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.