How to answer unique life sciences interview questions

  • interviews
  • April 13, 2017
As you’re preparing for your next job interview, try adopting the mindset of an athlete practicing before the big game. How helpful would it be to know what plays the other team plans to run, or in your case, know what questions the interviewer will ask you? You probably know a few of the questions to expect (i.e., Why do you think you’d be a good fit for this company?), but what about the ones that might involve a little more thinking? 

Here are a few unique examples of interview questions you might be asked — and tips to provide the best answers.

Describe a recent project your team completed. How did your work demonstrate your analytical abilities? 

Your interviewer will (hopefully) read your resume before you sit down together. The interview is an opportunity for you to place what’s on your resume in the context of the work that has given you the most pride. Be prepared to discuss the details of a project, even if it’s still ongoing, that provides a real-world example of what qualities you’ll bring to the position. Let your enthusiasm come out, the interviewer is not just looking for someone who is qualified, but who will also bring passion to the job. 

Explain a time you made a critical mistake. How did you solve it and what did you learn?

Your interviewer is probing to see how you handle adversity. Be completely honest, own up to your mistakes and try to focus on how you remedied the issue and the lessons you learned. Explain how you or your team approached projects or individual tasks differently as a result.
Do not criticize or bad-mouth your colleagues — even anonymously. Interviewers want to know that you’ll be someone who will work well as a member of the team.

Tell me about a time a team member was not pulling their weight. How did you handle it?

It doesn’t matter if you’re applying for an entry-level or executive position, your interviewer is not just looking for candidates with the required skill sets for a particular job opening. They also hope to hire people who will work effectively as part of a team. Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi once said, “Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

You don’t want your answer to be that you just took over and did everything yourself. Think about how you addressed the issue, either with your colleague one-on-one or through the appropriate channels your company had in place. 

How do you stay abreast of the latest trends, technologies, and advances in your field?

Don’t underestimate the negative impact of being unable to rattle off a selection of relevant magazines, journals, blogs and social media feeds you read or follow. If you worry your list seems a little sparse, go to the company’s web site before your interview, and look for the About Us or Company News sections. Along with a list of news releases, you may also find a selection of recent media coverage the PR department has secured. That will give you an excellent idea of the magazines, blogs, journals and industry analyst firms the company believes report on the issues and trends that are most relevant to its business.
Social media platforms have become invaluable business communications tools. Follow companies, media outlets, analysts and other industry influencers on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You’ll find yourself following, even contributing to, interesting threads and discussions. For example, you may think of LinkedIn as primarily a professional networking and job-seeking platform, but it has also become the home for hundreds of groups that cover topics related to virtually any career discipline you can think of. The "H2020 HEALTH" Medical Research, Pharma, Drug Discovery, Healthcare and Life Sciences group alone has more than 13,000 members. 

Practice Makes Perfect

Every job interview is a unique experience. While we can’t provide you all the answers, here are some additional questions and topics to consider ahead of time:
  • Describe the project or situation that best demonstrates your analytical abilities.
  • How do you stay abreast of the latest trends, technologies and advances in your field?
  • Explain which regulations you are most familiar with and how they impact your work.
  • Describe the most significant written document, report or presentation you completed.
  • Describe a time you volunteered for a special project or committee for your last employer.

Good luck!

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