taking it seriously. And if I remember right, seems I said to take yourself seriously in each of the last two posts...

What to wear: jeans. Shorts if you must (below the knee, per the dress code). Comfortable shoes. I wore a polo; lots of people wore T-shirts. Worth pointing out a lot of the production jobs the uniform is a T-shirt, so at this point in the process if you're more comfy in a T go ahead. I wore tennis shoes. You could get away with anything comfortable but I wouldn't go in work boots; even though you'll ultimately have to get some, why not wear lightweight tennies for this? They recommend it. Worth noting, the first assessment, one girl wore glittery pink ballet shoes. She wore serious shoes today, though. And she passed this assessment.

There are two exercises in this assessment. Used to just be a single one, called the "rim mount," at least to judge by old commentary on the internets. In any event, now half the group will do a "bolting" exercise first, half will do a "mounting" exercise. Then you'll switch.

There is no bathroom break. Let me stress that. There is no bathroom break. If you can get by without your morning coffee or tea, this would be the morning. As it was three of the 12 of us snuck off (with permission of course) after the demonstration video for the second exercise, but the trainer did not (could not, given the tight scheduling) wait for us to do the actual demonstration, meaning we missed that.

Each exercise consists of thirty minutes of doing the same actions multiple times--just like factory work. Each includes multiple variations of "customer orders," so you're doing slightly different things each time, or maybe the same thing in a different order. Without getting into extreme detail (which I don't think they'd appreciate, although there's no commentary on not sharing information), the two exercises are as follows:

Bolting: you have to pick up bolts and washers, do a quality check, then assemble the bolts into a receptacle according to the customer order you're given. You hand-tighten the bolts for a couple turns, then use a battery-powered electric drill. After you finish the assembly, you disassemble the whole thing, then call up a new order and start again. You need to make sure you're putting bolts into holes in the correct order. Meanwhile you have to watch a display screen that contains temperature and pressure information, and if any indicator goes out of limits you have to press a button to fix it.

Sounds very complex, and in a way it is. That said, you don't need to know anything about how to do the job; it's all explained in the video you'll watch, and then the demo the trainer will go through. Additionally, you get a ten-minute practice session, during which you'll get error messages if you do something wrong. Make note of these: it's not necessarily immediately obvious what you've done wrong, and it's worth taking the time to figure it out instead of plowing ahead; it's called a practice session.

For this exercise the main thing you need is a good cross check--you need to be able to watch the gauges, check the bolts, check the order, all at the same time--oh, and there's a (virtual) forklift running around, and if you step into the forklift's path, you're dead. One forklift accident won't get you thrown out (I got smooshed twice at the end of the second exercise), but the trainer specifically said before the first exercise that getting nailed by the forklift multiple times was one of the most common reasons people failed the assessment overall.

Mounting: you have a bin of "spacers," two "wheels" (actually 10- and 25-pound barbell weights), and assorted other components, and a "mount." You have to mount three spacers and one wheel in the order specified in the customer order. Then you insert a locking pin, which must go into one of three positions again based on the customer order. Then you take the whole shebang apart and start over with a new customer order. You must scan each part before you mount it using a basic barcode scanner, and scan each part again as you disassemble. You have a little clock going the whole time telling you whether you moving too slow. And of course there's the forklift.

This one is less about having a good crosscheck and more about doing things in the proper order each time (the only thing you're really checking for is the forklift; this makes it a less mental job than the bolting, but it's easier to lose track of the forklift). During the practice session it seems I put a lot of things on in the wrong order, probably because I was reading the wrong line on the customer order chart.

I don't think either exercise is necessarily easier than the other. And, worth noting, you can't exactly practice for either one. Your best preparation would be to get a good night's sleep, wake up with plenty of time, and have a good breakfast. If you're hungry, sleepy, or you have to pee, you probably aren't concentrating on what you're doing (this is true in all areas of life), and you're probably going to fail.

Three-fourths of the people who were in the assessment this morning with me passed. Not all of us who did thought we were going to; the girl sitting behind me's heart stopped when the trainer told those of who were left that we'd all passed. I wasn't too confident myself (those two forklift accidents). Which is not to say it's easy; only that you shouldn't write yourself off mentally. Or maybe you should; maybe the surprise of having passed when you thought you didn't is better than the shock of failing when you didn't think you would. (For the record, at least two of the people who failed weren't surprised.)

Having passed, we were all given a "conditional offer of employment," contigent on our passing a physical and drug screening. They take the drug screening seriously: both urinalysis and a hair sample. If you wouldn't pass a hair sample test you may want to just skip the entire process and find another job.

So far this process has been very quick. I can't say how long that will continue; I've been led to understand that the physical and drug test results can take some time to come back. So we shall see. I'll update on the physical after I've done that.

14 October 2011

BMW Interview II

So this morning I went to BMW to take Assessment I. Again, there wasn't a whole lot of info about this on the web, either, but it was better than the first interview.

There's a bit more dress code info given to you, although once again there was at least one guy there in ratty shoes and a T-shirt, and again I say to you, please, take yourself seriously. Just because they don't say you can't dress like you're homeless doesn't mean you should, it's a job interview for God's sake. People.

Anyway, you'll have to present your ID to a security guard to get into the building. Then you'll sit in a holding pen for about fifteen minutes or so staring vacantly at all the other people there. If you're lucky one of them might actually attempt to make conversation. If you're really lucky that person might be you. We were herded into the testing room exactly one minute early. They try to be timely.

The test is 100 questions long. The first 24 questions are sort of problem-solving questions, like what should you do if you're late for a meeting and running through the factory you see oil dripping out of a machine onto the floor. These are the sort of questions that have an ideal answer and some acceptable ones, and at least one that's clearly wrong. But they aren't hard. There's scratch paper provided but there are at most five questions that require any math at all and none requiring anything more complex than simple multiplication.

The next set are personality questions. There is a section of questions asking whether a given action would be likely to make safety and efficiency better or worse. And then finally are a handful of questions about work situations.

The test is not difficult. You cannot study for it. That said, a sixth of the people who took it failed and were not invited to continue the hiring process. One of them struggled to understand the concept of putting the test answer sheet into the test answer booklet to hand it in, repeatedly trying to put the answer sheet into the question booklet. She also stole the pen and pencil we were given. She didn't strike me as the sort of person I'd want to work with anyway. One of the others was the guy wearing the ratty T-shirt, so, again, I say, take yourself seriously or don't bother.

Afterward we were all told when we'd need to come back for the second assessment. I can't tell you anything about that one, since I haven't had it yet.

BMW Interview I

So, I'm interviewing for a production position with BMW, which is just up the road a ways in Greer. They're hiring bunches of people. I'm hoping I get to be one of them, since it's certainly better than what I'm doing now, and pays better, and has benefits (not better benefits; it just plain has benefits, where what I'm doing now has nothing). But I wanted to get some inside scoop on the interview and the assessments and such and it was very very difficult to find anything on this here interweb about the BMW interview process.
So I thought I'd mention a few things about the BMW interview process in Greer (which is near Spartanburg and Greenville). And yes, I'm deliberately repeating myself so this will actually show up on search engines in case somebody else is looking.

So, they've got this system now where you apply on line through MAU; they have a separate section of the website just for BMW stuff, which is cool. I evidently filled out an application with them long enough ago that I don't remember, but it doesn't consist of much, mostly just basic work history and contact info. Then you get to schedule your own interview. This is quite awesome, especially if like me you currently have a job and can't skip work to do it. Earliest interview times are 8:30.

They have about 150 slots available for interviews but they aren't actually interviewing anywhere near that many people each day, so you'll probably be able to get the interview for the day after you apply and since there are at least four interviewers you should be able to get the timeslot you want without hassle.

What to wear? It would have been nice to find information about what to wear to the BMW interview with MAU (sorry, but this is how search engines work these days), so I figured, okay, it's a factory-floor job I'm going for here, I'm not going to do the coat and tie thing. But it's still an interview, and you should always overdress for a job interview. I wore my good black slacks and a long-sleeve dress shirt. I considered a tie but I just hate the things so much, so I skipped it.

I was far and away the most overdressed applicant in the office when I got there. Actually, I would say I was the most professionally dressed person in the office period; MAU is not a coat-and-tie sort of place. There were people there in jeans and t-shirts and ratty tennis shoes, no kidding. They may have been applying for positions with other companies, of course (MAU handles contracts other than just BMW, though I'd guess BMW probably provides about 60% of their business), but regardless, this was still an interview place, not a day-labor shop. (Ugh. I remember working at Labor Ready one summer when I was home from college. What a rotten job. I think there's actually a Labor Ready branch office here in Greenville, up in (surprise surprise) the hispanic section of town. I don't miss that.)

I would say you should probably wear khakis and a collared shirt. You want to look nicer than the real slobs there, but I was definitely overdressed. Clearly you could wear jeans and still pass the interview, but please. Take yourself seriously.

So the interview itself (the initial interview for a BMW production job with MAU in Greenville, Greer, or Spartanburg) is the easiest interview you'll ever go through. First they have you fill out a work history and contact information (including SSN) while you're waiting in the lobby. You'll take that paperwork in with you to the interview.

The interviewer will ask you if you'd be able to work any shift, any day of the week. The correct answer is yes. If you can't agree to that BMW doesn't want you and you don't want them. She'll ask if you have any scheduled time off in the next couple of months that you'll have to take--surgeries, weddings, that sort of thing. I mentioned that I hoped I'd get to take some vacation time at Christmas. This didn't seem to matter. She'll ask how many days you've missed from work without permission in the last three months. I misinterpreted this question and tried to account for sick days and the day I had to go to court, but of course I had permission for both of those. So I ended up saying two, which of course sounds like an awful lot to me, really; missing work without permission, that's Dollar General-cashier grade stuff. But obviously it wasn't bad enough to get me kicked out.

She also asked if I'd ever been convicted of any misdemeanors or felonies. To which of course I must answer yes because of the swimming incident in 2003. She started to write down what I was saying, got as far as the word "swimming," and then stopped me and said, "But you don't have anything major going on now, right?" So obviously a goofy misdemeanor several years old won't get you tossed out, either. I don't know how far you could push this; I doubt a single misdemeanor would knock you out, or even two or three if they were old. If you have a string of them maybe. I'm pretty sure you can get on there with a felony conviction if it was old and you haven't had any other issues.

And that was it. The very next question after the criminal history one was, can you attend the first assessment today at 11:30? Which I couldn't, I had to work, but I signed up for this morning instead. She seemed fine to push it until late next week if I had to, but if you're able to take a day off work and schedule an interview early you might be able to get interview and assessment out of the way in one shot.