Americhem Interview Post-Mortem
8 Aug 2016: So anyway, I got the bus down to Eccles, and it was just fab seeing the derelict council flats with their electricity meter boxes broken off the wall, and the disused cinema and the cars parked on double-yellows blocking the cycle lanes and the old tramps with matted hair and a holdall full of empty beer cans and a corner shop that no more than two children were allowed to enter at any time
I sauntered along to the factory and went up to the reception building. When I pressed the buzzer a metallic voice took my details and unlocked the door; I went into the reception area (which was bleak and unattended, with furniture and electric fittings showing signs of desperate neglect) to find another gentleman on the settee. Half-a-minute later the Human Resources Womanette materialised and had a brief discussion with this chap, who was apparently being interviewed for the same job as myself. And had been given the same appointment time!
So they decided that we would be processed at the same time, with one of us having a meeting while the other would complete the written assessment – and then we would change ends at half time, so to speak.
I was led away to a small meeting-room and given a few sheets of paper with printed questions to answer. One sheet of A4 had six questions, and it left enough room to write about five lines of normal script for each one. I looked around me at the fabulous array of blow-moulded bottles in different colours (or should that be ‘colors’?) lined up on shelves around the walls. There were dozens of them, opaque, translucent, pearlescent; Exorcist-vomit-green, Mister-Blobby-pink, Sunny-Delight-radioactive-yellow, and Plutonium-warhead-grey: an absolute feast of optical bounty.
I dragged my attention back to the printed questionnaire which comprised two parts: a set of technical questions and some mathematical exercises. I began looking at the maths problems: What is 15 percent of 150? How much VAT do Mr and Mrs Smith pay on their kitchen goods? No sign of political correctness here; we will not have any ethnic minority same-sex couples shopping in John Lewis, thank you very much! Our imaginary consumers are respectable suburban professionals, freshly plucked from an advert in the Radio Times.
(The Americhem website mentions ‘diversity’ in connection with the firm’s product range, but fails to acknowledge any aspects of race or sexuality in its workforce. Strange…)
After this exhausting procedure I began reading the technical questions. ‘What do you understand by Colour?’ Wow, I thought. Now there’s a question! Should I mention the four default colours used by Microsoft Excel to draw graphs in the same chart – which are the same four colours adopted by Bliss for his Colour Symphony? Or the five colours used by the US military to distinguish the defoliant mixtures used in the Vietnam war and which were later immortalised by Hamilton in his song about the rainbow: ‘…pink, and green, purple, and orange, and blue…’ but that is an urban myth which I am trying to send round the world.
One of the other questions asked about light-stabiliser compounds; give examples with chemical type and tradenames and which kinds of polymer they would be used in. Somebody not already employed in the plastic colourant industry would have very little chance of knowing these details.
I scribbled a few superficial notes in reply to these questions, and waited for Human Resources Womanette to come and rescue me. However, it was not she, but Technical Design Man who escorted me to the office where the interview was taking place. HRW and TDM interrogated me with a routine set of questions about my knowledge and experience. It is customary nowadays to check that every interviewee is really who they claim to be, and that they are correctly entitled to work in the EU or the UK; but I wasn’t asked for any proof of ID. Nor did they ask me about my previous salary levels, which suggested that they weren’t that bothered about recruiting me to the firm. And I recall that my previous interview with Americhem had included a very strict colour-vision test using an array of metameric colour chips, but on this occasion there was no mention of colour blindness.
Journal Entry, 3 Nov 2009: Phone call from Americhem asking if I was willing to attend interview – reminding me the job only pays £12000.
Journal Entry, 10 Nov 2009: Today went to Americhem for interview – they were at pains to remind me that it’s permanent shifts, paying twelve grand.
Americhem Interview Post-Mortem