5 Tips to Effectively Interview for a Position Outside of Academia


Most life science and biotech professionals are aware of the highly competitive process involved with trying to secure full-time positions in academia.  Approximately 42% of life science professionals with doctorate degrees work in academia.*  Unfortunately, only a fraction of them have full-time faculty positions.*  Based on the odds, many people decide to expand their job search to include roles outside of the traditional academic environment. 

Pursuing positions in the public and private sectors come with their own set of challenges.  You must understand how to tweak your resume for these types of roles, so your submission can score highly in technology filters.  If your resume matches up well with the job, you must be able to ace an interview by showing your potential value to the organization.  Here are 5 tips to effectively interview for a position outside of academia:

1. Give examples of your transferrable skills- Transferable skills are talents and abilities that can be applied to a different role.  These include time management, the ability to meet deadlines, strategic planning, leadership, and project management. Regardless of what industry or setting you’re in, these abilities can help you reach your goals and milestones.  Giving specific examples or telling stories about how your transferable skills helped you achieve success in the past, can help an interviewer envision how you would perform.

2. Highlight your personal skills- Personal skills make up your unique disposition and are displayed at work.  In a professional environment, personal skills such as: patience, reliability, honesty, and being a team player are extremely beneficial.  Mentioning your personal skills in response to a question about how you overcame a challenge, or created something new is ideal.  This allows your interviewer to understand more about who you are and what it would be like working with you.  

3. Ask thought-provoking questions- Prior to the interview, you should research the company and find out more information about their business model, products, and/or services.  You also want to dig a bit deeper and learn about their company culture and values.  Use all of these details to come up with a few thought-provoking questions.  Asking these questions shows the interviewer that you are well prepared and interested in the open position.

4. Delay salary negotiations- It is in your best interest to delay the salary conversation as long as possible for a few reasons.  The best time to talk about salary is when a job is offered to you or you’re sure that the organization really wants to hire you.  Preliminary salary discussions by internal recruiters are usually used to eliminate candidates (before they can interview with a hiring manager).  Once you’re positive that its appropriate to discuss salary, always propose a salary range based on research that you’ve done.

5. End on a strong note- Throughout the interview you should be engaging and positive.  Smiling, nodding, and appearing energetic will help to leave a lasting impression.  At the end of the interview, you can ask follow up questions inquiring about what the process is moving forward and/or what the timeframe is for them to make a decision.  Thank the interviewer for their time and be sure to follow up with a thank you note or email.

The interviewing process can be a source of anxiety and stress for many professionals.  It is possible to set yourself apart as a strong candidate, even if your background is only in academia or as a student.  Focusing on your transferable and personal skills will show an interviewer that you are able to transition to a position in their company.  Asking thought-provoking questions and delaying the salary conversation will help you ensure that the organization is a good fit for you.  Finally, ending on a strong note will leave a memorable impression with the interviewer.     


1. https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2017/nsf17319/nsf17319.pdf

2. https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind12/append/c5/at05-16.pdf

3. https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind14/index.cfm/etc/tables.htm


Reference: https://www.biospace.com/article/3-resume-tweaks-to-help-scientists-get-a-job-in-the-private-sector/

Porschia Parker is a Certified Coach, Professional Resume Writer, and Founder of Fly High Coaching. She empowers ambitious professionals to add $10K on average to their salaries.

Back to news