Could you have passed Thomas Edison's job interview test?

Illustration for article titled Could you have passed Thomas Edisons job interview test?

Some companies are known for their legendary job interview questions — brain teasers, trivia questions, moral thought problems. In the 1920s, Thomas Edison was himself famous for the interview exams he administered to eager job applicants. But could you have passed Edison's test?

Disappointed by the lack of knowledge among his prospective employees, Edison would hand job-seekers a 150-question exam before he would consider them for employment. The exams would be tailored to the applicant's industry (I gather that cabinetmakers needed to know about the life of Jesus because Jesus was a carpenter?), but the emphasis was definitely on factual knowledge. Despite requests from the press, Edison wouldn't release lists of his test questions, so any such lists came straight from the (often disgruntled) test-takers. Apparently, Edison kicked off a trend; soon other companies were requiring similar entrance exams. So the next time an interviewer springs a pop quiz on you, you may be able to blame Edison.

mental_floss has assembled some of the famed Edison test questions. He considered 90% a passing score, and only 35 of the 500 applicants who took the test ever passed. Try your hand at this abbreviated Edison exam:

Who was Francis Marion?
Where is the River Volga?
Who invented logarithms?
What is the first line in The Aeneid?
What war material did Chile export to the Allies during the War?
A question tailored to cabinetmakers: Who was the Roman emperor when Jesus Christ was born?
Where is the Sargasso Sea?
Of what is brass made?
Who was Leonidas?
Who discovered the X-ray?
Where do we get shellac?
Why is cast iron called Pig Iron?
Who was Bessemer and what did he do?


Head over to mental_floss for the answers. And remember: Google is cheating.

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Chris Braak

Also important: who was the Emperor of Rome at the time of Jesus' alleged death?