You’ve been submitting resumes like nobody’s business. And contacted everyone you know asking if they know of any job opportunities. You’ve attended all the local networking events and career fairs. After what seems like forever, you get called in for an interview. Congrats!
Before the interview, do your homework. Research the company and learn about their products, their business units, their competitors, and their position in the marketplace. Maybe look up a couple of recently filed patent applications at USPTO.gov to ask about. Read the recent press releases of the company and their closest competitors so you are educated on the trends affecting the company (new management, new product releases, clinical trial results, etc.). Most of this can be found on the company website. Relevant analysis on industry trends can, of course, be found right here at the Regeneration Station.
You are usually given a schedule with a list of people you will be meeting and interviewing with. If not, ask for one from your contact. It’s helpful to get an idea of what their background and working experiences are, and Google, Pubmed, or LinkedIn are all very useful for this purpose.
The interview process varies from company to company, but on interview day you can expect something like this:
- You will meet individually with team members, HR, and upper management (typically 6-8 people for 30 – 45 minutes each).
- Some companies will give you a focused interview in which you will meet with several people (3-4) for approximately 45 minutes each.
- The type of interview questions you get from each group member often varies, as each person is usually assigned to assess your ability in a specific area. One person may be evaluating your technical ability whereas another person may be analyzing you for more behavioral aspects. Some companies won’t be so organized and conversations can vary.
- Many interview topics include: giving an example of when you demonstrated leadership, instances of how you took initiative, how you overcame obstacles to achieve a goal, and examples of how you were innovative. Be prepared by having specific examples in mind, and try to give structured answers.
- For most PhD-level positions, and some MS-level positions, the company will request a 45 minute presentation on your graduate work. The purpose is mainly to assess the breadth and depth of your graduate research, your communication skills, and whether your background fits with the company needs. They will also see how you handle technical questions under pressure, so be prepared to stay calm and collected.
- For the presentation, keep your audience in mind. Whereas graduate students are used to presenting to peers at conferences or to fellow lab members, the company/group you are interviewing with may not know the lingo or have the same background. Be sure to keep the presentation focused and educational for those without your background, and be sure to go into some detail for those that can handle it and to show you know your topic well.
- You will be given the opportunity to ask questions yourself, so have a few insightful or challenging questions related to the scientific strategy, business model or competitors. This will demonstrate your ability to think broadly as well as technically. This is not just for you, as they want to evaluate your inquisitiveness. Questions like “how will you address scale up once you get marketing approval?”, or “how does competitor X’s clinical success affect your strategy moving forward?” are a good place to start. Listen well and paraphrase to let them know you understood what they said.
- Depending on the company and the job level, you may be called in for a 2nd interview. This is great as it shows their interest in you as a candidate, and will give them the opportunity to quench any questions they have about your background. A 2nd interview is also a great opportunity to reinforce your technical fit, as well as to ask questions that may have arisen since the first interview.
Remember that interviewing is a two-way street. Not only is the company evaluating you for the particular position, but YOU are also evaluating the company and whether it is a good fit for you. You should get as much out of the company and job as they are getting out of you, so make sure to ask the hiring manager questions such as “what career development opportunities are there for entry level hires?”, and “how are yearly development plans established, and how often are they successfully executed?” This is typically dependent on the quality of the hiring manager, and if they give off any ‘red flags’ that they are not interested in what the company can do for you, and only what you can do for the company – it may be best to start at square one of the job search again.
Of course, it is always courteous to follow up with a thank you note within 1-2 days of your interview. Hand written is a nice touch, but email is just fine in today’s world. Good luck!