The Top 10 Science Interview Questions for 2016 – Part 1

Job interviews take a lot of time and practice to get to a point where you can confidently put your best foot forward. For some, those who get nervous, this may never happen. Most are lucky enough to not have to do too many of them over the course of their careers, which means that they can remain a daunting prospect – even for the highly experienced.

To get you ahead of the game in time for your next interview, part one of this guide is designed to even up the scales by preparing you for some of the key interview questions you are likely to face in 2016.

The Staple Interview Questions

Whether you’re a laboratory manager or a food technologist, the following questions are the basis for any interview, and the way you answer them can be the difference between getting the job and not. They are designed to test your soft skills and the way you communicate with others.

1. Why this company?

Before your interview, one of the first things you should do is research the company that you are interviewing with. Not knowing anything about the company can lead many interviewers to writing off the candidate, figuring that if they haven’t bothered to do their research on the role, they probably don’t really want it. Bear in mind that if you go to an interview unprepared, there will always be someone who is, especially in a field like science which is heavily dependent on research. However, going into too much information can backfire, so make sure you don’t go into obsessive levels of detail. Finding out what the company does, what field they operate in, the product or service they provide, what your role would entail and what technology or methods they use is sufficient in most cases. It can also be a good idea to research the work environment prior to the interview, if the company is passionate about a certain cause or ethos, you can tailor your responses to match them.

Whilst we’re talking about research, use social media to find out about the person who is interviewing you. This will give you more of an idea of what to expect, and provide topics of mutual interest. The best sites to start your research are the company About Us pages, LinkedIn and Twitter.

2. What is your biggest strength and your biggest weakness?

When thinking about your biggest strength, think about both technical and soft skills, and the skills that are best suited to the role. You might have many great strengths, but if they aren’t applicable to the role then the interviewer will likely find them irrelevant. If you’re interviewing for a research and development role, a good idea would be to discuss any previous projects you’ve done, whereas if you’ve applied for a laboratory management position, it would be better to talk about your communication and leadership skills.

It’s common for people to give a generic response when asked about their biggest weakness, such as that they are a perfectionist – this can be interpreted as inflexible or unable to work as a team, so not generally a good example. It’s important to answer this question honestly and be up front with your response, don’t try and bluff or beat around the bush. However, that doesn’t mean you should discuss all of the things you’re bad at and leave it at that. Pick one or two industry-related weaknesses and follow up with the actions you’ve been taking to address them. For instance, if a specific technique or lack of experience in a certain area is a problem for you and obvious to the interviewer, mention it, but follow it up by commenting on the steps you’ve taken to overcome this issue, like monitoring the amount of time you spend on each activity in order to improve yourself. This shows that you’re honest enough to admit when you have a fault, but also that you’re motivated and self-aware enough to address it yourself, which is a great combination.

3. Why do you want the job?

This question is often a tough one to answer. Responses often vary depending on the candidate and the job, but there are certain things you should avoid saying in an interview. One of the most significant answers to avoid is “a higher salary”. Though some interviewers might respect your honesty, the majority will see you as someone who does not value the work or the company itself, which may suggest that you will move on at the first opportunity.

Concentrate more on the things that attracted you to the role in the first place; are you looking for a new challenge? Is the company within a field you would like to work in? Are the studies that the company is pursuing a match for your own skillset and knowledge? Does the role have any unique traits you’re interested in? Is the company renowned for having a good culture? These are all great reasons that any interviewer likes to hear, so if the role offers flexible hours or remote working, talk about how you like the flexibility and work/life balance that the role offers.

The second half of this blog will cover behavioural and industry-specific interview questions, so stay tuned for that next week. In the meantime, if you’re looking for help with your next interview, feel free to contact us today.