The Ultimate Guide to Preparing For A Life Sciences Job Interview

10-11 Minutes

New year, new me job!  The start of a new year heralds the promise of ...

By Emily Davies

Content Writer

New year, new me job!

 

 

The start of a new year heralds the promise of new beginnings; for some, that means new career opportunities. 

 

In fact, after some well-earnt rest and fresh mindsets in full effect, January happens to be known as the ‘recruitment rush’, with one in five people looking to make a move and tackle new career challenges.

 

Fortunately, the Life Sciences industry is booming, with new jobs appearing daily (today, Meet has 754 open roles globally!). But, with Life Sciences graduates doubling since 2016, there’s also some stiff competition, and lacking preparation for an interview is one of the greatest faults you can make. 

 

Luckily, if you’re in the market for a new role in Life Sciences, you’ve come to the right place because that’s our specialty! 

 

It also means that we understand how nerve-inducing job interviews can be; they’re your time to shine, and yet you only have a small window to do so. As recruitment experts and the link between Life Sciences organisations and talent, we promise to prepare you as best we can. We want to help you stand out from the crowd and secure your dream role. 

 

So, if you’re in the midst of furthering your career within Life Sciences, let us provide you with our top tips, tried and tested techniques, and typical interview Qs to help you ace each stage of the recruiting cycle and boost your chances of beating the competition! 


 
1.    Get There In Good Time 

 

This first tip might seem glaringly obvious, but you’d be surprised at the number of candidates who end up rushing into an interview – not ideal! 

 

So, first things first, confirm the address and time of your interview beforehand. Make a note of it in your calendar and locate the interview destination on Google maps to plan your route. Arriving 15-30 minutes early helps account for unforeseen traffic delays, allows you some time to freshen up before heading in, and helps keep a calm state of mind. 

 

Of course, sometimes things can’t be helped and are out of our control. If you do find yourself running late, call your recruitment consultant immediately so they can call the company on your behalf while you concentrate on getting yourself there.

 

 

2.    Dress To Impress

 

A wardrobe complements any performance, and you never get a second chance to make a first impression when it comes to job interviews! 

 

In fact, did you know that someone will make their minds up about us within the first seven seconds of meeting? It might not seem fair, but it’s true, so when you’re attending an interview, make sure you’re dressed smartly and professionally. 

 

Failing to make the correct self-presentation choices only signals to employers that you don’t care about making the right impression. To avoid last-minute panic, we suggest choosing your attire ahead of time, picking something you feel comfortable in, and making sure it’s ironed. If you’re stuck on what’s appropriate, we say err on the side of caution and stick to a neutral colour palette. 

 

 

3.    Do Your Homework For Technical Assessments

 

A common step in the hiring process in Life Sciences, and for lab-based roles, quality assurance, engineering, and scientific roles especially, is technical assessments. They’re used so you can demonstrate your ability, and prospective employers can assess your technical skills for the position to which you applied. Usually, this will be a lab test or a Q&A session, so it’s absolutely essential that you do your homework on the technical skills listed in the job ad.  

 

Aside from understanding what will be expected of you, you’ll need to validate your skills, experiences, and accomplishments listed on your resume. The interviewer will expect to hear all about them, and you don’t want to fall at the first hurdle. 

 

We suggest familiarising yourself with your significant successes, including the objective, deliverables, and core metrics, so you can talk about them with ease and demonstrate where you’ve excelled, particularly with tasks related to the role in question. We find the easiest way to ensure no vital information is missed is by using the STAR method (explained below). 

 

 

4.    Get Curious About The Company

 

The Life Sciences industry is one of the most innovative out there, and that means they never stop! Companies are consistently working on the most advanced treatments and therapies, which means that as an interviewee, you should keep up to date with what they’ve got going on, from their product portfolio to their clinical pipeline. 

 

Reading up on the organisation’s background, business ethos, and news demonstrates your curiosity and dedication to the opportunity and prepares you for any company questions that might arise during the interview – which is highly likely! 

 

Did you know that in a poll of 1400 Hiring Managers, 9% cited a lack of knowledge about their company as the most common reason why a candidate was not chosen for the job? That means it’s time to get researching!

 

In order to provide compelling answers to questions regarding the company and the role, you need to understand their mission, values, products, and competitors. You’ll find a wealth of information on their website, social media, press releases, industry journals, and other media articles.

 

 

5.    Take A Breather

 

When we’re nervous, it’s easy to ramble on or lose our train of thought. Remember to take pause before answering a question so you can structure your answer eloquently and effectively. 

 

Taking a few seconds to collect your thoughts might seem awkward, with each second feeling like an eternity. But when we’re under pressure, time becomes distorted and what might feel like forever to us often feels like a natural pause to the interviewer. Speaking slowly and purposefully benefits not only you but the interviewer too! 

 

Even more importantly, pausing before speaking can project confidence and control, which helps us better connect and is a key driver in leaving lasting impressions on those interviewing us.

 

 

6.    Prepare Your Own Questions

 

Interviews aren’t an interrogation; the key to succeeding isn’t just about giving the right answers but also asking the right questions. 

 

Asking appropriate questions shows you’re engaged, allows you to demonstrate your industry knowledge and interest in the company, and can even elevate your position as a candidate. Generally, the interviewer will anticipate questions about the organisation, the department, and the role. 

 

For many employers, questions asked by the interviewee offer insight into the individual’s character, emotional intelligence, and cultural fit, and oftentimes, it’s the part of the interview they most look forward to. 

 

Aside from relevant questions about the role and company, we suggest gearing your questions towards identifying what the potential employer is looking for in the person they’re hoping to hire. Once you’ve identified the specific criteria, you then have the chance to reiterate the skills, experience, and personality traits you have that they’re looking for. 

 

For more on appropriate questions to ask at a job interview, scroll down to the bottom of this article. 


 

7.    But Don’t Ask Questions That Reflect Badly On You

 

As a candidate for a Life Sciences role, your focus in a job interview should be on impressing the interviewer with your skills, qualifications, and capabilities of the job in question. As mentioned above, you should be willing and prepared to ask some questions of your own, but be wary that you’re not jumping the gun. 

 

Specific questions could be taken the wrong way if asked too soon. That’s not to say you can’t ask these questions later down the line, but inquiries surrounding time off, employee benefits, and salary can be assumptive too early in the interview process. In fact, questions along these lines could be interpreted negatively and even jeopardise an offer coming your way!

 

That’s because 10% of Hiring Managers report asking inappropriate questions as the main reason candidates weren’t selected for their job opening. 

 

We suggest waiting until you’ve been offered the job before asking questions along these lines; then, once you have that information, you can make an informed final decision. 

 


8. Sell Yourself

 

Some of us thrive off nerves, but for a large majority, it can be easy to buckle under pressure. If you find you’re in the latter camp, it’s worthwhile having a list of your key achievement to hand. These should include what you’ve achieved throughout your career, how valuable you could be to the organisation you’re interviewing with, what makes you stand out from other Life Sciences talent, and why the company should hire you. Because trust us, Life Sciences isn’t short for talented and skilled individuals!

 

In fact, 13% of Hiring Managers say being unprepared to discuss achievements or give on-the-job examples is a key reason why applicants are not chosen for the job, and another 13% say it’s because candidates could not answer questions directly.

 

To make things a little easier, we suggest preparing notes for each ‘Task & Responsibility’ in the job description detailing your experience, achievements, relevant skills, and prior situations that can relate to what they're looking for. 

 

 

9.    Stay Positive And Smile

 

Do you know that smiling produces neurotransmitters that help fight off stress and reduce our heart rate? Pretty handy for a job interview!

 

But aside from personal benefits, smiling can go a long way in the hiring process. Ultimately, your interviewer(s) are looking for someone who’s skilled and will fit in with the company culture, so be yourself and show them why you’re so great to work with!

 

And while we’re on the topic of positivity, remember it’s never a good idea to speak negatively about anyone or anything in an interview – it will only reflect poorly on you. Even if you’re unhappy with your current role, focus on the positives, such as what you’ve learnt, how you’ve grown, and what excites you about the future. 

 

 

10.    Get To Know The Hiring Manager

 

As mentioned above, researching a company you’re interviewing for is vital in your preparation. However, another brilliant way to understand a Life Sciences organisation is to learn a little more about your interviewer(s). 

 

Throughout the interview process, they’re the ones calling the shots. While they might not be who you’ll report into in the future, their recommendations carry a lot of weight, so creating a positive first impression will only win you some extra brownie points. 

 

To find out about key stakeholders, scroll through their website and get searching on LinkedIn. Aside from preparing you for the interview, it will also give you a better idea about the company and the people that work there.

 


Typical Job Interview Questions You Should Prepare For:

 

1.     Can you talk me through your experience and what you've achieved?

 

Try to keep this as concise as possible while getting all your proudest and most noteworthy moments in there. This will be different depending on your experience, but we suggest covering education, work history, and recent job roles. 

 

2.     Can you explain what an average day is like in your current role?

 

At this point, you can go into more detail. Emphasise tasks and responsibilities that relate to the job you’re applying for. 

 

3.     Why are you considering leaving your current position?

 

It’s key to remain positive here. Emphasise the experience you’ve gained and focus on why you hope to expand your future growth and opportunities elsewhere. 

 

4.     What are your key strengths?

 

Relate these to strengths mentioned in the job application and give examples of when you’ve demonstrated them in a working environment.

 

5.     What are your weaknesses?

Be honest by addressing your past weaknesses, but don’t forget to draw attention to how you learnt to overcome them!

 

6.     What excites you about this role?

 

Research the company to find common passions and values. Authenticity always stands out! 

 

7.     What is your understanding of this position, and how can you add value? / What do you feel you could contribute to this organisation?

 

Thoroughly review the job description and match your skills and strengths to the job requirements. 

 
8.     What type of management style do you prefer?

 

This is the time to focus on your flexibility. Give examples of different working environments you’ve experienced and how you’ve thrived in all different approaches.  

 

 

Remember: The STAR Method

 

More and more frequently, employers utilise behavioural interviewing in their hiring process by examining your past and present performance to best predict your future performance. The best way to prepare for these types of questions is by using the STAR technique. 

 

  • Situation

Offer the interviewer a short and sweet overview of the circumstances to provide some context. This should be a specific event or situation rather than a generalised description of what you’ve done in the past. 

 

What was the project you were working on? Who were you working with? When and where did it happen?

 

  • Task

Then go on to discuss the specifics of your role in the situation to demonstrate your skills, knowledge, and attitude. 

 

What did you need to achieve? What were you responsible for? Were there any challenges?

 

  • Action

At this point, go into more detail explaining how you approached and completed your task to really sell yourself to the interviewer. Even if you’re talking about a group project, remember to keep the focus on you and only you.

 

How did you assess the situation? What did you do? How did you do it? How did you work with others?

 

  • Result

And finally, it’s time to shine! Promote the positive impacts your actions had on the situation, and if possible, make them quantifiable. 

 

i.e. “I exceeded my target by 20%.”

 

 

Examples of Behavioural Questions:

 

  1.    Can you tell me about a time you overcame a problem?
  2.    Can you tell me about a time you demonstrated leadership?
  3.    Can you describe a situation where you had a difference of opinion with a superior – how did you handle it, and what was the outcome?
  4.    What has been your proudest accomplishment to date?
  5.    Can you describe a time you had to sacrifice quality for a deadline and how you reacted?
  6.    What project have you been responsible for, and how did you organise the necessary tasks, goals, paperwork, etc.?
  7.    What do you feel would be the most common errors in a position such as this?
  8.    Can you describe two improvements you’ve made in your job in the last six months?

 

 

Safe and Smart Questions to Ask A Potential Employer:

 

  1.    What attracted you to this organisation?
  2.    What do you feel are the most challenging aspects of this position?
  3.    How do you evaluate success?
  4.    Is there anything else you’d like to know about my experience?
  5.    Is this role affected by recent changes in pharmaceutical regulations?
  6.    What is the long-term strategic vision of the company?
  7.    Who do you consider your major competitors, and how do you stand out from them?
  8.    Do you have any hesitations about me as a candidate for this position? (This is your chance to quash any doubts the interviewer may have about you!)

 

 

Are you currently looking for a new role within Life Sciences? We can help! 

Check out our current open job roles or get in touch and let one of our friendly consultants know what you’re looking for so we can find your perfect match. 

Meet Recruitment 2022. Meet Recruitment Ltd., Meet Recruitment Inc. and Meet Personalberatung GmbH are all subsidiaries of Meet Group (No. 13556131) a company registered in England and Wales at Irongate House, 22-30 Dukes Place, London, EC3A 7LP.
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